Tuesday, August 6, 2013


It's true. I like bargains…and I like TO bargain. I bet you like bargains too, but a lot of folks are shaking their heads at the second part. Bargaining? Asking someone to lower their price? Scary!

I mean, what if they say NO?

They might. Certainly has happened to me. And yet here I am, not a bit worse for the experience. And experience is all it is. I used to be way too shy to ask for lower prices. But do you know what my success rate is when I do ask? At least 90%! Talk about a self-rewarding activity!

I started thinking about the whole bargaining thing this weekend when I was garaging with my friend Judy. BTW, look at the fabulous MCM clock she found. I am officially jealous!

Judy's MCM clock

She saw a small rug she kind of liked, though it wasn’t perfect (the corners wanted to curl up). It was marked two dollars. I asked the lady having the sale if there was any chance she’d take a dollar, and she said yes so fast and so cheerfully that Judy was startled. As we walked away, rug in hand, she commented on how easy that had been. And almost always it's just that simple.

But…what if she HAD said no? We could have paid the two bucks (still a good deal in this case) or decided to leave the rug behind. Sometimes I’ll say something like, “Let me think about that.” When larger sums are on the table, sometimes you can go back and forth a little to settle on a price.

A lot of folks feel that fifty cents or a dollar isn't worth hassling over; they’re embarrassed even thinking of suggesting a lower price. And if you only go garaging once in a while it might not be. But those little amounts add up. I just looked at my spreadsheet of this year’s garaging finds, and I see I’ve spent $391 so far. Wow, spendy hobby! But I've paid at least $150 less than I would have, just by asking for a lower price. (And if I'd bought things retail, the outlay would have been more like $6700. Yeah, it's been a good year!).

When don’t I bargain? If I'm at an estate sale, it's usually clear that the first day’s prices are firm (often they’re half price the second day, so you have to gamble on whether something you like will still be there). This week I stood in a short estate sale line to buy a couple of DVDs and some wire.

garden art wire

The wire helped me finish a little project, in which I turned some Christmas ornaments

From Christmas ornaments to garden art

into garden glitz.

morning flowersornament at sunrise

I love them! Might have to look for old necklaces to break up to make more. This travel water bowl for the dogs was only a quarter, and even I would hardly dispute that price!

travel water bowlfolded travel bowl

Ditto for this silicone ring for storing sewing machine bobbins, and a water bottle

bobbin ring & water bottle

with a top that flips up like a miniature observatory.

fancy lid

That’s a lot of engineering for a quarter. And it has the advantage of weighing only a hair over a pound when it's full, which is something to consider if you dangle a water bottle via a carabineer off a belt loop. If you try that with the ultra-baggy pants that kids have been wearing, could lead to an unfortunate incident!

Didn’t try to bargain at a few sales where I felt it would be received badly. It's all about the vibe. But I'm still happy with the prices on this shirt for my husband

denim shirt

a chenille robe for me (with my initials on the zipper pull!)

chenille robemy initials!

a wild and crazy bag for my laptop

wild computer bag

a pair of king size sheets and a queen size flat (whenever you find Egyptian cotton sheets in good condition for fifty cents, snatch them up!)

fifty cent sheets

or this vintage book full of mid-century goodness.

MCM paper art inside  atomic paper  sculptural forms

I really want this horse sculpture!

horse sculpture

Sets of things are good bargaining fodder. If DVDs are two bucks each and you’ve found six or seven, offer a ten spot.

Let us entertain you

Ditto for CDs but not if they’re two bucks, that’s way too high for CDs!. Got all four of these for $2.

bargain cd's

Lots of folks will gather up an armload and offer a blanket amount for all of it. That works sometimes, but I’ve seen lots of sellers spend the time to tally up their asking prices to make sure they’re not giving the farm away. I have better luck asking for deals on individual pieces. Like this flamingo. With a fan in her tummy that whirls in the breeze!

Stalking the wild flamingo

My favorite bargaining story this week involved an adjunct to Judy’s rug. It wanted to slide around on her hardwood floor, and when I saw this stuff at a sale the next day I assumed it was for under rugs and got it for half the price it was marked.

rugs or shelves!

The lady selling agreed it should work fine - and waited until after I'd paid for it to point out that it's really for lining shelves! I snickered all the way to the car.


  1. Good post. I am super shy about bargaining but I travel with a friend who LOVES to bargain. And even worse, she does it in retail. I cringe. We do best when out at flea markets or antique shows. And, honest to goodness, every single time we get a lower price. I like your idea of the spreadsheet. I too have a pricey hobby, and the spreadsheet is a good way of tracking purchases and feeling pleased about one's efforts.

  2. I admit I generally draw the line in retail situations...but I rarely shop retail. I've read several times recently that you certainly can negotiate prices on things like medical care, so it's a skill worth having!

    You'll love using the spreadsheet. I'm always going to prior years to see how long ago I bought something or to check on some note I made.


I really love your comments. Thanks for coming along on my thrifty adventures!

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