Ahh, late springtime. The rains are finally dissipating, the trees are heavy with leaves, and the sprinklers come on as you drive past your neighbors' yards. It's garage sale season! Are you ready to start shopping?
Hold on there. An adventure through your neighborhood, following willy-nilly signs, may be a fun romp, but unless you only plan on doing some casual shopping, this isn't the best way to go. Planning ahead of time saves you gas money and shopping time and allows you to hit as many yard sales as possible before the sun sets and the hosts pack up their wares.
Start by picking up your local newspaper and browsing the classifieds section. Most larger cities or community newspapers will have garage sale announcements, sometimes in a section all to themselves. Write down a list of addresses of any sales that catch your eye. Don't worry about efficiency right now; that comes later.
Follow that up by checking up on any local online garage sale groups you might have joined -- on Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo Groups, or other social networking sites. Active groups will regularly post regarding sales they've heard about in your area, and it's great to have this frequently-updated resource.
Another online option is to check out GarageSaleCow.com, the world's fastest-growing online community of garage sale shoppers and hosts alike. It's completely free, and connects you to listings in any area you choose. You can choose how many miles near your zip code to search, or filter by day and items listed as being sold at a particular location.
As you drive through your neighborhood on your normal routine, scope out early bird signs (those put up a week or a few days early). Try to find the initial signs, the ones that start the route, as they usually contain more useful information -- location, time, date, and what's being sold there. Keep a little notepad with you and take notes (not while you're driving, of course!).
While you're shopping, keep your eye out for any community bulletin boards that might be lurking just inside the entrance. Grocery stores are great sources of these boards, where community members can post bulletins and listings for free. Another great place to look is at any local school, from elementary schools to colleges. And check out your local community center to see if any announcements have been posted. Carefully check the date on all postings -- people often forget to come back after the sale is over and remove their flyer or sign.
Finally, never underestimate the power of the spoken word! Talk with parents, church members, teachers, fellow students, friends, and family members. Ask them to be on the lookout for information on any yard or community sales in your area.