Flashback: Parenting tip: Bargain hunting at garage sales

by Lara Garage sale season is back in full swing! Will you be checking any out this weekend?

Kids and their stuff can cost a lot of money. They move through clothing and toys so quickly it can be painful.

Shopping at consignment stores and sales is one way to save money but in the spring and summer months in Ottawa another great way to save money is to hit garage sales.

I am VERY lucky because my mother is practically garage sale royalty. She knows the tricks to not only get great stuff, she gets it for great prices. And passes it on to my kids! I would guess that at least 80% of the clothing and toys my children have are from garage sales.

I go out a few times a year too though and am thankful for the strategies and tips my mother has passed along to me. And now, with her permission, I pass some of them along to you :)

My 3 cuties, all in garage sale found outfits

- Knowing where you're going ahead of time saves lot of wasted time trying to figure out where the garage sales are. You can look up garage sale postings online the night before and figure out what route makes most sense for you to take to be most efficient.

For me personally, I stick to the big community sales to get the most bang for my buck.

- For kids' stuff you can do drivebys. If you drive by a garage sale and see an exersaucer or any other big children's item, the chances are they have more stuff for kids and it's worth stopping and having a look.

Q in a garage sale rocking chair and sleeper

- Bring exact change. Lots of loonies and toonies, a few quarters and $5 (depending on how long your list of items is). And for any large items keep the maximum amount you're willing to pay with you. You don't want to ask for change after you've been bargaining a person down.

- Keep in mind what is being sold is generally not the latest in styles. For kids they're typically what was being sold 3-5 years ago

- Know what things are worth. Check the ads. My mother's  recommendation is that you don't pay more than 25 cents on the dollar... sometimes the asking price can be as low as 5 cents on the dollar. Once my parents bought a very large set of building blocks for $4. Before they bought it they talked to the seller and she told them that a few specific pieces were broken/missing.They weren’t concerned about those pieces and so for them, it was a great buy.  When they looked things up on the Internet, they found that the original price for a slightly newer model was $80.

- Some sellers are happy to negotiate and others are not. Don't be afraid to try to negotiate and don't get upset if people seem offended you're trying to negotiate. You have a right to ask, they have a right to say no.

Q in a garage sale outfit and exersaucer

- If the price is higher than the maximum you set before you left home and the seller isn't happy to negotiate into your price range, keep walking.  Sometimes, I'll feel the need to explain. Phrases like "that's more than my budget, but thank you so much" can be helpful. My mother often talks of the biggest price difference. She saw a highchair she liked and was told it was $40. She walked away and found exactly the same highchair 4 doors down for $10.

- Ask if the price can be negotiated if you buy a lot  (of the same thing or of different things).

- If items are not priced, find out the price of 2-3 specific items before you start to look through. The first 2-3 that come to hand are just fine. What you want to avoid is spending 15 minutes selecting things, then finding out that their firm price is five times more than your planned price.

K in a garage sale outfit sitting on his garage sale IKEA chair.

- If the buyer really doesn't know what they want to charge for something, suggest a price (like the 25 cent on the dollar rule). They may accept this or there may be a round of negotiation.

- Remember that all sales are final. Take the time to check items out carefully.

It's an amazing money saver and worth the time to head out and do the work a couple of times a year.

Do you shop at garage sales?

Lara is mom to five year old Kiernan and three year old boy/girl twins Quinn and Juliette. Between the kids and her social media consulting business, she spends most of her time running frazzled.

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