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How to Host a Successful Garage Sale

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How to Host a Successful Garage Sale

I've had several garage sales over the last decade, and I've made anywhere from $150 to over $1600 at my sales. Here are my tips for having a successful sale:

 

1. Pick a beautiful day (or two) for your sale

People like to go out when the weather is nice--not too hot, not too cold, and definitely not raining or super windy. If the weather has been nice for a few days before the sale, people will be looking forward to getting out.

 

2. Have enough stuff to sell.

No one will stop the car and get out if you don't have enough for sale, nor will you make much money.

Let people know you're having a sale ahead of time. Friends who have just a few items they need to get rid of are often happy to donate them to your garage sale rather than making a special trip to donate them somewhere else. 

Every sale I've had has had enough stuff because I've had items from others, as I'm not someone who buys a lot of things. When my grandmother moved from a house into an assisted living facility (basically a small apartment), we sold her unneeded items. When she died, we sold the rest of her items (this was my biggest sale). At that same sale, we knew a family who was moving the day of our sale. They left a bunch of stuff at their curb the night before that wouldn't fit in their moving van and told us we could have it all for our sale. One of the items was a large piece of furniture that we sold for $100! My parents have also given us whatever they were purging at the time (usually making up over half the items in my sale), and they often gave us a few extra items from friends who no longer needed them.

If you still don't have enough, combine forces with a friend (or two!) and host the sale together. Label items with different colored stickers so that you can keep straight where the money goes. I've stopped at huge sales and found out when I went to pay (and the sellers marked prices down by the color of the labels, or took the labels off and stuck them on a piece of paper) that the sale was hosted by more than one person.

 

3. Display your items on tables.

No one likes to bend over in your driveway and look through piles and boxes of items on the ground. If you don't have enough tables, borrow some for your sale and arrange your items neatly on the tables. Make a beautiful shopping display with like items to make it easier for your customers to find what they are looking for.

I like to have large items on one side of the driveway. On the tables, I'll arrange sections for different items: children's clothing (sorted by sex and size), women's clothing, men's clothing, housewares, (sorted by kitchen items, decorative items, bedding, etc.)  children's books, other books, etc.

As your sale continues throughout the morning, rearrange your items on the tables during slower times to keep the items looking neat. Refold clothing and re-stack items that have become disorganized.

In addition, if you can hang clothing (a pole between two ladders works well) your customers can see your clothing better, and it's more likely to sell than clothing that is folded.

 

4. Price everything ahead of time.

You will sell more items if people don't have to ask you the price. 

When pricing your items, remember: You want to get rid of these things and make some money doing it! Don't price items too high, or no one will buy them. Think about what price you would consider to be a good deal and price it accordingly.

Use stickers for individual items. You can also use signs in combination with stickers, such as a sign for all books or all clothing. I usually hang signs for books and clothing on the ends of the tables so that potential buyers can see them from the street as well as when they walk up to the sale.

In my area, some prices that I consider to be a good deal are the following:

Paperback books: $0.25 each

Hardcover books $0.50 each

Children's clothing: $0.50 each

Adult clothing: $1 each

Coats and Dresses: $1 to $3 each

If these items are more than that, I will hesitate before purchasing them when I go to a garage sale. I will pay up to $2 for clothing items if it is something I really like, but I am less likely to buy several items from the same seller. The more items you can get your customers to buy, the more you've gotten rid of, and the more they are likely to spend in the end.

 

5. Accept reasonable offers

Everyone loves a bargain. Especially on large items, people will offer you an amount lower than what you have priced. If it's not way lower than what you priced it at, accept the offer, or offer a slightly higher price back that is still lower than your original asking price. Remember, the goal is to sell the items, not have them left at the end of the day, and this person is actually interested in your item, so sell it to the interested party!

 

6. Advertise your sale

The night before the sale, put up a notice in the garage sale section of Craig's List for your city. List the items and prices of those items in your post. If you have clothing, be specific; i.e. "Boy's clothing sizes 5-8 $0.50." If you can take pictures ahead of time, include pictures of as much as possible.

The morning of the sale, I'll take pictures of my items in the driveway and use the same list to post the sale on the local Facebook page.

Another free place to list your sales is garagesales.net. 

 

7. Have good signage

I can't tell you how many customers have thanked me first thing as they come up to my sale for having had good signs! Most of your buyers will come from your signs.

I print my signs on colored paper on the computer and use packaging tape to tape them to boxes. I print in a large, bold print so that potential customers can easily read the signs. I include the date (or dates, if it's a two-day sale), the time of the sale, my street address, and a huge arrow pointing the correct direction. I make signs for both sides of the box so that it can be read from both directions at an intersection.

I use milk jugs filled with water to weigh down the boxes, and I place them on the concrete medians at the nearest intersections. I place another box with signs like this outside my housing tract. 

Once inside the tract, I have boxes with signs that just have large arrows printed on them at every turn.

I use the same colored paper for all of my signs, so that people know it's the same sale. I have used light blue and light green paper in the past, as that is what I had. The signs were colored but still easy enough to read.

 

8. Start early

The serious buyers will be at your house a half hour before you start your sale, hoping to find great deals while you're still setting up everything. They haven't spent their money yet, so they're more likely to spend more with you if you have what they want. Be ready for them by setting up early (I like to bring out tables about an hour and half before the sale starts), and advertise the start of your sale at 7 a.m. Be prepared to make most of your money between 6:30 a.m. and 9 a.m. (Note: Start time vary by location; in some areas, no sales start before 9 a.m. Learn what is normal where you live).

If you have a place to stage tables indoors the night before, you can have non-breakable items already arranged on the tables. Then you simply have to carry your tables outside with the for-sale items on them. 

 

9. Greet your customers

A cheery, "Good morning!" is always helpful! Ask your customers if they're looking for anything in particular; perhaps you have that item and can help them find it amongst your items for sale. Tell them your prices, i.e. : "All paperback books are $0.25 and all hardcovers are $0.50. Clothing on the tables are $0.50 each and hanging clothing is $1 each." Even though your prices are posted, letting them know what they are will prompt them to look through things they might not have been considering. Have a lot of clothing in the same size? Don't be afraid to tell people! Likewise, let people know what other items you have; I have seen lots of potential buyers look through my sale items more closely after we've told them what we have in a cheery manner, and they have bought a lot more that way.

At a busy sale, it's important that customers know who's in charge. If they have any questions about an item, they know who to ask, and when they've found something they want, they know who to pay. Your greeting makes it easy to establish who is in charge of the sale.

 

10. Be helpful

Have plastic grocery shopping bags handy for your customers to put their items in. Ask your customers who are buying several items if they'd like you to start them a pile while they look around some more. This leaves their hands free to pick up more items that they might just buy. I've had customers hand me enough items for 2 to 3 piles while they look around.

 

11. Have change

I like to start out with at least $60 to $80 in change. Many people only have $20 bills. I go to the bank ahead of time and get ones, fives, and a roll of quarters. Just remember how much you started with when you count your profit at the end of the day.

I prefer to wear an apron with two pockets while I'm having the sale. In one pocket I keep bills, and in the other, I keep coins. This way I can walk around the sale and help customers without worrying about the money.

If I've made a lot of money, I take a second during a time of no customers to run inside and put some large bills/stacks of twenties in the house.

 

12. Have help

If you can sell with someone, you can both answer questions about items together, rearrange items during times of no customers, and give each other a chance to use the restroom. One of you can also watch your sale while you set up signs early in the morning and help you take signs down when the sale is done.

 

13. Consider a two-day sale

If you live in an area that has sales for two days, the real serious buyers come on the first day. You'll need to have lots of items in order to do this, but if you have enough, it's totally worth it. My highest profit garage sale (where I made over $1600) was held over two days. In our area, the big days are Fridays and Saturdays. Fridays are especially busy early in the morning, as people stop on their way to work. Find out what days are the most common sale days in your area. In some places, it's Thursday! You'll have the most success by selling on the days that people are normally out looking for sales.

 

14. Have a free box

While not absolutely necessary, a free box will often prompt people to stop. They may then end up deciding to look around the rest of your sale, since they have already gotten out of the car. I use a free box for items I think won't sell but that I still want to get rid of. Some things you may want to include in your free box are VHS tapes, clothing items that are really worn and/or outdated, promotional t-shirts and other promotional materials, stuffed animals, and items that may be missing pieces.

I set up the free box a little distance from the rest of my items. 

 

15. Donate what's left

At the end of your sale, (after you've taken down your signs) load up your vehicle and drive straight to the thrift store to donate any unsold items. In the U.S., you can receive a receipt for donated items and use it as a tax write-off. This nets you a bit more money on your sale in the form of lower income taxes next year.

 

 

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Why I Don't Mind Being a One-Car Family

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One Car Family The Prudent Homemaker

 

Twelve years ago, after our third child was born, we sold both of our vehicles and bought a single vehicle for our family. We needed something that would fit three car seats and have rear air conditioning and tinted windows. In our heat, it can easily get to 140º in a car in the summer, so having these features in pretty essential in making sure that passengers in the back don't overheat; we run the air conditioning in our vehicle eleven months of the year.

After our seventh child was born, we needed a larger vehicle that would fit our larger family. We sold what we had and bought a used van for $500 over what we sold our previous vehicle.

 

Why I Love Being a One-Car Family:

 

1. We only have one car to register.

In our state, registration for a vehicle is pro-rated by the vehicle itself as well as the age of the vehicle.  It's several hundred dollars a year, even for older vehicles.

2. We only have one car to insure.

This easily saves us hundreds of dollars a year.

3. We don't have car payments.

Not making payments on multiple vehicles saves us a ton of money.

4. I have plenty to do at home.

Being home more often rather than running around gives me more time to do the things I want and need to do

5. I am happy at home.

I have been asked if I don't feel "stuck at home" with just one car. I have never thought of being in my own home as being stuck. Home is not a place I want or need to leave and get away from in order to feel complete each day. I try to make my home a beautiful place to be where I am surrounded by the people and things that I love.

 

The practicalities of living with one car: 

 

1. Most of the time, I don't go further than a two-mile radius.

Within that distance, I combine trips to save time and gas. We have a lot of stores within that distance. Once a month I'll go to Sam's Club (which is 5 miles) and a couple of times a year I run an errand a bit further out. 

2. I will make a trip to the store usually very early in the morning or late in the evening.

Stores are blissfully empty early in the morning, making it easy to check out quickly without a 20 minute time spent waiting in line. Late evenings are good for that as well, depending on the store. 

In our summer heat, running an errand during the day will literally wipe you out. Sure, it may only take 5 minutes to get to the store, but your vehicle is 140º inside and it doesn't cool down by the time you've gotten to the store. Then you get back in on the way home. This makes a person exhausted and in great need to cool down when they return home--and leaving you too tired to accomplish much for the rest of the day. In the summer, I try to go shopping less frequently. No matter the time of year (but especially important during the summer) I'll try to go super early (like 6 a.m. if the store is open then, or right at 8 if it opens later) or go after the children are in bed, so I can come home and go to sleep afterwards. Going shopping during those hours means I don't interrupt our day and my husband has our van to take to work.

3. I don't go shopping very often.

I try to limit my trips to the store. I keep a well-stocked pantry, which means I don't have to go to the store every week and can wait to find the best deals.  Staying out of the store also makes it easy to stick to my grocery budget.

4. I do my shopping research online ahead of time.

If I know what I need but I'm not sure where to get it, I'll look at several stores websites before venturing out to see if the stores have what I need. This saves a ton of time and gas. It's much faster to "go to" 10 stores online and figure out if they have what I need before I go. Another bonus of looking online ahead of time is that I can often find out if the store has what I need in stock.

5. I shop online when possible.

This saves time and money. I look for free shipping deals whenever possible.

6. My children use bicycles.

My older children get to where they need to go on their bicycles. Last week when my husband was at Scout camp with one son, my daughter attended a swim party and my son attended Boy Scouts. They took their bikes where they needed to go. They learn independence.

We bought used bicycles and solid tires for their bicycles to keep costs down and keep them from getting frequent flats.

7. We carpool when possible.

When my eldest has a church dance she wants to attend, she'll go with a group of friends all together and one of them will drive or one parent will drive. They have more fun being together in the car. We'll likewise do the same for church activities for our younger girls.

8. We have piano lessons at home.

We have a piano teacher who comes to our home every other week. I don't need to drive my children to lessons. (Bonus: I get to accomplish more things at home while they have lessons!)

9. I homeschool my children.

Driving them to school and picking them up isn't something on my to-do list. This alone gives me a ton of time in my day which I can use to do other things.

 

We generally put between 8000 - 10,000 miles a year on our only vehicle. We save not only gas, but wear and tear on our vehicle.

 

I know being a one-car family isn't practical for everyone, but if you can make it work for you, it's a great money-saver!

 

Are you a one-car family? How do you make it work for your family? Do you have great public transportation where you live and go without a vehicle?

 

Tagged in: Frugal Living
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Ten Things You Can Do To Save Money This Week

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Feeling a pinch in your finances this week?

If you're feeling the need to save even more this week, but wondering what else you can do, here are some ideas to keep money in your pocket. (I'm planning to do all of them!)

Tuscan Tomato Soup 

1. Eat all meals at home

Don't go out to eat or order takeout. If you've got a busy week ahead, put together some crockpot meals in the morning, make a large pot of soup every few nights (enough for leftovers for another day or several lunches during the week), and plan some quick and easy meals to save you time this week.

 

2. Don't buy any groceries this week

Use up whatever you have in the fridge, freezers, and pantry. 

 

3. Turn the heat down

Set your thermostat a couple of degrees lower this week (for those in the Northern hemisphere). If you have a programmable thermostat, set it to be even lower during the day if you won't be home during the day. Add another blanket to your bed (a throw blanket works fine if you don't have another bed-sized blanket).

During the day, dress in layers.

 

4. Block drafts in your house with old towels

Roll up some old towels (or your summer swimming towels) and use them as instant draft blockers to block cold drafts from doors and windows.

 

5. Mend something 

Rather than buying something new, mend what you have. Sew up the hole in a shirt, patch a sheet, glue your shoes, or fix that thing that's been broken for a bit in your home.

 December Arrangement The Prudent Homemaker

6. Decorate for the season using what you have (and can get for free)

Gather pinecones and put them in bowls. Decorate with cookie cutters. Cut greens from your yard. Visit a place selling Christmas trees and ask if you can have the trimmings; many places will give them to you for free!

 

7. Make a gift using items you have on hand

Repurpose old clothing to make a hat, scarf, or gloves. Refashion a broken piece of jewelry into a new combination to give.

 

8. Be diligent about turning off lights when you're not using them

When you sit down to eat, turn off any lights that aren't right above your table. Studies have shown that you'll save more money turning them off if you leave a room for 20 seconds (incandescent) or 2 minutes (fluorescent).

 

9. Take a family photo (or individual family pictures) yourself

Set the timer and take a new family photo.  Email it rather than sending Christmas cards or post it on Facebook instead.

 

10. Have a date night at home

Play a board game or card game, watch a movie you already own (or borrow one from the library), work on a project together, clean something together, or just enjoy talking together while you have a homemade treat.

 

Do you have any other plans to save money this week that won't cost you anything this week?

 

 

Tagged in: Frugal Living
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Make Your Own Chocolate Easter Rabbits

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 Easter Rabbits 2 The Prudent Homemaker

These simple rabbits are quick and easy to make. I use chocolate wafers, which don't need to be tempered.

Easter Rabbit Molds The Prudent Homemaker

Supplies:

Rabbit molds. This mold is my favorite,  but I also like this one for a large rabbit,  this this floppy-eared large rabbit,  and this one for small bunnies

Melting chocolate wafers. I like these white chocolate ones and these dark chocolate ones.

Easter Rabbit Molds 3 The Prudent Homemaker

Directions:

In a glass bowl, melt a small amount of wafers for 1 minute in the microwave, stopping to stir after 45 seconds, and then stirring them after 1 minute to finish melting all of the chocolate. (No micrcowave? You can melt them in a double boiler, or in a metal bowl set over a pot of boiling water on the stove).

Use a spoon to fill each rabbit cavity, and then gently tap the mold on the counter or table to remove air bubbles. Put the mold in the refrigerator to help speed up the cooling process. When the chocolate has cooled to a solid, turn the molds over and gently push or shake the rabbits out.

If making a two-sided rabbit, cut the mold in half with scissors, and cut off the edges of the mold. Fill one side of the mold and put in in the refrigerator to harden.

Easter Rabbit Molds 2 The Prudent Homemaker

After one side has cooled, melt and fill the remaining side. Tap the mold on the counter to remove air bubbles, and then add a little extra chocolate to the top of the rabbit, to act as the glue. Remove the cold rabbits from the fridge and line them up on top of the warm rabbits. Use clips to keep the mold closed and lined up while the rabbits cool. Return this to the fridge for it to finish cooling.

 Easter Rabbits The Prudent Homemaker

Cost breakdown:

 

Is making your own Easter rabbits worth it? That depends on several things, including  your chocolate preferences.

Yes, you can buy the small rabbits with the blue eyes that are $1 each from the dollar store. 

My personal favorite is the kind that comes wrapped in goil foil with a red ribbon around the neck. Those run $2.50 to $3 each on sale for the medium-sized rabbits (they come in severa sizes) that are 4.3 ounces each. On sale, these run $0.58 to $.70 an ounce, and would have me out $17.50 to $21 for my 7 children. That's more than I want to spend on what is only part of our Easter candy.

Amazon's price for the 12 ounce bag is $3.98 (with free prime shipping or free shipping on orders over $35). This makes the chocolate $0.33 an ounce. For a sweeter deal, you could use a Swagbucks gift card to order chocolate this way, as well as the molds, making for no cost out of pocket.

Sam's Club carries two 2-pound bags (4 pounds total)  for $15.76. This puts your cost at $0.25 an ounce for the chocolate.

The mold price is going to be highest your first year, of course, but isn't an issue each year after that. If I was just going to buy one mold, I would buy this one, which is currently $4.51, with free shipping. Each side of the mold holds 1.4 ounces. You can make a flat rabbit, or put the two sides together for a solid rabbit of 2.8 ounces. You could also fill the inside with a filling of your choice--peppermint patty rabbits, or caramel rabbits, for instance. A solid 2.4 ounce rabbit would be $0.60 for the chocolate. Your cost per rabbit for the mold will depend on how many rabbits you make--and how many years you use the mold. This is a smaller rabbit than many at the store, but unlike many of those, yours will most likely be solid, so it will be a decent amount of chocolate for a child. If making a larger rabbit, such as with the other molds,  you may want to keep it one-sided.

I like to put these in a container at the back of the refrigerator prior to Easter, to keep them ready for Easter.

This is my third year making my own Easter rabbits. 

I combine these with candy I get for very little, by combining coupons and sales. We fill the same plastic eggs each year with the little candy for an egg hunt, and I give the children their Easter rabbits at breakfast. If you start in the next day or so, you can grow your own Easter grass in time for Easter, and put these rabbits in them on your table. I've done this before for our Easter centerpiece, and I plan to do it again this year, too. Here is a beautifully photographed tutorial on how to grow your own wheat grass.

If you're looking for more frugal Easter ideas, check out my Easter Pinterest board!

 

Tagged in: Frugal Living
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Writing a Garage Sale List

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Twice a year, a master-planned community near my house has a neighborhood garage sale.

I like being able to go to several sales in a short period of time.

I make it a plan to take a list with me. I go to this semi-annual sale with my mom, so I take 3 copies of my list: one for me, one for her, and one to hand to the person having the sale. I don't always use the third one, but if someone asks if I'm looking for something in particular and they have several things for sale, I'll hand them that copy of the list. This has helped me several times. Once, a woman said, "Oh, I had one of those out at my last garage sale and forgot to put it out this time! I'll go get it!" which resulted in this:

 


A beautiful metal embroidery hoop, with a date on it of 1917. This is definitely my oldest embroidery hoop. I paid $1.50, and it was in a bag with several other vintage items for that price. It's my favorite hoop now (it's actually much smaller than you see here; I love the small size as it prevents my hand my cramping).

Another time a woman noticed I was looking for sidewalk chalk. She had a large coffee can full of it, which I most likely would not have seen has I not given her the list. When I asked how much, she said I could have it for free!

My list does a lot more for me than that, however. I use my list to specifically shop for clothes and gifts for my family.

I write down each person's name in the family, along with what clothing items they need, and the number of items that they need. For the children, I write down anything they need next year and the following year (the next two sizes up). If they still need anything for this year I will include that as well, but in general, I am shopping ahead for them. By shopping for the next two sizes, I am better prepared for sudden growth spurts. It also is important because sometimes it is difficult to find anything in the sizes I need; having two years to find something helps a lot.

For example, one person on my list might look like this:

Cyrus (age 10 1/2)

4 short-sleeved shirts size 14
6 long-sleeved shirts size 14
3 pairs shorts size 14
1 pair dress pants size 14
2 pairs jeans size 14
3 pairs long pants/corduroys size 14
1 tie

7 short-sleeved shirts size 16
6 long-sleeved shirts size 16


By having a specific number of items, I can be certain not to overbuy. I purchase enough for a week's worth of clothing (including church clothes) for both hot weather and cold weather.

I aim to pay 50 cents to a dollar for clothing items. I will occasionally pay more ($4 for a coat, for example), or $2 for a new items with tags on it, but in general, most items I buy are in the $0.50 to $1 range. This means that, in the example above, for a year's worth of clothing in one size, I am out the same price as one brand-new shirt at Target.

(This does not not count socks, underwear, pajamas, or shoes--just other items of clothing. I purchase socks and underwear on back to school sales. I make pajamas, usually repurposing sheets for these. I look for sales on shoes).

Most of my boys' clothing is used, from garage sales as well as hand-me-downs from friends. I like preppy, vintage clothes, and for the boys, it is usually quite possible to find button-down shirts and polo shirts in like-new condition, as these items are worn less often than t-shirts.  I find it harder to buy my girls clothing that I like, but I do find things for them on occasion (especially cardigans and jeans). I love vintage-style dresses, so I tend to make those, but I have found several jumpers and occasionally a few dresses.

Besides clothing, I have other items on the list.
 

 

I have listed both types of books as well as certain books that we are wanting. I have often found specific books that we wanted. I use these for the whole family or for individual children. If I plan on keeping it for a birthday gift or a Christmas gift, I put it up until that time. I pay .25 to $1 for most books. (I did buy a few last year for $2 each, that were hardcover books in like-new condition--and they were books on my list).  I will also pick up books in like-new condition for us to give as gifts to friends; these are often books that we already own and my children love, so I know their friends will like them as well. I put those in my gift box.

My list includes items that I know the children would like for birthdays and Christmas. Sometimes I find those items and sometimes I don't. Sometimes I find items that I know they will love that aren't on my list; that's okay, too, of course! (A couple of weeks ago a neighbor on my street was having a garage sale that included several like-new games, all marked $1 each. One was Harry Potter Uno. I've seen that on Amazon--for $53! I bought it and put it aside for Cyrus' 11th birthday later this year).

 

This vintage Ball jar was a garage sale purchase.

If there is anything I need in the kitchen, I'll put that on my list. Right now, for example, I'm looking for a metal pie server. I have one, but I would like another one for when we have several kinds of pie at once. I have an idea of the style I would like. I'm not in a hurry, but it's an item I would like to have, so I'll look for it.

Any other needs I have are also on there. This year, I am looking for a few bicycle helmets.

I have a few items on my list that I would like for sewing; I am looking for some specific shades of velvet and wool. Often these two items can be repurposed clothing items, so I look for pieces in good enough shape to cut up for those projects (a velvet skirt can offer plenty of fabric to make a girl's dress bodice). I aim to pay $1 for these. Garage sales are also a great place to look for sheets (to use for sewing) and blankets (to use as-is).



The white quilt on my bed was a garage sale find for $15. I have purchased blankets for the children at garage sales, too.

I usually take $35 to $45 with me. Most times, this is money that I've made from my own garage sale. I plan to go to this neighborhood sale in April and October; I might go to one other sale a year (this year I went to three already, as two were on my street and one was two streets over).

My list has also served another purpose for me for the past several years. A friend of my mother's (a woman whose children are long-grown) goes to Oregon and Washington each summer. She loves garage sale shopping while she is there, and she offered to look for things for me before if I would give her a list. She brings back several bags of clothing (usually including a few costumes), along with a list of what she paid for each item. She looks for items in the same price range as I do (most items she picks up for 50 cents each). I email my list to her.

I'll be going garage sale shopping at the community garage sale this Saturday. I'm looking forward to it!


Have you ever written a garage sale list? Do you use garage sales to buy the bulk of your family's clothing?





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