It’s a conundrum all moms have to face. On the one hand, we like to shop–it’s a throwback to our years as hunters and gatherers. There’s just a deep-seated satisfaction in venturing out into the world and bringing home treasures to nourish and sustain our families.
The deals! The finds! The bargains!
On the other hand, shopping is not a harmless pastime. It costs a lot of money to buy new things. Furthermore, shopping with reckless abandon contributes to our consumerist culture in which millions of tons of (often perfectly usable) former bargains pile into our landfills each year.
How can we reconcile one of our favorite hobbies when faced with the cold hard evidence of our empty pocketbooks and overflowing landfills full of stuff?
It’s time to become a garage sale queen.
Did you know that at least once a week between spring and fall, people all around the country and even in THIS VERY CITY collect all the things they no longer need, arrange them in their garages and driveways, and let other people come buy them? What’s more, they only charge you a tiny fraction of what the items cost new!
If you are not already a garage sale-r, (or a garage sailor for that matter), it’s time to start. Come with me–I’ll teach you how!
Step 1: Get some cash.
Or just bring your change jar. Seriously, you don’t need much. You can spend $20 and get an entire season’s wardrobe and re-stock your children’s toyroom.
Step 2: Find out where the sales are.
Newspapers, Craigslist, and Facebook all have listings. I highly recommend finding out the dates of citywide garage sales in the area. Many times the city will even print a list of participating garage sales, including descriptions of items being sold at each one.
Step 3: Make a list.
Think of things you want to look for that other people might be getting rid of. Children’s clothing and shoes, baby gear, sports equipment, tools, housewares, kitchen gadgets, and furniture are common garage sale wares. Jot down some treasures that you’re hoping to find, accepting the possibility that you might find nothing on your list, but plenty of other stuff. Flexibility is key–this isn’t a big box store.
Step 4: Make a map.
Print out a city map and highlight the locations of the sales you want to go to. Instead of wasting time driving around in your car, choose an area with multiple sales, park your car, and enjoy the walk in the fresh air. If you’re taking your kids with you, bring a stroller with a big basket underneath for all your treasures!
Step 5: Look at stuff.
This might seem obvious, but sometimes it takes a little imagination to discover the potential in all the piles of stuff. Don’t walk so quickly past that long table of quirky, mismatched knick knacks. You just might find the perfect bookends for your living room shelves, or a barely-used tennis racket that your husband would love, or a colorful serving dish for the barbecue you’re planning to throw. Take your time.
Step 6: Chat with the garage sellers!
Don’t be afraid to ask people if they’re selling anything from your list that you made. People are generally super excited to tell you about their junk, so much so that you often wonder why they’re getting rid of it to begin with. You may not find anything on your list, but you’ll probably find dozens of things you didn’t know you needed! Also, ALWAYS buy the lemonade and cookies that little kids are selling. It’s the right thing to do.
Step 7: Make an offer.
Many garage sellers will list their awesome deals, like “Fill a Bag for 5 bucks!” or “Everything on this table is a quarter!” But if they don’t, go ahead and offer something similar, especially if you think an item is priced too high. Most people care more about getting rid of excess than they do about making a lot of money. The worst that can happen is they’ll tell you no. No biggie.
Step 8: Brag about it.
Take home your loot and show your family what a good hunter/gatherer you are! They’ll especially appreciate your efforts if you explain how much money you saved by shopping garage sales instead of full-priced stores. Pat yourself on the back for keeping valuable treasures out of the landfill.
There you have it, ladies: shopping for the frugal and environmentally-conscious mama!
Now it’s time for you to brag…what kinds of treasures have you found at garage sales?