Flea Market Savvy Shopper’s Survival Kit

Just knowing to shop at flea markets makes you a savvy shopper, but do you know all the things you’ll need to survive the trip? 

When I asked Matt what he thought we were going to do with all of the tools I had gathered, he thought we were going hiking and camping! I had to admit, he was close!  But, we were actually going to gear up to be savvy flea market shoppers. I’m laughing in the photos because he asked if that was a fancy way of saying we’re going shopping! And of course, flea market shopping is better than regular shopping because you have no idea what you’ll find, how you are going to use it and how inexpensively you can get it.  I like to think of it more as a treasure hunt.

Matt and Shari Prep for Flea Market Shopping - MattandShari.com

So here’s what you’ll need if you want to really make the best use of your time and money when flea market shopping. The first thing is of course a plan. Figure out where you are going to shop, how long it will take to get there, is there parking, are there days with special discounts – like seniors day or something like that.

Navigation Devices for Finding Flea Markets - MattandShari.com

So what would we need to put our plan together?

Well, how about road maps of the area? I always download directions and print them out.  Phone numbers of the places are a good idea and maybe call ahead of time to make sure you know what hours and days they are open.  Matt said while you are on the phone with them; find out if they sell food! (What a surprise!) And, if you have a GPS unit, you could load in all the addresses to the places you want to stop and let the GPS guide you to your destinations. It could save a few dollars worth of gas if it guides you to the fastest route. 

OK, you also want to know what you are looking for and make sure if you find it, it will fit and look right with what you already have.  What do you need for that?

How about measurements of the rooms you are trying to decorate, especially areas that you are specifically shopping for like the measurements above a dresser for a mirror or something like that.

Take Color Swatches to the Flea Market for Matching - MattandShari.com

What if you are looking for something in a specific color to go with other things you already have? How will you know if the color is right?

You might start by taking photos of your room and print them out to take with you. Or, you could take paint chips and fabric swatches with you.  You could even have some photos of the room on your cell phone to review when you find something that you think might work for the room.

By the way, speaking of cell phones there are some great apps that you can upload to your phone that can help you with your decorating.  From color apps to apps that can help you find pricing of items to comparison shop!

Here’s something that you probably wouldn’t think of because when you go department store shopping, you usually don’t need these things. What about incidentals for personal comfort?


Since most flea market shopping takes place outside in parking lots and on fair grounds, you might want to have some nutrition bars with you – you know something to nibble on.  I always like to have water with me and on a hot day, you will too.  A brimmed hat to keep the sun off, sunscreen, sunglasses, even lip balm is a good idea to keep you comfortable.

Back Packs are Handy at Flea Markets - MattandShari.com

Another great idea for comfort is something to carry everything we’ve been mentioning around with you.  A backpack is a great idea because it would hold everything you need on hand so you don’t have to keep going back to the car, AND it keeps your hands free!

I would really put that backpack to the test because I would also put a tape measure along with a pencil and paper to make notes about where I saw something if I wasn’t quite ready to buy.

But what if you do want to buy?  What do you need for that?

For payment, credit cards are nice, but some places only take cash and check so be ready for that – have your ID! And, what’s especially fun about flea market shopping is the haggling.  Be nice about it, but most dealers and flea market sellers are agreeable to around a 20% adjustment in the price.  Here is another place for a phone app; ATM locations.

I leave the haggling to Matt because I don’t feel comfortable with that but I’m always happy when he gets a better price! But let’s say you bought a couple things, now what?

You might want to consider bringing along the same bags you drag to the grocery store. Depending on where you go to shop, they may or may not have bags for their merchandise. So, carrying a few along isn’t a bad idea.

Carry Along a Little Tool Kit - MattandShari.com

And, if you are shopping for bigger items, you want to have the largest space available, but sometimes even lamps or accessories can take up a lot of room!  And bring along a little tool kit.  Now I know this is starting to sound ridiculous – at least it does to me, but what if just removing a leg or trim strip will get that piece of furniture in the car….better to be safe than sorry!

Bungee Cords for Large Purchases - MattandShari.com

Now remember, when Matt and I flea market shop, we have an empty van to carry things home so all of this paraphernalia is easy for us, we even have furniture blankets to wrap around a piece, but rope and bungees might work for you to attach a purchase to the car.

You know, I have a laundry basket in the back of my car and it helps with just grocery shopping, but it would also help divide purchases so they aren’t banging against each other or rolling around in the back. Just something to consider.

I have one more important piece of information for a true savvy flea marketer.  Arrive early for the best selection, leave late for the bargains.  And, have a wonderful time!



  1. Jinny says

    Hi, loved this show, right up my alley. I loved what the man made out of iron for the yard. Is there a way to contact him and purchase his items? Thanks, Jinny

    • Shari Hiller says

      Jinny, his name is Potsy and I have Matt looking up his contact information for me. I’ll get back to you.

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