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How To Teach Children To Be Effective Yard Sale Shoppers

photo via BigStock

Guest post from Victoria of Snail Pace Transformations

For years I have shopped yard sales alone while my husband watched the kids. Then one year, a little voice said to me, “Mommy, I want to come, too”. I answered, “Not yet. You’re not old enough”.

But soon, I realized she was old enough. My daughter was old enough to count money, old enough to carry a purse, old enough to walk on her own from sale to sale, and old enough to learn how to be an effective yard sale shopper.

I will be honest, at first it was tough for me to adapt. I was used to jumping from sale to sale at my own pace. However, after just a few weekends of slowing down to train my daughter to make wise purchases, I now miss her when she doesn’t tag along!

If you’d like to try taking your children along, here are a few tips that will hopefully help your experience to be a success.

1. Teach them to consider their purchases.

When my daughter first started  yard-saling with me, she wanted to buy everything. Each time she held up an item I would say, “What will you use it for?” “Where will you store it?”  “Do you already own something similar?” If she gave me good answers she could buy it; if not, she couldn’t.

Now I rarely have to speak these questions out loud as she has internalized them and answers them herself.

2. Teach them how to ask for a discount.

I have taught my daughter what the average yard sale prices are for things she is interested in. If the item is higher than average, I have taught her that there is no harm in asking for a lower price.

In the beginning, she was too nervous to do this, but now I hear her say, “Would you take…?” before I even have a chance to tell her I think the price is too high!

3. Teach them to set a budget.

Each Friday morning, before my daughter and I headed out yard sale shopping, I began asking her how much money she had and what her budget was. After just a few times of suggesting perhaps it was not wise to blow all of her money on yard sales, she now brings along just a small portion.

4. Teach them the value of their finds.

My daughter was shocked the first time I showed her the retail value of her yard sale finds on-line. Now she stands in the toy aisle and says, “I could just wait and get that at a yard sale for much less”.

Yard sale shopping with my daughter was a little bit of work at first, but it was worth it because now I have the reward of a great yard sale partner!

Do you shop yard sales with or without your children?

Victoria blogs at Snail Pace Transformations where she shares her adventures in inching forward in all areas in life. When Victoria isn’t blogging, homeschooling or cooking she loves running, biking and swimming.

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  • Michele says:

    I think for Bullet #2 she means “bargain” or “haggle” rather than “barter.” Barter is an exchange of goods or services for goods or services without the use of money.

  • Kerry D. says:

    I love it!!! Good for you for helping your daughter learn the value of her money, and the patience to get a better deal. My daughter has become my “partner in crime” and dear friend… I’m delighted to be able to enjoy her so much in her teen years, and see how wise she is. (In many areas of life, whew!!!)

  • I take my kid(s) along to show them that there are places other than stores to buy things. They can’t count money yet, but are always excited when we find something we need.

    Depending on my mood and theirs, I may take them out of the car with me or leave them there. I try to give them a chance to just look, “no touching”. They are getting better.

    Several times after buying one kid something the other say, “Buy something for me this time” when we stop at a different yard sale. Then I don’t find anything that kid needs. It has provided me the opportunity to show them that just because we stop does not mean we have to buy something.

    • Yes I have had to go over this lesson again and again too when it comes to my yard sale finds. One weekend one child might end up with a clothes and the other two nothing, but they learn in all even outs in the end as I pick up what they need as I see it.

  • Tracy says:

    I take my son to yard sale’s with me. Before we get started we discuss what we are both looking for, many times for him it is a new toy or a book. He also knows that I am mostly shopping for clothes for him and that I am looking for items that his local Cub Scouts group needs for camping supplies as they have very little. I also give him a little money to shop and tell him that is all I will give him if he wants to bring some of his allowance money as well that is his choice.

  • Alana says:

    I grew up yardsaling with my mom, older sisters, and many female relatives/friends. I loved it!! We would pack drinks & snacks for us to go yardsaling all day. lol Thankfully my boyfriend loves to go yardsaling and get a good deal also. Love the time we spend together. This article comes at a perfect time as tomorrow in my town we have an annual mile long yardsale with soo many people participating it’s not even possible to get to all of them. Thank you for the article to remind others about teaching children young. 🙂 I’m thankful my mom gave me the opportunity to go yardsaling. I already got a box full of free cards that someone was giving away today. I’m set for quite awhile on blank cards & getwell cards.

    • A “mile long sale” that sounds spectacular. We don’t have those around where we live but we do have community wide yard sales and they are the best! You could shop all day and not run out of sales but the longest me and my daughter have lasted is 3 hours.

  • Vickie says:

    I have twins and I started going to yard sales while I was pregnant with them. Soon the kids were here and I continued to go and take them with me, of couse I had mom to help me. They are now in college, but when they are home they still love going to yard sales. My son loves to find dvd’s and stuff for his dorm and his twin sister loves to find books and stuff for her dorm. They have always been aware of the money you save while going to yard sales and shopping on clearance. I am very proud of how they spend their money. They learned what a penny was at a young age. I am very happy to know you are taking the time to teach your children the same. Good job! It’s not always easy, but it pays in the long run! P.S. I love your site!

    • Thanks for such encouragement I love getting a glimpse of just what might be down the road for me in parenting. I wish I could get my boys out yard sale shopping too but they would rather sleep in. I am thinking of persuading them go to at least one community rummage with me now that I see how it has impacted their sisters spending habits so positively.

  • Carrie says:

    My 5 year old son is a fierce garage saler.

  • Lisa says:

    I have always taken my son to yard sales. I don’t believe there has to be an age where they are “old” enough to go.

    • Krysten says:

      I agree. While I do enjoy garage saling by myself once in a while, my 2-1/2 year-old son begs to come with me, so I often bring him along. Now that I’ve trained him on garage sale manners (don’t grab stuff off the tables), he usually either talks to the person running the sale (and sweetens them up in case I ask for a lower price) 🙂 or finds a toy to play with for a few minutes while I look through everything.

  • celia says:

    That is awesome, I love to yard sale and thrift shop and I am looking forward to taking my sons along with me. I have found some AWESOME books at yard sales. I do not like to pay retail for books, because my son is really hard on them. I also like to buy the cheapie cars so that if we are on a long or boring trip I can whip out a new toy and gain us another 15 minutes of relative quiet.

  • Jennifer says:

    I love taking all 3 of my kids to garage sales with me. They are 10, 7, and 5 and it has been a learning process. Each one gets their own money bag and when that money is gone it’s gone. I love seeing them work together and pull their money when they want one bigger item that they will share. I think it’s great to teach kids at a young age the value of money and that we can’t always get the higher priced item at the store BUT we can almost always find at least one great buy from a garage sale.

  • Marty says:

    I have started taking my 3 year old son with me some when my husband can’t watch him. He is just starting to understand the value of money but loves when we find a deal on stuff for him. I know as he grows he will learn more from the experience.

  • Grace says:

    Thanks! So timely! My kids are 6 3 and 22 months I yard sale to resell for profit. My husband can’t/won’t watch kids because of his schedule I am often left frustrated and warn down 🙂 I’m going to teach my oldest how to do this… He’s often seen me haggle 🙂 what is a good age to start teaching?

  • Dee says:

    When my 25 year old son was small he was always looking in the jewelry for “loot” so he could play pirates. People thought that was so cute – he rarely paid anything! Good memories :o)

  • Amy says:

    I only go to garage sales I can walk to because 3 of my kids are still in car seats, and it’s too much hassle get them in and out all the time when I may only be there for 2 minutes.

    They do like garage sales when we go to them, though. The first time we went when my oldest was old enough to talk, it was our subdivision’s semi-annual garage sale weekend. I didn’t use the word “garage sale” with him; I just told him we were going for a walk. We stopped at two of them, and then he told me, “I like garage stores!”

  • I do take my kids with me yard saling. I actually have a huge blog post coming out on Monday on my Monday Money Matters series about thrifty yard sale finds and how my kids found half of them! 🙂 Love this post!

  • Shelly says:

    I have not been yard saling with the kids in a long time. Great tips for me to consider and to teach them when they do come along. I recently passed up a pair of pinking shears at an estate sale. I was being too cheap to pay the $10, they were a very good brand. My husband said I would regret it and I do.

  • Deb H. says:

    My husband always told the kids that if they bring an item INTO the house, they had to have a comparable item go OUT of the house (either by putting in the trash, garage sale pile, give away, etc.) My kids would only ask for an item if they could tell me exactly what they were going to “get rid of.” This solved many issues for us.

  • Oh, I love yard sales! And I’ve taught my tween daughter to love them too!

    It all started with finding a bag of Littlest Pet Shop critters for $5…. and comparing them (I think there were 15 or so in the bag!) to what she could buy at the store for that same amount. Ummm, I think one pet costs about that much! She was convinced!

    And I’m proud that now when we go to sales, sometimes there is something I think she might like and I point it out to her, she’ll often say that she doesn’t need it. I love that she self-governs and doesn’t feel like she has to have it all. It’s been a long time in coming!!

  • Marie says:

    I love garage selling and my 5 year old twins enjoy going too. This year they were asking when we were going to go. If I know we are going to several community garage sales I pack a cooler of drinks and snacks. They also get to pick a few movies for the car.
    They have really learned to enjoy looking and not asking for everything they see. I was so proud of my son a few weeks ago. I found some lego sets and he looked at them and instead of wanting both he remembered he had a firetruck set at home and declined that one! They are very good also about understanding that while I may find something for one of them at one sale we may find something later for the other one. I love that they are also learning about money and about everything not having to be “fair or equal”

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