As Annette and Mark McCreedy prepare for Christmas gift giving for their family, they don’t have to worry about the pesky supply chain woes that are haunting Christmas shoppers and so much of the retail world.

The McCreedys buy almost all of their holiday gifts for friends and family at estate sales and yard sales, not just in Middle Tennessee but on their travels, too. And they are all ready for Christmas now, weeks before the holiday comes around.

The Donelson couple shops year-round on most Fridays and Saturdays, mostly as entertainment for themselves, but also to stock up on gifts for four grandchildren, their daughter and son-in-law, their parents, friends and sometimes for each other, too.

“The beauty of it is that this kind of shopping is all seasons. We enjoy seeing the insides of the homes, and we get to go to parts of town that we don’t normally go to,” Annette said.

“It’s our play date,” says Mark, who maps out as many as a dozen stops after Annette identifies sales from estatesales.net. And then off they go!

Some of the things they look for are vintage and art deco items; children’s toys and art-making items for the grandchildren; clothing; fine art; tools for Mark, who does woodworking and loves repairing some of the finds; and art supplies and picture frames for Annette, who is a painter.

“You can get things for cents on the dollar,” said Mark, 70, who Annette says is better at haggling than she is. “I’ve learned a lot from watching the ‘pickers.’ You can see that they pretty much cave every time. It never hurts to ask (for a deal).”

“We know what we can fix or repair,” said Annette, 64, who says they usually complete all of their Christmas shopping by the end of October. This year they have even wrapped everything — in gift bags and wrapping paper that of course were purchased at some of these sales.

The McCreedys, who say 80%-90% of the decorative items in their home came from these sales, are retirees. He is retired from TVA, where he was a forester, and she is retired from Nashville State, where she taught English and Spanish and college prep courses.

The McCreedys admit that although they are motivated to shop these sales for gift buying, they buy for themselves, too, sometimes spending a dollar or two and every now and then as much as a thousand bucks for something especially unique like the pair of 6-foot-tall religious panels from Trinity Broadcasting Network that they were told had been featured in the home of evangelists Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker. (The McCreedys have not installed the panels in their home yet, but that is the plan.)

They clearly get a thrill out of finding oddball items like Victorian mourning clothes, vintage hats, small statues, an aging Starbucks sign that Mark repaired, and sometimes plants and shrubs from the yards at the sales.

These estate sale junkies have also found more practical items like a drill press that Mark uses for his woodworking and the drafting table and chair that Annette uses daily in her art studio.

But always, the motivation is the thrill of the hunt, and the inimitable entertainment aspect of their spending a morning together exploring other people’s stuff.

“I always like shopping and getting deals. And this is relaxing and something we enjoy doing together,” Annette said. “We’ve made a lot of people happy, but we see it as entertainment.”

Their tips:

• Check the estatesales.net site the night before the sales and map out your route.

• Put the map and sale addresses in your phone.

• Check the various sales’ websites to see what items they are featuring. If there is something you really want, make a beeline for it when you arrive at the sale.

• Know sizes and tastes of people for whom you are shopping.

• Have a list of what you are looking for.

• Keep an open mind also and look beyond what you can see. “Some of it you don’t know you want till you see it,” Annette said.

• Go early on the first day for the best selection. Wait until the last day for the best deals.

• Take a bag with you so that you can hold on to items you might want to purchase. Or ask the sales staff to put a “sold” sign on what you want.

• Get to know the estate sale sellers and their perks and mode of operation. Some have a password that you can access from their websites to use at the sale to get a discount. And most will tell you about upcoming sales you might be interested in.

• Know that most of the estate sale sellers do not discount items on the first day of the sale, but will make better deals as the days go by.

• If there is something you are looking for, ask the sellers if it might be available. You never know.

• Don’t set anything down if you even think you might want it.

• Dress in clothes that you don’t mind getting dirty because you may be digging through a garage or outbuilding.

• Put a shovel in your car, in case sellers will let you dig up plants or shrubs to take with you.

• Ask to be put on the estate sale organizers mailing lists so that you know about upcoming sales.

• Be sure you have a way to get your items home if you are purchasing large items.

• Enjoy the thrill of the hunt, and feel free to brag about your finds!

Mary Hance, who has four decades of journalism experience in the Nashville area, writes a weekly Ms. Cheap column. She also appears on Thursdays on “Talk of the Town” on NewsChannel 5. Reach her at mscheap@mainstreetmediatn.com and follow her on Facebook at Facebook.com/mscheap.

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