Friday, 22 October 2010

Thrifting Tips

I am a thrifting fiend. It's an addiction, honestly. And I decided it was time to share the knowledge I have gained through years of car boot sale trawling with my lovely blog readers. I've seen quite a few similar posts throughout the blogging world, but almost all of them are written by Americans and are aimed at people shopping in thrift stores where the rules are rather different to the good old English car boot sale! So here are just a few things I have learnt, some obvious and some not so much, but hopefully they will encourage you all to get out there and hunt down some bargains!

1. Be prepared! It's obvious I know (come on, it's the golden rule of the Boy Scouts) but it's easy to forget. When going to a boot sale I always take lots of change as many sellers won't have change so don't take big notes - pound coins and 50p coins are the best. It's also a good idea to take your own bags, firstly because some sellers don't have any, and secondly because it's better to have one large sturdy bag than three small thin carrier bags that end up breaking! I have a shopping trolley which I use, as it is just so easy and saves me carrying lots of heavy bags. Oh and take your mobile phone with you. Always. Because the one time you forget it will be the time you really need it.

2. Get there early. Like the saying goes, the early bird catches the worm or, in this case, gets the best bargains. Find out what time the car boot sale starts and get there for that time. A little insider tip - often car boot organisers will write on an ad something like 'set up from 7am, opens at 8am.' This is rubbish. 99% of car boot sales are open from the time they let in the first sellers, so this is when you should be getting there! (the only car boot sale I know of where this is NOT true is Battersea. When they say opens at 11:30 they mean it.)

3. Learn to scan. This is the best tip I can possibly give you, and it has saved me a LOT of time. When I am at a car boot sale, especially really large ones like Denham, I walk down an aisle and scan the stalls, looking at what they are selling, and who is selling it, and decide whether that stall is worth me looking at. For me personally I look for stalls where older people are clearing out their lofts/spare rooms/are downsizing, and they usually have a stall full of lovely vintage stuff, with low prices. I am an expert at spotting these kinds of stalls now. I never bother stopping at trader stalls (these take time to learn to spot - they are the ones selling vintage stuff, usually lots of china and stuff still in the original packaging, for a marked up price), stalls selling baby/kids stuff (I don't have children...), or stalls selling things like tools or electrical equipment. Once you get used to scanning it will become second nature.

4. Haggle. But don't be a scrooge. There is a fine line, and it is one I walk very carefully because, having sold at many car boot sales as well as buying at them, I know how annoying it can be. If you think something is priced reasonably don't haggle, it's just rude. However if you are buying more than one item from a seller it's worth asking how much for the lot. They will almost always give you a discount, even if it is just a pound or two off the total.

5. Be open minded. It's a car boot sale, not a shopping centre. There is no point going to a car boot sale thinking "I want to get a blue teapot with flowers on for less than a fiver." Chances are, it won't happen. Looking for specific things can often take months of searching, and will usually happen when you least expect it. It's good to know the general type of things you are after, as it makes scanning much easier (see point number 3.) Some things I am always on the look out for are; vintage dresses, old cameras and camera equipment, 60s/70s homeware, old editions of children's books, nice china teacups and saucers, deer ornaments, vintage aprons, records by specific artists, fabric/linen, vintage ephemera (photographs, letters, postcards, magazines etc) and buttons. For some reason things at car boot sales seem to come in sets - normally I only see one or two Polaroid cameras per car boot, and one will be damaged and the other will be really overpriced. But the other week I bought 4 Polaroid cameras in different styles, all in excellent condition and all for less than £2!

6. Take a friend. The reasons behind this are threefold. Firstly, I always feel much more confident looking through other people's stuff and asking how much things cost when I have someone else there with me. Secondly, it's always good to have someone else there to offer their opinion. Obviously it's up to you whether you take it or not, but I can testify to having been talked out of making some rather dubious purchases by friends who get less 'caught up in the moment' than me whilst thrifting. Thirdly, if like me you are prone to buying more stuff than you can physically carry, it's always handy to have a friend to act as your own personal packhorse.

Well, I hope this has been helpful to some people. I get lots of people asking me how I always manage to find such bargains when I go to boot sales, and this is basically it. Remember, don't get disheartened, not all boot sales are created equal and some will have lots of stuff you like and others won't.

Good luck and happy thrifting! xxx


  1. You've made me want to go to a car boot sale now! xxx

  2. Me to me to! Guess we will have to wait for spring now for the big ones to open again. When do they open again do you know? Are there any big covered ones that run through winter?
    Love your blog!

  3. I went to a carboot sale today! got some amazing vintage clothes for £1 each, didn't even need to haggle! xxx


I love getting comments and read every single one. I try to check out the blogs of people who leave comments, and reply wherever possible :) Thank you! xoxo