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City Pulse: Get more bang for your buck at garage sales

By Bianca Montes
Sept. 4, 2013 at 4:04 a.m.

Garage and yard sales are full of junk and treasures depending on who's doing the shopping. Be sure to plan where to shop by looking in the classified section of the newspaper.

The hard knocks of the yard

I am not going to sugarcoat this for you - perfecting the art of yard and garage sales is not easy. As a newbie, without clear instructions, one can easily find himself or herself getting swindled and paying too much, driving through the wrong side of town or worse, buying something broken, ripped or stained. I've put together a few basic tips to get you through your first yard sale. You're welcome.

Ready, set ... go? - One cannot simply wake up and go when it comes to yard sales. Once you are a seasoned pro, your planning may subside, but if you find wasting gas and being agitated amusing, voyage off on your merry way. A quick tip for any beginner is to start with the classified section of the newspaper. There are ads detailing the type of sale - estate, multifamily, sidewalk, inside - the time and location. Make a list of the sales you want to tackle and then map it out for the optimum gas-saving hunt.

• Off the beaten path - While you want to stick to a plan, don't be afraid to veer off the beaten path. If you see a sign in the neighborhood you're shopping and it is not on your list, it's OK to divert.

• Cash is king - There is a lot of advancement in technology, but I've never been to a yard sale that takes credit. Establish a budget of what you're willing to spend and grab some green before you go.

Let's make a deal - Nothing is set in stone when it comes to the yard sale. Never pay full price. I always offer the seller about half of whatever the price of an object is, regardless of how much I want it, and then go up in increments of $1.

When Macklemore's "Thrift Shop" single took over air waves in early 2013 and sold more than 2.2 million copies, we were all poppin' tags, wearing housecoats and becoming hipsters one dollar-bin deal at a time.

The ludicrous ideals that we somehow needed to drop $50 on an ugly Gucci shirt to seem relevant and fashionable were gone. It took me back to the early '90s, when Kurt Cobain's keen fashion sense had youngsters all over the world dressing in form with the poor and less fortunate they ridiculed prior to the heroin-chic revolution.

The truth is I do not think either of these trendsetters were looking to spark a change in fashion. Instead, I think they were aspiring to bring on a metamorphosis in a way money inspires greed and demoralization in this generation.

I grew up in a million-dollar, four-bedroom home in California and went to private schools with price tags that exceed my current gross annual income. At Christmas, my parents would spend thousands of dollars on presents for me, and each season, I would be blessed with a new wardrobe.

But when my parents ended up spending more money than they could afford on their money market account credit cards and the stock market took a drastic turn, I craved a new understanding of life.

My mom and dad owned the home we lived in, so we did not move from our avaricious neighborhood, and I didn't have the option to buy new clothing - or at least I didn't think I had the luxury - so needless to say, I spent a lot of time feeling sorry for myself.

I would be abashed to say I learned a money lesson watching my parents eventually sell their home and all of the Ethan Allen furniture inside, but to keep it candid, by the time I was a 20-year-old, I was in debt and tormented by high-interest rates and an ever-sinking credit score.

For me, getting out centered around wasteful spending and zero turnaround on my damages.

A little older, a little wiser now, I have developed a clearer understanding of my transgressions with money and the false sense of merriment it brought to my life. To say I am no longer a shopping fanatic would be bogus - My name is Bianca, and I am an addict - but I've curbed the need to validate my self-worth with price tags, and more importantly, I have learned to feed my beast with efficient ways of spending.

Going forward, I will periodically weigh in on how to enjoy the luxuries of life with savvy tips I've learned over the years. Today, we're talking yard sales.

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