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Not So Silent Auction

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How to find the best deals at your next school fundraiser.

Recession Mama: This weekend, I went to a fundraiser for my older kids' public elementary school. I have been to (and worked for) a ton of them over the years and most of them follow the same basic formula -- raffle, silent auction, dinner, live auction, and throughout the evening, lots and lots of drinks. These are fantastic opportunities for great deals and, even better, all the money is going to a good cause.

parents in a classroom

The raffle is like the lottery. You're not out much for a ticket, but chances of winning anything are slim. The live auction is where the organization usually puts the big-ticket items. It's fun to watch, but keep your paddle down; the deals are in the silent auction. Work the room like a Vegas casino -- circle around, check out all the tables, and avoid alcohol until the bidding is over or else, you might end up winning a bidding war and wishing you hadn't in the morning (bidder's remorse). Look for items that no one has bid on or ones that you think are undervalued. Go around the room with a partner because it's easy to miss something.

Also, when the bidding is closing, your partner can be positioned to swoop in for last-minute bids on the items across the room. Don't feel as if you're cheating the charity -- all the items are donations and they would much rather sell it for the opening bid or a little more than have it sitting in someone's garage until the next event.

This weekend, I walked away with a package from AAA with a travel bag and mug, kids' atlas and travel book, and a new road atlas (that I actually needed), all for $10. Also, my husband did me proud and snapped up a party for 20 at a local roller rink that included the entrance price, rental skates, ice cream, and soda for $80. With three kids and a year to use it, he knew a good deal when he saw it. Now we just have to convince one of them that a roller-skating party was their idea in the first place ...

next: Mother's Fight Against Junk Food Puts a School on Edge
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