Monday, June 07, 2010

Tips for Garage Sale-ing with the Little Ones

Garage sales are a weakness of mine.  I love the thrill of the hunt and the bargaining and the excitement of finding that special surprise treasure. When I was single and had my own home to furnish, I spent a lot of time at flea markets and garage sales, and I got a lot of great buys. Summer Saturday mornings would find me, Timmie's & the classifieds in hand, scouring the sales.

But now, my shared home is very full, and I don't go after the garage sales with quite the same gusto. I do more browsing than buying (hubs is thankful for that). I've also learned that my 4 year-old enjoys a good sale too.  He had his first real experience with this idea last year, and based on our experiences, I thought I'd share a few small tips that might help you to venture out with your wee ones on your own treasure hunt.

- Although I used to take the classifieds and plan a long route, driving around the city, with lots of in and out of the car, I find it far easier now to pinpoint one or two neighbourhoods that have organised sales, and are walkable. Little kids are not easy to get in and out of car seats over and over, so we will park and walk.

- If your wee one is quite wee, use their stroller (the big one with lots of storage that you don't take on the bus) or wagon.  Less walking for them means hitting more houses for both of you.

- Actually, just bring the wagon, even if they can walk the whole route you've planned.  Carting your purchases, especially the awkward large Fisher-Price sets you know he'll want, is much easier this way.

- Bring water. Although you may be lucky enough to find a lemonade stand or two to quench your thirst.  You will almost certainly encounter an ice cream truck if the neighbourhood sale has been well advertised.

- Bring your own bags to tote your purchases, in case the sellers don't have them. And make sure to bring a special one for each of your kids so they can carry their own stuff (yeah, right! we can dream though)

- Even if they insist on you carrying their purchases, most kids love money and paying for things themselves. Be sure to bring a special change purse or wallet for each child, with a bunch of small change.  That change may come from their piggy bank or your wallet, but when they take it out of their own little purse and count it out and pass it over to the seller, they will feel a sense of accomplishment, and will be putting math into action and learning about money and purchasing power.  And as they see their stash dwindle, they may begin to learn something about budgeting as well.

- Small change is critical.  Especially for kids like mine, at 4 years, they will mostly be picking up things that are a dime or quarter (we hope). Once in a while they might want a looney or twoonie, but the smaller change will be easier for you and for the sellers.

- And finally, set some boundaries or guidelines before you head out. If there are categories of toys that are off limits, either because you already have too many at home, or they are ones of which you don't approve (toy guns come to mind), then set that out at the get-go.  Plan a spending limit and stick to it by putting only that amount in their little change purse. (Of course, if you find the perfect basketball net or next size up bike, you can always make a parental purchase. After all , garage sales are about surprises, right?)

At our neighbourhood garage sale last weekend, my guy bought stuffies, and was given stuffies. He also got some cars, a big Fisher Price pirate boat, a couple of video games and an action figure or two. I think he in total spent about $10. But the excitement on his face? "Priceless!"


  1. Also, it's never too young to teach them how to haggle. A very nice woman at a garage sale taugh my son how to haggle with her and he was so proud of himself when he got something that was marked at $4.00 for only a toonie :)

  2. Love it! I bet being a cute little guy doesn't hurt with the haggling either :-)


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