A How-to Guide to Bartering 

So my Daddy is awesome, and as I called him when I was little, “King of the Jockey Lot.” Naturally, this would make me heir to the throne and Princess of our hometown flea market. 

Daddy taught me a lot of things: how to speak up for myself and others, catch a fish, swim… but a favorite will always be bartering skills. Today, lucky you, will get to hear some of that knowledge.

1. Have smaller bills with you. 

This makes it easer to negotiate. If you are talking someone down from $10 to $7, but you hand them a $20 bill, that looks bad! I try to have as many $5 and $1 bills as possible. 

2. Most of the time, start by offering half of the asking price.

At a flea market, sellers want to make money and knowing that many people will barter, the asking price is typically much higher than their “bottom line” price. If something is $8, start by asking if they’d take $4 or if $60, $30. It may feel like you’re trying to rip someone off at first, but remember, they expect you to barter! 

3. Just like a seller has a “bottom line,” know yours too.

Before I offer my money, often before I even ask for the initial price, I decide what I am/am not willing to pay. For instance, If I see a really great mason jar, I may decide that I won’t pay more than $3 for it. So if the asking price is $5, I’ll offer $2 or $3. 

4. Don’t linger.

If you ask Justin, this is the one I’m the worst at. If I see something I like, it’s hard for me not to show my interest. My dad on the other hand can pick up an item, ask the price, say, “Huh,” walk away, and the seller shout out “I’ll make ya a deal! What about $2 instead of $5.” He’s the real pro. 

5. Wake up early. 

Selection is best first thing in the morning. True, later in the day sellers are ready to go home and want their load to be lighter so will often make good deals, but you won’t have as much to choose from. 

6. Bundle.

This is my favorite and one I’ve gotten pretty good at. If, for instance, I see a chair that I really like for $10, instead of bartering and offering $5, the basket I really liked for $4 could be thrown in as a freebie. So my response would be, “Would you take $10 for the chair and basket?” This one is quite fun. 

7. Stay with the booths outside.

I’m not telling you to never shop in the buildings of a flea market, but the better deals are always outside. Plus, the price for renting a table is cheaper, so the return a seller expects is automatically lower. 

Happy thrifting! 

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