Money Talks, The Tentmakers

The Problem with “Free” (and My 2 New Yard Sale Rules)

by J. Money


I know we’re late into the yard sale season here, but I recently enacted two new rules for my kids while out shopping, and I’m realizing more and more how effective they are for us adults too.

Let me know what you think.

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Rule #1: No more getting anything for FREE!

I don’t know if your kids do this, but mine have been awfully good at convincing sellers to give them stuff (mainly toys) for free every time we go yard saling. Doesn’t matter if the item is a dollar or ten – they always manage to walk away with something without cracking their piggy banks!

Which of course is financially great and super sweet of the sellers, but after the first few weekends I realized a disturbing trend was occurring…

Our house was getting bombarding by junk!! Because anytime something is “free” all decision-making goes out the window and you grab it because IT’S FREE!! Whether you actually truly need it or not! I literally saw my oldest bargain down a guy from $2.00 to a nickel last weekend (yes – an actual nickel!!) and because it wasn’t free my kid turned it down and walked away…

And let me tell you something…


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Haha… Which is exactly what prompted this rule and stopped the onslaught of junk 😉 Now any time someone offers an item for free – whether provoked or not – my kids are to say “thank you, but I’d like to give you a little for it instead”, and then they can choose how much. And I $hit you not, for the rest of that morning my oldest didn’t pick up A SINGLE THING he wanted to spend money on!! Amazing!!

(My kids btw use their own money to buy things at yard sales, except for books or other items that help them learn or add value to their lives… Such as an art easel I recently picked up for them so they can paint “like real artists” as they like to say.

Picture Credit: Budgets Are Sexy

Rule #2: For every new item you bring in the home, you must get rid of another

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This one will sound familiar to minimalists out there, but for whatever reason I’ve always been bad at following this, so of course my kids have been too. But since I was on fire with that Freebie Rule I just enacted, I decided to tack on this one as well and hit them with a 1-2 punch 😉 After all, if you don’t want more stuff in your house, this is a surefire way to make it happen! They can go out and buy 100 new things now if they wanted – and could afford it – but if they do they’re getting rid of 100 other things so nothing *extra* is piling on top anymore!

And similarly to the first rule, this one’s been working great as well so far. I’d say my oldest has now gone from bringing home about 5 or 6 items a weekend down to 1-2, while my youngest is still adapting and has maybe dropped from 6-7 things to 4-5. But unlike his brother, he has no problem shelling out his money so that’s a whole other topic that needs tackling later 😉

The other thing I love about this rule is that it simultaneously gets rid of the stuff you no longer like or use anymore, and instead replaces it with that which brings you joy! So you’re constantly increasing the ratio of stuff you appreciate more in your home vs that which you don’t.

I’m also finding that the mere act of searching for things to get rid of is not only helping us to become more organized (we’re finding hidden stashes everywhere!), but it’s also re-uniting my kids with long-lost toys that I’m now seeing them playing with again… And when they don’t, it’s an immediate sign that it should be next to go!

And if you think my kids aren’t holding ME accountable to these rules too, you’d be dead wrong 😉 I think they actually get more joy out of seeing me scramble around for things to donate than when they bring home something new! Haha.. And I’m not gonna lie – it’s hard sometimes! Especially as someone who’s been shedding things for over 9 years now!

But I’m sticking to it! And if you’ve got similar problems in your household, I encourage you to consider testing out one or both of these as well… We can be just as bad as kids with *wanting everything* and taking freebies left and right (conference swag, anyone?!), but the more we pause for a bit and really ask ourselves if it’s worth it, the better our wallets and our lifestyle will be.

I’ll keep you posted with how it sticks!! Only three weeks in but so far so good!

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