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Adventures in Yard-Sale Hunting

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Last weekend, with decent weather seeming possible on Saturday morning, I ventured out for some bargain hunting, yard-sale style. I browsed Craigslist the day before to come up with a list of areas to hit, trying to spread my time through a variety of neighborhoods.

Here’s the breakdown of where I went, what I found, and my tips for efficient yard-sale hunting in the future.

Stop 1–Sunnyside/Highland: Unfortunately, the day got off to a rocky start. The first sale was just a single home offering a lot of kitschy items. In fact, as I drove up, I was startled by a bear’s head sitting on top of a card table. I didn’t have the nerve to ask if it was real, but after browsing through the various knick-knacks, I realized it was time to move on. I drove somewhat aimlessly in the area for a while without finding any other spots.

Overall tip: When putting together your plan, try to look for listings that mention “multi-family” sales. Though it’s no guarantee that “multi” only means “two,” you’re more likely to increase your chances of finding some good stuff if several houses are participating. And if you have a specific address in mind, browse around online in advance to see if there will be other sales close by.

Stop 2–Baker: I was intrigued by the promise of a “Bonanza” in this neighborhood. About four houses seemed to be participating, and the offerings were a mix of kid’s toys and Christmas décor. I walked up to a house with a homemade “discount wheel.” The guy running it let customers spin the wheel for discounts from 25 cents to $1, and the chance to win free items. He also unfolded a flier to show me a map of the area and the main cluster of sales. I headed for that block and discovered the bonanza. I went to several houses and ended up with paperback books for 25 cents, hardcovers for 50 cents, and a $7 set of 3 wooden plates that stack nicely on my coffee table.

Overall tip: Don’t be afraid to chat with the people hosting the sales. They likely know their neighbors and might even know who is selling a particular item you’re on the lookout for. While I probably would have stumbled upon the bonanza area eventually, I was grateful for the heads up. After talking with the woman who sold me the plates, I learned that they came from Bali and that she sold them only because she’s moving overseas.

Stop 3–Washington Park: I found another multi-family sale on Clarkston Street, but it was much smaller than the Baker blowout. Still, the offerings seemed to be a little newer and more desirable than what I’d seen. I purchased two amber martini glasses for $2 each, plus a set of two champagne flutes for $5. While both buys seem to be of good quality, as I drove away I couldn’t help but wonder if I could have gotten an even better price.

Overall tip: Try to bargain. It’s a yard sale, not a trip to the mall. It never hurts to ask, and maybe I could have gotten $1 off the champagne flutes. When it comes to penny-pinching, a yard sale is the best place for it.

Stop 4–University: I was drawn to this particular sale because the listing mentioned it was a fundraiser for a recently widowed woman. By this time though, it was getting into mid-afternoon and the selection seemed picked over. I had a look around, but nothing caught my eye. They were, however, selling brownies and soda, so I ponied up $2 for a snack.

Overall tip: Get out to the sales early. Of course, if you’re going to multiple areas it’s hard to avoid missing out on something. But there are “early birds” out there who love to lurk around neighborhoods even before houses have opened their garages. This is especially important if you’re looking for a more coveted item like electronics or furniture, which are usually the first to go.

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