Friday, May 9, 2014

Garage Sale-ing (or Teaching Your Child How Not to go in Debt)

The trees are budding, the tulips blooming and dandelions are plentiful.... Spring has sprung in our corner of the world! People are cleaning out their homes and it's Garage Sale season!

This morning I took my little girl to her first real neighborhood Garage Sale, not as a spectator but as a shopper! To make math real I doled out five one dollar bills. We talked about how each dollar was equal to four quarters OR 10 dimes OR 20 nickels. Honestly, I had no idea that $5 would buy so much! (Or that so many senior citizens would just give things to her for being so cute with her little purse. So much for the math lesson.)

She got one of every garage sale category; stuffed animal- check,  books- check, craft kits- check, outdoor toys- check, ziplock bag filled with odds and ends from a bigger, more elaborate play set- check...... she was having. a. ball!

Her last and most expensive purchase, for a whole dollar, was a Polly Pocket car that was obviously broken. Even though I pointed that out to her she insisted that she wanted it more than anything in the world and paid with her very last dollar. Within 5 minutes she looked at me and sobbed "It's not a great toy. It doesn't work at all." tears starting down her face.

I felt for her. I truly did. How many times have I bought something and was immediately hit with buyer's remorse. From little things like the fruity gum at the checkout that went waxy once the flavor ran out or a shirt on clearance that seemed OK but looks kinda meh now I have it at home... To big purchases like the SLR camera I bought under pressure when that electronics store went out of business at the mall that really isn't user friendly and now, two years later, I could have bought a Canon or Nikon for the same price... or my very first car that I bought on my very own: A '92 Chevy Lumina that was a BOAT but burst into flame less than 2 months into ownership. (After spending the same amount of money I paid for it to fix the alternator, starter and head gasket.)

But what did I want to teach her in this lesson in money and choices and frugality? I mean, I had a few dollar bills in my pocket. I could have just handed one over to her and it wouldn't have made a dent in my shopping plans. If I really wanted to I could have walked back to that house and told the seller that they sold a bum toy to a little girl and, I don't know, gotten her dollar back or exchanged it for another toy.( I mean, what kind of person sells a BROKEN toy at a garage sale?!?!? Ok, breathe in- breathe out. I'm OK. I'm OK...)  Either way the tears would stop and I could go on with the happy morning.

For some reason this seemed like a big lesson to her broken heart. (One I wish I had learned waaaaay before I bought that Lumina.)

I sat on some random person's front lawn with her little head on my shoulder and broken toy in her lap. She wailed for a bit and I just held her in her broken moment as people walked by and stared at the sweaty woman with the weeping child on her lap. The sweaty woman whose shirt exclaimed "Stay At Home ROCKSTAR".... I was not feeling like a Rockstar at the moment. I wanted to crawl up into a ball and die.

Once her breaths evened out I smoothed back the hairs plastered with sweat to her forehead. I explained that she made a bad purchase. How I gave her advice on what to do and she made her own choice and sometimes they come with their own consequences. That we need to not buy what our heart wants in the moment but to "stop, think and cho-o-oose". (Credit: Daniel Tiger)

"Momma, I should have listened to you."

"Yeah, I know you feel that way."

"I was foolish."

"It's OK. It happens. To everyone, even grownups."

"Mom, I'm never going to make a bad purchase again. I'm gonna stop, think and cho-o-oose next time."

Can I have that in writing?

We continued shopping, finding the motherlode of scholastic books. I went SHOPPING for our home library! At that same sale they had TONS of little girl toys, priced to sell. Little girl looked them over, played with a few and remarked to me as we left that house. "Momma, I ran out of money. I couldn't buy anything there, my heart wanted stuff but I knew I had no more money."

"Was it hard?"

"A little bit."

"I'm proud of you for making good choices."

.... and we literally skipped back to the car.

All this started as a Facebook Post but the story went on and on and on. I don't know what led me to share this slice of our day. But there it is. A moment of our real.

A moment of perspiration, tear, and snot soaked ugly turned into a learning moment for my little one. Reminded that if we can pray in the moment for the strength to stay cool we can turn it around. We can get back to that happy moment we had just left and all be a little better for it.


  1. Love Love LOVE! =] I'm so proud of Wave! and you! way to go Momma!! =]

  2. That's a wise momma teaching wisdom to her little girl. Thanks for sharing your real. It's beautiful.