Save Money with Auctions: 5 Things You Should Know

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Did the title of this one make you scratch your head? We all know that auctions are full of antiques and cost you an arm and a leg, right?

Well, yes and no….you can find antiques if that’s what you’re after. I am an avid thrifter, extremely frugal with our food bill, and we probably spend less than $100 a year per person on clothing, but auctions are my very favorite place to scoop up bargains!

Not all auctions are full of moldy curtains and creaky chairs – you can find something for every taste if you’re willing to invest some time. You can also find items to resell for big profits like the dealers do. So without further ado, here are 5 tips to get you going:

Save Money with Auctions 5 Things You Should Know

1. Make a list.

Do not head out the door until you’ve made a list of what you actually need. The listing for the auction will usually give you a good idea of what there will be, at least for the big-ticket it

2. Know Your Prices-

 It pays to do your homework! Once you’ve narrowed down your list (let’s say you need a bed, a dining set, and an armoire), browse some retail sites or stores and see what their versions are going for. While you’re at it, notice how poorly made they are. Feel free to shake your head in sticker shock as you leave. But you aren’t done yet!   Now hit the library and borrow the most recent book of antiques values that they have available. It will be large but don’t feel intimidated.  Start with furniture and look over the (in this instance) bed, table and armoire sections to get a feel for what you would pay in a store.

Skim the other sections of the book anyway, because you never know when something truly valuable will show up. (How valuable? Well, I own a 1930s table with its 6 original chairs, in mint condition and worth $4500 according to our appraiser, and I got them for $85 because I’d done my homework. I actually went there for a sideboard….which I also got for a song.)

3. Take more cash than you think you’ll need.

How is this frugal, you ask? Well, I have lost a bid on things that I really needed for a difference of $5. If your child has outgrown their crib and there is a gorgeous and well-made solid wood bed up for auction, you can get it for a fraction of retail…but only if you can outbid someone else. $55 instead of $50 for a sturdy bed valued at $1000 is still worth the money! And at an auction, cash is king.

4.Go prepared.

Take your biggest vehicle, preferably with the back seats removed or a trailer attached. Or both! Make sure your list goes with you, because it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of an auction. Unless you see the bargain of the century, stick to what you actually went for or you’ll blow your budget. Wear a hat. And take snacks and water, because the auction food vendors are frighteningly overpriced.

5. Stick it out.

At every auction I have been to, the smaller items get auctioned off first. You can get some good deals on vintage Christmas decorations, kitchen items and baskets at that part (good practice for your kids – if they’re with you, give them an item to bid on and a small budget here)….but if you hold on to your bigger cash, a lot of the people frantically bidding for the first hour or two will run out of money and leave, or get distracted talking to the person next to them…and that’s when you will save the real dough!

Got any other auction tips? Please share in the comments!


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Hi, there! I’m Heather Bowen, and I am so glad you’re here.

My passion lies in helping homeschool moms balance marriage, motherhood, homemaking, and homeschooling all while remaining sane!

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