That old couch would go really nicely in your basement living space. It's even got the upholstery color to match your favorite comfy chair! The problem is, you don't want to pay $40 for it. It's time to approach the host and barter.
In this or any other situation, there are some important things to know as a barterer on the shopping side of things. It's a different approach than the one used by hosts, since you're trying to lower the price, but if you're a savvy bartering master, you can walk away leaving both of you happy.
Walk into any bartering situation making sure that you know your lowest price. If you aren't sure how much you're willing to pay for an item, take a stroll around the garage sale and ponder it. First make sure you want it at all, then determine how much it's worth to you. If it's about what the price is, you can try haggling for it, but if it seems to be a popular item, you might want to go ahead and snatch it up. Otherwise, if you're only willing to pay a significantly lower price, it's time to barter. But it's important to know how high you'll go so you don't end up being surprised and paying a price you regret later.
As you discuss prices with the host, barter up in increments that fit their original price and your desired price. If you're dealing with amounts from, say, $1 to $20, barter by a dollar. If you're dealing with cheaper items, barter by quarters; and if you're dealing with large amounts, say from $30 to a few hundred dollars, barter by fives, tens or even twenties.
Be reasonable when it comes to the prices you state. Don't start off the bartering by offering 25¢ when the item was originally priced at $20. Likewise, it's silly to offer $19.50 for a $20 item; if you're going to bother bartering, make it worth your time. Also, in addition to the above tip, be reasonable when bartering up in increments
If your offers don't budge the host, say you'll think about it and start to move off. Do this only if you're willing to actually walk away and come back. Another good way to phrase this is to mention that you'll come back at the end of the day if no one else has purchased the item. This gives the host a chance to try and sell the item at full price, but gives them a guaranteed sale if they can't find another buyer.
Should you be purchasing more than one item, you can offer a combined price for your total purchase. This is important to calculate before you approach the host, as math on the spot can get messy. Generally, offering to buy a larger amount of items will pique the host's attention, since their goal is to be rid of all their things, and they might be more inclined to give you a discount that way.
Finally, be very clear when you state your prices. Mumbling to confuse a host is rude and unfair. If you primarily speak a language other than what the host speaks, use other methods, like counting on your hands or showing the appropriate number of bills, to confirm the price you stated.
Got any more handy bartering tips? Discuss it here in the comments, or visit GarageSaleCow.com, where you'll find tons of great garage sale resources for free!