Of course, if you're not from Ottawa, these same tips can apply to large community garage sales (or even small sales) in any city.
Tip #1 : The sale is said to run from 9-3. But like most garage sales, things start up earlier. Most people were setting up around 7am, but sellers don't usually mind if you start looking as they're setting up.
Tip #2 : If you have to drive, arrive early. I went with E by car because I would have needed to take two buses if I hadn't driven. The idea of busing with a baby, a stroller and any purchases after a long morning, didn't appeal to me. So, I drove and got there for 6:30am.
Tip #3 : Park near the peripheries of the sale, though it's probably best to avoid the canal side. I usually park near Bronson so that I don't get stuck behind a bunch of cars looking for parking.
Tip #4 : This is a new tip that occurred to me this year. After parking, walk to the opposite side of the sale (or however far you think you'll want to go). Resist the urge to stop at a bunch of the sales as you're doing this. Then, make your way back to your end destination (car, bus, home). This way, when you're ready to go, you won't have to lug all of your stuff and your sore feet back the distance you just walked.
Tip #5 : If you're taking a baby with you -- bring a baby carrier! I'd avoid the ones where your baby faces out because there are a ton of people, so it will likely be over-stimulating and it's not ergonomically-friendly for the baby. I'd also recommend acquainting yourself with wearing your baby on your back. It's way easier to carry a 20+ pound baby on your back for three hours than on your front. Personally, I alternated back and front a couple of times so that I could nurse E while on the move.
Also -- I recommend you ignore any dumb comments about how wearing your baby doesn't let your baby practice walking. Someone seriously said this to me as though I should let my 9.5 month old walk in a busy sale with cars and people everywhere. Not to mention the fact that E's "walking" pretty much consists of cruising from couch to couch or holding on to both of my hands while she slowly shuffles around the living room. Even if I had a confident walker, I'd still opt to wear her.
Tip #6 : Bring layers! This advice pretty much goes for any full day outing, when the weather is variable. Also - bring water and a snack (unless you want to purchase these items while out). The GGGS has a ton of food and beverages to purchase. All of the Bank Street businesses recognize the money-making and community-building opportunity of having thousands of people inundate their neighbourhood and are in on the garage sale action (e.g., putting their own merchandise on sale, targeted advertisement, etc.). There are also a lot of home owners and charities selling food. It's actually kind of funny to see people in big expensive Glebe homes selling homemade muffins. Maybe it's the one day they get to live out their dreams of owning a bakery. Usually, the money made goes toward a charity.
Tip #7 : Don't be afraid to haggle. Sometimes people overestimate what their used stuff is worth. Maybe it's a lingering emotional attachment. Sometimes, I just think it's greed. I'd estimate that I offered a lower price than what the seller wanted about 75% of the time. For me, it's a combination of: what do I think it's worth and trying to score a good deal.
Tip #8 : Wait until you're done looking through everything at a particular sale/table before making your purchase. I kept making this mistake. I'd find something I would like and then pay for it...Then I'd realize that there were other things I was interested in being sold by the same person/household. It's easier to put a bunch of items together and get the price down than to haggle a lower price on one item.
Tip #9 : This is a big one! Don't be afraid to walk away. If the price is too high/if the seller isn't willing to budge, if you have a moment of clarity where you discover that you really don't need the item you're considering...whatever the reason. Just walk away. Similarly, if the item you're considering is in good shape and really fits a need you have, it's okay to make the purchase even it you couldn't get the seller down that extra dollar.
Tip #10 : It's important to remember that even though you're getting something (used) at a lower price than what you would pay for in the store, you still have to find somewhere in your home for it. Every time I considered buying something, I'd think: Do I have space for this? Will it get used? Is it a good deal? Will R roll his eyes at this purchase when I get home?
Here's a picture of my $22 haul:
What tips do you have for garage sales???