Flea markets can be a valuable asset when it comes to shopping on a budget. If you’re looking for thrifty, unique items, the flea market is the place to go on a mild Saturday. However, how do you make the most of one? Whether you’re looking for how to drive a good bargain or determine the quality of the piece, read on.



A flea market experience is just like shopping at a normal store—only harder! For a day out at the market, create a checklist. You should have a pair of inexpensive sunglasses, at least one bottle of water, sunscreen if needed, plenty of cash in an old purse, flat, sturdy shoes, and a cell phone. If you’ll be staying for a longer period of time, bring a snack or possibly even bring money for a meal outside of the flea market. Bring anything else you think you need. Oh, and don’t dress too fancily: booth keepers tend not to give in to a hard-driven bargain if they see the bargaining party is well-dressed and obviously has money. But then again, don’t come looking shabby either. Be casual and prepared.



You need to make a game plan. There are only so many hours in the day, and of course, only so much money your wallet can hold. If you can spend three hours at the flea market, great. But if you can only spend one, you need to be careful about setting limits. Of course, you can’t set an exact amount of time or money at a flea market—that’s their charm, their unpredictability—but you can have a foundation and figure out what, exactly, you want to do while you’re there and how much you plan on accomplishing.



Bargaining is one of the most important parts of any flea market purchase. Even if you think the price is relatively reasonable, a few bucks off won’t hurt. Ask the booth owner how low he’ll sell it to you for, and then drop the price a few bucks lower. Keep at it until you both agree to a mutual point. If you can sense the booth owner is easy to crack, mention all the other stuff you’re buying, and point out some minor flaws in the object. All of this combined can get you ten to fifteen dollars off the price.



You’ve spotted a great bench for only fifteen dollars. Its only problems consist of washed-out colors, an ugly patterned cushion, and scratched legs. Is it worth the price? Can you fix it? The answer is: yes, you can. Benches can be repainted, cushions can be reupholstered, and you’re not going to get a better quality bench for a lower (or even same) price anywhere else. However, if you come across a mirror that has a jagged slash across the middle, it’s a wise idea not to buy it. Trust your instinct and think about how far you are willing to go to mend an item.



Before you even think about purchasing any item, it needs to be thoroughly examined to make sure it won’t cause you any problems after you buy it. First of all, look for all repairs, major or minor. What will you need to do to get the item into top-notch shape? If you come across something you don’t want to spend too much money to repair, put the item back. Next, check for relevance in your life. This great pair of seashell earrings is only five dollars—but you’ve never worn anything aside from cashmere and Michael Kors in your entire life. Don’t buy things just because they’re a steal—buy them because you can use them. Thirdly, see how low the price can drop. If it’s not worth the price, put it back. No need to waste your hard-earned money on an item that’s not worth it. Once it’s passed these basic examinations, do some investigation of your own and check out the criteria you want to cross off your list, and then go ahead and think about purchasing the item.



In the midst of your shopping, you might get too caught up to pay the attention to yourself your body and mind need and deserve. Stay hydrated with the bottle of water you should have brought, according to the first step. If you run out, see if there’s any fountain to refill it, and if not, find a booth to buy one. Eating a light snack might help if you’re getting hungry. Make sure to apply sunscreen at the beginning and near the middle of your shopping trip. Take five minutes to rummage through your purse to make sure no money’s been lifted.


            Of course, flea market advice doesn’t end here. There are plenty of things to consider, but these are the basic tools that will help you have a productive and easy day at your local flea market. Enjoy!