Not sure if being thrifty is for you? Flea markets make you feel awkward? It’s time to get over your flea market fears and conquer your inner budget Beyoncé by embracing the bargains. Have no fear, the thrift shop awaits…

As the Scouts Say: Always Be Prepared

Flea markets are busy, bustling places. You don’t know what you’ll find until you get there. Check an online directory to find one close to where you live.

One of the best ways to reduce the potential stress of the day is to be as organised about it as possible. Prepare for every eventuality and have some idea in your mind of what you’re looking for, and it should run a whole lot smoother.

Getting there early before the majority of the crowds arrive is a good idea, and will leave you time to explore a little before it gets busier. Definitely take a shopping list to help keep you focused on the items you’re after. Other useful items to bring with you are:

  • A list of dimensions if you’re looking for furniture, so you know if it will fit
  • Paint and fabric swatches, to ensure that new items will match
  • A small tape measure
  • A couple of tote bags and/or a folding cart to carry  things
  • A notepad and pen

Keep One Eye on the Prize, and the Other on Your Cash

Most vendors at flea markets deal in cash, so you shouldn’t go expecting that you will be able to use credit cards or you may be disappointed. Carrying a lot of cash can make people nervous, and it pays to be wary anyway.

Ideally, you want to carry your cash in a front pocket or cross-body bag that is positioned in front of you, so you can always see it. Avoid being an easy target for pickpockets by having a zip-up bag rather than one which hangs open. Shoulder bags are also not ideal as they swing behind you and make it easy for others to bump into you, should it get crowded.

It’s Not a Catwalk – Stay Comfortable

Bear in mind that when you’re visiting a flea market, you could be on your feet a while. And, if it’s an outdoor market, you will be exposed to the elements too. Think practically and don’t wear anything that’s going to feel awkward or uncomfortable after a couple of hours. Your best bet is to go for comfortable walking shoes and lightweight layers, including a rainproof layer if rain is at all likely. Another good tip is to take water and coffee with you, so you’re hydrated and alert all day. Chances are there will be street food available, so you won’t need to worry about lunch.

Keep Calm and Carry On

While you might feel stressed when you first arrive, remember – there is no pressure here. You don’t have to buy anything. Try to bring yourself into a calm and focused state. Ignore the crowds and move at your own pace. Find a quiet corner where you can rifle through a stack of records or a box of brightly coloured door knobs. Often the best stuff is just hiding and requires a little foraging. Allow yourself to browse, and don’t let vendors pressure you into purchasing unless it is something you really want.

Barter With the Best of Them

Sellers expect you to barter. They actually build negotiating room into their prices to accommodate this, so you shouldn’t be afraid to do so. But you also don’t want to insult them by bidding too low, so it’s a good idea to check out the estimated value of what’s on your shopping list before you go to the market.

The best time to barter and get higher discounts is at the end of the day, as by this point the sellers just want to get rid of what they can and head home. However, if you see something you really must have, don’t assume that it will still be there at the end of the day – chances are it won’t.

Friendliness will take you far. It’s worth taking time to stop and chat with the dealers in the booths you’re drawn to. It’s human nature to go the extra mile for people we like. Be respectful of the things they’re selling and don’t start haggling unless you are actually considering buying something, otherwise you are wasting their time as much as your own.

The fun of flea markets is in going with the flow. It’s about having patience and taking time to get lost and forage for those hidden treasures. Do not fear the flea market – embrace it. The items you find there will have history, stories – maybe even a little magic in them.

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