The Do’s and Don’ts of Flea Market Shopping

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Flea Market Shopping

It’s not often that I go to flea markets. I guess I always thought they had a bad rap, selling cheaply made items and all.

But when Joseph approached me about getting a city bike to ride to work, I knew we would be looking at a brand new price tag of $200. Buying used was going to be our best option.

Thankfully, there were a few bike shops that sold used bikes at a local flea market, so we took off on a Saturday morning to see what exactly we could find.

There were all sorts of vendors selling produce and handmade wares, though some looked like they had just ordered out of the Oriental Trading catalog and set up shop. Kind of reminded me of all the cheap toys we’d buy from there for VBS at church!

We even found a place that sold used kitchen mats and area rugs, and they really looked used. Ick.

However, it wasn’t all bad. In fact, we came home with quite a few things. I also learned how to better approach the market next time, for an even more successful flea market shopping experience.

1. DON’T be afraid to barter

I used to be really scared of asking for a lower price, but the flea market is the perfect place to get over this fear! Some prices are just way too high, so offer what you would feel comfortable paying. If the vendor says no, they say no.

But oftentimes, they will come back with another offer, or say YES.

In the case of Joseph’s bike, he found exactly the one he wanted. It was an older version, but had practically brand new tires to it’s name. The bike was listed at $100, and we had talked about a budget of $75 for a new {used} bike.

Flea Market BikeJoseph was willing to pay out the difference from his own account (we give each other allowances), but I said wait. Let’s see if the vendor will take $90.

And they did! I think Joseph owes me a $10 Hobby Lobby run. {grin}

2. DO shop different vendors before you buy

Flea markets are notorious for selling the same exact things in different shops, for different prices. Most of the time, the higher priced items are located closer to the door. I did not know this going in, but certainly wish I had!

There were many leather shops selling belts, and Joseph needed a new one. We found a belt for $8 at one of the first vendors we came to, paid for it, and smiled at ourselves for finding such a good deal.

Flea Market Belt

A couple aisles later, and we found the same exact belt for $3!

If only we had waited to scout out the market before we plunked down our money, we could have saved at least $5.00 for that purchase. Lesson learned.

3. DO know your prices

Not everything is a better price than the regular grocery or drug store. There were many vendors who “looked” like they were selling closeout items of brand name shampoo, shaving cream, and other bath and body items.

shaving cream

I knew that with a coupon/sale match-up, I could buy some of these exact same items for a lot less than at the flea market.

We did however, find a good price on the particular shaving cream Joseph likes, and knew I couldn’t beat what the vendor was offering, even with a coupon.

4. DON’T let vendors push you around

The minute we stopped by a luggage shop, the vendors were literally on top of us trying to sell us every bag in site. They needn’t have worried…we had already been talking about getting new luggage since our previous set was falling apart.

We wondered if a shop like this might sell luggage too cheap, in price and quality, but the ones we had from a department store weren’t holding up too well after 6 years. The large one even ripped on our honeymoon – the first time we used it!

It got to the point where I finally spoke up in the most authoritative voice I could muster, and told the man I would not need him until I made my purchasing decision. That made him back off.

Flea Market Luggage

I hate shopping under pressure, don’t you?

5.  DO take cash

I rarely have cash on me. I should have thought about stopping by the bank before we went to the flea market, but I didn’t even think about it. How silly of me, especially when we were going to look at bikes!

Most vendors do have credit card machines, but the ones located in the middle aisles without an outlet are forced to take cash. This is exactly what happened at the bike shop we stopped at.

There were ATM’s around, but they charge $3.00 per transaction, on top of the $2.00 our bank charges for using and outside ATM. We could have saved ourselves another $5.00, just by planning ahead and taking enough cash with us.

Now that I know what the flea markets around here have to offer, I’d definitely go again, but only if I had something specific in mind. You could definitely get caught buying things you don’t need.

It’s certainly worth a peek though, and if you have a free Saturday, I’d encourage you to try it out and see what deals you can find for less. Flea Markets America has a directory where you can browse markets by state.

I’d love to hear about your finds and tips!

How often do you shop at a flea market?




Disclosure: Some of the links in the post above are affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. Read my full disclosure policy here.

Sharing this post with: Saving for My Family, Made in a Day, A Vision to Remember, Cheerios & Lattes, It’s Overflowing


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