I decided to walk through my community in Anchorage last Saturday to visit some garage sales on the hunt for cabin stuff. Anyway, the one big item that I knew I needed most? A ladder, something like an 18 to 20 foot extension. Slim chance to find that, right?

So, with $100 in my pocket, one of the first houses I went to is across the street and down a few doors. An older gentleman was sitting there, friendly and all. He had nothing for me, so I thought, just old shoes and collectibles, but as I started to leave, like a good salesman, he asked what I was looking for. I told him cabin building stuff, tools, things useful in the backcountry, fishing gear, any of that. He didn’t have any of what I needed, but he was interested in what I was doing so I told him. While he congratulated me on the effort I was making to build my own cabin I noticed a step ladder in the corner behind him, obviously not for sale. I jokingly admitted that a ladder was what I needed most. He laughed, telling that people kept asking for that ladder, even rudely arguing prices, but it wasn’t part of his sale.

As I said my goodbyes and turned to leave I saw a 20 foot extension ladder hanging from the rafters in his garage. Not sure how I missed it the first time. “Now that’s what I need right there, exactly,” I said, laughing again, knowing it wasn’t for sale either, and then started on my way. Thing is, he didn’t laugh, he was just staring at it.

“You look like you’re actually thinking about it. Are you?” I asked.

“Well,” he said, “I just don’t ever use it. I’m getting older and I don’t need to be climbing up that high. I have this step ladder for anything I need to do. Anything that requires a ladder like that I usually have someone to help with the job who has their own ladder.” He continued on to admit that I’d get more use out of it then he would, but that it was sort of in shabby shape, dirty, a little pitted, but asked what I’d give for it.

I said, “I don’t know, $50 I guess,” assuming they cost well over $100 new, even though I wasn’t sure.

We walked to the ladder and once again he pointed out the dirt and wear, which to be honest was just mostly dirt and not so much wear aside from one slightly bent step that wouldn’t cause me any grief. I told him that where I’d be using this ladder aesthetics meant nothing and that I’d be happy to take it.

“Well, how about $20 then?” he asked.

I was never so glad to give up a twenty dollar bill in all my life. I proceeded to walk back to the house with a $20, 20 foot extension ladder that would have cost $125-$160 new upon checking online. Yeah for me!!!

Also that Saturday I purchased a propane Coleman lantern with case for $10, an old Coleman heater (strange contraption) for $3, mosquito net for $1, fillet knife for $1, and a handful of fishing lures for a couple of bucks.

Not only did I learn that garage sales are a really great way to find what you need cheaply, I learned that community garage sales make the most use of your time. And, talking to people, letting them know what you need, might surprisingly result in getting… exactly what you need.