Even though we live in a society driven by swiping a debit or credit card, when it comes to bargaining, nothing is more powerful than cold, hard cash. So make sure you stop by the ATM before you get to the flea market or garage sale. Not every seller accepts credit cards (some may take a personal check), but everyone willingly accepts cash.
Added benefit: Carrying cash means you’ll never spend more than you have budgeted. Without the temptation of credit cards, you will only be able to spend the cash you have in your wallet.
2. Do your homework.
Even before you hit the shops, do a little research on the items you're hunting. If you know you want a farm table, look at tables of similar size and style for a pricing guideline. Hit up local antiques and flea markets, or start online with sites such as eBay and Craigslist. Once you have a ballpark number in mind, you’ll know when you are getting a fair price, and even better, when you are getting a real deal.
Shop like a pro: Make sure you inspect the item in question. Examine the condition, and use any flaws to your advantage. Pull out the drawers, look at the joints, and hunt for cracks. If you see any flaws, point them out and use them as leverage to lower the asking price.
3. Timing is everything.
Vendors and sellers have taken the time to haul items to antiques shows, flea markets, and even garage sales, and they don’t want to tow them all back home. So if your timing is just right, you might be able to score a deal simply by taking an item off their hands at the end of the day. True, to get the best selection you want to shop early, but if a great price is what you are after, later just might be better.
4. It's all in the delivery.
Initiating the negotiation can be tricky. If an item is marked with a price, you’re ahead of the game. To find out the desired price, try to avoid asking dead-end questions like, “How much is this?” Instead, opt for a more open phrasing such as, “What are you asking for this?” Most importantly, be confident. When you come across as assertive, the seller will take notice. But if you seem unsure and timid, they will without a doubt stick to their asking price.
5. Don’t insult the seller.
Even though you want the item for as little as possible, if you insult the seller by offering a way-too low price, you’ll do more harm than good. A good tactic is to offer about 25% less than the asking price. If the table is marked at $100, then start your bargaining at $75. This is when Tip #2 is extremely helpful. If you know the average asking price for a similar-style item, you’ll make an educated offer, which will most likely be accepted.
Kim Turnbull, Associate Editor