I go to a lot of estate and garage sales, walking past the jewelry and wall art and heading straight for the kitchen. There, I go through everything from dishes and cookware to linens and small appliances. (I joke that if you’re tempted to buy the latest electronic fad, wait a year, because it will show up at a garage sale.)
Even though it’s fun to browse Sur La Table or Williams-Sonoma, the real finds are things people have already used—or haven’t used. You can find a surprising amount of fresh merchandise at these sales, which might have been wedding or baby shower or housewarming gifts that were never put into rotation. I have a few rules, however, about which items to avoid purchasing secondhand. Hopefully these guidelines save you the aggravation of finding out that a “bargain” was just a waste of your money.