May 5, 2013 posted by littlewhitecottage

Ideas to help children learn about money… (with a game of ‘hunt the car’ in the car park at the end!)

I took the boys to a car boot sale today because I think they are fabulous to have a bit of fun whilst teaching the boys about money, haggling, decision making and also chatting to people along the way. When I told the boys what we were doing they were very excited as they really enjoyed the one we went to last year though it was one of the last of the season so we couldn’t get to anymore.

I gave each of the boys £2 of their own to look after and spend. I put their money in clear plastic bags with their names on so they could see how much they had and they could also identify which one was theirs so there was no arguing. (My boys can argue over anything so sometimes I do like to prevent rather than cure right in the middle of heated one) Here they are with their bags.

car boot 1

I did chat with the boys to set a few ground rules about using their money as I wanted them to have a good time but I didn’t want lots of whining which they are prone to doing.

My rules were;

1. They could spend their money on whatever they wanted and I wouldn’t interfere.

2. Once they had spent their money there would be no whining if they then found something they wanted after that.

3. I wouldn’t give them anymore money after their £2. (They had to keep inside their own budget.)

They all seemed happy with them so off we went.

As I drove down the lane to the car park to get to the car boot sale I could hear them talking about the bouncy castle they’d seen and also the ice-cream van. They were discussing amongst themselves about whether they would have enough money to have one, either or both of them. I love to hear them chat to each other and see what they all think. It’s a real insight into their thinking and how they work out their ideas by discussing them and hearing other people’s opinions. They couldn’t work this one out though so they asked me what they should do. I said I was happy to pay for an ice-cream and the bouncy castle but that was it. It did make me think though that they had actually thought about their budgets even before they’d got out of the car.

car boot 3

The were so interested in the huge range of items on offer from toasters, to car tyres, flowers, sweets and glass wear to a stall that was selling fruit and veg. The choice was endless and they got quite good at looking ahead to find the toy stalls or at least the stalls that had toys on them. We looked around and I knew the boys were heading for the ice-cream van so we had an ice-cream in the sun.

car boot 2

No, Henry still can’t manage a serious ‘photo face’ at the moment it seems!

We went back to a couple of the stalls and saw that a couple of the things they were after had gone. Because of this the boys learned that they had to make quick decisions about possible purchases as car boots aren’t shops that carry multiples of the items you may want. They learned that the one thing that you quite liked was in front of you now but may not be in 5 minutes and this really sharpened their decisions. They chatted to the stall holders happily not being shy at all which I thought was great. Some were trying to directly sell to the boys and some were just being friendly in the hope that they boys might actually buy and some, like us in a couple of weeks, were just so happy that people were buying their unwanted items that they even started to hand things to the boys for free I’m assuming so they didn’t have to cart all their stuff home again!

Here’s more stalls.

car boot 4

There wasn’t much haggling going on today which was a shame as Ollie is a master at getting the most for his money. He was disappointed in himself on the way home as he’d noticed that he hadn’t haggled but he’s vowed to be even better the next time he comes!

There was a little kerfuffle involving Tobes (3) as he was cross that Ollie seemed to have ‘more’ than him. I had to remind him that he’d bought what he’d wanted and it was just that what he’d bought was more expensive than Ollie’s items. Hen, on the other hand, had spent all his money on just the one thing and hadn’t moaned at all when his brothers had bought cars, cakes and trucks. He was happy with what he had and that was that.

I talked to Tobes about the coins he had and named them for him so he could see that coins have a name, are different sizes and shapes and are different colours. He’s only 3 so I helped him to buy his items but he was more than able to talk to the sellers himself! Henry (5) can name coins and he knows they have different values but is still getting to grips with the cost of items. Again I helped him buy his Spy Kit and made sure he knew it was the full £2 and that he wouldn’t be getting any change. He was happy with this so he happily bought. With Ollie (9) I asked him to count his own money and when we were in front of things he wanted to buy I asked him how much he would have left if he did buy the things he wanted. He also worked out how much 3 ice-creams would be and the change I would get from a £10. These he did easily as he is much older than the other two boys but it’s good for him to handle real money in a real life situation as, if I’m honest, he doesn’t do this at all in his every day routine. Yes he may spend a bit of birthday or Christmas money but that’s it really.

I loved to see them making decisions. Did they really want the Spiderman figure or should they wait for the next stall to see what they had? Was that car really worth £1 when the stall just up the way was selling his for 50p? It was almost like I could see their brains working…

After we left the car boot sale we then had a quick game of ‘hunt the car!’ in the car park as there were so many cars that we couldn’t find Merry (our mini) for a little while.

car boot 6

But we found her in the end!

car boot 7

I’d really enjoyed myself and so did the boys as they kept asking ‘When are we coming again?’ and ‘Do you think the car man will be there again?’ Not only did they enjoy buying but they’ve decided that they want to sort their toys out and sell those they don’t use which as far as I’m concerned is music to my ears. We don’t seem to have thrown any of the toys away since they were babies so this would be a great excuse for a huge clearout and I’m more than happy for them to have the money the raise if they do the selling. Ollie is a natural salesman and I know this because last year at the Jubilee celebrations at our local village he ran the Cubs ‘Splat the corgie’ (do you get it? A royal version of splat the rat) in which the sock dogs that I made were put in the hosepipe and then splatted as they came out the bottom with a bit of hosepipe. Ollie could be heard shouting ‘Roll up roll up!! Have a go at splatting the corgies, watch them bleed stuffing!’ he made a bit for the cubs and I was secretly proud as people kept saying ‘He’s rather good isn’t he?’ as they didn’t know that he was mine. I stood at my stall which was next door to his and smiled as yes, he is rather good.

You may ask ‘Why a car boot an not just another shop?’ and my answer would be because car boot sales have items that children can generally afford even with just £1. Most high street shops can’t offer this as a pound just doesn’t go very far unless you just want them to buy chocolate. Also there’s a lot more possible interaction than in shops as the price is really the starting point and not the final one as you can always try to get the price down. Haggling and how to do it and are you brave enough to do it (do you haggle?) as a fab conversation in the car on the way there on its own!

So we’re in the middle of sorting out the old toys to sell next week at the car boot sale. I’m sure they’ll want an ice-cream and a go on the bouncy castle and I’m absolutely fine with that as after they have done this they will be back on their stall selling for all their worth as if we don’t sell they stuff it’s going straight round to the charity shop and not back home.

I’m just wondering how much they’ll raise and what they’ll want to do with it…


  • I must admit, we go probably once a fortnight to our local boot which takes a good 2 or 3 hours to get round its so large. I give my 5 year old a set amount of money, he gets really confused with change still but ts a learning curve. We all have a set budget and so he can see that mummy only has x pounds too and sometimes I use mine to buy veg for our lunch. Cheapest morning out and we love it!

  • That’s a brilliant idea, I’ve just decided that after my boy turns 4 tomorrow that he’s going to get £2 pocket money per week in order to teach him about money management and you’ve just given me the idea for him to save £1 of his pocket money per week in a special jar then taking one trip a month to a bootsale where he can spend his well saved pocket money 🙂 thank you again, I follow all of your brilliant ideas

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