It was supposed to be a quick trip. A stopover to innocently ‘look around’ while attending a garage sale in their area. However, for some Americans, a bargain hunt can end up costing way more than planned.
$3,000, including $60 for a $30 item
“The most extreme case I've ever had was when I spent $3,000 at a garage sale. I'm not sure I was entirely sober when it happened! I had just moved into a new house and was looking to decorate it. They had a lot of really nice furniture. I practically ended up decorating my new house with most of the items from the garage sale. I also bought a lamp at a garage sale that cost $60. I did think it was a little bit expensive but decided to buy it anyway. I couldn't help but be disappointed when I found the same lamp available at Walmart for $30.”
Thomas Jepsen – CEO at house plans to construction advice firm Passion Plans
Went on a garage sale spree… ended up with a $1,500 dog
“Maybe the weirdest turnout from a garage sale that you have ever heard! This happened to my wife and I in the fall of 2019.
We were going on a garage sale spree and must have hit about 5 or 6 different sales that were going on in a few neighbourhoods. One of these sales was unique though, as the owner of the house was older and didn’t have any family left. He just had a good friend helping them liquidate a lot of his belongings. There was the cutest little dog that turned out to be a full bred Akita that was running laps around the property during the garage sale, and my wife jokingly asked “how much for this guy?” (it turns out the dog was a girl) which struck up a conversation.
As the dog's owner was going to be moving into a retirement home, he would not be able to care for her much longer. We gave them our phone number after some pleasant conversation and thought nothing of it. Less than a week later, we got a call from the family that was helping this guy with his sale, asking if we were interested in purchasing the dog from the owner. We ended up adopting Maya for $1,500 dollars. Way more than we budgeted for visiting a garage sale, but we couldn’t be happier!”
Thomas Zheng – Marketing Manager at Grubby Cat
Showing emotions can cost you
“Garage sales are indeed quite fascinating, as you never know what products people will have and at what price point. Since all the products are pre-owned, at first sight we all think we should be getting products at meagre prices. Many times, I have been on my way to My biggest spend during one of these trips was just a few months back. Before the covid 2nd wave, I was on my usual evening walk & just some yards along I saw a garage sale. Fortunately, it was by someone I know. I curiously entered & the owner very generously showed me the items. I saw some kitchen products like a hand blender, a microwave, dishwasher in very mint condition & asked about them. The price was not justified with the age of the product, but since the product was in excellent working condition & I know the seller well, I ended up buying this dishwasher for $250. It didn’t finish here, though, as I then saw the ideal product for me, which was an automatic treadmill. I tried a demo run with it & found everything to be in order. The owner saw I was excited by the product & stuck with their higher price of $700. As it was only a year old and still had a 1-year warranty left and I knew the owner, I couldn’t bargain and ended up paying almost $200 above the market value.
Daniela Sawyer – Business Development Strategist at Find People Fast
I spent $20,000 in a garage sale hunt
“Being an antic enthusiast, I like looking for the best items with an interesting history, and the garage sale is the best place for such items. I once come across a flower vase and plant pots that were from ancient Egypt. I had a hard time deciding what to take home and what to leave behind. I could not stand the fact that someone else might have those beautiful, unique pieces at their home instead of me. I ended up asking the garage sale owner if I could get some of the items on credit. Unfortunately, he was in dire need of cash because he was moving to another city. I had to call my husband and ask for extra cash just to get my Egyptian flower vase and plant pots. In that garage sale, my spending totalled about $ 20,000, the most I have ever spent garage sale hunting.”
Harriet Chan – Co-founder at software development company CocoFinder
5 tips to avoid overspending on a garage sale
1 – Bring your poker face
To be a successful buyer, especially in garage sales where items are not properly labelled with prices and the owner will give it to you on the spot, your best bet is to make use of your poker face to avoid revealing how much you really want an item. The more a seller can read your thoughts and feelings, the more likely you will be charged more.
2 – Don’t buy old safety items
You should never buy second-hand items such as car seats or bicycle helmets that seem to be over 12 months old, as safety regulations change very often. So, an ancient bargain might not comply with recent changes in the law, making it unsafe to use.
4 – Bargain, bargain
If you have a problem haggling, garage sales aren’t for you. It is not about how items are priced, nor if you have spare cash to cover what the price labels say. Bargaining is part of the fun of buying second items that, besides suiting your needs, can help sellers get no longer wanted item off their hands.
5 – Make a list of items you are looking for
Just like going to get your grocery shop, visiting your local garage sale requires a list of what you need, to avoid returning home with a vintage lampshade when you need a new dresser or bookshelf. Seeing several items displayed in front of you can be tempting and you can easily forget your priorities. So, make a list – and, preferably, avoid adding a dog to it while attending a garage sale.
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