If you are on a tight budget, checking out Garage Sales is a good way to find used items that you need. There are a number of things to consider about garage sales: first, really good deals go fast, so if you are looking for good deals you have to be there early. Early is within the first 10 or 15 minutes of when a sale starts. It is not possible to be to all garage sales that early so you will have to choose which sales are worth going to early and which ones you will go to later. Ads in local papers can be a help, for example, if you are looking for tools, look for ads that specifically list tools and visit them first.
There is a general culture within the garage sale community. Most prices are really low. People generally have garage sales to get rid of unused items and not to make money. Prices are generally really low because people don't want to end up with a lot of items left at the end of the day still in the garage. Occassionally you will find a sale where they expect to get really high prices for items, it is best to just look around quickly and leave those sales because the seller has an unrealistic expection for what they can get for items and they will rarely take reasonable offers. After the initial rush when the sale first opens, the pace of sale slows down and the sellers begin to have some concern that they may have a lot of their garage sale items left in the garage after the sale. At that point, they are ready to consider offers. If you feel they are asking too much for an item and if you want to make an offer, be reasonable and offer something close to what they are asking (say 25% lower than the asking price, at most). For example, on a $20 item after the sale has been on for a while you might say: "Would you be willing to take $15 for this item?" If they resist you can just say "I understand" ... and if you really want the item you can say: "ok, I'll take it for what you have listed" or if you aren't willing to pay that price and you are in the area later in the day, you can stop by and see if they are more willing to bargain later in the day if the item is still available.
Moving Sales are much better than Garage Sales because they usually have more useful items to sell and because they are much more willing to bargain rather than pay the cost to move items they really don't want. When you are moving you may need to get rid of items because you are moving to a smaller place or a furnished place or have limited space in your moving vehicle. Many items that you might not normally sell are now up for grabs. So when you see moving sale you can consider it a very serious garage sale and give it top priority.
The first rule about garage sales is that you need to know what you want to buy BEFORE you stop at sales. You don't want to get caught up in the moment and end up moving someone elses junk into your garage that will sit there until you have a garage sale to remove it. When you stop at garage sales you need to know what you NEED and be prepared not to impulse buy items that are interesting but not useful to you. If you are looking for machinery, like a lawn mower, rototiller, or motor, make sure you know your brands. A no name brand is not worth as much as a well built name brand. No name brands may be harder to get parts for and are usually made to sell for the absolute lowest price new and may not have much life left in them by the time they are used. For example, you can often get a running lawn mower for $20 to $30 around here regardless of the brand, so take the time to find the better known brands. If you don't fix motors yourself, it's a good idea to go with a friend who does. If you are on your own and have to decide without help: have the seller start the mower and ask them what problems they have had with it. Often they will tell you what's wrong with it. Listen to how it runs. Is it smooth or does the motor skip? When it first starts does it give out a white blue smoke? If it does then it burns oil and is probably best left alone.
Odd lots of wires, boxes of bolts, old tools are often good buys, especially if they are being sold by people who are more interested in cleaning out the garage than the usefulness of the items. Used tires in good condition with a good amount of thread left can be good deals if they fit your car and if you look them over carefully (check the side walls for cracks or cuts and check inside for repairs and plugs).
Another interesting development in the garage sale culture is a town wide garage sale. That is where the whole town coordinates a day for town wide garage sales. Often they have a map of all the locations where garage sales are in the town, sometimes with listing of general items at each sale. Generally on a Saturay, the sales give you a chance to find a really good concentration of garage sales to find many items you have been looking for in one trip. Churchs and other groups within the town may have special events or sales (chicken dinners, etc) on the garage sale day. You can often have lunch, coffee or snacks and make a morning of it. One strategy if you come late to a town wide sale is to go to the sites most off the beaten track first because those on the main road are often pretty well picked over early. The town wide garage sale is a real social event and you can get in all your garage sales for the summer in just a few weekends. The towns like the extra business. People not on main roads have a chance to have a garage sale on the town sale day because buyers will drive all over the town to find them, so lot of items come out for sale that would otherwise never see a garage sale. Many families get together and have all their items at one convenient location with all individual items marked with their intials to keep the finances straight. The town wide garage sale day is becoming an annual tradition and social event in many rural towns.
So check out garage sales (or better yet moving sales) with a friendly attitude. You are looking to make a fair exchange. Pay the price when it fair and bargain when
you think they are asking too much. You are not out to get the lowest price at any cost but you would like to get a fair price relative to the prices at other sales. Talk and visit with the sellers, and
thank them when you make a deal for something you want. Garage Sales are the closest thing we have to old fashioned bardering and you want to make sure that both you and the seller feel
good about the sale. Remember these people are your neighbors and in the country everyone is related to someone you know (or someone who knows you).