We live in the suburbs and every year our city has a city-wide garage sale weekend that raises money for the local Lion’s Club. It’s an amazing event with hundreds of garage sales across the city – dozens in every neighborhood you drive into. They say that over 5,000 people come to our city for the event and it is not uncommon to see several charter buses parked at the end of a street or in front of a church where they are selling things pre-tagged and ready to go. It is really smart for the city to have so many garage sales organized at once, although the streets often get clogged up with traffic.
I go to the garage sales every year. I love them. When I was working, I used to go in late the Thursday morning the garage sales would kick off. While I don’t buy a lot of stuff – a lot of the fun is you never know what you are going to find. Mostly I buy books, CDs, and DVDs. We have bookshelves with probably a hundred books I’ve bought at garage sales over the years. This year, I also bought a light-up plastic Halloween pumpkin, and old Mattel Electronics Game, and some vintage Presidential election buttons (Nixon, Ford, and Carter). I walked around for about 4 hours, spent about $15, and chatted with a lot of people.
My son got the deal of all deals last year when we were out at garage sales – an Apple iPod. It was old, scratched up, and he wasn’t sure if it would work. He bought it for $5 and brought it home to see if it would take a charge. It did – and he plugged it into our computer to sync it to iTunes. Immediately, a message appeared that said that this particular model (a first generation Nano with the click wheel design) had been recalled for a bad battery. Apple asked for our address, sent him a box to mail it in, and in two or three days he received a BRAND NEW Apple iPod (8th generation) touchscreen model that was worth $150! I told him he could go to garage sales for the rest of his life before he topped that deal.
It has probably been 15 years since we hosted a garage sale at our house. While I love going to them, I hate organizing them. The last time we did it we had a lot of baby things to get rid of. You can make good money on a big sale like that, but generally we just take our things to the Goodwill Store that is nearby and keep the receipt for the tax write-off. The suggested donation deductions are pretty high for most things (link to Donation Value Guide). After tax, I figure we come out about the same we would if we were having a garage sale. And – we don’t have to do all of the work!
One of the pains of having a garage sale is that you can’t count on the weather. While garage sales generally have a nice vibe if it is a beautiful sunny day, you can just as easily get a cloudy, rainy, windy day in the spring where we live. That means you spent two days getting your garage setup for almost no one to show up and buy your crap. (That is why we call them garage sales in our area – bad weather makes keeping stuff in the garage critical. I know in other areas people do them in the yard or call them tag sales).
Another thing that bugs me about running a garage sale is the professional ’hagglers’ who just have to get a deal. I’ve had people ask, “This is priced at 25 cents – will you take 15 cents?” I can’t imagine a simple dime is valuable to anyone, so I like to waste their time by saying, “Oh, that’s my wife’s sister’s neighbor’s paper weight that she got from a fifth grade student when she was a teacher north of Duluth, before the school district closed the school for PCB poisoning. I think she really wanted to get at least 25 cents for that.” By this time I usually get a blank stare back from them, they put down the paper weight and quietly leave – not quite sure what just happened.
What do you think of garage / yard / tag sales? Are they worth the effort?
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