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A Family Garage Sale

How To Get Your Kids Involved And Help Out With A Garage Sale

If spring cleaning has left you determined to have a garage sale this summer, consider making it a family affair. Not only can children be great helpers, they can learn many things in the process.

Show Me the Money!

Let's be honest. While ridding the house of clutter may be your main objective, it probably isn't a top priority for your children. But a chance to earn some dough is bound to grab their attention.

Money squabbles, however, can arise if issues are not sorted out beforehand. Your preteen may see the money from selling her old clothes as being her profit, even if you bought them for her. Likewise, siblings may argue over which person actually "owns" something. A family meeting can ease tensions, as well as help children develop problem-solving and negotiation skills. Perhaps two parties can split the profit, or maybe all money made can go toward a family outing. Have your child write up a "contract" with all the details, and have all participants sign.

Deciding what to charge for items is a dilemma for any garage sale host. Most Web sites devoted to garage sale pricing recommend 10 to 30 percent of the original cost as a guideline. Work with your child on determining the original purchase price, and let him figure the percentage. Not only is the exercise a chance to bring math to life, it provides a clear example of how things depreciate over time. (For extra help, try pricing tips from the moving company North American Van Lines.)

Before putting on the price sticker, try one more math lesson. Get an array of coins and small bills (you'll need them for the sale anyway) and have your child practice adding up totals and giving back change. Chances are she will soon discover that it is much easier to add up three items costing a quarter, a dollar and two dollars than it is to come up with a sum for items priced 35 cents, 80 cents and $1.15. See if she can guess the reason why, and challenge her to price her items accordingly (in multiples of 25 cents).

Decisions, Decisions

You may have a list in your head of things your children could sell, but they may see things differently. That stuffed animal from when your daughter was 5 may seem like a good candidate, but she may not be ready to part with it. Pose questions that encourage reflection: Which toys do you feel are no longer fun? Which books are too easy for you to read? Not only will this help in making decisions, it will give the child a positive sense of how much he or she has grown over the years—without feeling ashamed of not wanting to let go of something.

While some children are reluctant to part with anything, others may be too eager to get rid of everything in order to make money. Remind children that once they sell something, it is gone. Also, be honest about replacement. Your son may mistakenly think that if he sells his old video game system, you will buy him a better one. If he believes he will have money to burn from the sale, encourage him to price the new object of his desire to see how much of a difference exists between what he might earn and how much the new thing costs.

Geri Strandberg, a mother of two from Gilbert, Ariz., has this suggestion if your child is lamenting her lack of merchandise: Encourage her to sell lemonade, soda or cookies, too. Customers often are eager to buy such refreshments on hot summer days.

Paulette Braccio of Matteson, Ill., has another solution. "Let her gather up small items such as party bag goodies, fun fair prizes or fast food restaurant premiums, and put them into Ziploc bags. A bag of five items can usually command about 25 cents, and it does wonders for clearing up playroom clutter."

The Big Day

For your sale to be a success, you need to attract customers. Grab some cardboard and markers and let your child put his artistic side to use designing eye-catching signs. Brainstorm together about what information the posters should include and where they should be placed.

Likewise, preteens can serve as garage sale managers. To do this, encourage children to think about stores they have visited. How are items organized? What grabs a buyer's attention? Is there enough room for people to browse? Is the merchandise in good condition? Then, support acting on those conclusions. This might lead to grouping all the Barbie items together, moving tables farther apart or washing off some old toy cars to make them look more attractive.

At a moving sale in Arlington, Va., Frank George noted that his son came up with a great marketing strategy on his own. "He drew customers over by taking the race track he wanted to sell out of the box and setting it up," says George. "When that was quickly purchased, he sought out other attention-getting items to display."

The Aftermath

Chances are that the first thing your child (and probably you!) will want to do at the end of a sale is count profits. Be sure to subtract out the bills and coins you brought out for change in order to get an accurate figure.

Items that did not sell will either need to be returned to the house, packed away for a future sale, donated or discarded. Have plenty of boxes and garbage bags ready for sorting merchandise, and clearly label each ("return," "save," "toss," "donate") so that it will end up in the proper place. Then, let your child sort her items. You may also want to discuss as a family which charity might benefit most from your items. Then, let your preteen help load the car and deliver the donations to the organization. The good feeling that comes from helping others will be remembered long after the garage sale signs are taken down.

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