Turning trash into treasure, one piece at a time

10 Flea Market Shopping Tips

Finding the best deals at a flea market is easy if you know what you’re doing. Sure, you could just show up, wander around and hope to find a thing or two, but you’ll waste precious time and will likely end up empty-handed (or worse, over paying). Follow these 10 flea market shopping tips and you’ll be bargain hunting like the pro’s!


10 Flea Market Shopping Tips


1. Make a list: It’s easy to get sidetracked at a flea market. There’s so many wonderful treasures just waiting to be discovered – which can also lead to sensory overload. Plan ahead by making a list of items that you’re on a mission to find.

2. Go early (or late): I know how silly that sounds but there’s a method to my madness. The time you should arrive will depend on your needs. If you’re looking for furniture, you’ll want to arrive early (preferably before they open so you can scope out the merchandise). If you’re going just to find a good deal, you can arrive much later. The later it gets the better the deal. Sellers don’t want to pack everything up and haul it away. You’re more likely to get a killer deal when they’re winding down.

3. Bring Cash: Some sellers have wised up to the fact that your average person doesn’t carry cash. Sadly, they’re the exception and not the rule. It’s best to have cash on hand. Not only does cash talk, but it reduces the chance of you going over your budget. If you can only afford $50, that’s all you should have on hand. It’s easy to go nuts at a flea market. So many great buys, so little time!

4. Potty time: If your bladder is calling out to you, there’s little else you can focus on. Your haggling skills will be practically non-existent. Your patience will be thin. It’s hard to dig through the deals with pee (or worse) on the brain. Listen to your mother for once. Use the bathroom before leaving the house.

5. Bring refreshments: If you’re going to a large flea market, chances are that you’re going to be there for hours upon hours. Bring a purse (or backpack) and toss a few small snacks in there. Don’t forget a bottle of water, too. Hydration is important.

6. Haggling etiquette: Sellers expect you to haggle. Heck, that’s half the fun! That said, there’s a right way and a wrong way to go about it. The wrong way, would be to offer half (or less) of the asking price. These people (the sellers) typically do this for a living. They’ve spent time and money collecting these wonderful treasures. Many of them have a personal connection to each and every item. Be respectful (but fair) with your offer and you’ll likely get a great deal. A good rule of thumb is to offer 2/3 or 3/4 of what they’re asking. They won’t feel cheated and you’ll go home with an item you love.

7. Know when to hold ’em and when to fold ’em: Obviously, we all want a great deal – but what happens when you find that one item that you instantly fall in love with and it’s more than you planned on spending? It’s okay to splurge once in a while (especially for unique items) but you need to ask yourself 2 questions first.

  • Will I regret passing this up? If you’re certain that the item you’re coveting is something that you’ll harp on for the rest of your life, then you already have your answer. That’s the item you splurge on.
  • Do I really NEED this item? A great deal is only great if you’re putting said item to use. If you have 50 tin cans, do you really need more of them? A good way to figure this out is to add a $0 to the end of the asking price. For instance, if that same tin can were priced at $30 instead of $3, would you still feel like you HAD to have it? If the answer is no, walk away. You’re there for a great deal, not to become a hoarder.


8. Out of sight, out of mind: After purchasing the “must have” items on your list, take some time to browse. Really look at what each seller has. Some of the best finds are the ones that are overlooked. Look high and low. Look at the walls, on the ground, inside of bookshelves and boxes.

9. You got that write: I can’t stress this enough. It is so important to bring paper and a pen/pencil to large flea markets. This is necessary when you find items that you really like but aren’t yet ready to pull the trigger and make the purchase. Just jot down the booth number and the piece(s) you’re interested in. Pro tip: Bring a camera so you can take a photo of the item(s) you’re interested in.

10. Re-imagine: Sometimes, all it takes is a new color or fabric to completely change the look of a piece. Take a moment to step back and re-imagine those items. A simple change can have a huge impact.

If you remember these 10 flea market shopping tips, your outings will be successful.


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