As consumers search attics for fast cash, resale shops are seeing a glut of merchandise. For-sale listings on Craigslist are also way up. We can be sure that there will be more sellers and less buyer money around as the yard sale season begins.

I've been a yard sale addict for more than 25 years. My buying habits won't change very much - except for the fact that I'm also part of the wave of downsizing/decluttering baby boomers and like everyone else, I'm watching what there is of my money. Since I'm also a social worker, I don't want to profit from anyone else's misfortune, which makes me a little uneasy about what it's going to be like once I start my Saturday routes. I expect that I'll make the same kind of offers - looking for the same kind of percentages off - that I always have, looking for a fair price. As a real estate agent recently explained, "A fair deal is when both the buyer and the seller are both just a little dissatisfied." No one gets the best of anyone.There may be more merchandise out there to buy and the prices are likely to be lower. Neither of those things will change my yard sale strategy.

My system for yard sale success is more elaborate than some people will enjoy. I am indebted to my friend, yard sale maven Edith Dondis, for telling me about the system. Most of it is done on Friday evening, sometimes with a glass of wine and the television in the background, and a few supplies. These are:

  • Local Newspapers
  • Street maps (a serious yard sale shopper needs detailed street maps, otherwise you will waste time and gas and gain only frustration)
  • Index cards
  • Scissors
  • Scotch tape or a glue stick
  • A highlighter pen.
Begin by reading the yard sale ads and highlight all the sales that look attractive to you. Check not only the "Yard Sale" section of the newspaper but also look for church sales and other fundraisers. Decide how far you want to roam. Once you've determined your radius, cut out all the ads that interest you. Glue to tape them one per index card, highlighting the start times as you do. This isn't wasteful; you can recycle the index cards. The advantage to this system is that now you will be able to shuffle and reshuffle your cards, mapping the route for both geographic convenience and start times. It will also be easy to adapt your route again once you're out "in the field" (hunting).

Your sequence for which sales to hit first, second and third will be determined by a combination of specifically advertised items that interest you, size of a sale, start time and location, location, location.

Don't forget: If you're on time, you're late. Being "late" doesn't mean that you won't find a gorgeous maternity wardrobe or that dining room set you've been searching for at 1:00 p.m. What will be gone, however, are the thriving houseplants that someone is selling for $2 each at their moving sale and the woven throw that still has the original $49 price tag, but is priced at $5.00.

Stay tuned for Part II - Supplies to Take Along.

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