Get Over It, Get Up and Go Garage Sale Shopping

“The discussions and lessons we got in return were worth a lot more…”

The kids and I had such a ball the other day that I want to share it with you. Specifically with those of you who, like me, have never taken part in that great American past-time: garage sale-ing.

Like it or not, the kids are along for this ride.

The kids have been living the get-out-of-debt dream with us for almost a year and a half now. They have adapted beautifully to our family’s new financial values.

They earn their own money each week and we coach them through saving, spending and giving. Very rarely is there any drama or whining about buying something. If you don’t have the money, you can’t buy it. If mom and dad don’t have the money, they don’t buy it either.

It makes sense, of course, to make the most of the spending money we do allocate ourselves. The Wife watches for sales, we minimize the use of paper products and other disposables, and I brew my own beer, for example. But there are dozen of other ways to stretch a dollar.

I have never made the time to visit garage sales.

For some reason I’ve never had an interest in going to garage sales. We have held our own, but most of the people who show up aren’t very pleasant so it never occurs to me to go out and be one of them.

Last weekend, however, with nary a nickel in the budget the kids and I really needed to get out of the house. They had a few dollars in their spend envelopes so I threw them in the car and we headed out looking for those hand-drawn poster boards in the nice end of town.

At each stop the kids got more excited about finding fun things for nearly nothing. A doll for fifty cents, a toy for free (just because they’re so cute). The kids learned quickly the price difference between new and used.

It was also a learning experience for me. People were really pleased to see well-behaved kids with manners show up and walk around their stuff. I didn’t buy anything, nor had I intended to, but when I do get around to replacing my tools I am definitely going to check yard sales first.

Teachable moments popped up everywhere.

In addition to getting past my own disinterest in looking at other people’s used junk, I got to see some interesting sides to the kids. One wanted to buy something at every stop, the other held back until the end.

They also were forced to walk to up to strangers and talk prices as well as conduct transactions. We learned about value and quality with more than one discussion about what will last and what won’t.

At the end of the day they spent about $2.50 each. The best find? A Baskin Robbins ice cream cake maker. We got it home, washed it up and I made a standard ice cream base. The kids then flavored it and sat there hand-cranking their new toy. It worked great and we all ate the results. Hours of entertainment for 50 cents.

I encourage you who have avoided it to brave the oddballs, stick a five in your pocket and head out early one Saturday morning. The discussions and lessons we got in return were worth a lot more than that.

the Dad

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3 Responses to this post.

  1. Gramps's Gravatar

    Posted by Gramps on 08/06/10 at 1:11 pm

    Shirley Olsten would be proud of you, Dad! As are we, Tutu and Gramps. With the knowledge gained on that Saturday the girls could passover 4th grade….they learned it all Garage Saleing with Dad on a lovely Saturday morning in August. And it only cost $2.50…..Amazing !!!

  2. KJ's Gravatar

    Posted by KJ on 08/11/10 at 9:41 am

    Asking for your advice. I’m 38, divorcing, two kids. I can’t seem to ‘get it together’ when it comes to finances. I know all I need to do is figure out dates/amounts of all bills and pay them, and then look at revenue vs. bills and use that for groceries, gas, etc… But I don’t. I feel blocked, and overwhelmed. I don’t want to keep living paycheck to paycheck… I need to climb out but am having trouble with the first step. Any advice?

  3. the Dad's Gravatar

    Posted by the Dad on 08/11/10 at 5:17 pm

    Oh man, we were RIGHT THERE two years ago with all of it falling apart. It’s scary and overwhelming. What started us on the right road was reading “The Total Moneymakeover” by Dave Ramsey. It was eye-opening. Pick it up at the library or from any bookstore. Also, give a listen to the podcasts at — great stuff. Being on your own makes being accountable harder, but I learned once we put a system in place and stuck to it for a few months it became natural. Lastly, if you can, attend Financial Peace University (you can find a class at Dave’s website as well) and you’ll meet a bunch of people who will become your support group for three months! You can do this.

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