Scoring Big on Little Money - The Annual Trenton Yard Sale
Linda and I got an unexpected check for $70 in the mail the other day. We were very grateful for that timing. It really made the difference for us, and it enabled us to take advantage of some awesome deals we were able to find this weekend.
Every year in May, the city of Trenton, Ohio holds a city-wide yard sale. It's quite an event, and often you're able to find just about anything since there are so many yard sales. We decided to drive around to see if we could find any deals on some items that we've been looking for.
Early on in our adventure, I spotted a small vacuum cleaner. I've been wanting one of these to use in the Motorless Home for cleanup while I work on the remodel. It's too small in there to haul a full-sized upright vacuum in there, let alone, the shop vac.
Don't get me wrong; $5 for a working vacuum cleaner is not bad. It's just one of my "yard sale" rules -- Never, ever, pay the asking price.
I started with an offer of $2. The lady considered it for a moment, but respectfully declined. She told me "There is a lady who said she would come back for it later today and pay me the full $5." I told her that I had $3 CA$H that I would give her "right now" for it, and she didn't know for sure that the other lady was coming back. She countered with $4.
Oddly, I had decided that I would pay the $4, but for some reason, I was taking a while digging in my wallet and hadn't yet agreed to her counteroffer. Suddenly, she said that she would accept $3! So, I pulled $3 out and handed it to her and absconded with my prize.
After I loaded the vacuum into the Jeep, Linda made an interesting observation: "It's interesting watching these people. It's like they're hunting. They're 'stalking their prey.' " I thought about it. She was right. In our society, most of us no longer have to hunt for our food. We just drive over to the grocery and pick it up. So, how does an animal that is genetically programmed as a predator express that behavior after they have become "civilized?" They shop.
We approach the item of our desire. Our pulse quickens. Our irises widen. If it's a particularly good find, our palms may sweat. We sneak up on the item. We don't want the seller to know that we're after that one. If they knew, they would jack up the price. Then, when we're ready, we move in for the "kill." We will make an offer to the seller and engage in "retail battle." Once the battle is over and we've "won," we will grab our "kill" and run off with it. You can take the animal away from the hunt, but you can't take the hunt away from the animal.
Once they were finished, I asked about the tool. The guy wanted $3 for this Winchester brand multitool. It's no Gerber or LeatherMan, but it was of reasonably good quality. So I offered him $2 and he accepted. I will probably keep this thing in the car or on my bike, since it's a handy tool to have around!
We stopped at another yard sale and picked up a replacement electric can opener, since ours died a couple months ago and we've been using a hand-cranked one that also needs to be pitched. They wanted $2 and I offered $1 and they accepted. Great!
So, by this point, we had spent $6. We still had yet to find our two greatest deals of the day.
An older Sears Craftsman table saw!
The guy had no price listed on it, and he had some goofy metal cutting blade installed that didn't fit it right. Since new table saws cost hundreds of dollars, I didn't figure I'd have a chance to get this thing, given the extremely short budget we had for yardsaling.
"So, why you selling this?" I asked.
"It used to be my Dad's." he replied. "After he passed, I bought it from my Mom and I used it only once. I really don't want to take it back to the storage unit. Make me an offer."
Knowing how extremely short on cash we were, I didn't really want to make an offer, since anything I could afford to pay would have been an extreme lowball. "I'm serious," he said, "Make me an offer. I just don't want this thing anymore."
I just stood there looking at it and poking around. I even suggested that he might want to tighten up the blade on there since it was loose and wobbly. I was honestly giving him sales advice since I didn't think I could afford it -- so why not help him sell it, right?
"How about $40," He said, while fiddling with the blade. At least he was taking my advice!
Now, $40 for a table saw is a pretty darned good deal. The truth of the situation is that I really couldn't justify spending $40 on it. So, I told him. "Sir, I'm really short on cash, and I hadn't planned to buy something of this size. I mean no disrespect by this, but the most I could pay for this would be $20." He looked at me and seemed to consider it.
He countered, "Come back later. If I haven't sold it later today, we'll talk." I agreed to stop back in and I left, thinking that I had just pissed the guy off with my low-ball offer and he was just politely telling me to go pound sand.
We drove around a bit more, stopping here and there. We were also on the lookout for cheap scrap blue jeans for Linda to use for making rugs on the loom. However, the people were deluding themselves if they thought I was going to pay $2-$5 per pair for jeans, even if I was going to wear them, let alone have Linda cut them up to make rugs. We never did find any cheap jeans. What a bummer.
We were starting to get tired when Linda spotted this item.
"What are you asking for the sewing machine?" I inquired.
"She's got that marked at $35," the lady in the lawn chair replied. I poked at it some more and decided I'd low ball her, just in case.
Fisting" (WARNING: LINK NOT WORK SAFE) and "Up the Butt." I had just enough time to chuckle about it and Lawn Chair Lady returned.
"Yeah, she'll take that." I was shocked. Not even a counter offer. I kicked myself. I should have offered $10. I gave her $20 and loaded it into the Jeep.
We were pretty much out of money in our budget at this point, having spent $26. However, Linda encouraged me to go check on the table saw anyway, since it was a really, really good deal. So, we made our way back over to the sale with the table saw.
I took $20 with me, just in case. I walked up to the guy and said, "So, are you ready to take $20 for this?" Figuring I would get shot down, and since we had already spent what we felt we could easily spend, I waited for the denial.
"Yeah, sure." He said. I quickly handed him the $20 bill I had in my hand to seal the deal before he had chance to reconsider. I told him that my car was full and that I'd have to run home and drop off the stuff and come back to pick up the saw. He agreed and we headed home.
After we dropped off our first load, we returned and picked up the table saw and brought it back to the house. That sucker is heavier than it looks! It needed a little work. Someone had gotten some kind of gunk in the threads that controls the blade angle, and you could not adjust it past about 38*. I took a screwdriver and scraped it out of the threads and lubricated them. I chucked the stupid metal-cutting blade that the guy had in there. It wasn't even the right kind for that saw! That explained why it was so poorly mounted when I saw it at his sale booth. I put a general purpose wood blade in it and made some test cuts. It worked fine!
The rip fence that came with it needs some more attention, since it has trouble staying square. That can cause the blade to bind. That's not a good thing! Considering that I only paid $20 for it, I figured it would have some flaws that needed to be worked out.
It's got some rust on it a few places, but since we're not terribly worried about its value as an antique, repairing the rust won't be too hard. We're far more concerned with making it functional.
This is one of the things that really disturbs me about today's society. We live in a society of "disposable technology." Rather than take the few minutes and few dollars to repair a malfunctioning vacuum cleaner, we just junk it and go buy a new one. This is extremely wasteful, as well as just plain stupid from a financial perspective. That Dirt Devil vacuum probably cost $50 or $60 new. All it needs is a belt and a new HEPA filter, which should cost less than $15 total. Why do we dispose of things like that?
As for the clog, you can usually just use a long tool like a chop stick to fish the clog out. Unfortunately, this was so completely impacted that I had to remove the hose from the vacuum to clear it.
So, with about ten minutes of work and $15 in parts, plus the $3 I spent on this vacuum, It will cost a whopping $18 to have a $60 vacuum cleaner. That works for me! It totally fits into my goals for reusing and sustainability.
What comes out of this is what is most disturbing of all; our society's penchant for trashing items that need simple repairs is that the manufacturers no longer make items with as much quality. Since they know that they will be thrown away and replaced with a new one at the first sign of difficulty, they "don't make 'em like they used to." This leads to a spiral effect, since the item is more likely to break in the first place, and many items are not user-repairable anymore.
Luckily for us, I know how to take things apart and make them work again. That's a really useful skill when you're in the Zombie Apocalypse.