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Going The Extra Yard (Sale)

Go early, and caveat emptor.

Fall is a great time of year for yard sales, whether you’re hosting one or shopping them. 

If you’re planning to do a little yard "sailing" this weekend, arm yourself with a little knowledge before you plan your route.

Before you can find the great deals, you have to find the sales. Watch for signs posted in your community, check bulletin boards, newspaper classifieds, Craigslist, and, of course, Patch’s garage sale listings.

On Yard “Sailing” Day, have plenty of small bills and change. Bring a checkbook for any large purchases (you can always write the seller a check to hold the item, then go to an ATM and come back with cash to exchange for your check. This way you don’t have to carry lots of big bills around all day.) Stock your car with plastic grocery bags and newspaper to wrap breakable items. Carry a tape measure and have rope or tie-downs to secure big items. It’s also not a bad idea to have baby wipes in the glove box, should you – or your kids - come in contact with anything yucky at a yard sale. 

Go early, but not too early. Don’t show up before the sale is scheduled to begin. Most sellers are not ready early, and they probably won’t appreciate it if you arrive in their front yard before they’ve even had their coffee. Get there when the sale starts, before other buyers have had a chance to snag all the good stuff. 

Or go late. At the end of a yard sale, many sellers drastically reduce their asking prices on the leftovers, and some even give everything away at the end of the day.

When buying clothes, don’t rely on the label for size. Things shrink. Hold the item up and gauge it with your trained eye (from folding all that laundry!). If possible, have the recipient try the item on, or hold it up to their body to see if it looks like it will fit. If you’re shopping for children’s clothes, one expert recommends bringing your kid’s shirt and pants to measure potential purchases against.

Open the box. Don’t trust the seller automatically. Make sure you’re getting what you think you’re getting, and that it’s in one piece and not damaged. Check CD and DVD cases to make sure the discs are in there, that the disc matches the case, and that the playable sides of the discs are not scratched or damaged. Ask to plug in electronics or appliances, and request batteries to test battery-operated items. Most yard sale items are sold “as is,” so you don’t want to get your purchase home and find a problem.

As a buyer, it’s always better to get the seller to name his or her price for an unmarked item, than to offer your estimated value for it. And if you think a price is too high, haggle. The worst that can happen is the seller can say no, or counter your offer, which you can either accept or decline.

Take the price stickers off your items as soon as you get home. Some stickers become really tricky to remove if left on too long. If the tag won’t come off or leaves behind residue, try rubbing it with a cotton ball with some nail-polish remover or baby oil.

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