Is shopping for décor and home furnishings not in your budget this year? Before deciding that you can't afford to redecorate, consider a cheaper alternative -- used items.

Garage sales, yard sales and flea markets can provide hidden -- and affordable -- treasures. And searching through sales for just the right item can be addicting for some.

Shelley Kincaid recalled getting out of a moving car one time when she saw four Persian rugs on the lawn of a woman's garage sale.

Kincaid, who is also an interior designer, said she knew they were Baluchi rugs and were selling for $15 each. Kincaid bought all four for $60. She brought them to her favorite rug dealer and sold them to him for $1,200."It pays to be an educated consumer," she said.

Kincaid, author of The Garage Sale Decorator's Bible: How to Find Treasures, Fix Them and Furnish Your Home, has been shopping at garage sales for 20 years. Before then, she had never been to garages sales.

"It was a long-distance move gone bad, and we lost everything in that move," she said.

She said movers destroyed their belongings. Their newly built home sat empty.

Kincaid started going to garage sales to find items for her new house. Then she got hooked.

"I decided that everything in my home I would buy from garage sales," she said.

It took her a couple of months worth of sales to fill her house, and she hasn't stopped since.

"You can buy brand-new things for pennies on the dollar," Kincaid said.

She said garage sales are good for people's budgets. Shoppers can buy things at garage sales, or even fix them up like Kincaid does, and sell them for a higher price.

Kincaid considers herself a professional garage sale shopper.

"Professionals are called dealers. These people make a very handsome living. I'm a professional because I have made a living on this," she said.


Kincaid compiled a pricing guide based on her experiences so she knows what items go for. She said it helps sellers price their items and buyers with their bargaining power.

She said negotiating on price depends on what the item is. For example, if a new toaster is selling for $7, Kincaid said she can probably get $5 for it.

"My rule of thumb is half. I'll offer them half of what the price is marked," she said.

At the same time if the price is right, she'll pay it. She found a Bombay chest with inlay for $15 and gladly paid the asking price. She later had it appraised for $1,200."Most people expect when you're hosting a sale for people to bargain with you," Kincaid said.

Good, Bad And Ugly Garage Sales

A drive-by can tell shoppers a lot about garage sales, especially if they are looking to hit several in one day.

If it's "late in the afternoon and they have a ton of nice stuff, you know it's priced way too high because the stuff wouldn't still be there," Kincaid said.

On the other hand, if there is only one card table set up, people are going to pass on it.

For good selection, it's good to hit them early. "However, the seller probably won't bargain as much early in the day. Later in the afternoon, the bargaining ball is in the buyer's court," she said.

Kincaid has a wants-and-needs list that she brings with her to sales.