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How to Get the Best Price at the Flea Market

I will be updating and revising this post as it addresses a common question: “How do I get the best price when buying secondhand?” At auctions, you are bidding against other buyers, so some of these techniques may not all be applicable to all scenarios. However, at flea markets, yard sales, garage sale, and thrift sores you will likely find this tip sheet useful.

Bargain Hunter’s Tip Sheet

  1. You never know if you don’t ask! Whether an item is priced or not, here are some common ways to initiate the price discussion for an item you are thinking of buying:
    1. “What is the best price you can do?”
    2. “Would you be willing to go a bit less on this?”
    3. “What if I buy several items, can we make a group price?”
  2. Have a budget.  As any prepper or homesteader will tell you, uncontrolled buy or debt can work against your efforts to self-sufficiency or self-reliance. Budgeting can be done on a per shopping trip, like a weekend prepping allowance or it can be your budget for a specific item you are looking for. Keep track of the prices you paid for stuff so that if you were going to buy it new, you’ll know how much you have saved.
  3. Be willing to walk away from the deal. Never get pressured into buying something if it is not at a price that makes sense for YOU. Sometimes when you walk away, you can come back later and the seller might reconsider your offer or price it lower if no one else shows interest in buy it. Some ways you can do this is:
    1. Walk away with out explanation (easy if vendor is distracted or not paying attention to you{
    2. “I was just curious, thanks for you time and for letting me look.”
    3. “I may  have to leave it and come back later, if it is still here, maybe I can buy it then.”
    4. “I need to go check with someone, I’ll try to come back.”
  4. Is the item you want to buy a Need or a Want? Sounds like common sense, but Needs out weigh wants almost every time. Both Needs and Wants can have an emotional element that might cloud your judgement when negotiating for a good deal. Just remember rule #1 and #2.
  5. Do your homework. With the age of the internet, this has become much easier! When possible, research the new price of and item and the average used price of an item. Check to see if the used item can be found on eBay, Etsy, or even Amazon. Keep in mind some online prices look good until you consider the Shipping cost. If you know specialized collectors or even resellers/vendors, you can sometimes get advice from them just by asking: “How much do you think I should pay for a used <fill in the blank>?”
  6. Learn patience.  For example, if you don’t need an item NOW, waiting until you can get it at the price that is right for you may take some time. For example, I knew I wanted (but not necessarily needed) a trenching shovel. New they cost about $25. I had seen many used ones for $10-12, but I really only wanted to pay $5. After 3 years, I finally found a vendor with one at $8, I offered him $5 and he took it.
  7. Try several negotiation tactics. You will eventually find one or more that work well for your personality type.
    1. “My spouse will kill me, but if you can work with me on the price, it won’t sting so bad.”
    2. “It’s not a bad price, but I have to ship it to <fill in the state> – any reduction in price will help me offset the shipping.’
    3. Feign interest. Don’t act too eager or you might reduce your chance to get a good bargain.
      1. “I’m just curious…”
      2. “I’m not really a buyer, but what does something like this generally cost?”
      3. “What IS that?” (Even if you know, you’ll find out if the seller knows.)
      4. Doh! I just bought one of those NEW, now I see one here…How much would I pay here if I had waited?”
      5. I already have TWO of these, I really don’t need a 3rd, but if the [rice is right, I might consider it.”
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