How to Shop Garage Sales with Kids

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You may love to shop garage sales, or you may want to learn the secrets to garage saling and saving lots of money on household items, kid’s clothes and vintage home décor. BUT. You have kids. Can you do both? As a mom of a 2 and 4 year old, I am going to teach you how to shop garage sales with kids.

February is usually the time of year I start looking up city wide garage sale dates and to write on my calendar. It’s like ordering seeds for spring while the snow is still blowing. It’s the anticipation, the promise of beautiful weather and yard sale season ahead. But even if you have the inkling to go searching for yard sales this spring and summer, you’re a MOM. The thought of going from yard to yard (some land-mined with kids toys) with your darlings in tow is enough to send the bravest of mom’s back to bed. 

Not gonna lie, I’d much rather go out to the sales by myself, but sometimes that’s just not possible. I’ve been taking the kids to yard sales, flea markets and antique stores since they were a few weeks old. No, it’s not the EASIEST thing I’ve ever done, but it certainly is doable. So what are my garage sale tips on how to shop with kids?

1. Take Your Time with Kids (especially the first several times)

You’re with kids…going to stranger’s garages…garages often filled with fun toys!!!!! It has the potential of being a disaster. If you’re just starting out on the whole garage sale game (and even if you’ve been at it a while), take it slowly. This is going to be a learning experience for you AND your kids. Don’t try to hit every.single.sale in two hours. At the beginning you may not spend much time shopping sales, but you can start small and do more later.

2. Keep Realistic Expectations when Garage Saling with Kids

You know your kids best. Some sales they might do great, some sales are total meltdowns. It’s OK. We’ve all been there. I have been doing this for years and there are some times that, well, just don’t work out well at all. My kid and I are out here doing our best living life instead of sitting at home. 

Just know that they WILL slow you down and, at the beginning, it’s going to be difficult for them to leave toys behind. The important thing is to not give up.

3. Make a Yard Sale Plan the Night Before

I do this with or without kids. Sometimes it’s fun to just drive around and see what you can find. With kids, not so much fun to randomly drive around. Take some time the night before and look up on Facebook Marketplace, social media sale groups, gslr.com and even Craigslist the sales around you. Pick the ones that look interesting and make a list. 

A community garage sale or city wide sale is a great place to hit a lot of sales in one area. Try to find out the dates of these neighborhood sales by a Google search for the best way to find lots of great deals in one area.

4. Make a Shopping List

Make a garage sale shopping list (and wish list!) of what you’re looking for AND the price range you want to pay. Just like grocery shopping, you’re mind will fly out the window when you’re corralling little people. Be specific. What size kids shoes do you need? A shopping list is ALWAYS a good idea to snag the particular item you need and leave what you don’t need.

5. Pack Lots of Various Treats!!!!

I can’t emphasize this one enough. At least three different snacks, some favorite toys, a special kid’s audio story and movie are allllll necessary. And dole them out sparingly. Tell them “after we go to this sale, you get_____ in the car.” Just like a road trip, start with the most boring and work up to the most exciting.

6. Pack the Car the Night Before and Set Out Everyone’s Clothes

The early birds really do catch the worm. Salers (aka “Pickers”) are no-holds-barred kind of people. They take garage sales seriously, which means they don’t sleep in waiting for other people to beat them to the good stuff. No, I’m not going to wake my young children up super early, but I will wake them up by 7:00. (And if you have naturally early riser kids, all the better!) 

I have packed the car the night before with all the treats (and gear like baby carrier). They have cups of cereal and milk in their car seats and pillows/blankets waiting for them. Clothes are laid out and so all we need to do is change diapers/go potty and get in the car.

7. Involve Kids in the Process of Finding Good Deals

You are going to be thrilled when you find a good deal and take it home. Your kids are the same. Come up with something they’re looking for or something they can help you find. As a kid, I was always on the hunt for books. My nephew searches for micro machine cars. My nieces search for vintage Barbie stuff. Older boys might love finding a video games at a good price. I’m not all about hauling home a bunch of toys they don’t need, but giving the kids a purpose makes it a game they’re involved in. You might even give them small amounts of cash or let them bring some spending money. It’s a great way to learn when the money is gone, it’s gone. Then it’s not you telling them they can’t buy something; it’s the money telling them.

8. Leave the Kids in the Car When Possible

Don’t freak out, yes, I do this thoughtfully. I don’t leave them in the car when it’s hot or in an unsafe situation. But I will pull up right next to or in front of the driveway run up to take a quick look around and get back ASAP. All the while, I’m 20 feet away max. This is what I do 75% of the time.

9. Go Shopping with a Friend or Family

If you have a friend with or without kids who wants an adventure, take them along with you! Family members like moms, sisters and nieces work especially well for this. You can take turns sitting in the car with the kids. This makes it a lot more fun for everyone.

10. Have a Conversation with Your Kids

Depending on their ages, TALK with your kids about what you’re doing and what they need to do. You can even do this with little kids. Do they have money to spend or not? Are they looking for something specific? Even if they are not buying anything, I remind the kids they have ____ time to play with the toys, and then we’re going to say “bye bye to the toys and go look for more at the next sale.” Sometimes, I actually wait for them to have a few minutes to play before we leave. Yes, sometimes they have a hard time, but overall, they do really well when we have to leave.

11. Let Them Take a Small Toy to the Sale

Now, this can sometimes be a bother to keep track of, but with a 1 – 2 year old, I’ve had good success at letting them hold onto a small toy while going to the sale. He has something that’s his and that he can take back with him to the car. 

12. Pack the Right Gear

What is necessary for your kids at this stage in life? Baby carrier? Bottle? Stroller? Heavens, when my toddlers are potty training, I even stick our potty chair in the back. I reeeeally don’t want to stop every 30 minutes for a gas station bathroom. 

13. Have a Special Treat at the End of your Shopping Time

Ok, this might depend on how you feel about sugar, but it’s our tradition to stop for a donut after a morning of rummage sales. I’ve had a friend who tried to do the donut thing in the middle of garage saling. Don’t do donuts in the middle of your shopping time– they’re sticky and hype up the kids, and THEN you don’t have anything for them to look forward to. Maybe you’re treat would be a stop at the park or lunch at a fast food restaurant. Just something small to reward all their hard work of waiting for you. Plus it makes the experience more fun and memorable.

So yes, there is a way of how to shop garage sales with kids, including small children. And it can be FUN! As with anything, it takes a little planning, a little patience, a little practice. But the rewards are finding a low price on kid’s clothes, baby items, vintage items and so much more! It also teaches your kids valuable lessons of saving money, patience for finding something you need and making memories together.

Do you need more garage sale tips?  Visit my blog posts below.

How to Advertise for a Garage Sale

16 Estate Sale Shopping Tips to Find Best Vintage Items

Do you take your kids while shopping garage sales? Comment below and tell me what their favorite thing to look for is!

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Our Vintage Bungalow

Hey, I’m Tammy, and I’ve lived most of my life in the middle of a reno project.

I am going to give you quick and easy tips of how to decorate & add vintage style that makes a your house feel like a cozy home. I’ll also share the vintage lifestyle (with some modern updates) that I was raised with and continue with my own family.

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