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Discount Diva: Garage sale tips for buyers and sellers

It's the age-old garage sale paradox.

The seller thinks his or her treasures are worth much more than a buyer is willing to pay, and the buyer thinks the seller is crazy, asking way too much for his or her used stuff.

To the seller, that Coach purse is a $200 stunner in perfect condition. To the buyer, it's a not-quite-their-style accessory that once hung perilously close to your armpit.

I know. You paid $60 for that blender. But would you rather sell it and get less than you hoped or hold out for a higher bidder and end up donating it to Salvation Army along with everything else you couldn't get rid of at your garage sale?

Many garage "sailors" go "sailing" looking for something specific – tools, camping gear, collectibles. Many others go just to see if they'll find something that strikes their fancy. In either case, buyers have a price in mind for how much they're willing to spend, and it's usually not more than a few dollars.

Angie's List has a trusted garage sale pricing guide. Here's what it suggests:

Clothing. Price baby clothes from 25 cents to $3, adult clothes from $3 to $5, shoes up to $7, coats $10 to $15, jewelry 50 cents to $2. If you have a lot of clothing, consider selling it by the bundle for a cheaper overall price – especially baby clothes.

Entertainment. Price books from 25 cents to $1, cassettes at $1, DVDs and CDs for up to $5, records $2 (but see if you can sell any rare ones to a record store, first), computers and equipment at no more than a third of their original price, toys and games from $1 to $3. Stuffed animals are a tough sell. Give them away free or charge a nickel.

Furniture. Price "value" furniture from $10 to $30, sturdier furniture at no more than a third of the original price (and be ready to haggle), price antiques at their appraisal rate or less, home decor up to $5.

Anything with tags on it or in its original packaging can sell for a little more.


And some advice for buyers:

Do your homework. Check Craigslist, and The Buffalo News classifieds to see pictures or descriptions of what is for sale near you. That way, you can be strategic about which sales you hit.

Don't haggle just to haggle. It doesn't matter how reasonably things are priced, there will always be someone who haggles just to haggle. Don't be that person.

Bring your checkbook. If you have to return with a truck to pick up a large item, leave a check to reserve it. Return with cash in hand.

Bring small bills. In a sea of twenties, a strapped seller will likely be willing to cut a deal for some much-needed fives, tens and ones.

Go early. All the best stuff usually gets snapped up in the beginning.

But not too early. There is nothing more universally despised as the garage sale early bird. Sellers will not be motivated to make a bargain with someone who parked at the end of their driveway and stared at them for half an hour before the sale started.

Or go late. More than once, I've scored smoking deals by going during the last hour or two of a sale – especially if it's the sale's last day and they're about to haul everything off to Goodwill anyway.

Got consumer tips or questions? Email:, tweet @DiscountDivaSam or message

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