Do I Really Really Need This?
Grace Shu
Nov 6, 2008

This totally happens to us whenever we go to a swap meets: when we see something we like--not love, just like--we buy it. Somehow, being in an environment where every price tag is on the cheaper end of the scale, we lose all sense of frugality without the benefit of buyer's remorse ("Well, it was just $5...). And to make matters even worse, sometimes the stuff we liked at the flea market ends up looking...not so great in our home and we're stuck with it. Does this ever happen to you? We've surveyed a few of our diehard swap meet shoppers for tips on how to avoid being unhappy with your thrifty finds...

Go In With a Plan. If you're looking for something specific, it makes the swap meet/flea market/estate sale experience that much easier on you and your wallet...especially when it comes to the bigger swap meets, i.e. Rose Bowl, which can be extremely overwhelming. Also, narrowing down what you need right off the bat will eliminate the need for those rash, impulse buys.

Take In Account Repairs. This can be a deal breaker for a lot of buyers: Say you find a chair that you like overall, but you notice the foam in the cushions are crumbly and the upholstery has cat pee stains. The added cost and time of replacing and reupholstering the cushions can cost you nearly the same amount of a brand new chair.

Visualize It In Your Home Before You Buy. See a vase or a bowl that you're on the fence about? For some people, they ask themselves, "Is this is my only chance to get this?" Even if the answer to that question is "Yes," it's always a good idea to try and visualize even the smallest decor pieces in your home.

Stay Within Budget and Know Your Limit. A friend of ours found a set of 4 molded plywood chairs that he loved. He wasn't necessarily looking for dining room chairs since he already had a set of Ikea ones that was doing the job currently; and he wasn't exactly in the position to be blowing a few hundred dollars. After some bargaining with the vendor, he managed to get the price down...but it was still $50 above the limit he was comfortable with spending. As a result, he passed on the chairs. And in retrospect, he's actually quite happy he did. "Now I'm saving up for the chairs I really want--the Eames shell ones with the Eiffel wire base."

Got your own tips on avoiding disappointing finds? Share it with us in the comments...

[ Photo from Jek in the Box's Flickr ]

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