Garage sales are a bit like buffets: People come, take what they want and move on. End of story. But, if you’re willing to expend a little effort, you can maximize your bargain-finding potential and get yourself some blistering deals.

As we count down the days to Billings' Biggest Garage Sale, here are a few tips on how to get the most bang for your garage sale buck whether it be this weekend or in the coming weeks of summer.

  • Know what you’re looking for. Jot down a list of the items you’re most interested in picking up. While you’re at it, do a little research to see how the items you need are typically priced. You can find a multitude of price guides with tips on finding good deals. You can also check online at websites like kovels.com to find pricing information.
  • Look for sales in affluent neighborhoods. Not to sound snooty, but wealthier people have better material possessions. You may find better, brand-name goods in better condition.
  • Timing is everything. If you’re looking for the best selection, hit the sale early in the day. That’s when sellers will have their best items out. If you’re seeking deals, hit the sales late. Sellers will be tired and just looking to get rid of things, so they’ll be more willing to give you a bargain.
  • Sharpen your negotiating chops. If you want an item that’s out of you’re price range, there are a number of methods that may help you get the seller to lower his asking price. You can simply ask, ‘Will you take less than that?” You can offer a preferred price. Be sure to offer a price that’s reasonable. If the item you want is priced at $10. an offer of $6 is a lot less insulting than an offer of $2. You can ask for a bulk discount if there are multiple items you want. There are many ways to negotiate. Pick the method you’re most comfortable with and shop on.
  • Leave your phone number. If you want something and you can’t justify spending what the seller is asking, leave your phone number and ask the seller to call you later if the item hasn’t sold. The seller should be in more of a negotiating mood and may give you the item for a price with which you are more comfortable.
  • Be friendly. Nobody wants to deal with cranky, curmudgeonly shoppers. Worse, if you get to aggressive or snooty, you may tick off the seller and they won’t deal with you at all. A smile and a pleasant demeanor can go a long way.
  • Don’t be afraid to walk away. If you can’t get a price you’re looking for, put the item down and walk away. The seller may be a little more flexible if he or she can feel the sale slipping away.
  • Always test your item before you buy it. That stereo you find for $5 won’t seem like such a deal if it doesn’t work. That $10 lawn mower will become just another thing to trip over in the garage if it doesn’t run. Ask the seller if it’s OK to plug in electronics or start up lawn implements or power tools. If the seller refuses, walk away.

Billings' Biggest Garage Sale will be June 11, 2016 at the MetraPark in the upper parking lot.