I know two grandmas who love to shop for bargains for their grandchildren. They’ve found some great stuff and shared some of their tips and success stories with me. Both believe they’re also helping the environment by recycling perfectly good items that can be re-used.
Caryn goes to garage sales for fun and hopes to find treasures, but never counts on it. She suggests you may want to be among the first to arrive, if you’re a serious shopper.
Recently, a few items she really wanted turned out to be free. When people want to get rid of a big plastic playhouse or a play kitchen, they can hardly wait to have you take it off their hands! She paid $5 to the owners of a playhouse to deliver it to her house, since her car was too small to handle it. Her granddaughter is the fourth or fifth child to own the playhouse. It’s a great way to recycle the fun and keep our landfills less clogged.
Lots of toys clean up just fine. Don’t be afraid of some dirt or the need to re-glue a part. However, don’t buy things that will take lots of repair; it’s usually not worth it. Caryn looks for wooden toys if possible and has found lovely handmade toys once in a while. She found a totally charming Noah’s ark complete with many pairs of animals all for $3.” She’s also found terrific books, toys, dress-ups clothes, costume jewelry and art supplies for her 2 1/2 year-old granddaughter.
Caryn also told me about Freecycle, a grassroots, nonprofit movement of people who are giving and getting stuff for free in their own towns. Their mission is to build a worldwide gifting movement that reduces waste, saves precious resources and eases the burden on our landfills while enabling our members to benefit from the strength of a larger community.
People can post requests for something they’re looking for or wanting to give away for free. She says it’s also a good place to give things away once your little one has outgrown them. Another great source for books for your grandchildren is your local library. They have book sales everyday.
My other bargain-hunting grandma, Ricka, buys all books, clothes, and toys through craigslist. She searches for whatever she thinks her twin grandsons need, and if she doesn’t have to drive too far, she goes for it. “There is really no rhyme or reason—it just involves putting in some time to check on a regular basis.” Sometimes, if it’s a toy, she checks Amazon reviews of the product to see the retail price.
She often buys books by the bagful and sorts through them. The ones she doesn’t want she gives to someone else or donates to Goodwill. She also buys clothes by the bagful and has found that most of the clothes work out fine. She throws away anything that has stains or tears, washes everything and bring them when she visits. Her daughter has had to buy very few clothes since the boys were born!
Yard Sale Shopping Tips
- Bring cash in small bills and some bags to carry home your treasures.
- Look for group sales or multi-family block sales. You’ll find more variety.
- Bargain a bit if you are up to it. Most sellers are willing to negotiate. Always be polite.
- If you see something you want, grab it while you shop. If it’s a large object, tell the seller you want it.
- Ask if they have other things for sale. If you’re looking for something specific and don’t see it, ask the sellers for it. You never know what someone didn’t put out for the sale.
- Be sure the toys work and all parts are included. Plug in electric items to see if they work.