5 Tips for Shopping Yard Sales, Flea Markets, and Antiques Dealers

Dollars & Sense on 05.11.12
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Photo Credit: Sarah Fernandez/Chateau & Bungalow

Yesterday I went to the Brimfield Antiques Show, the largest outdoor antiques show in the country. I am lucky that it is only a few hours from my house as literally people come from every corner of the country and even the world for this show. The show has everything you could ever imagine from vintage thread and decrepit furniture to giant sculptures and the finest antiques. It has so many different things that you won't even believe that some people would ever pay money for a lot of the stuff. But they do. It's really easy to get caught up in all the amazing finds, but it's also really easy to spend a lot of money on things you really don't need. There are five simple rules to follow to keep yourself on track whether you're shopping a giant antiques fair or your local yard sales.

1. Make a List of What You Need or Want- If you don't go with a mental list of the things you're looking for, you'll easily forget why you're there and stray off course. I was looking for a mudroom bench, nautical rope, and fabrics. That's not to say that you can't buy other things, but when you're making those non-list purchases it'll be in the back of your mind that it wasn't on your list and will help you decide if you really should buy it or not.

2. Does the Item Have an Immediate Purpose?- It has long been one of my biggest problems that I find something I love and buy it "for some day" and then that day never seems to come. If it's an item not on your list and you don't have a use for the item now, then don't buy it. I could have bought loads of beautiful glassware, but I don't have anywhere to store it and having it sit in my basement for years isn't go to do me any good. I've finally learned how to stop the overbuying madness. If I don't know exactly what I'll use something for and when, then I don't buy it.

3. Set a Budget- Even if you have loads of money to spend, give yourself a budget. For a yard sale I might give myself a budget of $20-50 whereas for Brimfield I would give myself a budget of a couple hundred dollars. When you give yourself a budget, you'll stop yourself from picking up the little things that you may not really want or need to that you can save them for getting the best version you can of the things you do need. But don't be afraid to bargain with the seller to get an item into your budget. Sellers typically expect you to haggle with them. I bought from five vendors yesterday and only one of them wasn't willing to come down in price.

4. Know What It's Worth- While any item is worth what someone is willing to pay for it, that doesn't mean you should buy it even if you love it. Have an idea of what the items you are looking for typically sell for both as used items and as new items/reproductions. I found some great vintage cake stands, but I knew I could get new ones with a similar look for less at Target and it wasn't that important to me that I find a vintage one.

5. If You Find It, Buy It- Once you fall in love with something, buy it right then and there because if you don't, chances are there is someone right behind you waiting to scoop it up. Even if you can't transport the item immediately most sellers will happily accept your payment and allow you to come back to pick up later in the day.

Shopping these sales is well worth the effort. You can really get some great deals and I think adding vintage items to your house adds layers of décor that really make it a home. I came home with two vintage wooden bistro chairs (to be used in the mudroom instead of a bench), some great fabric, a small two-tiered pedestal table that will go in my living room, and a vintage aqua mason jar which I can't wait to fill with the peonies from my garden. And I spent quite a bit less than I budgeted for so I was very happy on all accounts!

Check out all my finds from Brimfield at Chateau & Bungalow.

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