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Yard Sale Tips
My Darling Husband (DH) and I started going to yard sales when we lived in Hawaii (They have the BEST yard sales). We moved there with just the clothes on our backs because it cost way too much to ship our stuff. We made it a game. Every Saturday we would count out the change in the car ashtray and that was our budget for the day. I would not consider myself an expert, but I am a Boy Scout Leader and my motto is, “Be Prepared”. You can have a successful yard sale day without following any of my advice, but it will be much more enjoyable if you do.

Necessities for the hard-core Yard Sailor (yes, I spelled it that way on purpose):
For your personal comfort:
  • Hat/sunglasses, there is rarely shade
  • Suntan lotion
  • Comfy shoes-- Leave the stilettos at home, flip flops and sandals, too. You’ll be walking a lot and it’s usually on uneven or dusty/gravel surfaces. Early in the morning it’s also dewy.
  • Baby wipes and hand sanitizer in case you accidently pick up something yucky.
For the car:
  • A small cooler with beverages—Yard Sailing (yes, I spelled it that way on purpose)is thirsty work
  •  Snacks
  •  A personal GPS, if you have one
  •  A local map is a must-- Your GPS will not always get a signal and they are not always accurate on back county roads.
  •  Binoculars to help read yard sale direction signs with tiny print
  •  A cardboard box to hold your purchases and prevent them from rolling around. I like the boxes that copy paper come in. They have a nice lid. If I’m traveling with a friend, it helps keep our stuff separated and makes for an easy exit at the end of the day (You know I love you, but after hours riding around in the car with the kids, I’m ready to hand them off to daddy and take a bath). It also makes it easier to unload the car.
  •  Old newspaper or bubble wrap to wrap breakable things.
  •  An old blanket. This is to protect any nice furniture pieces or extra large finds from damage.
  •  Rope and bungee cords
Tools of the trade:

  •  Plenty of cash in change and small bills. You are not going to Nordstrom—Leave the $100 bills at home. Take mostly $1s, $5s, and a few $20s.
  •  Plastic grocery store bags for bagging your purchases
  •  For large indoor sales, a laundry basket with wheels or baby stroller to use as a shopping cart.
  •  A small tape measure, so you can check to see if something is the size you need (like curtains, dresser, etc.)
  •  A supply of batteries in various sizes to test battery operated items.
  •  A small multi-purpose tool, like a Leatherman, in case you need to cut a rope to tie something to your car or unscrew the battery compartment of an item.
  •  A magnet. For determining metal type in items that appear to be brass, copper, silver, etc. If the magnet sticks, it’s not the real deal. I stole this one from Nancy Drew!
  •  A magnifying glass.
  •  A small flashlight.
  •  A small pad of paper and pen
  •  Calling cards that have your name, phone number, and whatever other information you want to disclose. You can get 250 of them free at If you are unable to reach a deal on something that you think is overpriced. Leave your card. Ask them to call you if they change their mind. Sometimes at the end of the day, your offer sounds pretty good.
For the kids:
  • Their favorite blanket and pillow—Hopefully they will sleep through the first few stops.
  • Breakfast to-go, eating in the car saves time and gets you out of the house faster. Plus, that’s a good 30 minutes that theirs mouths are too occupied to whine.
  • DVD Player
  • A wide variety of DVDs-- You will get tired of listening to B-I-N-G-O after the first hour.
  • A Zip Lock baggie with money they can spend. Happy Meal toys usually go for 10¢ and larger toys are $1-$5. They will not need much money. I usually give them $5 if we are going to be out all day. They usually come home with really dumb things that they don’t even want, but I consider it “entertainment” money and it is worth every penny.
  • Snacks-- Go easy on the beverages or they will need to make too many potty stops.
General Advice
Don’t be a snob:
Some people turn their nose up at the thought of buying "used" things. Consider this: when you go to a hotel, you sleep on used bedding and use towels that hundreds of other people have used to dry their naked bodies. Even clothes and shoes that you buy brand new in stores may have been tried on by many others. My mother would never shop a yard sale, but she adores her antiques-- What’s the difference? No one will know where you got something unless you tell them. No one has ever left one of my parties and called the decorations Early-American-Trailer-Trash—at least not to my face.
Get into the right frame of mind:
Do not take a list of specific items with you. Chances are you won’t find what you are looking for. Take a list of your upcoming party themes. Hunt with your themes in mind. Look at everything. My football “drink holder” was in the toy section. Once you find something. Think about how you can repurpose to work for you.

Have fun with this. Expect to go to many sales where you won’t find good bargains. Remember "Sometimes you have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find your prince." Expect to run across a few people who are rude. For the most part, this is a fun Saturday activity that can become addictive. Happy Hunting!

Birthday Party Tip #2- Use your friends as backup
If it hasn’t already happened to you, it will. At some point in motherhood you will feel the overwhelming urge to kill another child over what they've done to yours. Don’t let your son’s 6th birthday be remembered fondly as the year mommy made the YouTube “Top 10 Most Viewed Videos” list.

Have a good offense:
Limit the number of guests to ensure your sanity for the entire party. Good rule of thumb for the number of guests for a child's birthday is the age of the child plus one. Meaning, if it's your child's 6th birthday, 7 kids is fine. Keep in mind this is 7 attendees. Not everyone you invite will be able to make it. You want to make sure you have enough guests for a good time.

Have a good defense:
When Johnny is being a complete brat, you need to be as positive as you can be. The combination of excitement and sugar can be too much for some kids.  If other parents are there, you could ask one of them to take him under his/her wing. If necessary, pull him aside and warn him that you'll have to call his parents to take him home if he won't behave.  Remember it is your house, and your rules.  Your rules still apply and it is OK to punish someone else's child at your party.  At our house if you fight over a toy, the toy goes into time out.  If you fight with your brother, you go into time.  Remember to be fair but firm.  You don't have to act like the executioner to get your point across. 

Don’t go in without backup:
Don't try to supervise a child's birthday party alone. Get help from responsible, patient friends.

Birthday Party Tip #1 - Be prepared
Order extra food and prepare extra goody bags for unexpected guests. Keep extra costumes on hand for theme or costume parties, just in case Billy shows up without one. The host should also have phone numbers for all parents and a first aid kit.

Inflatable Rentals
Renting inflatable bounce houses, slides, or water slides makes a fun, instant party. You are sure to score a homerun with every age group. Here are my favorite pros, cons, and Savvy Tips:
  • They are fun.
  • They work for both genders.
  • They provide hours of entertainment with VERY little effort.
  • They work for all age groups, even adults. With 14 years between my oldest and youngest children, I am always planning parties that have to entertain toddlers and teens. This is the best solution for a large age range.
  • They require constant adult supervision
  • They are expensive ($100-$400, ouch!)
  • Kids can get hurt.
  • Your neighbors will see the rental. This is only a con if you are not inviting them. If you are trying to “Keep up with the Jones” this is a pro.
  • They set a precedent. 

Savvy Tips:

  •  Make sure you order the correct size for the amount of guests you're inviting. The rental company will be able to help you with this.
  • Clearly communicate to your guests what you will be doing at the party so that they can bring/wear appropriate clothing.
  • Meet with the children as a group prior to starting the fun. Clearly explain the rules (no rough housing, no flips, no toys, etc). Be prepared to eject any child from play who isn't adhering to the rules.
  • Cake AFTER playing or you'll be cleaning up vomit in your yard.
  • You will need to have it in your own backyard. Most parks do not allow you to set up a bounce house. Check with your city for more details, as you can get a park permit in some areas.
  • You may need to provide a generator. Check with the rental company.
  • Clearly explain to your family the circumstances. If this is a onetime, special event make sure every understands. You don’t want to create the expectation of this special fun for every party.
  • Pre arrange for your closest adult friends to stay after the party for some adult-only time with the rental. After all, you have it for the whole day and you are the one paying the bill. Enjoy it!
  • Some inflatable rentals now come with timers attached. You are paying for X amount of minutes that the blower is running. Turning the blowers off when you are not using it, will extend its life.
  • Use old carpet tiles to make a path from the end of a slide to the beginning to spare your lawn from the foot traffic.
  • If you have a water slide, adding a little baby shampoo to the slide, makes for a smoother ride and it won’t hurt if it gets into someone’s eyes.
     Good luck with your decision!

    Memorable Menu
    When taking pictures during your event, don't forget to take a picture of your table. Next year, when you want to recreate your menu and you can't remember what you served, just pull out the photo you took, and viola...instant menu! You will also have an instant archive of the serving pieces and cutlery that assisted in making your party a success.

    Great Chili Cheat
    Our mom passed down a GREAT chili recipe.  As long as we remember, mom would make this every Christmas Eve.  Our dad loved it, we love, and our husbands now LOVE it.  The down side, it takes ALL day to cook.  One day, my husband (Shelley), called on his was home saying he was bringing some colleagues over for dinner and could I make THE chili.  Are you kidding me, I have AT MOST 1 hour.  Then I remembered my friend telling me about this...
    With this kit, all you need to add is the meat, beans, tomatoes, or what ever else you crave.  And, it only takes 30 minutes. It wasn't mom's recipe, but it was a VERY close second.  This is also a great alternative to those of you who like bean-less chili...I know you are out there, right Maggie?  
    And now here is another SAVVY TIP from us to you:  Between Jo and I, we have 5 children, and believe it or not 4 of the 5 were born allergic to all protein, and all of them have a severe cow's protein allergy.  Most have them have outgrown most of the allergy, but both families do live a fairly dairy-free and beef-free lifestyle.  You can substitute ground turkey for the ground beef, and the red meat fans, won't even miss it!

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