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I remember when I was younger, my mom would wake me up early on Saturday mornings and drag me to Garage Sales. I would sit in the backseat cowering down in embarrassment hoping no one I knew would see me. After I had my first son, I realized how expensive baby items were and how quickly babies grew out of things.

I don't remember when it finally hit me, but one day I went to a garage sale. I was driving down the road and turned the corner. It was like I could hear angels singing! There were tables beyond tables filled with clothes, toys, strollers, car seats — all just waiting to be bought! I pulled over and walked up. That day was a big day for me. I realized that I could spend a fraction of the price, still find high quality items, and keep my son’s clothing bins stocked for the next season. As I walked to the car that day with bags of "new" clothes and toys in hand, I couldn't help but feel accomplished.

Today garage sale-ing is a priority for me. With the season at an end I have everything that I need to get me through to the next yard sale season (typically April-Sept). I admit that I think I might like garage sales more than couponing! I will share a few tips to help you get the most for your money.

Map out a plan. At the beginning of the season I make a list of everything that I am going to be looking for. As I find the items, I cross them off the list. I also keep a calendar so I can keep track of when the town-wide sales or neighborhood sales are. I plan around these days and sometimes even book a babysitter so I can shop without distraction!

Don't be afraid to ask for a better price. In most situations the sellers are just wanting to get rid of things. It is rare that you find someone having a garage sale to make money. I always ask for a better price, especially on the bigger items. Some people don't even mark prices on their items; they just want people to make an offer. This used to intimidate me, but after a few tries I figured out that I can usually get the item for what I want to pay for it. The best example I have for this was when I was shopping for a double jogging stroller this past summer. The stroller wasn't priced, so I asked her. I assumed it wouldn't be in my price range, but she said, "Well, I was going to charge $5 for it, but since the strap is broken I will only charge $3." I about jumped up and down with excitement and, of course, paid for it right away. When I came home and googled the stroller, I found out it was worth about $250! What a deal!

Buy ahead. I keep bins marked by size and seasons in the boys’ closet. I have bins in every size up to about 2 years out. When I find something I like at a good price, I will buy it, wash it, and immediately put it in the corresponding bin. Then when the seasons change, I don't have to go out and pay full price on clothing. I just pull out the bin and, voila! New clothes!

Toys Toys Toys! One of my favorite things to buy at garage sales is toys. I keep bins in the attic and rotate them out periodically so that the kids feel like they are getting new toys. It keeps them excited, and they play more in their rooms which gives me more time to get chores done around the house. I love buying toys because they are so cheap at yard sales! I never pay much more than a quarter or 50 cents for toys that would retail for much more! I even buy toys to keep back for Christmas. The kids don't know the difference, and it saves us a ton of money! You can even find new toys still in the packaging which make for great gifts!

Walk away! When I walk up to a sale, the first thing I do is check the prices of a few things. If I feel that the prices are too high, I move on to the next sale. I know that I can always find the item that I am looking for at a better price. Sometimes, though, more than one family is having a sale together, and the prices can be totally different from one item to the next. I was at one sale where children's jeans were $5! I was about to walk away, but then I saw some bins on the floor with a sign that said $.25 per item. I looked through them ecstatic to find Gymboree clothes in the right sizes for my boys! At 25 cents I cleaned them out and walked away with bags of awesome clothes for only a few dollars! I couldn't have been happier with my finds.

Resell=Recycle. When you buy at yard sales instead of buying new, you are keeping those items out of the landfills. When my boys outgrow the clothes or grow tired of the toys, I resell them at a local consignment sale that comes to town twice a year. I am making room to buy more, which always makes me happy, but I am also making money at the same time! I usually buy the items for less than a dollar and can resell them for triple the amount that I paid. I am always happy when that check rolls in!

These days garage sales are not the typical "old people’s garage sales" that I remember from my childhood. There are great deals to be had. I urge everyone to shop till you drop at your next local sale!

This has been a guest post by Cathy from Sidney, IL
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