One Man’s Junk Is Another Man’s Treasure

If you are like me and self-employed, you try and keep equipment buying to the minimum; but children (and adults!) enjoy playing with toys.  So what is a cheap solution?  When I was working towards my STA level 1, one of the course leaders suggested car boot sales as a cheap source of equipment.

When I told my husband that I was going to car boot to research this blog, his response was “What are you going to buy there?  You certainly won’t find any second hand swimming pools (might be able to buy a second hand skip and convert it into a portable swimming pool I thought) and you will be lucky to find some used water wings.”  His thinking made me smile, because I thought “I’ll show you.”  This comment does show that you do have to use your imagination and think outside the box, but as a swimming teacher, you should be well used to this kind of challenge!


Before you visit a car boot, set yourself a budget; I decided on a maximum of £5 and be prepared to get there early.  A lot of car booters will go and look at other stallholders, barter with them for items and either keep the purchases for themselves or resell said object at a profit.  Keep your purchases small and be prepared to barter yourself (if you are not confident about doing this, invite a friend to go with you who has had some experience), or if you have seen a large item that you like, ask the seller to put it to one side for you, whilst you look round the rest of the car boot to make sure you don’t see anything else.


At the car boot, it took a while to actually find items that I thought were suitable for lessons.  There were a lot of large cardboard boxes that you had to rifle through and to be honest, I found that slightly off-putting; preferring to see items laid out on tables or on the ground.  The first item I did see, was ironically, a box of water wings and I did consider it for a few seconds as by this time, I was getting slightly worried that I wasn’t going to find anything.  My friend then saw two packs of clapping hands (two in each pack) that had never been opened.  It was obvious that they would be able to withstand the wet environment and the children would love for the noise that they make, but the question was how was I going to use them?  In the end, it was decided that they could be used for different kinds of races (relays in particular).  My next purchase was a pair of what looked like mini basketball nets attached to bats.  Again, my friend and I decided these would be best used in a relay, as they were only two of them.  I was told by the seller that I could have the pair for 50p as there wasn’t a ball with them.  This wasn’t a problem, as work has plenty of small balls that would be suitable.  My final purchase of the day, was a rather fetching (slightly deflated) gold and bronze football, which could be easily pumped up or left deflated for easier grip – perfect for water polo practice!

All in all, I enjoyed going to the car boot and I am extremely happy with my purchases.  I definitely feel like I have come away with some bargains, as each item was only 50p, so I only spent £2 of my £5 budget.  All the items look in very good condition (and I am very fussy!) and going by my own children’s reaction, I know they will be appreciated at work.  The three sellers that I bought off were very friendly and didn’t mind us picking up items and having a good look.

There are few things that I have learnt about going to a car boot.  Number one, take a carrier bag!  It didn’t cross my mind to take a bag, but as soon as I bought my first purchase, my friend whipped a bag out of her handbag and handed it to me (she goes most weeks and her husband likes wheeling and dealing!), this certainly made my life easier and by the time we had gone round the site; the bag was full.  Secondly, be patient, you won’t necessarily find anything suitable straight away – fight the urge to impulse buy if the item isn’t quite fitting the requirement.  Is it waterproof?  I was very aware that there were a lot of toys that wouldn’t last five minutes in the pool environment as they were made of fabric or non easy dry material (it doesn’t matter if the toy sinks, as this will make good diving practice!).  Is the toy age appropriate?  I saw a couple of hard plastic multi coloured rain shakers that I thought about buying, but these are essentially baby toys and children soon complain if they think the toys are too young for them!

Hopefully this has given you some money saving ideas - my biggest problem now is trying persuade my own children that the toys aren’t for them!

Back Of A Car


  • Research when and where there is a local car boot is happening.  Ask friends, read the local paper or use the Internet.
  • Dress appropriately for the time of year, open fields don’t offer any shelter from the elements!
  • Try and make your car easier to find when you want to go home by tying a plastic bag to the aerial.
  • Why not take some business cards along with you?  Everyone knows someone who wants to learn to swim!
  • Be methodical, either look down the left side and then the right side of a lane or walking more slowly taking in both sides at once and start at one side of the field and work towards the opposite side.
  • Give sellers a little space if they are still unpacking; a little patience might pay dividends.
  • Items of interest could be tucked out of the way.  Be prepared to look through boxes, round the stall and under tables and chairs – you just never know!
  • If you have time, walk round the car boot for a second time.  Other buyers might have unearthed items that you didn’t see the first time round.
  • Haggle, but be reasonable, as the sellers have had to pay for their pitch and need to cover costs.
  • Being friendly and smiley might just get you a discount.
  • Make sure you really look at the condition of the item before buying it.  You can’t take items back and demand a refund.
  • Buying multiple items?  Ask for a discount.
  • If you have seen something you really like, but it’s too expensive; come back later.  The seller might be willing to come down in price if it’s the end of the sale or the weather is bad.
Items Bought From The Car Boot Sale
Items Bought From The Car Boot Sale