Lessons from the Consignment Sale

September 21st, 2015

This week’s column, printed in our local SmallTownUSA newspaper…

I use consignment sales to teach my first grader important lessons about money.

Okay, fine. I use consignment sales to live vicariously through my children in a desperate attempt to dampen my burning desire to buy myself an entirely new wardrobe each season. But there are still great lessons to be had. Here are three things Miss Mouse (hopefully) learned at a recent sale.

Lesson #1 – Budgeting. Learning to manage money is a critically important skill for all kids to learn. Before we headed to the wondrous land of two dollar t-shirts and fifty cent puzzles, I let her know how much money I was willing to spend. And then we stuck to the budget.

This required making some hard choices. After a first trip around the room, my enthusiastic shopper had a pile of gear that was easily twice what she could afford. We added up the price tags together to see how much she was over, then winnowed down the pile.

Fair warning: this process is not for the faint of heart or those particularly susceptible to whining. There was a significant amount of pouting, several rounds of big puppy eyes, and a particularly dramatic growl, but we made it through.

Lesson #2 – Needs vs. Wants. Setting a budget is a good start, but if I didn’t set any additional parameters, she’d have come home with nothing but princess dolls and hair accessories. Happily, walking into a cavernous room full of purchase-able items is a great time to talk with your child about “needs” versus “wants.”

Oh wait, no. It’s actually a terrible time to have that conversation because her brain will temporarily shut down due to the sheer volume of “absolutely essential items without which she will perish immediately and it will be all your fault because you’re mean and don’t really love her.”

So we talked about priorities before we arrived. We went through her closet and made a list of what she had and what she needed. At the sale, we evaluated possible purchases against the list and recapped needs vs. wants. New shoes were on the list because they’re a need. Hot pink cowboy boots were more of a want. Shirts were a need. A gaudy taffeta Christmas dress bedecked with roses was a want, no matter how many times my daughter swore she’d wear it to school every day.

There was still a lot of begging and pleading, but at least the list gave me some ammunition for refusing to buy her a Barbie dream house. “Let’s look at the list, honey. I see you need pajamas and long sleeve t-shirts. I don’t see a Barbie dream house anywhere. Sorry.”

Lesson #3 – Entrepreneurship. This year, my daughter wasn’t just a shopper at the sale – she was also a seller. In an effort to get her to clean out her room, I told her she could keep whatever money she made selling her toys. The cash register in her mind immediately started working and she disappeared into her room, returning moments later, holding two toys she wanted to sell.

One belonged to her brother, the other to her sister. Nice try.

In the end, she could only bear to part with three of her own toys, but she made six dollars selling them and was thrilled. She spent $2.50 of her own money on a princess sticker book, then shopped frugally with my money and came home with an assortment of shirts, pajamas, and dresses.

And the hot pink cowboy boots. She sacrificed two dresses she liked a lot to stay in budget, but she was NOT leaving the building without those boots. Seeing the joy on her face as she wore them home made it clear that they were money well spent.

One response to “Lessons from the Consignment Sale”

  1. karol Crosbie says:

    Love this! What a great voice you have. Not to mention great/entertaining advice.

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