Thursday, September 10, 2009

Garage Sales - Are they true money savers?

As I type this tonight, I am in a state of gleeful anticipation for tomorrow morning. My iced tea is chilling in a thermos and several of my mother-in-law's delicious "monster cookies" are packed in a paper bag. Because tomorrow is.....CITY WIDE SALES!!

As a football fanatic gets a high at the thought of attending the Superbowl, as my dear hubby dreams of watching his beloved Hawkeyes at a Rose bowl, as the Brits look forward to....Wimbledon?? I look forward to the garage sale season.

But when push comes to shove, are garage sales really money savers? From my experience, sometimes yes, sometimes no.

You've heard the saying, "Two elephants for a quarter isn't really a bargain unless you've got a spare quarter and need two elephants." I've sometimes fallen down on this one. The thought "What a deal!" flashes through my mind as my hot little hand reaches for what will enter my home as my 70th flower vase. And my recent experiment in downsizing the number of kids' toys and reclaiming my basement was brought on by too many great deals on plastic dump trucks and wooden puzzles.

And I SHOULD know better. My own dear mom is a pack rat. My parents own several storage shed sites and she has her own shed at each, packed to the gills with "bargains" purchased over the years. When my dad grumbles that they couldn't sell the stuff for enough money to pay one month's rent, she gets a bit hot under the collar and the sparks fly.

On the plus side, I don't have attachment issues and can usually recoup most of the costs of overbuying by selling the stuff at my own garage sale. And if you have kids, garage sales are a no-brainer. Kids stuff can be had for pennies on the dollar.

I can get the kids shirts, pants, snow boots, snow pants, spring jackets, tennis shoes, and swimsuits, an entire wardrobe for about $50 per season. And the kids have hundreds of books, usually purchased for a quarter or less, on everything from insects to spaceships and both love to read/be read to. After story time each night, I hand my five year old a stack of about a dozen Berenstein Bears books and he looks at these each night until he falls asleep. And don't tell them, but most of "Santa's" toys were first delivered to the kids down the street.

On the other hand, if you no longer have kids, and don't need to furnish a new apartment, the bargains may be fewer and farther between. In this case though, you can always justify your love of garage sales for the social venue they offer.

We (meaning my kids and I, dear hubby has yet to realize what he's missing) have met some of the neatest people this way and seen some wonderful gardens. Just this summer my kids got to meet a WWII veteran who was wearing his medals as he sat in his garage and told my older son what it was like to march into Germany as part of the Allied forces. At my own garage sale I met a lady whose house I knew and I commented how much I liked her Cleome display, only to come home a week later to find a cardboard box full of Cleome seedlings and a lovely note.

The social part comes with a few awkward moments. I remember the time I was trolling for yard sale deals in quite a tony area of town. At one gorgeous, large brick Federal style home, I spotted a bin of great condition kids socks at only five cents each and started grabbing up an armful. The woman running the sale kept staring at me. I briefly wondered if she was afraid I was pilfering this footwear, when she suddenly said, "I think I know you....are you XYZ's wife?"

A bit awkward as I stood there clutching her kids' cast off footies. My own dear husband is the managing partner at his law firm, highly respected by his often multi-millionaire clients, and has even been on local television espousing some pretty high level finance theories. When I go to his "work" events, I don't often find myself sharing that the great, like new, Etienne Aigner pumps I'm wearing were $4.99 at Goodwill. And standing there was the wife of one of his biggest clients.

She was friendly. I was embarrassed and headed out rather quickly. The irony I missed at the time, but later had pointed out to me: was it any more embarrassing to be the buyer than the seller in that case?;-) And as she was obviously frugal enough to sell her kids still perfectly useable socks rather than toss them, we had a lot in commen and I may have missed a chance to make a new tightwad friend.

It's about 9:30 p.m. now, there's gas in the car, a pocketbook full of singles, and many castoff treasures to be found in the morning. Wishing you all a goodnight! And looking forward to hearing your thoughts on whether garage sales are truly money savers.


  1. I love your blog! I stumbled onto this from Thrifty Fun.

    You make a valid point, but you didn't outright make the point that it might not be "worthwhile" things that you "need" but also the thrill of the hunt, and the entertainment value aside from socializing.

    I am far from a millionairess, but we are more comfortable with our second hand items than many people are with their new full price things...


  2. Committed Recycler. Thanks for that point. I agree, it really is a fun social event and the hunt is itself great. I often find things I "need" that I didn't really realized I needed, till I come upon them - a third birdbath comes to mind. While I wouldn't have gone out to get one, this one, at just $15 has for many years given my avian visitors yet another place to splash and drink. Thanks for coming by and the kind words. The teapot is always on for visitors;-).