Here are a few tips I’ve picked up during my time at swap meets (aka flea markets).
1. Know what you want…
Swap meets can be overwhelming. There can be hundreds of vendors and each stall can start to look the same, leaving you feeling lost and a bit dizzy. By coming in with a clear idea of what you’re looking for, you can eliminate a lot of the clutter of what you’re looking at and hone in on the specific of what you’re looking for.
2. …but be open
That being said, keep an open mind. You might spot a hidden treasure that wasn’t on your list.
3. It’s a numbers game
Know the average cost of what you’re looking for, or have a max price in your head. When I went swapping last month, I took my mom for a specific reason (other than it’s tradition and I love swapping with her): she knows plant prices. I was looking for plants for the first time, and mom’s been around the floral block a few times. By having her with me, I was able to refrain from buying overpriced plants and was able to score a number of plants that were priced really low.
4. But it’s also more than a number
Don’t let the price draw you in just because it’s cheap. For example, there was a shelf I spotted for $7. I got really excited about it and promptly asked mom for her opinion. “You can find better, or probably even make better,” she said (she’s so honest, I love it!). And she was right. Only after I walked around to the front did I notice how lame the shelf was. I got so sucked in by a low price tag I hadn’t really looked at the piece. I used that $7 to buy more plants!
5. Cash is king
Most swap meets are cash only, so make sure you stock up. I like to keep a $20 bill in a pocket on its own so I don’t have to rifle through my entire wallet every time I make a purchase. It looks better, especially if you haggle the price down, if you don’t have a lot of bills around.
6. Timing is everything
Head to the market early if you want to make sure to get a specific item (ie hydrangea bushes). Popular items can often sell out at markets, especially if they are seasonal. Or show up later if you’re looking to bring the prices down a bit. Vendors can be more willing to lower their prices when they’re facing having to pack everything up and take it home. The less inventory they have, the less packing (and unpacking) they need to do.
I hope these tips help! And if you ever want to hit up a flea market or swap meet, give me a call, I’m always game.
Do you hit up swap meets/flea markets/thrift stores? What tips do you have?