My partner in life is superbly skilled in a variety of areas, but shopping and anything to do with retail is her true forté. Of course there are some areas where she knows that her expertise is limited, so she just avoids those situations.

One of our very few togetherness pastimes we enjoy is the Saturday morning garage sale circuit. I have watched her and listened to her on those “let’s see what’s out there” forays, and as a result I am a much more experienced shopper.

Whereas I am a little shy to “make an offer,” she sizes up the item and either just pays a reasonable asking price or makes them an offer less than the asking price and then politely barters if the item is on the wanted list.

My approach is better now, but over the years I have frequently paid more than I probably had to for a variety of items – but more important is that I have simply missed some real bargains by deciding not to pay the asking price and not bartering. Over the years we have made some truly incredible buys on the Whitehorse garage sale circuit.

I have concluded that there are “should do’s” and “shouldn’t do’s” while on the Saturday morning circuit:

Should Do’s

  1. Get out there early. Many ads say, “No early birds,” but if you are not too early – which means arriving while they are still setting up – you’ll probably be welcome. Arriving late is never good.
  2. Plan your attack. Get Friday’s papers and cut out the garage sale ad usually on the inside of the back page. Look at it and plan your Saturday morning in a logical way to catch the early starting sales, but pay attention to the sale locations so you can catch the ones in a given area and then move on to another area where sales are happening. It will be a rare Saturday when you will be able to get to all of the sales at an early hour, which is usually key to success as far as bargains are concerned. For example, do all the early ones in Porter Creek or Riverdale or elsewhere and then stay in that area for the sales that start a half hour or hour later.
  3. Be polite. Say, “ Good morning.” I am amazed at how rude a few customers are at these friendly get-togethers. You can’t barter a better price if you have been a jerk to start with.
  4. Carry quarters, loonies and toonies. It’s just a better situation after you barter for a low priced item to offer coins in the right amount rather than expecting change for a $20 dollar bill. Carry the coins and smaller bills ($5 and $10) together in one pocket, with $20s in another.
  5. If you seem to be arriving at every sale with the same group of shoppers, skip the next scheduled stop on your route and leave them all behind.

Shouldn’t Do’s

  1. Don’t be a rude know it all. If you don’t agree with the price and can’t barter it down, accept that and move on.
  2. Try not to buy something of no use to you or yours, simply because the price is attractive.
  3. Don’t pass up on full tackle or tool boxes, bundles of garden tools or camping gear etc. If you are polite with a first offer and it is not accepted, you can raise the bid and get a great buy.
  4. Watch the weekly ads so you can avoid the ongoing, every Saturday sale as it will always have the same stuff until they have sold it or given up on it. After the first week’s sale the remaining stock is mostly junk.
  5. Don’t buy anything electric or electronic without plugging it in and testing it at the sale site.

Garage sales are friendly Saturday morning events where we get a chance to socialize with other shoppers and the households, neighbourhoods and organizations hosting the sales. It should be a friendly and enjoyable outing for you and whoever is with you. If you are positive and friendly, that is the feed-back you will get in return.

Quite often when the sales are done, many participants visit local restaurants for a late breakfast or brunch and discuss bargains gained and missed, but mostly what a great morning they just had.