8 Mistakes People Make at Garage Sales

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Whether you're a casual garage sale shopper or someone who spends a whole Saturday planning routes and hitting all the best sales, you're likely aware of some of the most common rules-of-thumb. Carrying cash, learning to haggle, looking for neighborhood sales, targeting well-to-do communities, and bringing your own bags are all great habits to get into. There are, however, some common mistakes people make when shopping at garage sales that can lead to a frustrating or unsatisfactory experience. Here are eight garage sale gaffes to avoid so you can walk away happy with a great find and some money left over in your fanny pack.

Not Bringing a Measuring Tape

You never know when you're going to stumble upon a great coffee table, rug, lamp base or bench. If you visit garage sales often in search of home decor, keep a list of room dimensions and size requirements with you, along with a measuring tape. That way, you can see how something sizes up, as well as determine whether or not it will fit in your car.

Arriving Too Early

Almost every garage sale expert will tell you to arrive early at garage sales to get the best stuff. If you don't have a specific purpose, however, coming a little later--or circling back to the one you've already visited--has one big advantage: the seller will be more willing to haggle with you at the end of the day so you'll get even better deals. This way, you'll also avoid crowds and neighborhood traffic.

Not Bundling

Every once in a while you find a garage sale where you hit the mother load. For whatever reason, the seller just happens to be unloading a bunch of stuff you can't wait to drag home. When that happens, it's a mistake not to ask for a bundled price. If, for example, the items you want total $48, ask the seller if he or she will accept $40 for everything. Another variation of this tactic is to offer the full price for what you have in hand, but ask if the seller will throw in an extra item you were eyeing at no charge.

Forgetting That This Is Someone's Stuff

Yes, haggling is just a friendly part of the garage sale game and sellers expect it. On the other hand, it's important to remember that you're picking through someone's things--someone's memories. Perhaps the seller is having a sale because he needs the money, or maybe the goal of the sale is to raise money for a charity. Don't insult sellers by offering them a low-ball price, and don't make rude comments about their taste. Rather, be friendly, greet sellers upon approaching, and even compliment them on their selection. You're sure to enjoy the experience more with a good attitude and might even score better deals because you've initiated conversation.

Not Asking About an Item's History

Shopping at garage sales is one of the best ways to create a home that has some soul. First of all, items that have a progeny or a good story behind them make great conversation pieces; they also add a layer of interest to your space that can't be achieved with all-new items. When you find an interesting piece at a garage sale, don't forget to ask the seller where she got it, how long she's had it, or where it got that chip, crack, or scratch. You're almost sure to fall in love with something a little more when you know it's story and striking up a conversation with the seller will help you have a more memorable day.

Going with Something Specific in Mind

One of the best parts about shopping at garage sales for home decor is the serendipity factor. While it's OK to keep a wish list of things you'd like to find in your head, if you spend a Saturday hopping from sale to sale with a single purpose, you'll probably come home empty-handed and disappointed. A better idea is to go to garage sales with an open mind. You'll not only have more fun, but you'll also be more likely to see the possibilities in other people's cast-offs.

Passing up Garage Sale Gold

While it's important not to shop at garage sales with a single purpose, there are some items you can't go wrong in buying. Here are nine vintage garage sale finds that you should never pass up. Or, if you happen to find something you know will sell great on eBay, snatch it up! There's nothing wrong with buying something just to turn around and sell it for a little profit. 

Not Using Your Imagination

If you shop at garage sales hoping to find stylish home decor in great condition, nine times out of ten you'll be disappointed. One of the biggest reasons people sell their home decor, in fact, is because it's out of style. Therefore, it's crucial when picking through a garage sale to imagine an object's possibilities. Spray paint can transform almost anything such as a set of metal trays, a headboard, a side table, or dated ceramic figurines. It's also helpful to think about ways to re-purpose things you find, such as old picture frames and art, mismatched dishes, baskets and crates, and old suitcases. Garage sales are full of little discoveries that can be turned into inexpensive but beautiful home decor with just a little imagination and elbow grease.