Garage Sales (+kids) Survival Guide

It is well-known that one of my favorite warm-weather activities is hitting a few garage sales. I am choosier now than in the past when I had babies outgrowing clothes every few months, but it is still fun to see what “treasures” I might find.  There is nothing like a garage sale to make you feel rich with that 10 bucks in your pocket!

In this area, it seems that the “best” sales are beginning on Friday or even Thursday. This means that if I want to get to them, I need to bring my three shopping buddies. These buddies are starting to get old enough to be pretty good shoppers, but this has not always been the case. Here are my tips for taking kids to garage sales:

1) Plan your route. Have an idea of where you are going, and choose sales that are larger, in case you don’t get to all the ones you want. 

2) Be realistic about how long your kids can make it. And be prepared to change your plans if needed. (This is pretty much standard parenting advice no matter the situation.)

3) Bring food, and plan for a treat. When my kids were littler, I’d pack some sliced fruit to eat in the van, and go through the McDonald’s drive-thro for pancakes. What a hit! I’d throw them back to the kids, who’d gobble them up even without syrup (because I’m not insane.)

4) Bribes. Again, this is standard parenting advice. I’d try to go to a “kids” sale first, and usually a new book or Hot Wheels car right away would keep them happy for quite a while.

5) Leave them in their carseats. Those seats are most of the hassle for moms of little ones at garage sales – the in and out gets pretty old. If I could get a close parking spot, I’d leave them in the van, belted in, with either the heat or AC running as needed, and some tunes on the radio.  This works best after food and a bribe. This is not the time to leisurely look through stacks of onesies. If it’s a busy sale, lock your doors. And if your kids have a habit of getting out of their seats and messing around, it might be best to skip this altogether.  Use your best judgement!

6) Let them bring their own cash. Ben and Leah now have their own money (from birthdays, etc) to burn. Before heading out to sales last weekend, Ben told me he was bringing $18 with him.  Um, NO, buddy. MOM didn’t even have that much cash!  I have a $2 limit for the kids, and I have to approve their purchases. If there is whining about my decision, that is the end of purchases for the day. Oh, and Daddy says “No stuffed animals!”

7) State the rules. Adam doesn’t have that kind of dough to sling around, but I usually buy him something anyway. Twice now it has been a toy in the $3-4 range, which is pretty spendy for me at garage sales. He has gotten several reminders of, “This is the only toy we are buying you,” and so far, he has been great. No whining or anything. Crossing my fingers here.

8) Remind them that the sales are an adventure. Whenever a kid starts whining that they haven’t found anything yet, I have to remind them that the whole nature of the sales is an adventure – we never know what we are going to find! Or not find. Regardless, IT’S NOT MY FAULT.  And we can always just NOT GO to garage sales.

Ben recently bought a Hungry Hungry Hippos game (which he had mentioned wanting only a few days earlier) for $1, a Flat Stanley book, a Nerf gun (without the darts, but ours fit it), and was given a Bakugan toy.

Leah bought a Klutz book on making friendship bracelets – perfect, since a babysitter had just taught her the basics.

Adam has come out with a remote control Lightning McQueen, and an Imaginext pirate whale.

I got two mornings at my favorite hobby, with my favorite kids as company.

Do you have any advice for taking kids to garage sales – or any other kind of shopping?

One thought on “Garage Sales (+kids) Survival Guide

  1. I think you covered it pretty well.

    Miranda has been talking about having a garage sale lately. And then I had to break it to her that I got rid of most of the stuff last year. She is not too happy. I’m not sure why she wants to have a sale so bad. Maybe because she got to play/have fun with friends. Or maybe because she found cool stuff to buy at her own garage sale.

    Either way, she doesn’t like to give stuff up easily. So maybe she and I’ll have to hit the sales and leave Lincoln home.

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