Sooooo I had a totally different post planned for today. Yep, it was all ready to go annnnnnnd then I went antique shopping this weekend. If you follow me on Instagram and you watch my stories, you know what I’m talking about. After spending two days at home, doing very little other than waiting on this baby to come, I was going a tad bit crazy. I desperately needed a distraction, so of course I decided to go to a few of my favorite antique shops and browse for treasures. And while I was shopping, I kept thinking about all the things I consider when I’m buying antiques. I’m on a budget, and I know many of you are too, so I can’t be buying up everything I see–even though I would LOVE that. Instead I have to be savvy about how I spend my money, which means I have a whole checklist of things I run through in my mind when I’m trying to decide if I should buy something in an antique shop. I was chatting about this in my IG stories and a ton of you asked to see a post about it, so that’s what we’re chatting about today–how to shop for antiques on a budget! Now before I get into it I want to apologize for the quality of the photos in this post. These are simply shots I snapped with my phone while I was shopping, so they’re not awesome. But I wanted to share them anyway so you can see the examples as I talk through them. OK, now let’s do it.
1. Can I DIY this? And if so, how much will I save?
The first question I ask myself before I buy anything is “can I DIY this?”. If it’s something I can easily do myself I won’t buy it. So for instance, if I find an item I can pick up for really cheap at a thrift store, yard sale, or on Craigslist–and simply paint it or recreate it myself, I won’t buy it. However, there’s a follow-up question here that’s also pretty important–“how much will I save by doing it myself?” If I can DIY it, but spending the time or energy to do it isn’t worth the savings, then that’s something to consider. Some DIY projects are a pain in the booty, we all know this. So don’t write something off just because you can make it, always be sure to think about the time and expense that goes into recreating it yourself. I think a great example of this is old picture frames.
In my opinion, picture frames like this are one of the most commonly overpriced items at antique shops. See that large one there? It was $53. Yep, $53. Sure, it’s gorgeous and painted white, but dang. That’s a hefty price, especially considering frames like this are a dime a dozen at yard sales and places like Goodwill for just a few bucks. If you want one, put the time in to find it, paint it yourself (it will literally take you 10 minutes) and save a TON Of money in the process. I shared two large frames just like that last week in this post and they only cost $3 each. Now that’s a DIY worth the time.
2. Is it authentic vintage or a reproduction?
If you’re at a boutique shop, chances are pretty good that you’ll find a mix of real, authentic antiques and lots of reproductions. And given this combo, it can sometimes be difficult to tell what’s worth the money and what’s not. I’m always willing to pay more for something that is unique and authentic–like an item I might not be able to find anywhere else. But you gotta know the difference between real vintage and mass produced decor, which is usually marked up insanely high just because it’s at a boutique. For example, this weekend I found this pair of large, vintage inspired wall panels priced at $186. Yes, you read that right. $186 EACH. It’s pretty obvious just by looking at them that they are not authentic. In fact, I know they aren’t because I bought these exact panels at Hobby Lobby a few years back for a fraction of the price.
The key is knowing what’s an antique and what isn’t. But let me clarify one thing–mass produced decor is not a bad thing. I have TONS of it in my home and it’s great when it’s done right. However, buying it at a boutique/antique shop is not exactly where you’ll get the best bang for your buck. If you’re on a budget like me, you’ll likely want to shop around for the best price to save money when it comes to items like this. I’d recommend looking at other stores first to see if you can find a better price on this particular type of non-antique decor. And honestly, this is probably the hardest part of shopping at antique stores and boutiques for me personally. I want to support small businesses and shop local, but I just can’t justify paying three or four times the price for something I can find somewhere else. It’s just not going to happen.
3. How difficult is it to find this item? Is it rare?
Some items are more rare than others when it comes to antique and vintage decor and that really plays into how something is priced and what I’m willing to pay for it. For instance, I’ve been keeping my eyes open for an old nesting box for a looooooong time now, but they’re really difficult to come by and they’re usually very expensive. Well I stumbled on one this weekend and the price was $180. I snapped this photo of it as I was debating whether or not to buy it.
I felt like $180 was actually a very reasonable price for this item. It was clearly old and authentic, but still in great shape overall. I’ve seen many as high as $350 or more, so $180 isn’t bad at all. I ultimately decided against it because I’d rather have a wooden nesting crate, but I think this is a great example of a well-priced and rare item that is definitely worth the money.
4. How much do I love it?
This is one crucial for me and it’s something you gotta ask yourself–how much do I love it? Sometimes you’ll stumble on something that you love so darn much you just can’t image walking away from it. It gets you so giddy with excitement that you can hardly contain yourself. Antiques have a way of doing that to us, right? If that’s how you feel, you should take it home. If you don’t feel that way, leave it behind. There’s very little wiggle room here. If you don’t absolutely love it in the store, you won’t love it at home. And you’ll only end up being mad at yourself for spending the money on it. This, my friends, is what I call knowing when to splurge. Now obviously this doesn’t apply to everything, because we all see things we absolutely love and wish we could take home. Like the giant nut and bolt cabinet I found while shopping this weekend. It was priced at $1200….so I simply admired it for a few minutes, drooled a bit, then had to walk away. It wasn’t worth the $1200 for me and clearly out of my budget. But some lucky soul will take this home one day and live happily ever after.
5. Always negotiate the price.
I know it can be a bit awkward, but I usually ask the shop owner or someone working at the counter if the price listed on the tag is the lowest price they can do. You’d be surprised how many times they will in fact lower the price, sometimes by a lot and sometimes by a little. I’d say that the majority of the time they don’t even hesitate to offer at least 10 to 15 percent off. There are a few times I get turned down of course, but it’s definitely always worth the ask. For example, when I bought this vintage stool it was originally priced at $60. I asked if that price was the lowest they’d go and they instantly dropped it to $45. Boom!
Let me add one last thing–if you’re really on a tight budget, you will ALWAYS find better prices on antiques at places like Salvation Army, yard sales, flea markets and Craigslist. But the challenge with those places is that you will likely spend a lot of time looking and not much time finding anything worth buying. I mean, you can go to Goodwill ten times before you find something really unique, which is obviously a big investment in time. And that’s why antique stores and boutiques are my favorite places to shop–all the goodies have already been hunted down and they’re waiting for you! Just be sure to proceed with caution if you’re on a budget. I literally go through each of these check points when I’m in an antique shop and debating a purchase. And over time I think I’ve become pretty savvy about knowing when to buy something and when to hold back. It’s definitely a process, and it’s different for every person, but having a little mental checklist like this will really help you save money in the long run.
Ok, that’s a wrap my friends. Thanks so much for dropping by the blog today. Let’s chat in the comments below if you have any questions, I’d love to hear from you!