If you thought the only things you could find at yard sales were used books and blenders, consider this: whether hosting your own or pulling over the car to scope out a neighbours’ roadside treasures, yard sales present a unique opportunity to teach little ones important money lessons.
Yard sales make money tangible (no credit or debit cards on the front lawn), allowing kids to visualize the difference in value between items. Judy Arnall, author of Parenting with Patience, says this intangibility makes teaching financial literacy so challenging. Swiping a credit or debit card doesn’t make the transaction real in the eyes of a child in the way that handing over a fistful of bills or counting out change does.
Observe Buying BehaviourWhile some yard sale shoppers are impulsive, others take their time to consider all of their options before shelling out their dough. “Observing people’s buying behaviours gives parents the opportunity to talk to kids about the dos and don’ts of making purchase decisions,” says Gary Rabbior, president of the Canadian Foundation for Economic Education.
Making ChangeSneak in a math lesson by putting kids in charge of the cash box. Customers often want to strike deals for buying two or more items. Someone who offers $2 for three DVDs instead of paying $1 each, for example, can help reinforce those division equations in your child’s math textbook. Remember to practice before hitting the front lawn.
If your child has something in mind that they would like to purchase, such as a new video game or a trip to the zoo, keeping that financial goal top of mind can allow them to experience the satisfaction that comes with achieving something. “One of the most important things to develop in young people is self-efficacy; the recognition that I can accomplish things,” says Gary. Reaching their financial goal is not only a great money lesson, but contributes to developing confidence and self-esteem.
Seeing the excited smile on another child’s face when they pick up a toy your child has discarded can help kids realize that new is not always better. “It shows them that someone can be just as happy with something that isn’t wrapped in a plastic package,” says Judy. Explain that not everything has to be new and shiny for it to have value and that buying second-hand can not only save you money, but that reusing old stuff can also save the planet.
You can choose a charity to receive some or all of your proceeds. For the past three years, Toronto mom Michelle Hawco has hosted a Yard Sale for the Cure, a national campaign to raise funds and awareness of the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation. Daughters Kaida, 5, and Lily, 3, help collect and sort items and even run their own pink lemonade stand. “We talk about what we’re fundraising for and the idea that we’re so fortunate that we’re healthy and that we need to give to other people,” says Michelle. It has reinforced values of generosity and motivates her daughters to purge their not-so-beloved belongings in the sale, especially her eldest, Kaida. “When she doesn’t want to play with things anymore, rather than just tossing it aside, she’ll say ‘I want to put this in the yard sale,’” says Michelle.
There's plenty to do before the big day:
Originally published in ParentsCanada magazine, June/July 2014.