The following post was first published over at Clark Howard.com.
Garage sale season is upon us, which can mean either, A) Time to get rid of the excess within your home, or B) Time to take advantage of all the amazing deals you can score from other people’s garage sales. Unlike a thrift store whose goal is to make as much money as possible to support their non-profit mission, garage sales are put on by people who are simply looking to get rid of their often brand new stuff, even if that means taking a huge loss.
But their loss is your gain, because garages sales are a great opportunity to buy a much higher quality item than you could normally afford. Because why shop at Wal-Mart, Ikea or Target for a frankly low quality item when you can spend less for an expensive brand designed to last throughout the years?
Here’s what to keep an eye out for:
Having next to no budget for furniture doesn’t mean you’re destined to buy particle board and veneer placeholders. Garage sales offer the opportunity to pick up high quality furniture that can be handed down through multiple generations.
Dressers with dovetail joints. You can be sure that manufacturers who took this extra step have created a quality product. Often an vintage piece, an older dresser can be a classic style that’s not teetering on the edge of outdatedness.
Solid wood furniture. If you’re handy with a paint brush, you can transform bland or unfashionable furniture into beautiful pieces that are sure to last.
Quality upholstered furniture is likely to be heavier than your average big box example, so lift up that armchair for a quick clue as to the product’s quality.
Check the joints. If you see that the piece was assembled using an allen-wrench then leave it behind, as it’s unlikely to be a piece manufactured with longevity in mind.
Pots and pans
If you’re tired of shelling out big bucks on new pans every couple of years, garage sales are the place to go.
Cast iron pans. Many people shy away from cast iron, thinking it’s too fussy or doesn’t work with a glass top stove. (Not true, as countless people use cast iron on their glass cooktops without issue.) Certain brands such as Griswold and Wagner can even be worth hundreds of dollars, plus a cast iron pan will last until you no longer have the Thor-like strength to heft its’ mighty weight.
Enameled cast iron. With prices up to $300, quality brands such as Le Creuset would normally throw off your budget, but a garage sale alternative will often let you buy one of these workhorses for just a couple of bucks.
Stainless steel. Pricey brands such as Cuisinart or All-Clad are another quality pan to keep an eye out for when garage sale-ing. Without that pesky non-stick surface, there’s no coating to ruin. Buy quality, buy once.
A lot of trendy fast fashion is designed to be worn just a single season, with zero thought for the longevity of the piece. However, you can know that a garage sale garment that’s already been through a previous owner is unlikely to fall apart after a few washings. This goes for clothing, as well as outerwear and footwear. Know your brands and you can add timeless pieces to last through the years.
Tools. It’s not an uncommon occurrence for a garage sale to feature a table littered with dusty rusty tools, but don’t make the mistake of assuming that old means worthless. Older tools are more likely to be manufactured with quality in mind, and you can be sure that a monkey wrench that’s old enough to drink is likely to last another couple more decades.
Toys and baby stuff
Baby supplies. Parents all know that babies outgrow their supplies long before anything can possibly wear out, and since those parents are desperate to get rid of kid clutter, this area of bargain hunting is rich with treasure. Pay pennies instead of dollars for your baby’s needs, and you might just have a chance of setting money aside for college.
Pricey Euro-style toys. If you’re the type that leans towards Waldorf-style wooden or educational toys, you’re already aware of the sticker shock from $83 sets of blocks. Luckily you don’t have to be a Rockefeller to buy quality toys when shopping at garage sales. Browse garage sales in higher income neighborhoods, and you’ll be surprised what you can find.
Whether you’re needing baby supplies or fresh toys for the kiddos, garage sales can save you a bundle. Just make sure to glance through the Consumer Product Safety Commission website for recent recalls before heading out.
Garage sales are an amazing opportunity to buy the level of stuff that’s normally only available to wealthy big spenders. Choose this route and you can outfit your home with timeless items that don’t suffer from planned (or even perceived) obsolescence. You’ll be on budget, with style.
“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”
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