by Shannon Bartlett
Summertime is known for the abundance of yard and garage sales, swap meets and barter fairs.
Parents and parents-to-be will be scouring, seeking and finding both bargains and treasures galore. No matter the venue, the premise remains the same: "junk" finds a new home!
To maximize your savings and avoid dangerous pitfalls, we've compiled some basic tips before you and your family join in the great yard sale hunt!
Create Your "Treasure" Map
When you pick up your local community newspaper, peek on Craigslist or have downloaded a mobile phone app, you'll easily find bunches of listings for yard sales. You'll be on your way to savings galore!
The next step involves scouring the ads. Is there a hint that they have what you're looking for? If you're seeking newborn clothes, you likely aren't going to find them at a sale that emphasizes tools, lawn equipment, and men's clothing in size XXL. They might also have kid's items, but most that do, mention it.
Some hunters have shared that when you're looking for kids' stuff you'll find more in newer neighborhoods. When you're after antiques, the older sections of town seem better.
Have you picked out the most likely sales to stake out? Map out your path so you won't be winding back and forth across town.
Picking Out Yard Sale Bargains
• Build your wish list. Jot down things you'll need now and in the next months and bring it along. You never know what treasures might be lurking in someone's garage.
Babies and toddlers tend to outgrow clothes before they wear out. The seller's loss is definitely your gain. You'll find quality clothing that your kids can stay in for at least a season.
• Bring reusable bags for your yard sale finds. Take small bills and change for little items.
• Check items carefully. Are all the pieces there? Is it stained or chipped? If so, offer a lower price. Make sure there aren't hidden dangers.
• Bring along some batteries so you can check out battery operated toys. Usually yard sale hosts have an electric outlet available, but not batteries.
• Bring a tape measure. Tags might be missing from clothing. Looking for a special piece of furniture for that certain nook. You'll be able to tell if it fits.
• Think ahead. For instance, off-season items like garden tools in October and Christmas decorations in June could be offered at bargain prices.
Baby and Kid Gear Safety Tips
Each year the Consumer Product Safety Commission recalls hundreds of products, including toys and baby gear that put kids in danger.
Recalled doesn't mean those products are gone. According to Julie Vallese, spokeswoman for the safety commission, only about 10 to 20 percent of small, cheap items are returned. This includes those brightly painted toys that contained lead or chromium.
You're apt to see lots of recalled products showing up at yard sales. Most sellers don't know they're offering dangerous good.
Let your motto be "buyer beware" as you seek bargains at yard sales, thrift shops and consignment shops. These tips can help you make safer choices for your family.
• Red flag toys in categories that have been recalled in high numbers. These include painted toys from China, magnet-containing dolls and construction kits and kids' craft kits.
Your phone can find the recalls for you. Download an app or you can check cpsc.gov and kidsindanger.org for updates.
• Bring along a toilet paper tube. Any toy that fits through the tube is small enough to choke a baby or toddler.
• Be cautious about used cribs and nursery furniture. Older models might not meet safety standards. Once you know the cribs does meet the new standards, be sure you get all the parts and instructions, either from the seller or from the manufacturer.
• Playpens and play yards that have been recalled include play yards with protruding hardware or rotating top rails that don't properly lock into place. Check folding play yards that they can't collapse and entrap babies.
• Never buy a used car seat or bike helmet. These products are meant to protect during one accident. Even if you can't see the damage, it might not give your child enough protection.
Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to go early, have fun, and be careful! What's been your best score at a yard sale?