My trusty sidekicks!
I open at work every Saturday morning which means I am there from 4:30-10:30am typically. I do not have the luxury of being able to plot and plan and be an early bird at rummage sales because of this, but considering the benefits it offers my family I'm not going to complain! I've learned to use the time and opportunity that I do have to rummage sale to my advantage. I stop at as many sales as I can on my way home from work. If I work Friday and Saturday I take a different route home each day to maximize the number of sales I'll see.
I LOVE a good bargain and I have a (somewhat self-imposed) small budget so I need to be smart about my purchases, even the ones that are second hand. I do have a good memory and am typically able to know if something I see is a good price and if it is something useful for us, but I realized last year that I needed some help to really maximize my great buys.
My biggest rummage sale goal is to entirely outfit little guy with adorable clothes that I find second hand at a steal of a price. In order to be prepared for what he will need for the next year I've devised a chart. I'm doing my best to avoid having 10 pairs of pants and no shorts for the summer or all short sleeve onsies that fit when winter rolls around. When I did my inventory this spring I realized that I had NO pjs once he got past 12 months and I only had 1 pair of 12 month pjs. I do not know exactly what size he will be during what season so I am probably over buying a bit on things, but I also know that I can recoup the money I'm spending if I sell these items at a garage sale in our neighborhood. My goal is to spend $.25-$.50 per item. I will spend $1 if it is an all in one outfit or a good pair of jeans or khakis or bibs. Pjs I typically spend $.75-$1 on. His heavy fall/winter jacket was $2 (Baby Gap) and the one for this summer was $1 (Polo).
Last summer I bought no newborn size clothes (we got tons as gifts when he was born and they didn't last very long at all!) and focused on getting him things through 12 months. I did pick up things that were bigger when I found them for $.25 or if they were just something I 'had to have'. With gifts and such we have had PLENTY of clothes (I think I counted 40ish sleepers at one point around 3 months). This summer I am focused on 18 month-2T mainly. I am picking up bigger sizes when I find great deals. My main goal is to get through the entire next year until rummage season starts again, so I'm not terribly worried about finding 4T jeans, but if I find them in great shape for a quarter I'm going to buy them. The chart makes sure I don't buy 8 pairs of them.
I've got boxes in the basement that I've got labeled for different sizes. Right now I have a newborn-3 months box, 3-6 months, 9-12 months (lots of these are in his drawers right now), 18 months, 24/2T, and 3T/up. I've also got a box of shoes. I am typically paying about $1 for shoes and most are leather or name brand tennis shoes. We have purposefully not had him in shoes yet, but once he is walking we've got shoes for him to wear. I have 3 pairs of size 4 (what he is getting close to now) and 2 size 5. Then it is hit or miss (6, 6.5, 7, 9, 9). Again, I'm not trying to stock a retail store, I'm just making sure there are things for now and for the next bit and beginning my stockpile for later.
So the chart basically gives me a run down of what I've got and shows me where my holes are. I focus mostly on those and it keeps me from wanting to go crazy when I find 9 month sweaters for $.25. If he's not going to wear it, than I'm not going to buy it! I find that tally marks are good enough for me. I buy pants and bibs that are pretty neutral, so they'll go with most any of the shirts, tops and sweatshirts/jackets. I am trying to make sure I do get at least one dressy outfit in each size so he has something nicer to wear when that is called for. The prices I'm paying may seem low, but it takes patience to find them. Some sales have everything marked for $1 or $2 or even more. Those sales I don't waste much time at and when I find a sale that has the big table of 'everything is $.50' than I settle in and go through it thoroughly! It is possible to find these prices, you just have to go to enough sales and be patient.
This list is something I started doing last year when I had a big case of pregnancy brain! I knew there were specific things I wanted to find, but I was nervous that I would forget them as I often felt like I couldn't remember my phone number. I keep a list all year of things we could use, things we need, and things we want. Typically I have an idea of what the big stuff sells for on craigslist and new and keep in mind what I'd be willing to pay at a garage sale. As I find something specific I cross it off the list. Last summer I crossed almost every item off my list before I was finished! So far I've crossed off the backpack carrier, the outdoor baby swing, and the compost bin (we made one). I've got lots of things on there yet, but the season is still early. I've also got listed somethings that a co-worker is looking for and clothes my sister is wanting for my nieces for school next year. One the right I've got a list of babies from our birth class who are all turning 1 shortly. This is a visual clue to keep my eyes open for specific toys or books that fit their personalities and that I know their parents would appreciate.
I do not buy a ton of my gifts at rummage sales, my focus is on our family's needs. However, I will pick up something for someone if it is what I know they want or need. Most my friends and family know I am frugal and I don't think many of them would be shocked if I got them a second hand gift as long as it was appropriate. The great majority of gifts we give are new, but there are a few exceptions.
So my tips:
1. Focus on the time you do have, not the time you don't have. Try to drive different routes on your way home from work on Friday and Saturday to ensure possible exposure to rummage sales. Do not be afraid to stop and buzz through many sales on your way home from work.
2. Make a list of what your family needs/wants. Know your prices. Ask if you don't see what you need. I'm asking for a canning colander at every sale I stop at this year. Someone will have one!
3. If you want to outfit a child/children make an inventory sheet and keep it up to date. When you come home from rummaging add tally marks for the 'new' purchases as you take off tags, before they are even washed. Think ahead for the whole year. Do not forget things like hats, mittens, snow pants, swim trunks, pjs, socks. They can be bought for pennies at a rummage sale, but are pricey if you need them last minute. Do not be afraid to buy a few years ahead if it is a great deal.
4. Carry cash at all times. You never know when you'll pass a sale on a Thursday that has the perfect $10 leather chair that you've been wanting your whole life. Carry as much cash as you would want to spend on the biggest ticket item you are looking for. I'm looking for a bike trailer, so I'm carrying as much as we would want to spend on that.
5. Be open minded. Last year I bought a bag of baby spoons/forks for $.25. There were about 8 spoons and 3 forks. 2 of the spoons had names on them. My son is not named either of these names and he really doesn't care! The two pairs of capris I bought for $1 fit me just as well as the one pair I bought for $30 a few years ago. Why not keep it out of a land fill and save yourself some money at the same time?
6. Don't be afraid to walk away. There are hundreds of sales every year. Someone will have what you want at a price you want. If you can't live without it, buy it, but really if you didn't have it yesterday chances are you will survive another day without it! If the price seems crazy high don't fight about it, just walk away.
7. Have FUN! The rush of finding a good deal is awesome. The things you'll see are funny. The people you meet are sometimes crazy. Rummaging should be like a scavenger hunt...only with a great purpose. If it is stressing you out or you are beat, go home. There will be more sales another time.
8. Be patient and persistent. You will not find everything you need/want in one weekend. Do not even try. The season is long and the finds are going to be there. Just keep stopping at sales and you'll be amazed at what you find.
9. Delight in the unexpected. Last year I found a Pampered Chef bar server for $.25. Didn't really need it, but always wanted one. I snapped it up and use it and love it. Every purchase doesn't have to be on my list. The list keeps me on track, but I delight in the little finds that make our life prettier, easier or just more fun!
10. Check out some other great bloggers ideas about rummage sales.