Done right, taking your kids to yard sales can be fun and educational. Here are a few tips for a successful excursion.
Make a plan. To reduce your time trapped in the car, hit Craigslist, Facebook and the newspaper classifieds the night before and make a list of worthy-looking sales. Rough out an order of attack, but leave yourself open to following rabbit trails of signs. Bonus points for making older kids use a real, paper map to help navigate.
Give them a budget. A $1-$5 budget goes far in Yard Sale Land and gives kids a taste of the hard, cold reality that you can’t always get what you want, but with a little creativity you can make your money stretch. Even a 3-year-old can understand the power of handing over quarters in exchange for treasures. Extra tip: Try not to cave for just anything, but feel free to provide exceptions for things like books … and stuff you kind of want to share.
Expand their vocabularies. In the privacy of your car, teach your kids the magic word “overpriced.” And teach them to avoid stuff that they — or you — identify as such. Just remind them not to accuse people of highway robbery to their faces. A sweet smile and a request for a deal works much better.
Be the final word. Your kid has finally found the perfect treasure … and it’s a 4-foot-tall light-up Santa Claus with a hole in it and a face that’s just a little bit evil. You need to be prepared to advise against such an unwise purchase. Let them know before you go that if you veto a purchase, they need to listen.Then pray they do, or you’ll end up with Santa scaring off visitors all winter.
Know when to quit. Unless hauling your wailing kid off a stranger’s lawn sounds like fun, you’ll want to watch for the Three W’s: wandering, weariness and whininess. If your kid is losing the thrill of the hunt, acting sleepy or getting ornery, don’t push it. Head home to enjoy your treasures.
Host your own. One day, it will click: Your kids will realize they’re handing over perfectly good money to other people for toys not much different than those they have at home. Take advantage of this and remind them that instead of buying new stuff, they could go through their old stuff and make a little cash. Hosting your own yard sale is work, but you can’t turn down an opportunity to get your kids to thoroughly clean their rooms.
Of course, then they’ll have money for next weekend.
Roberts is a writer and mom who lives and works in Moscow and is very slowly pursuing her master’s degree in English. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.