9 Unusual Stores Where You Can Find Great Bargains

Sometimes it pays to go off the beaten path in search of bargains. Shopping in a specialized market with fewer buyers puts the law of supply and demand to work in your favor. When I talk about the nice mountain bike that I bought for $7.50, people want to know where I found a deal like that. Here's a hint — it wasn't at a bike shop where most people buy bikes!

Here are some unusual stores where you may be able to find some of the greatest bargains.

1. Military surplus store

Military surplus stores sell new and used military items, often at much lower prices than sporting goods stores or home improvement stores. Check the smell of fabric items, as some items may be musty from storage.

What to buy

Rope, camouflage netting and material for outdoor projects, footlockers, unique storage containers, and affordable gear for camping/hiking/outdoor adventuring.

2. Amish market

An Amish market is a store or open air market run by members of the Amish religion who are known for their simple lifestyle and high quality workmanship. These markets feature high quality products at very reasonable prices. Bring cash, as some Amish markets do not take credit cards. You may need to check out the market in person since some do not have websites.

What to buy

Cheese, meat, produce, hand crafted items, soup mixes in Mason jars, honey, and homemade candy.

3. Pawnshop

A pawnshop takes valuable items as collateral for loans, and sometimes the shop ends up selling these items when loans are not paid back. Check out items carefully before buying since returns may not be accepted. A photo ID may be required to make purchases. (See also: The 7 Best Objects to Pawn)

What to buy

Leather jackets, bicycles, tools, jewelry, musical instruments, and binoculars.

4. Auctions

Buyers bid on items for sale at an auction, and the highest bidder gets to buy the item. Auction houses are businesses that hold auctions on a regular basis — typically every week. Auctions are also held at estate sales and going-out-of-business sales to liquidate items quickly since everything gets sold during the auction. Use AuctionZip.com to find auctions in your area to attend.

Set a maximum price in your head before the bidding starts — it is easy to get caught up in the excitement of bidding and spend more than you planned. I bought the $7.50 mountain bike I mentioned at an auction in January.

What to buy

Almost any used items: furniture, collectibles, antiques, tools, appliances, and vehicles.

5. Unclaimed Baggage Center

Airlines sell unclaimed baggage to the Unclaimed Baggage Center where items are sold at a retail store in Scottsboro, Alabama. Don't miss a chance to check this out unique store if you are passing through the area.

What to buy

Luggage, books, clothing, jewelry, sporting goods, electronics, and cameras.

6. Sales for property seized by governments and the TSA

Surplus office equipment, weapons seized at airports, jewelry and vehicles confiscated by police departments, and many other treasures are up for auction in almost every state. You can find lists of auction sites on a handful of websites, including eyeflare.com and govsales.gov. While many sales let you to go and view the items in person, plenty hold online auctions, too, allowing you to bid for items without ever leaving home.

What to buy

Vehicles, office equipment and furniture, knives, electronics, and clothing

7. Consignment shop

Consignment shops sell items previously owned by customers, and share the sale price with the original owner. Learn the codes on price tags for markdown dates. Many consignment stores drop prices significantly after an item has been on the shelf for a certain period, such as 30 days. Consignment stores are also great places to sell your unwanted items to pick up some cash.

What to buy

Almost any used item: housewares, clothing, furniture, sporting goods, books, and CDs.

8. Habitat Restore

People and businesses donate building materials and home improvement items to Habitat Restore, which are sold at very reasonable prices to fund Habitat for Humanity charitable projects. The selection varies, so multiple trips may be needed to find what you need.

What to buy

Doors, mirrors, lighting fixtures, paint, building materials, and plumbing supplies.

9. Landfill salvage and recycling areas

Some landfills and junkyards set aside items that people may want and give them away (or sell them for a nominal fee). Check websites of local landfills and junkyards to see if they have salvaged materials.

What to buy

Bikes, building materials, mulch, and compost.

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