Monday, May 26, 2008

Yard Sales: Be Prepared

As I mentioned on Saturday, I'm a novice at "yard-saleing." I've started going to them over the past couple of weeks because I'm hunting for inexpensive picture frames to use at my wedding reception. This weekend my sister asked for me to also keep an eye out for any good tables to use in her new living room or dining room. I warned her that if they are any good, they may not be there by the time I call her and she gets over to the sale. And since I was looking for cheap frames, I was only carrying a few one dollar bills and some change, so I couldn't buy anything for her.

I thought I was being really smart: yard-sale sellers don't want to have to make change for even a $10 bill if I'm buying a 25-cent frame or one for a dollar. However, in lecturing my sister, I missed the foreshadowing of my own lesson -- and I'm still mourning my yard sale loss!

At one of the first few sales I visited, I saw a beautiful framed mirror. It was in perfect condition and was large enough to hang over a sofa or on a dining room wall. The frame looked like it was made from cherry wood -- or at least had a finish that looked like it. It was very classic-looking, and it caught my eye because Michael and I are going to need some nice things to hang on the walls of our new home after the wedding. I saw that it was priced at $15. I only had $11 in my pocket and probably not enough change to make up the difference. I considered offering the seller either $10 or $11, but that would have used up all of the one-dollar bills I needed for buying my picture frames.

I thought that I could go to an ATM that wasn't too far from this yard sale and come back. I suppose I could have told the guy my situation and asked him if he would hold the mirror. But I left, thinking that if it was meant to be, it would be there later in the day when I came back.

A few stops later, I decided that mirror was a really good deal that I had passed up, and I wanted it. I really wanted it! So, I rushed back across town to the ATM and then to the yard sale with the mirror. I jumped out of my car, looking to see if it was still there. It was!...but a lady had her hand on it. I rushed over, just in time to hear her ask the seller if he would give it to her for $10 instead of $15. And he did!

Yes, yes. I have since realized that I was so dumb to pass it up when I first saw it because I now know that a frame like that would sell in a store for at least $100. But in the last couple of days I've seen some similar ones at J.C. Penney that cost between $150 and $200. And I could have had it for $15 or even $10.

So, I've learned that I need to be prepared when going to yard sales (beyond just my route map), and here's how:

1. Know exactly what I need (i.e. small wooden picture frames) and the maximum amount I'm willing to pay (i.e. $1.00).

2. Have small bills and change on hand to make the transactions easier.

3. Know what other things I could use (i.e. furniture, wall hangings) even if I'm not specifically searching for them. Know a ballpark of their retail prices so that I'll know a steal (like that $15 framed mirror) as soon as I see it.

4. In addition to my small bills and change, have a larger bill or two on hand too. Stash it away for the next week if I don't spend it this week. (Don't spend it mid-week on groceries, etc.)

5. Stay focused and don't buy random stuff that I don't need -- but not so focused that I miss good deals again.

6. Negotiate with the seller to try to get a lower price. (I know - that's a major tenet of yard sales.)

7. If I don't have enough cash and can't get it within the range of what I have with me but still want it, ask the seller if he would hold the item if I come back with in X number of minutes with enough cash.

8. Don't hesitate. If I see a deal, don't walk away to think about it. It won't be there when I get back.

Sphere: Related Content


CDMOM said...

ALWAYS ask for a better price. 90% of the time the seller will take less. Also, I have learned over the years if I see something I'm interested in I pick it up as soon as I see it until I'm ready to pay. I have been sales and decided I really wanted something and go to pick it up and someone else is already paying for it. And if I think about it and decide I really don't want the item I can put it back before paying. I love yard sales. Sorry you missed out, but if you go enough you will find another or something even better!

Betsy said...

Thanks for the additional tip, cdmom! I can see that holding on to an item that I might want to buy as I look at other items could help me from losing out again.