Prepping Through Yard Sales: by DCN in Washington

Having been brought up under unique circumstances I hope that I can bring yet another perspective to the world of survival.  My mother as a single mom, a real taboo in the day, chose to go to Mexico chasing after a life that was difficult and unrealistic; however for me it was the beginning of survivalism to say the least.  I have learned that no matter what life tosses your way it should always be kept as a learning moment.  If it is a bad experience you will learn what not to do and hopefully overcome, and if it is a good experience you will learn what works. 

Because I did go hungry as a kid I quickly vowed that this would never happen to my children, and I have succeeded in that department.  No matter how poor I have been I always managed to have at least a couple of week’s worth of food in the house.  It’s amazing what vows you will make when hard times hit.  So now that I am older and hopefully a little wiser I can share my now working plan for those with very limited income.

I have a small space at an antiques store; I sell a bit on eBay and purchase items for myself and for prepping mostly through yard, garage, and estate sales.  Obviously most of you are probably already aware of the value of these sales.  I do mine with a friend, we trade driving days and the one not driving will be the co-pilot so as to have the shortest route possible and to reduce gas usage.  It is much easier to have a partner in this endeavor because it will become so tedious you will quickly get discouraged. 

Yard and garage sales are abundant in my city, you have to go to a lot of them to find just a few items, estate sales on the other hand are the best, one location and a houseful of stuff. 
Estate sales are usually done because some dear soul has passed on or needs to go to a nursing home.  They like the rest of us like having a lot of stuff, some are hoarders, others have specific hobbies, and yet others are preppers themselves.  Just imagine walking into someone’s home and all that you see is for sale, admittedly some are better than others in my city many a good deal can be had.  I have my own system of items that I need to concentrate on in order to turn some kind of a profit and be able to get a good portion of my preps for free.  In order to know what these items are is of course life experience but no matter how much life you have had there is always much to learn.  SurvivalBlog is the perfect place to do this learning, not only with what they publish but also the links that go with it.  I have read some of his books and of course all that I can on the blog.  One item that he published was the barter list, and his tips on nickel investing, boy I thought this is right up my alley.   

There is so much to be had for so little you just have to view it in a different light in order to find it, you will have to overcome that felling of horror when  there is a huge mess to look through for the purpose of finding a treasure, so don’t forget your hand wipes.
So here we go, I will use a nice round number of one hundred dollars per week, you of course work with what you have.
Go to the bank, I prefer the drive up window, less people to see what you are getting.  Ask for your one hundred dollars and at the same time request that ten dollars be in nickel rolls, I have done this long enough that the teller once asked me if I wanted nickels because she had them in her drawer.   Note; my husband has not really been on board with prepping, however I devised a way to show him materially that it is not a loss, for example the nickels.  I explained to him they will be devalued due to the impending change of the material they are made of and that they are now worth more than their value.  I also told him that if worse comes to worse and they are not devalued they are still worth a nickel and he could consider it a very small savings account and can still be spent when needed, sometimes those that do not see the light need to be aimed toward it. 
Proceed to your planned sales, by planned I mean that they have been previously researched through the throw away papers like Nickel Nick, the Exchange and so forth.  Don’t forget the regular ads in your local newspaper and of course the mother lode, Craig’s List.  This one really needs research because so many will state the basic items that they are selling.  For example if you are not in the market for baby items then of course you would not attend, unless of course you are in that market, that is the place to go, yard and garage sales can be a crap shoot, some are stellar and others are duds.  This research will also help decide distance to save your gas.
Don’t forget to start your mileage counter prior to leaving your house; (should you ever need to produce some kind of a record) also keep some kind of record of how much you are spending just in case you need it in the future.
What to get, remember I told you I have a small space at an antique store and sell a bit on eBay?  This is how I can get some preps for free. 
At every sale I try to get items for my space that I feel reasonably sure will sell and for how much, this of course makes a profit that will go directly to preps. 

At an estate sale there is that house full of items, the kitchen and basement are the favored spots that equal food and preps.  Apparently old ladies feel it is their duty to feed an army, they always buy more than they need, and I am one of them.  Always check the dates on the products; a ton is new and unopened and is always the first to go.  Don’t forget that there will be a lot of pouch items, seasoning, flavoring, cocoa, coffee and so forth.  The basement will of course also hold all those canning supply items, I have seen people running up the stairs with a box full of canning jars as if they had just found a long lost treasure, that very same person will have a partner standing by the rest in order to hold them prior to transport.  It used to be that you couldn’t give away canning jars, now you can’t find them.  This is not only good for your needs but also great for the barter area.  The list is too long to describe how much I have gotten through this method.  The bathroom, for your medical tub, here I have gotten bandages, supports, (ankle, knee, wrist etc), pain killers, supplements, toothbrushes and paste.  I am talking about new and never opened; also in this list are all those hotel sized samples of soaps, shampoos, rinse, lotions name it.  Naturally if this is a man’s house, you will also find tools and equipment for their favorite hobbies, like hunting and fishing.  I have acquired a nice lot of hooks lines and accessories for my barter list.  At most estate sales there will be jewelry, most is vintage costume and is what I will be after for resale.  So here is how I see it.  I buy a few pieces of jewelry and collectibles for the shop plus all the items I consider for prepping, let’s say the bill you pay is $25, the items for resale should sell for a minimum of three or more times the total you spent, (don’t forget rent fees), your preps are now free.  At any sale always do your best to have an item for resale to cover your initial cost.

At the end of the weekend, you will probably have money left over from your $100, save the small denominations under $20.  This small stuff will accumulate and become $100 at that point I use a seal a meal bag and seal it, now you have another savings account ready for that day when only cash will do and in small denominations.   I like to call myself penny Annie, yes I save small amounts but discipline and consistency can really make it add up.

Yard and garage sales can be better at getting those items for your re-sales because usually someone is cleaning out a bunch of their stuff and a lot can be a good for re-sale  the quantity is smaller and easy to look through.  However, they will also have unusual items, like I have purchased or have gotten for free half melted candles, if they have a lot of them, I simply collect the ugliest ones and then ask how much?  Usually the pile looks so bad I can get it for free or almost free.  I use these for re-melting and dipping pine cones for fire starters in my wood burner; I really hate wadding up paper for that purpose.  You can also fill small jars, use the wick of some of those candles and you now have emergency candle light.    They may also have pouches of coffee and cocoa that came in some mug gift.  If you are very lucky you can find jewelry that may be good for re-sale but better yet may contain some silver or gold.  Now I have in the past looked at someone’s jewelry pile and examined it, hopefully there will be a piece or two for the shop, and some silver pieces, I will make an offer for the entire pile, it should not exceed what you can sell the shop pieces for.  I save the silver and gold ones and when silver and gold is up I take it to my coin dealer and trade for silver coin. 

Note:  I prefer not to sell silver or gold jewelry in my shop space, It is not worth having someone smash a $200 case so they can take a $10 piece of jewelry.  Speaking of coin dealers, when you are in the market of finding one, go to your local shops, talk to them and buy something small, like a few dimes.  Their attitude should tip you off if you should do business with them in the future.  I did this and found that many seem rather snobbish especially with a novice like myself.  I found one that was patient and instructive and always treated me fair.  When I closed a small retirement account, (operative word is small), I purchased my silver with him and made sure he knew my reasoning for choosing him first.    Unless he drops dead, I will not give my business to anyone else. 

My entire system seems to be "trading this for that" so I can then get the other.  Study as much as you can, everybody does not know everything about every subject so get a good collection of how to books, many from you guessed it, yard and estate sales.  Also, there are some things you will have to simply have to suck up and buy new, like a really good canner, water filter and so forth, but of course it should be on sale. This is not to say that you won’t find it at a yard sale, like when I saw a woman buy a seemingly new Berkey water filter for $20, I almost choked. 

Always be on the lookout for a pile, just yesterday, with permission, at an open and undeveloped area owned by a cemetery, the workers had done some grave site cleaning, they hauled all the flowers, plants and do dads that are left by family members and tossed them in a pile that would later be hauled to the dump.  Because I walk my dogs there upon arriving to this pile I instantly notified my neighbor and we got to work with the dig.  We got at least three pickup truck loads of plants that had much life left and would all go in our yards for color and landscaping fillers, it also went to her daughters yard and to an aunt and a friend that had recently lost his job but loved planting flowers, in total they went to five separate yards, included in the haul were vases and those flower holders people use at a grave site, (my neighbor visits one regularly).  All for free, which reminds me don’t forget those free piles in Craig’s list you might find a good resale or personal item and don’t forget your gloves.
So, you spend your limit of set aside monies, purchase items for sale to make a profit which in turn helps you buy your preps that you purchase at the same sales.  It’s also a good way to get equipment.   At the end of the month after all has been paid for including my rents and fees, I will have made a profit which can then be turned in to pay bills or of course purchase those higher end prep items.  I don’t just break even, I always make a profit.
*-Always carry hand wipes.
*-Have gloves handy, it can get dirty.
*-Use a large Costco-size shopping bag to carry items around at estate sales.
*-On that same bag, have some 3”-4” masking tape strips stuck on the outside with your initials and the word “SOLD” you can drape it on a larger item that you can pay for and then have someone help you carry it.
*-A small magnifying glass can be handy, just don’t make any issue of it when looking at jewelry, you won’t get a deal that way.
*-eBay right now is a buyers market, so if you really know your product line then listing it.
*-I carry a laundry basket or two, or boxes to put stuff in the car for easy unloading when I get home, include wrapping paper or some pieces of bubble wrap for those fragile items.
*-A small box or paper bag for your jewelry is easier to hide.      
*-Have fun with it.

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