My wife and I attended a huge garage sale yesterday. Each year, Portland’s posh Eastmoreland neighborhood holds a community garage sale. About 150 households participated this year. We spent a beautiful summer morning looking for bargains.

This sale is good because it features a dense concentration of wealthy homes. The things they’re selling are generally of higher quality than at your run-of-the-mill garage sale, and most are just looking to get rid of the stuff, not to make money. A savvy shopper can get some great deals.

I spent $21.75, which includes:

  • $5 on a cat carrier ($25 new)
  • $3 on a mitre saw and mitre box
  • $5 on an unused set of rapidograph pens ($90 new at Amazon!)
  • $0.25 on The Wealthy Barber (!!!)
  • $1 on Rich Dad’s Cashflow Quadrant
  • $1 on Real Estate Loop-Holes: Secrets of Successful Real Estate Investing, which is marketed under the Rich Dad brand
  • $1 on MAD About the Seventies
  • $5 on an old slate chalkboard
  • $0.50 on The Motley Fool Investment Guide

I also spent several dollars buying drinks and snacks from kids in the neighborhood. I always buy stuff from kids; I like to encourage the entrepreneurial spirit. This girl was selling jokes:

My wife did even better. She spent $32.25. She spent $6 on two Le Creuset dutch ovens: $1 on a 2-qt white enamel pot ($80 new at cooking.com), and $5 on a 5-qt oval green enamel pot ($175 new at cooking.com). They are both in very good condition.

The keys to successful garage sale shopping are to:

  • Set a budget. I had allocated $40. I spent about half that.
  • Make a list. Use this as a guide, not as a restriction. I wanted personal finance books and comic books.
  • Hit as many sales as possible.
  • Only buy things you’ll use. You’ll stray from the list, because you’ll find the unexpected, but don’t buy something you won’t use. For example, we needed a new cat carrier, so I bought it. We don’t need a rubber raft, so I didn’t buy the one I coveted.
  • Haggle. As long as your offer is reasonable, the seller will likely agree to your price.
  • Wear comfortable clothing, especially if it’s a hot day and you’re going to be walking for a long time.

We had a fun time and got some bargains. We’ll certainly be back next year.