Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Frugal Treasures at Auction

Auctions offer opportunities to acquire high-end items at prices made for the frugal wallet. Attending an auction won’t strain your bank account if you make some simple preparations.

Set a Budget
I cannot stress this enough. Set a limit on how much you’re willing to bid before you even leave the house, and stick with it. You arrive with a clear idea of how much you’re willing to pay, you’re less likely to leave having spent the kid’s college fund.

Arrive Early and Snoop
Be there for the open to give yourself as much time as possible to look at auction lots and decide which lots to bid on. Look for signs of damage or disrepair in individual items. If possible, handle items when evaluating them.
Take along a small notebook, and jot down lot numbers you plant to bid on. Include a brief note on the lot’s contents, and how high you intend to bid. Did I mention the importance of sticking to your bid limit?
If you can’t find a lot to bid on, leave. Attending the auction may tempt you to bid on unwanted items. There's just one exception — if you haven’t attended an auction before go to a few to see how they work. Just leave your checkbook at home, so you’re less tempted to start bidding before you understand how the game is played.

Bidding Tips
Bidding is the most exciting part of any auction, and it’s here that the importance of setting a budget really comes into play. It doesn’t matter whether you’re bidding on an old painting or exercise equipment once used by inpatient alcohol rehabs, do not get into a bidding war.

Bidding wars can drive up the price of a lot beyond its retail value, which defeats the whole purpose of going to auctions — namely to find cool or useful items at cheap prices. Don’t treat bidding as a spectator sport.
Do, however, pay attention. Try to avoid conversations, texting and other activity that take your mind off the bidding. Auctions move fast, and a slight distraction can blow your chance to win a bid.

Auction-Going Couples
If you’re attending an auction with your partner, decide ahead of time who will do the bidding. Caught up in the excitement of the auction, it’s possible to wind up bidding against each other, which is both embarrassing and costly.

Which one of you attracts the most attention? That person should do the bidding. Sometimes this means the tallest or largest person, while other times it means the person with the most outgoing personality.
Attending auctions with your partner or a friend acts as a safeguard. Even if you decide Lot 534 is worth bidding over-budget, you’ve got someone there to remind you of your preset limit.

Dealing with Disappointment
You won’t win every bid. Sometimes you’ll watch other bidders walk out of auctions with the lot you really wanted. Don’t feel too disappointed. You’ll have plenty of opportunities at other auctions.

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