The U.S. government is having a yard sale too

The federal government has been selling off almost all of its lighthouse properties for decades now. This one in Wisconsin has an opening bid of $10,000.

The federal government has been selling off almost all of its lighthouse properties for decades now. This one in Wisconsin has an opening bid of $10,000.

Here at Yard Sale Secrets, we like to talk about our yard sales and the yard sales we visit. But there’s an even bigger yard sale going on all year long, and its being held by the U.S. government.

The General Services Administration hosts a site called GSA Auctions where the government lists all of its surplus property that it no longer wants, needs or isn’t allowed to keep.

And some of it is actually pretty darn interesting.

While there's a lot of interesting items at the GSA's auction website there's also some strange items too. Why put a grimy old chair up for auction? It's not even a set of chairs. It's just one chair!

While there’s a lot of interesting items at the GSA’s auction website there’s also some strange items too. Why put a grimy old chair up for auction? It’s not even a set of chairs. It’s just one chair!

Looking for a lighthouse of your very own? Click on the “Real Estate” link and then on to “lighthouses”

How about an airplane or two? You can find them under “Aircraft and Aircraft Parts”

Maybe you’re in the market for a new house. If so, you can check out these hot properties in the “Real Estate” section as well.

But maybe you aren’t interested in such extravagant purchases. You can also use the site to bid on office supplies, landscaping equipment and old computers too. There are categories for just about everything, in fact — furniture, hand tools, jewelry and photo equipment.

Before you get too excited about the deals from the GSA, be sure to read the fine print. In a lot of cases, you’re required to go pick up the items or to have them privately shipped to you. The vehicles come with zero warranties. The computers are wiped clean, too, so you won’t be finding any “X-Files” hidden on them.

Likewise, some of the listings are just plain silly. Do you really need to have your very own “chair on wheels”? And if you do, why not just go to Walmart and get a new one?

And those lighthouses? Well, the tough thing with owning a lighthouse is that you actually have to find a way to get to there. Once you’re at your solitary little paradise, you have to put up with the Coast Guard stopping by to check up on their equipment.

You know, the very equipment that made that lighthouse obsolete in the first place.

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Al Roker’s yard sale tips

The Weather Channel's "Wake Up With Al" offered some great tips for hosting a yard sale and -- you guessed it -- they want you to have a weather-contingency plan.

The Weather Channel’s “Wake Up With Al” offered some great tips for hosting a yard sale and — you guessed it — they want you to have a weather-contingency plan.

We love to search around the web for great yard sale tips, and found a few interesting articles and videos worth your time.

First up, check out this Weather Channel video, which offers a quick tutorial on doing everything right. http://www.weather.com/video/yard-sale-tips-49359

WE’RE FAMOUS, KINDA

We were also amused by this video, because the screen shot features our logo. We had to watch. http://youtu.be/kT8L8Hok3Vg

Yeah, we agree. It was a little disappointing, but we appreciate the exposure!

LIKE A PRO

Popular Mechanics offers a 20-point list on maximizing your yard sale adventure.

Popular Mechanics offers a 20-point list on maximizing your yard sale adventure.

There was also this helpful article for yard sale shoppers from Popular Mechanics. It’s a great summation of making your money and effort work for you.

http://www.popularmechanics.com/home/skills/auto-home-improvement-diy/20-tips-for-shopping-a-yard-sale-16686328

JUDGE NOT

We also liked this tip list from Realtor.com. In particular, we liked Tip No. 11 — Don’t take it personal. When you’re at yard sales, you judge the quality of other people’s stuff. Don’t be surprised by snark-filled comments about what you put out on your lawn.

http://www.realtor.com/advice/tips-on-how-to-have-the-best-garage-sale-ever/

LOOKING BACK

The one video we laughed at throughout was this woman’s “Yard Sale Complaints” video. She’s swearing like a sailor throughout, but she’s darn funny in the way she sums up her experience as she hosted a yard sale.

Again, we want to warn you about the language.

http://youtu.be/2YR64LofXfQ

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Why aren’t yard sales later in the day?

Why aren't their any yard sales at night? Well, not many people have lights in their yards. Who wants to shop in the dark? (Photo by Jim Larrison via Flickr.com. Find him at www.flickr.com/photos/larrison/)

Why aren’t their any yard sales at night? Well, not many people have lights in their yards. Who wants to shop in the dark? (Photo by Jim Larrison via Flickr.com. Find him at www.flickr.com/photos/larrison/)

It’s practically a tradition that yard sales are held in the morning hours. Most people set their hours from 9 a.m. to about 1 or 2 in the afternoon.

But have you ever wondered why yard sales never late in the afternoon? Well, even the wizened folks at Yard Sale Secrets don’t know exactly why, but we have some good guesses.

  • HEAT: Most yard sales are held in the summer, that means temperatures go up through the afternoon. In some parts of the country, that means 90-plus degrees by 3 p.m. The mornings, in contrast, are far cooler.
  • BUGS: Even on cool mornings, it’s quite rare to see mosquitoes or other bugs. Gnats prefer the heat of the day. Mosquitoes like the twilight hours — particularly during sunset.
  • LIGHT: If a yard sale was held in the late afternoon, you’d be picking up your unsold items in the dark. Even worse, if you held a yard sale at night you’d have people shopping in the dark since very few people have significant yard lighting.
  • SAFETY: Imagine the problems you’d have with people visiting your yard sale in the evening — tripping over your merchandise or the curb!
  • TIMING: If you set your yard sale’s hours early in the day, you have time to clean up and even do something else afterward — we recommend a family barbecue. Anyway,  with a morning yard sale, you’re not wasting your entire day off.
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Stock up with some extras at yard sales

Use  yard sales to stock up on supplies for camping trips or even extra household items. (Photo via Flickr.com from Steve Cadman)

Use yard sales to stock up on supplies for camping trips or even extra household items. (Photo via Flickr.com from Steve Cadman)

Yard sales are great for finding stuff you don’t have, but they can also help you get back-up supplies for things you already have too.

Let’s say you like to go camping. You don’t want to have to unpack your dishes or equipment every time you come back from the woods, so that’s why you have things like mess kits, crank flashlights and camp shovels. And what better way to stock up on all those duplicate supplies than checking out some yard sales.

CAMPING: As we mentioned, it’s best to keep your camping supplies and your regular-life supplies separate.

  • At the yard sale, look for: Portable dishware, foldable chairs, sealable water jugs, coolers, gently used tents, sleeping bags, tarps.

UPSTAIRS/DOWNSTAIRS: It can be a pain to have to go upstairs for everyday items, like the tape dispenser or scissors. Why not pick some of those supplies at the yard sale.

  • At the yard sale, look for: Office supplies to use at home, vacuum cleaner, brooms, hammers, screwdrivers.

SUITCASE: Some things you can’t leave home without. Having spares pre-packed in your suitcase can help make sure you never forget them.

  • At the yard sale, look for: Alarm clocks, lint rollers (unused of course), hand mirrors, full-size notepads, carrying cases of all kinds to separate your items, a good book.

IN EVERY CAR: Buying supplies for in the car is normally an impulse purchase, but you might find everything you need at a yard sale.

  • At the yard sale, look for: Window scrapers, pre-made emergency kits, jumper cables, a trunk storage case, coolers, a good book (to read in a massive traffic jam), cell phone supplies, first aid kit, window screens, no-electricity games for kids.

THE SHED: Sure, you use your shed to store your lawn mower, but wouldn’t it be easier to keep some household items there as well?

  • At the yard sale, look for: A roll of heavy duty tape, hammers, screwdrivers, tree saw, extra empty garbage can or similar container, garbage bags, rain coats, umbrellas, extension cords, light bulbs, twine, exclusively outdoor toys for kids and pets.

GROSS STUFF: You have nice stuff, and sometimes you don’t want to get that stuff dirty for one reason or another. Maybe you’re painting or expecting to get terribly muddy. Designate a storage area for items you plan to use once and then throw out.

  • At the yard sale, look for: Scissors, items to make into rags, tarps, hooded coats, gloves, broom, mops, buckets, shoes, paintbrushes.
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Is your car ready for a yard-sale shopping spree?

If your vehicle isn't equipped with a bundle of bungee cords, then you're not read for yard sale shopping. (Photo by Clyde Robertson via Flickr.com -- https://www.flickr.com/photos/crobj/)

If your vehicle isn’t equipped with a bundle of bungee cords, then you’re not read for yard sale shopping. (Photo by Clyde Robertson via Flickr.com — https://www.flickr.com/photos/crobj/)

A while back, we offered tips to prepare you for a day of yard sale shopping. Consider this article, about preparing your vehicle for a day of yard sale shopping, its sequel.

Along with a wad of cash, some snacks and a full tank of gas, a vehicle is an invaluable tool for yard sale sprees. Sure, if your neighborhood is having a community sale, that’s another matter all together, but for most shopping trips you’ll need a set of wheels. These tips will help you prep your car, van or truck in advance.

  • SPACE – Take a few minutes the night before to clean out all your junk. There’s no sense in getting your old junk mixed up with your new junk! Seriously though, get that stuff out of there so you have room for all the big purchases you plan to make.
  • BUNGEE CORDS — If your vehicle isn’t big enough, you’ll need some bungee cords to keep everything aboard the good ship Make-A-Deal. But be warned, bungee cords aren’t for tying things down to your roof-rack. They’re just used to tighten down an already secured item.
  • ROPE, TWINE or STRAPS – For absolutely securing an item on your roof rack or to hold down a partially opened hatch, use one of these. You want the kind of rope that doesn’t stretch when pressure is applied to it. For securing something out in the open — such as on a roof or in a truck bed — then adjustable straps are the best bet. Twine should be your last choice — it does work, but don’t expect it to work for a long time.
  • BAGS – Always bring a few plastic grocery bags with you. Sometimes sellers don’t have them or the ones you get have holes in them. You can also bag individual items that might get your car dirty or lose pieces.
  • BINS – If you’re shopping with a friend, bring a bin for the both of you. Your stuff goes in your bin, their stuff goes in their bin. That makes it easier to wrap up at the end of the day.
  • CUP HOLDERS – Your car probably comes with these, of course. But what we’re really saying is to not forget your drinks. It’s so much less expensive to fill a travel mug with a drink from your house rather than getting one on the road. This is all about saving money, after all.
  • GPS DEVICE – A no-brainer in this day and age — bring a GPS device so you can just type in address and let it direct you there. It’s so much easier than using a paper map.
  • A LITTLE EXTRA CASH – Store a little extra money somewhere in the car — just in case you blow your budget and see something you absolutely must have. Only access it when something great comes along.
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At yard sales, sometimes you just have to call dibs

One of the truly frightful experiences you can have at a yard sale is when you’re about to buy an item and someone else grabs it for their own.

When a yard sale is crowded with shoppers, it's always smart to gather up your items as you go along.

When a yard sale is crowded with shoppers, it’s always smart to gather up your items as you go along.

It’s hard to decide who should get the item. The person who arrived at the yard sale first? The one who has the item in their hand? The one who was haggling for a lower price? The shopper willing to pay even more?

Certainly there are rules of etiquette a shopper should follow. If you know you’re the “last man in,” then you should certainly defer.

Further, the yard sale host might be the best to decide who gets a disputed item. And if you’re the loser in the situation, then you just need to accept it.

Case in point: A few weeks ago, we were at a sale and had neatly stacked our items on a chair that we were planning to buy. The yard sale host even said “put your stuff here” while you shop.

As we were counting out our cash to make the purchase, a fellow zipped into the sale and said “Oh wow! I want these? How much are they?”

To which we said, “Oh, those are ours. Sorry about that!”

But how can you claim dibs on your future purchases? We offer some tips.

  • HOLD IT: Sure this one is obvious, if you want to buy something, pick it up and carry it with you. This works for a lot of items, but not a table saw!
  • TELL THE ATTENDANT: Let the yard sale host know “I’m buying this. Can you put a ‘sold’ sign on it while I continue shopping.
  • ASK FOR A BAG, BOX OR CONTAINER: Ask for a bag from the attendant — don’t use your own or they’ll think you’re stealing it — and start filling it. Expect the yard sale host to pull everything out while he or she totals your bill.
  • FIND A FRIEND: If you can’t hold it, or you can’t stand next to it while you shop, have an adult friend stake it out. Just have them say, “We’re buying this.” Again, this needs to be an adult.
  • PAY FOR IT: This makes since of course. How else would it be yours? But seriously, if you’re concerned it might somehow get away from you, pay for it immediately. Stuff the cash in the host’s hand and thank them.
  • PUT IT ASIDE: If it’s a large item that you need to pick up later, put a “sold” sign on it and then ask to move it into a less showy place. Ask to put round back, under a tarp or simply turn it around so its not so enticing.
  • BONUS TIP — DELAYED PICKUP: When you do have to arrange to pick up an item later, remember to write down the address and get a phone number from the seller.  When you get that number, test it immediately! You should also tell the seller when you expect to pick it up for added convenience.

 

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