Every year around this time our neighborhood designates one Saturday as a communal yard sale day. People are usually not allowed to set up and advertise garage sales so to appease the homeowners who have too much stuff the HOA organizes this yearly event when you can sell pretty much whatever you want out of a driveway or a garage. We participated one year but I quickly found out that I would much rather list and sell on Craigslist. You generally get people who are actually looking to buy exactly what you have and there is a lot less low-balling going on since we can cut that in the bud over email. So this time we got on our bikes and had fun riding around from house to house despite the drizzling rain that continued the whole time we were out.
We happen to live in a fancy community full of big houses, manicured lawns and shiny cars. It’s actually a good mix of condos, townhomes, small/medium/large single family homes and huge mansions all sharing the same common areas, pools, playgrounds and walking trails. It’s one of the few places around here where we can ride our bikes without having to worry about being run over by a cell phone-talking SUV driver, which is even more important to us now that we have our son.
When you live in a place like this, the yard sale strategy is simple – hit the streets lined with mansions first! It seems that the bigger the house the more stuff is there and of higher quality at a cheaper yard sale price. The only thing we really wanted was a scooter for our son since he is mesmerized whenever a kid rolls by on one. Other than that we did not really want anything else and were going out just to see what people accumulate in their garages… or so we thought.
First of all, we did get a scooter for our son. Here it is – you can get a brand new one at a local Target for 30-40 bucks or get it for $3 at a yard sale:
Couple of streets over I saw a sign that said “Free to a good home” which always gets my attention. Pulling up to a house we found what looked like a yellow plastic slide from a playground set and a basketball hoop laying on the front lawn. The basketball hoop was in a sad state with a rusty pole with peeling paint and a dirty backboard with a ripped net. I was not interested in the slide but I always wanted a basketball hoop after inheriting a permanently fixed one at our previous house. I could picture me and my son shooting some hoops a few years down the road. After speaking with the owner and confirming that it was free for the taking (“otherwise I am going to take it to the dump” he said), I needed to figure out a way to get it to our house half a mile away and fix it up.
I came back an hour later in my car thinking that I could take apart the hoop and fit it all in the MINI with a hatch open for a short ride back. Unfortunately I was only partially successful because of all the rust that seized the bolts, some of which snapped, so I ended up bringing the backboard in the car and then coming back to drag the post and the base back home. Good thing it had wheels so it wasn’t bad at all but it was loud and I did get a few raised eyebrow stares.
Here is the backboard in the MINI:
And here is the much needed TLC – cleaning the backboard and the base, sanding the rust off…
… and then spray painting the post with truck bed liner paint from Lowe’s:
After washing the net and mending it with good old fashioned needle and thread, the basketball hoop was put back together and ready for action:
You can get a brand new basketball hoop at Walmart for around $80 -100 and while we can certainly afford it, a small project like this is much more satisfying on all levels. Not only you save money but this set would’ve ended up in a landfill and it will be a teachable moment a few years from now when my son and I play a game and I tell him a story of how we got this basketball hoop.
While we were out riding around, we stopped at one house that had a garage full of stuff for sale because the homeowners were moving soon. Looking around we saw the usual suspects such as antique furniture, Foosball table, garden tools, children toys and stuff like that. Then I noticed something that looked interesting to me – a Kenmore Elite electric dryer tucked away in the corner. I asked if it was for sale and sure enough it was available. However, our ancient dryer was recently fixed by me so I did not even ask how much they wanted for the Elite version of the same thing.
When we came back home my wife went upstairs to do the laundry and the first thing I heard was “the dryer is dead!” Sure enough, the dryer was tumbling but without any heat – the heating element was toast again! Now, I replaced it 2 times already so it seems that there is something else going on that’s making the element burn out. True to the spirit of the post linked above about the old dryer, I would’ve probably tried to troubleshoot and fix it again. Instead, I jumped on my bike and went back to the house where we saw the fancy dryer. They wanted $100 for it, I offered $60 and the Kenmore was ours. Too bad they threw out the matching washer because it developed a “mold issue”, otherwise we would’ve had a matching set. It looks a little funky next to the old Maytag washer, but it works great and hopefully will last at least a few years without any issues.
Browsing around on sears.com it looks like a similar Kenmore Elite model goes for around $1,000 new. I can’t see us ever spending that much on a dryer, but I’ll gladly take it for $60. When we were loading up the dryer to haul it away, the sellers insisted that we would take the Little Tykes wagon for our son for free. Sure, why not!
As for the old Maytag – I put it on Craigslist and someone came and picked it up within an hour of posting. I hated the idea of bringing it to the dump and hopefully the person who got it will fix it up – at least he said he would.
Don’t get the wrong idea that I’m excited about getting more stuff. I am however excited about getting the stuff that we can use cheap or free, putting in a little bit of elbow grease as needed and bypassing the store altogether. If you are going to get stuff, I feel like this is a fair way of doing it since you are preventing old things from going to the landfill and new things from being produced.
And if you don’t have access to rich neighbor’s yard sales, there is always Craigslist or Freecycle.