Let’s take a moment to discuss one of my all time favorite things on the face of the earth…A Flea Market. Now, to be clear…I’m not talking about the little parking lot of a church Fleas…..although those definitely have their own delights….I’m talking a huge, vendors everywhere, parking in the grass, bring a backpack and remember where the hell we parked, kind of market. Where tube sock sellers are set up next to guys selling baby skunks (did you know baby skunks are the cutest thing ever?!?!?! Well they are.). The whole scene is a delight! A gritty, sweaty, hot…or rainy, tiring, delight for the eyes…not to mention the wallet. You can find ANYTHING. Just don’t go looking for something too specific..cause then you won’t find it, but if you keep an open mind a Flea market is a place that can spark your imagination, decorate your house, and maybe make you dream of owning a skunk. Yeah, I said SKUNK.
Now, let’a talk again about my level of cheapness……I’m insanely cheap. I also have a taste for nice things, I loves antiques, fine food, nice houses, the list goes on. So , how do you reconcile a love of fine things with an almost obsessive need to not spend money….well you get creative. Super creative. Example….I wanted a leather couch and chair for my house…but the “affordable” ones out there make me think a cow is still crying somewhere at the tragedy that is their hides. So enter creativity,research,and patience. I looked at yard sales, fleas, and Craigs list. The Cheapo gods granted me with a couch, chair and ottoman. Its a designer set, stuffed with down and has the perfect “distressed leather” that living in my house requires (kids, dogs…..etc.). $300. yep. All of it for $300. Want to know what the set cost new???? $5,000. Yeah. I know. I would NEVER EVER EVER IN A MILLION YEARS spend that kind of money on furniture. The thing is I really like that kind of furniture. Enter…. Cheapo extraordinaire. I try my best to work around the expensive stuff rules. The Rules being….if you want something thats unique and high quality than you will pay a huge price. Well I say Bullshit. I will find another way. We needed a large dresser / Tv shand for our bedroom. Everything I found sucked. Quality Sucked. Colors sucked. Size and scale SUCKED. It was a Suck Fest. Than I saw a 1930’s Buffet. Right size. Nice details. All wood. Lots of storage. But the finish was SHOT. Terrible condition. So $15 and fight to get it into my SUV later I had it at home. Forward a bit. Its painted off white, with a tiny bit of distressing…and BAM. Holds the tv perfect and houses all my sweaters! So for $15 for the dresser, about $30 in paint and primer, and a few hours of my time, I had what I needed! Buffet as a dresser is one of my fav swaps…or the other way around…dressers are great as buffets. Think outside the box! OK, moving on.
If your a cheapo like me…..a Flea Market is an embarrassment of riches. Like unusual art?? Its everywhere….for sooooo little coin. Like wood furniture?? Its everywhere. Enjoy Pottery (like me)? Yep..you guessed it…..they got it. Get the idea? Now, to be fair, most sellers aren’t intending to give stuff away. They are there to make money and as a dedicated cheap skate you should respect that. But that doesn’t mean you can’t get stellar deals. SO here are the hints for a shopping trip to a Flea Market.
1. Find a Flea….look online…there are lots of them. You might have to drive a little. But its usually worth it. Here’s the thing…take the big car. If you have access to one. You will need it for all your great stuff. Nothing worse than finding amazeballs stuff for your house and not being able to get it home.
2. It helps to have a friend. Plus its WAY more fun. Just set up the rules of who is looking for what so you don’t get made at them when they snag YOUR perfect thing! Its all about communication people. Plus if you have to make trips to the car its helpful if you take turns (I always make my sister Jess run stuff to the car….cause she runs marathons and shit….I’ve had two kids. Don’t make me walk farther than I have too). IN addition , you are going to see some crazy people. Like….hey, that guy has a an amazing mullet…kind of stuff, You need someone with you to point that kind of stuff out to!
3. Bring CASH. Very few vendors take credit. Plus CASH TALKS. Also you always want to have exact change. You never want to ask for a discount pretending you only have x amount of dollars to turn around and say “can you break a $20”??. If the exact amount is in your hand the sellers are much more likely to give you a better deal. Which brings me to my next point.
4. Ask for a better deal. Don’t be scared. Here’s my rule…..I almost always ask, but I am SUPER polite about it. If they are rude…well thats the way it goes. An Asshole is Asshole. But I digress. So, example ….the item is $10…..I don’t mind paying the $10 but I am who I am…..So I ask …would you take $7? That’s their que to say “How’s about $8 little lady?” (they never say it like that but it would be cool right??). Ok…$8. Done and Done! Easy Peasy! Now ….here’s the other way it goes. I see something I like…but its $10, and I like it, but don’t like it $10…..I really like it for $5. Now, I will offer $5. (Again with the polite) If they say no….don’t be afraid to walk away. Sometimes if you say “No thankyou” and slowly walk away. They will call you back and make the deal. The flip side of this whole coin is if you really love something…..and you can live with the price..get it. Cause chances are good….if you come back it will be gone.
5. Dress comfortable. Don’t be a fancy pants..this is the flea market for god sake. Wear comfortable shoes. Nothing is funnier than watching a girl who must have said “but my 5 inch heeled strappy sandels are comfortable!” wabbling around like a baby deer on ice at a flea market. Plus if you look money…well , dealers know it…they will charge more. I like jeans,and a T shirt, even when its hot. Bring a cardie in case its a chilly day. An umbrella never killed anyone either. I have a large tote bag….with a a little bit of paper in it (for wrapping stuff…glass, pottery). I also keep my money in my tote…but a few singles and quarters in my pocket for easy access. I also have a little cart that I take sometimes. Its one of those ones you see the old ladies with….yeah…there’s a reason for that. Cause old ladies are GENIUS when it comes to being practical. Now..my cart is pink…so that’s cute right???? The point being..be practical…be smart…and for the love of all that is holy wear SUNSCREEN!!
6. Go SLOW. Take your time. Be patient. Be open minded. Really just look at things. You will see alot of crap.Practice looking past it. Have a list of things to look for (don’t forget measurements for furniture…..I carry a tiny tape measure in my purse). I am always on the look out for jewelry, watches, pottery, smaller dressers and tables (to redo)…and I’m a sucker for vintage linens, and anything with Peacocks on it. I also watch for dinosaur toys for my kids, which leads perfectly into my next point.
7. Most people don’t think a flea is kid friendly. I however disagree…and its not that my kids are quiet and well behaved all the time cause..(Pause for my own laughter)….they aren’t. My sons are CRAZY. Tons of energy and talking NON STOP. There is a large age difference between them but the story is the same….tons of energy. For my oldest I let him bring his scooter..and as long as its not super crowded he scooters along beside me. My youngest (now 5) i used to have in a stroller, but now he’s too big….so we are now working on just holding hands (he’s a wanderer). The thing is you have to make it interesting for them. I made a game where if they spot a specific item (santa clauses , scary dolls, horses…you get the idea) they get a point. 10 points gets them gum…..or whatever. Suddenly “i’m bored” turns into a mad hunt. They started actually paying attention to whats around them! They got really good at it……there was alot of gum involved. I don’t care though. It was worth it. We got to be outside, we’re together….and I get to be at the FLEA! Everybody wins. Also be aware..they are going to find stuff they want. Kids toys ABOUND at a flea market. We love to hunt down great dinosaurs, robots and my little one LOVES beanie babies. I give them a couple of dollars…and they are great at getting awesome deals from sellers by making sad faces. Just give it a discreet sniff for smoke and dog pee, cause thats a no go….other than that you can sanitize it later. (oh…and bring hand sanitizer).
8. Give things a smell. Yep. I said smell. Nothing is worse than getting that awesome victorian chair and getting it in your car, heading home….and ten minutes later having to pull over gagging because your car smells like a old dirty ash tray (if your into that smell…well sorry..but EWWWWWWWWWWWW). No amount of paint and recovering gets rid of ash tray ass smell. Or cat pee whist we are talking about it. SO just save yourself the heartache and check BEFORE you buy. I’m being for real….take a whiff. Don’t be afraid to sit on (ask if its ok if you are concerned), try out, test things, ask questions. For anything with drawers…TRY the drawers. Cause you are going to be PISSED if you don’t and you get it home and can’t open the drawers. For realz here. Try the damn drawer.
9. Depending on what market, you might want to bring a snack and a drink. The markets I usually go to have lots of beverage and food vendors (I dream of the pepperoni rolls)so that”s not an issue for me….but just in case you’ve never been there. Nothing ends a shopping trip faster than being hungry, thirsty, or having to pee. The markets I frequent also have nice bathrooms (YEAHHHH!!). But that is not always the case. So I will repeat BRING HAND SANITIZER. I’m really not a germ-a-phob but sometimes shit happens. Better to be prepared.
10. I know all the other advice columns about Flea markets will tell you to get there early for the best stuff. Wellllll…….I don’t really DO early. I can’t think straight at 7am…so how on earth am I going to be on my toes, mind racing, being creative doing MATH….when all I can think about is my pillow. Or Starbucks. I tend to wander to the Flea about 10. I do just fine. I get tons of cool stuff. Also I ,as a devoted Cheapskate, have always done better at the last part of the day. When dealers are tired and ready to start packing up…you can get some stellar deals…cause they just don’t want to repack things. Or maybe they didn’t make as much money as they had hoped and your extra $20 for the incredible painting (that was priced at $50 earlier) might just make them feel alittle bit better about the day. Well…that’s where I do my best. At the end. I’ve even had dealers GIVE me things that earlier they wouldn’t take less money for…but now, when faced with putting those huge chairs back in their car…are suddenly happy to just give them away. (DO the happy dance when stuff is FREE!!)
So lets sum up. The Flea market is fun, give it a try! Take your friends and your kids. Get great stuff for a great deal. Bring hand sanitizer and do not buy a baby skunk.
This is a baby skunk..its kissing me and my heart hurts. But also…please don’t judge…I look HORRIBLE in this picture. But I didn’t think you would believe me and the whole skunk thing. Thanks all! Have a good day!