Spring cleaning season is officially underway, which will undoubtedly lead to a surge in garage sales. Budget-minded shoppers know garage sale prices can be a great way to score incredible deals, but sometimes another person’s rejects are really just rubbish.
Use these garage sale tips to make sure you score big off spring cleaning season.
The 10 Best Things to Buy
Every good garage sale shopper knows you need a game plan. You can stretch your dollar to the max by focusing your efforts on the following 10 items.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so if you spot a piece of art you like, snap it up. Garage sale prices can allow you to decorate your walls with interesting works on a shoestring budget. Frames themselves can be expensive, so even if that’s the only part you like, buy it and replace the art with something else. Plus, you just might uncover a hidden master, and art is a collectible investment more valuable than gold.
If you’re not a fan of the library, garage sales are the second-cheapest way to score a great read. Before buying, flip through the book to make sure all pages are clean and intact. If you get lucky, you might even come across an early edition of a classic that’s worth some money.
3. Kids’ Clothes
Little ones grow at a rapid pace, so investing a lot in their wardrobe doesn’t really make sense. Garage sales are an affordable way to outfit your kids, but since this group can be hard on clothes, carefully inspect all items for flaws like tears and stains before making a purchase.
4. Costume Jewelry
Don’t expect to find anything of value, but garage sales are a great place to score deals on fun costume jewelry. Most Americans still shop for jewelry in person. Pretty necklaces, earrings, brooches, bracelets and rings discarded by someone else might serve as your new favorite accessory. Just be sure to examine pieces closely to make sure the clasps work and any stones are intact.
5. Wooden Furniture
If you’re willing to put in the time and effort, garage sales are a fantastic place to score a deal on old wooden furniture — i.e., chairs, tables and dressers — in need of a makeover. Refinish it or cover it in a fresh coat of paint, and you’ll have a beautiful, quality item that cost next to nothing. It’s a great way to decorate your home without spending a fortune.
6. Fitness Equipment
Garage sales can make staying in shape more affordable than ever. Items like hand weights, bicycles and sporting goods can be found for a fraction of the price. Steer clear of equipment with an electrical component or parts that could break — i.e., treadmills and elliptical trainers — because it’s hard to tell what condition they’re really in, and without a warranty, you’ll be on the hook for any repairs needed. Grab some weights and download a fitness app and ditch your gym membership.
7. Kitchen Items
One of the more practical garage sale tips is to zero in on quality kitchenware — it’s a great way to outfit a kitchen for cheap. Look for cast iron cookware, glass baking dishes, stainless steel flatware, fine china and bamboo serving bowls. If your finds are dishwasher safe, run them through a cycle before use; if not, wash them with warm, soapy water to sanitize them.
8. Designer Clothing and Accessories
If your garage sale circuit includes affluent neighborhoods, you’ll likely come across some high-end clothing and accessories. This is a great way to look like a million bucks on a budget, but don’t buy without performing proper due diligence — i.e., check zippers, carefully inspect for flaws and make sure you actually like the item itself and not just the label.
Every household needs a good toolkit, but it definitely doesn’t need to be brand new. Seek items like hammers, wrenches, screwdrivers, drills and saws, as garage sale prices will likely be much less than you’ll pay in-store. For items with an electrical component, ask questions to learn about its condition, have the owner plug it in to prove it works and steer clear of anything that contains rust.
10. Wooden Toys
A pastime for children through the ages, wooden toys are a great item to pick up at a garage sale. They’ll never go out of style and you can easily sanitize them with warm, soapy water, so snatch these up if you find them.
The 10 Worst Things to Buy
Sometimes bargains really are too good to be true. Abide by these 10 garage sale tips to make sure you don’t waste your money on a dud.
If you buy a puzzle at a garage sale, there’s no guarantee all pieces are in the box, unless of course it happens to be sealed. Save yourself the frustration of spending hours — or even days — working on a puzzle only to discover it was sold with missing pieces.
2. Smoke-Stained Clothing
Some items are fine to buy from a smoking household, because they won’t hold the stench of cigarette smoke, but clothing is not one of them. It can be very difficult or even impossible to remove smoke odors from apparel, meaning you’ll be forced to either wear foul-smelling attire or get rid of the item without having the opportunity to wear it.
3. Baby Gear
At first thought, buying baby items at garage sales might seem like a great way to save cash, but it’s not worth the safety risk. Consumer Reports warns sellers not to put recalled items up for sale, but that doesn’t mean they’ll abide. The publication advises garage sale hosts against selling high-risk baby items like cribs, bike helmets and car seats, so that also means you shouldn’t buy them.
4. Stuffed Animals
They’re cute, but secondhand stuffed animals are a breeding ground for bacteria. These soft and squishy toys are often not machine washable, which makes them hard to clean for safe re-use.
5. Laptops, Tablets and E-Readers
Electronic devices are expensive, so you might think you’ve hit gold if you stumble upon a seemingly working laptop, tablet or e-reader at a yard sale. Despite what it might appear like on the surface, this is a risk you don’t want to take, because you don’t know the device’s history. It might black-screen shortly after purchase, leaving you to foot a hefty repair bill.
6. Beauty Items
At first thought, makeup and perfume might seem like a real find at a garage sale, but you’ll want to pass on these items. Using other people’s makeup is unsanitary, and even if items are still sealed, they have a shelf life which has likely passed. The composition of perfume also breaks down over time, causing the scent to change or disappear. You’re better off making your own DIY beauty products.
Tires are expensive, so if you find one at garage sale prices, you might think buying it is a no-brainer. Even if it appears in great condition, it might’ve been driven overloaded, underinflated or at an extremely high speed, which could cause internal damage that won’t be visible on the surface, warns Consumer Reports. It’s best to play it safe and invest in brand-new tires.
If the thought of buying a used mattress at a garage sale doesn’t already make your skin crawl, think about what’s at stake. The mattress could be infested with bed bugs that will infiltrate your home. Beyond that, it could contain mold, odors and stains that will not allow you to rest easy on top of it.
9. Upholstered Furniture
Garage sales might seem like a great place to get a deal on a sofa or an armchair, but they can come with some unwanted extras. Just as with mattresses, upholstered furniture can harbor bed bugs or even fleas. The money you save on the item won’t be worth the time and effort you’ll spend trying to get these pesky insects out of your home.
More power to you if you’re not grossed out by the thought of wearing a stranger’s used shoes, but don’t do it. The fungus that causes athlete’s foot and the virus that breeds plantar warts can be found in shoes, according to the Huffington Post. Beyond that, shoes tend to shape to the wearer’s feet, setting the tone for a poor secondhand fit.
Don’t get too carried away garage sale shopping — click through to learn how decluttering can help you save hundreds each year.