Summer is here, and depending on what part of the country you’re in that means garage sales—or yard sales. It doesn’t matter if the items are in a garage, in a yard, or spread out on the driveway. It’s unique stuff for little money, and I’m addicted! If you’re hooked, too, forget the 12-step program. I’ve got something much better: a 7-step program for fun and smooth sailing when you’re out garage sale-ing.

  1. Build your route ahead of time:
    Make a list that groups your destinations geographically so you aren’t driving back and forth all day long. You probably already know that neighborhood sales can be super-sized, holy grail sales that allow you to fill your vehicle in record time (so you can head out for multiple rounds!).

  2. Do a drive-by deal scout before you commit to stopping:
    Take a slow, casual pass to see if the sale looks to be worth your time. If someone else is driving, then you can really hone your lookout skills. Nothing looks promising? Then keep moving, ‘cuz there are many more sales and you’re burning precious daylight.

  3. Stop by the ATM for cash:
    Most sellers won’t take a check or other types of payment, and you’ll wanna die if you miss out on the to-die-for lamp because you have to run to the ATM. Setting out with your cash allowance for the day is a great way stick to your budget and gauge your purchasing power throughout your journey.

  4. Pre-determine your top price for big-ticket items:
    For bigger purchases, know the top price you’re willing to pay and have the discipline to walk away if sellers won't negotiate. You may lose out once in a while, but over time you’ll become a savvy garage-saler who, more often than not, will get the item you're pining for.

  5.  Don’t be afraid to negotiate:
    Sellers build some cushion into their pricing, so strap on your shoes and enjoy the negotiation dance. Just please don’t be that person. You know the one—outraged that the brand new baby toy is a quarter instead of 20 cents.

  6. When sellers won't budge, let the clock run down:
    If you really want an item but it’s priced too high and the seller won’t budge, drive back (multiple times depending on location) to see if time softens the seller’s rigid stance. Often it will, especially for larger items such as furniture. Make sure to remind the seller that selling it to you means no hassle with disposing of it or trying to resell it.

  7. Look beyond “as is” to what “could be": 
    Often you can ignore the color and style of a piece because you can redo it to match your needs! This is especially true with accessories—lamps, vases, pots, candleholders and so on. Some new fabric, some cleaning or a fresh coat of paint can turn that overlooked item into a prized possession. Repurposing is a noble pursuit.

I’ve found many hidden gems over the years and I know you can too. It’s a modern day treasure hunt, so tap your inner pirate, get your map and seek your adventure! When people come to your home and compliment you on your beautiful, one-of-a-kind __________, I promise that the smug sensation you’ll get knowing how much you paid for your masterpiece will feel absolutely priceless.

Now, what will you do next to love where you live?

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