That old saying, "one man's trash is another man's treasure" is something that dumpster divers live by. In fact, many people who are into dumpster diving or even extreme yard sale shopping are able to furnish their home and give gifts with items they have purchased for little money. If you are creative and organized, then you should be able to use your skills to make beautiful items that other people will enjoy.
Being organized is the key. If you are dumpster diving, know what neighborhoods to hit and when. If you do the yard sale and secondhand store shopping, then you need to take some time every week to check out what is available. Ask at secondhand stores, and they usually will tell you when they get new items. Hit the store early in the morning on those days to get the new stuff. You should sit down on Friday with your local newspaper and work on a schedule for yard sale shopping on Saturday. Check out the places you think will have good items and then work out a route.
Do not allow yourself to be taken in by items that you see that seem like a good bargain. Ask yourself seriously where you could use the item. At a yard sale this summer, I bought a coffee warmer. It was brand-new, and the concept is basic. You sit your coffee mug on it, turn it on, and it will keep your coffee warm all year. It was $.50. Does it work? I have no idea. I have never used it. While I will not feel badly about the purchase (and probably will toss it into my next yard sale pile), these kinds of purchases are what push yard sales to be an expensive and somewhat useless hobby for someplace. If you cannot think of a person to whom you would give something or a place where you would use it in your own life, pass it by.
The best buys you will get at yard sales will be items that are broken or damaged. You will find these items for free in dumpsters or neighborhood garbage pick-up sites as well. Someone may have a table that gets a broken leg and toss it. If you are willing to put in the time, then you can get some good items for free or heavily discounted prices. Just be sure that you inspect the goods before you bring them home. Perhaps that table leg is not fixed easily; leave it! Only take items that you know can be fixed or refinished and will look good. Do not take something simply because it looks like it could have been nice at one point.
When you are out at yard sales, do not be afraid to haggle. Many people think that haggling is awful, but remember that your goal here is to purchase items that you can turn into great pieces for as little money as possible. Buying multiple items is an easy way to help make sure that you have more haggling room. Asking to pay $5 for several items marked for $7 total is easier than negotiating price on each item by itself.
The only potential downside of this hobby is that it is not one that you can share with your friends often. Some people love knowing that you got a bargain. I share good sales items with my mother-in-law just because it makes her happy to know that we are not wasting money. I would never tell someone that I purchased an awesome clearance item for her for her birthday, however. That would be tacky, so these kinds of bargain shopping hobbies tend to be private.
The key is that you are having fun. If you love restoring old items, you can create really cool pieces for your home for little money. Others will marvel at your artistic skills and the wonderful decorations you have in your home while you are smiling to yourself. You will know your secret, which is that most of the items are much less than your friends and family may imagine. Shh! There is no need to tell them. Just let it be your secret.