The yard sale addict... gets an early start

You know you're really a yard sale addict when you don't sleep well on Friday night. Worse still when you find yourself rummaging in your dreams! Maybe the dreams come from the excitement of the hunt (do fishermen and hunters dream about it the night before?) and maybe it's because when it comes to yard sales, if you're on time, you're late.

How early is too early? No one knows. There are sales where you can show up two hours ahead, sometimes even the night before, and you can shop. Those are the exception though. Mostly, 15 to 30 minutes early is still polite, and it's tolerable if you have to wait. You can see what's out there and if it doesn't look like it's worth waiting for, you're off. Annoying: sellers who rope off their sales and don't open until the dot of the hour. That's a fine thing for community sales -- for churches and schools, it just seems fair. For your neighbor's sale though, it has a rigid feel, of someone who over-values their recyclables and whose prices are likely to be on the high side. The truth, though, is that you just never know.

If the sale isn't open but something on the other side of the rope calls loudly, "Stay," then take the opportunity to practice scanning. You let your eyes travel deliberately over the sale. The clearer you are about what you need, the more likely that your eyes will find it. Going directly for what you want can be the difference between getting it and not. You can always put it back if you change your mind...

If it isn't worth waiting around, the advantage of having your sales cut and pasted on index cards (see, "It's going to be a big yard sale season - are you ready?") is that you can quickly reshuffle your route. Choosing the wrong sale for "first" is just part of the ups and downs of the sport.

Make sure you come equipped. Singles, fives and tens help the purchase go quickly, a favor both to you and to the seller. A good combination of bills makes it easier to haggle. If you want to offer $15 for a $20 item (always worth doing), it helps to be holding the $15 in your hand so the seller sees it. $15 in hand is worth $20 in the bush...

Memorial Day weekend is a huge yard sale weekend. If you're serious about saving money buying from your neighbors, you'll want to be ready to roll. Stay tuned to WalletPop this week for "The Well-Equipped Yard Sale Shopper" and "Yard sailing with kids."

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