Find Great Vintage and Antiques On A Budget

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October 15, 2017
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January 12, 2018
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Find Great Vintage and Antiques On A Budget

You may have heard that old adage “You get what you pay for.”, but with vintage and antiques that isn’t always the case. Truth is, we are all so used to paying inflated prices for new merchandise that we assume if an item is cheap, there must be something wrong with it. We are so obsessed with new that we completely overlook the secondhand market, but what if the secondhand market is over budget and you still want to own and collect antiques? Let me introduce you to the second secondhand market and my top ten tips for finding great stuff on the cheap.

Let’s start with the basics.

  1. Know your Budget. Before you leave the house, know what you are able to spend and bring that amount in cash. Leave your cards at home so that if you do become emotionally attached to a piece (it happens to the best of us) you are forced to walk away if it’s over budget.
  2. Barter. Bartering has become somewhat of a lost art. There are places where you can’t barter, but garage sales and flea markets are fair game. I will cover it more in depth in an upcoming post, but there are a few things to remember. Do your homework and know what the item is worth. Before you even approach the seller, decide how badly you want the item and the maximum price you are willing to pay. Be confident even if you don’t know what to expect. They have to think you will walk away without buying.  Tread lightly, coming right out of the gate with a low ball offer will insult the other party. If you want to buy a full Duncan Phyfe dining set and the price is $1800, chances are you won’t get it for $300. The purpose of bartering isn’t about getting something for nothing, it’s about positively engaging the seller and working together towards a common goal…a deal that is mutually beneficial.
  3. Perfect your poker face. No matter how excited you are on the inside about a great find, stay calm and never show it on your face. If you show too much interest, some of the more scrupulous sellers will take advantage of that and you won’t get the price you want. This is also useful in a busy thrift store setting. You don’t want to tip the masses off by hastily running across the store with a huge grin on your face.
  4. If it’s made of wood, it’s almost always fixable. Don’t overlook wood because of surface flaws. With so many new easy to use products on the market, stripping and refurbishing wooden furniture is a breeze and anyone can do it in an afternoon.
  5. Get away from the crowd. Just because 50 people are shopping in one area doesn’t mean you should too. They may be on the hunt for something completely different. Anywhere the crowd goes, I go in the opposite direction. When the crowd disperses, that’s when I swoop in and find the good stuff.

Where does one go to find affordable antiques and vintage?

  1.  Garage sales. Go early and have a plan. Check the ads on craigslist and the local newspaper. Map out which sales you want to hit to maximize time. When looking for antiques, I have the most luck going to the older neighborhoods in the city.
  2. Free markets. Yes free. The two I use the most are craigslist and freecycle. For those not familiar, is a totally free online marketplace. Users post unwanted items in their area and all you have to do is beat everyone else to the punch and pick it up. For greater chances of success, subscribe to the posts in your city and receive an email as soon as an item is posted. Users can also post wanted ads. When I first moved into my home I found most of my furnishings for free using these two sites.
  3. Estate sales. I absolutely LOVE estate sales but they can be expensive. Go on the last day of the sale (usually a Sunday) but go early. That is the day items that haven’t sold are marked way down. Head to the basement first. I don’t know why but I have found the best and most affordable items in the basements of estate sales and it’s usually a lot less crowded. One more important thing to remember, there are quite a few companies that put on estate sales for a living. These sales tend to be higher retail than the family run sales and are a lot less likely to barter.
  4. Thrift stores. Scout out your local thrift stores. The more you go, the more you will notice what day of the week they stock the best items and go early on those days. Get to know the staff. I have had employees set aside items they know I would be interested in. They can also tip you off to upcoming sales. If you really want to find great deals, come up with a weekly schedule of which stores to hit on which days after you have a good idea of each store’s sales and new stock.
  5. Thrift outlets. A lot of cities have them. Mine has two. These are the thrift stores of the thrift stores. Anything that doesn’t sell at the main store gets trucked in to the outlet stores. Goods come in from all over the country and there really is no telling what you will find.  They often sell per lb. for shoes, clothes, and housewares. Their furniture is dirt cheap priced at only a few dollars. Most of the merchandise is stored in bins that one has to pick through. Go early. Before you start in, get a cart. My outlet always runs out of carts and I hate being the one to have to lug  my stuff around in boxes. This is where getting away from the crowd is the most useful. The crowds at these stores aren’t generally looking for antiques, which is why I wait it out. If you do get into the crowd, stand your ground, politely. I have never seen more of a mob mentality than at these places. People get pushy. I’ve had stuff grabbed from my hands and taken from my cart. Don’t let the cut throats discourage you. There are amazing deals to be had if one has patience and the time to dig.

Though thrifting and the world of antiques can feel intimidating at first, once you jump in, you’ll fall in love. The fun and excitement of meeting new interesting people, the thrill of the hunt, the surge of adrenaline when you find that perfect something you’ve been searching for. It really is a whole different world. I’d love to hear what tricks you have up your sleeve to find good deals. Comment below.


Owner and operator of the online boutique I am an avid DIY'er, treasure hunter, and amateur zookeeper.


  1. Vanessa Abaciry says:

    Awesome tips!! Don’t forget color tag days at the thrift stores. There have been times when I go on a day when a specific color of tag is 50% off and I’ve gotten the best deals!!!

    You should post a furniture refinishing tutorial!!

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