bargaining and getting a deal

Part of Whatever Craft Weekend includes a little shopping at an antique store and ‘junk’ barn. I am not a fan of clutter and am in a purge mode regarding my house.Β  I’m filling up boxes for a garage sale, donating items and giving stuff away. I think things are feeling a little crazy around here and one of my ways of coping is to seek after simplicity…which often leads me to packing up stuff. All that to say, I was not planning on doing any shopping over the weekend.

That was the plan. Then I found two plates. Paid and walked out the door.

And then I saw it.

Green, pink, red…vintage tablecloth. It was one of the prettiest one’s I had ever seen. It was tucked back in the window and really hard to reach. I couldn’t see a price and didn’t want anyone to have to crawl back in there to get it if it was out of my range of what I was willing to pay.

So, I asked the woman working – who is also the town mayor –Β  to come outside and name me a price.

She said $22.00.

I told her I was only willing to pay $10.

She said $18.00.

I said $13.00 if there was no stains. $10.00 if there was a stain.

She said, “deal.”

We went back in and I climbed up to pull out my treasure. I squealed inside when I saw the $28.00 price tag.

I handed it to the mayor and reminded her we had to look for stains. It was stained (like 99% of vintage tablecloths are). Though I knew it was a steal for $13.00, I told her, “$10.00 it’s got stains.”…just because sometimes I like to be a bit of a spitfire.

We agreed on $13.00 and I got a picture with the mayor – who is my favorite in that store. Such a fun lady.

Pretty sure there has never been a more perfect tablecloth for me.

I think Mayor Mary liked me because she also let me talk her down from $18.00 to $10.00 for this old quilt.

It is important to our family to live within our means and on a budget. For me, that often means walking away from things I really like because they are more than I feel appropriate to spend. For the tablecloth and quilt I had set amounts in my head for what I was willing to spend. If she had not come down to those prices, I would have walked away. Living on a budget for my family means a lot of freedom and less stress. We say ‘no’ to buying a lot of stuff, but we also say ‘yes’ to other things.

I thought I’d share a couple pictures of the studio to show you some other ‘deals’ I got to furnish it.

Thrifting and bargaining works well for my style….and our budget. While I consider myself pretty good at talking with vendors at garage sales, flea markets and estate sales…my friend Erin is amazing at it. I watched Erin get some incredible deals over the weekend. I’ve seen some people try to bargain and they do it in a rude way. Erin was full of humor and grace and quickly won over the seller. When I posted the pictures of me and the mayor on Instagram, a few asked for a blog post on bargaining tips. Well, I asked Erin if she would share her tips because she is pretty fabulous at it.


  • Try not to show how excited you are about the item. On the flip side, don’t act like it’s a piece of junk.
  • If you have the choice, bargain with a man. Men tend to have fewer emotional attachments to for-sale items, at least in my experience. Smile big and be friendly.
  • Feel free to point out obvious flaws–they are “worth” a discount. But don’t be nit-picky. A tiny pinhole in a pristine quilt top isn’t going to equal a major discount. And again, you’ll look rude. That doesn’t play in your favor.
  • If you’re buying several items, your best bet sometimes is to try for a bundle deal.
  • My general rule of thumb is to offer 40%-50% LESS than the price marked. If the item has obvious flaws, I’m hoping to settle on a price close to the 50% off mark. If it’s in great condition but I’m trying to save some $$, I hope to settle around the 25%-40% off mark. You should have a general idea of the price you’d like to settle at BEFORE you make your offer. And your offer is ALWAYS lower than that amount. 9 times out of 10 the seller will counter offer. Don’t be afraid to counter their counter offer. It’s the name of the game. And you’ll be able to tell really quickly if they’re having fun with the ‘haggling game’ or if you’re just making them mad.
  • If the seller has been flexible with you on some prices, be kind when they’re actually firm on a price. It doesn’t hurt for you to give in to *them* a little bit, especially if you still have more items to negotiate on.
  • Don’t be afraid to walk away from an item. If you and the seller can’t agree on a price, and if it isn’t something you MUST have, then it’s ok to leave it behind. Many times the seller will stop you before you get too far away and give in, selling it to you at your price.

Aren’t those great tips!!! Erin has a small afghan sale coming up this week on her Instagram Vintage Shop…if you like afghans you should check it out. She has other sales throughout the year, but the items go fast, so you have to be fast! Thank you Erin for taking the time to share those with us!

You can find Erin here:Β her blog, Instagram, Instagram Vintage Shop

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  • twirling betty - You just rock. That is all.

  • Leila - Great tips and gorgeous tablecloth!!
    My house is full of free and thrifted things too — there’s just no other way to raise a big family on one income, which is our priority.

    My one other tip to add to these great ones would be the flip side of “walk away from what you don’t need” — decide in your head if it’s something you DO need and DO want and can’t walk away from (and there are some things like this! a bed for a kid, or something else you really need for family life but couldn’t otherwise afford). If it is, ask yourself if the price is actually right, and then pay it or something very close to it.

    If you left and really regretted it, you won’t have won this round, so be prepared for that eventuality as well. I needed a sleep sofa (guests coming) and was picky (you know how iffy upholstered things can be second-hand!). I found a great one with the mattress still in plastic! I decided not to bargain with the guy b/c I didn’t want to lose and the price was 70% off new — and the sofa was virtually new and very classy. It wasn’t cheap, but the quality was very high. However, I did bargain on a braided rug he had and got it for a steal because I was willing to walk away from that πŸ˜‰

    I love all your thrifty finds and think you are an amazing thrifter! I would love to go bargain-hunting with you!!

  • Jaime - That quilt is so cute! What a deal at $10. You cant even touch making it for that price. I really look forward to your posts every morning. I have a similar style for my home, so your studio is a lovely inspiration. Your family also makes me smile and gives me hope for what a family of mine might look someday- not perfect, but full of love.

  • Annie Page - Love your finds! Went to a vintage market this weekend – I’m not terribly good at bargaining, but I’m pretty good at finding a bargain. Your weekend looked like a wonderful get away – makes coming home that much sweeter!

  • Kimberlee Jost - You are without a doubt one of Mary’s favorites.

  • mandi@herbanhomstead - I love that picture of you being sassy with the mayor! You can just see how much fun you are both having with it all! Those are some of my favorite times when junkin’- having fun with the vendor. Do you ever watch Market Warriors on PBS?
    I have to add, your file cabinet you got for $5, I saw one recently and thought it would be perfect for our homeschool “workbox” system. He was selling it for $165 and it had standing water in the drawers! I was shocked! I didn’t even try to negotiate, because in my mind they were worth about $20, and I knew I wouldn’t be able to get him that low. Such a bummer.

  • Ruth @ Living Well Spending Less - My kinda girl! Love this post Ashley! πŸ™‚

  • Molly - Great advice!!! And I love your finds! I am with you on living with in your budget. We are planning to purchase a new couch…like brand new…which is very unusual for us. We don’t spend that kind of money on furniture. We (I) am patient and thrift for items that will work or that I can fix up to make work. For fun we started to add up how much we have spent to furnish our home…we laughed at how little we have spent!

  • Coco Soler - I love seeing your bargains! You’ve found GREAT finds for your house and have a great eye how to use them and style rooms. I love reading your blog, your kids are precious! God Bless.

  • Rachel - love this. we bought an old lake fishing cabin from 1950 in december. almost every single thing in & out of our lake shack is a hand-me-down, from an estate sale, thrift store, craigslist or clearance from a store. and i could not be prouder of the colorful vintage lake side happiness we’ve created. (haven’t blogged any of it yet, IG is way easier: rtwenter) πŸ™‚ … but i will some day. still got the look i would’ve always wanted, but for almost nothing.

  • amber - This is so great:)! I’m so not good at negotiating…I feel rude just asking for a lower price, but am always in awe of people who do it with grace. I need to practice this…thanks for the tips!!

  • Megan - I love this post! I am not new to thrifting but I am new to bargaining with vendors / sellers. My husband has been out of work without pay since Christmas due to an accident so our budget has been SUPER tight. I have had such a great time decorating our home as cheaply as possible during this time. Your blog has been a constant source of inspiration and I cannot thank you enough! My home is getting more and more awesome for just pennies, thanks to you! Cannot wait to try out these bargaining tips so I can save even more πŸ™‚

  • Chantel - I love all your vintage/thrifted stuff! I’ve got to take a road trip down to the States because there is NO WAY I’d find a quilt that awesome here for anywhere close to $10!

  • Becca - Oh! I love this post! Thank you for being so helpful you two. I love this post. I need this post. We can’t afford much right now so this is great!

    Plus, you’re both beautiful!

  • Necole @seriouslysassymama - I do not think I have ever bargained at a thrift store. I guess I have lucked out with finding a good deal, or I really do not know what a good deal is.

  • Kara M - I loved that picture on instagram! I keep looking for pretty globes for a decent price, but can never find them for under $30. I know I must be looking in the wrong places. I love the line “just because sometimes I like to be a spitfire!” Reminds me of something my granny would have said!! πŸ˜€

  • alison - Such gorgeous finds! I love your styling so much. Beautiful kids,beautiful home!

  • Alecia - Glad you got the tablecloth! It looks like a perfect fit in your home!

  • Jan - I love what you do with your finds. Good bargaining tips. I’ve never tried bargaining at a thrift store but often do at garage sales.

  • Crystal - I so look forward to reading your blog everyday! Any tips for where to shop, for those of us who have more of a modern style?

  • Jess - Great post!! Brilliant tips as well- I’m always a bit of a chicken when it comes to bargaining, but I adore thrifting so definitely need to get better at it!

    Amazing tablecloth- a complete steal! πŸ™‚

  • Emily Betzler - Hi Ashley! I love your style and your margin/shopping mentality. As a family we strive to live by similar principals. Lately, God has really been calling us to say no to certain types of purchases so we can say YES to Him more often. Along those lines, I am currently doing a Garage Sale Challenge on my blog, check it out if you have the time, it might be right up your alley!



  • Kate @ Songs Kate Sang - Great post! I am always so uncomfortable when people are being rude – and I usually err on the side of not asking enough… these are great tips!

  • tiffany - Just had to share that this made me smile today. I think many of us have to manage on a budget and it is a great reminder that, ‘Living on a budget for my family means a lot of freedom and less stress.” My family and I learned a great lesson 2 years ago when we lived in Japan for 2 months. We could only take a few things with us there and had to live on much less while there because just food alone was so expensive it took most our budget. We made toys, we created experiences, we played games, and from it I got the treasure of the most beautiful memories which is what I could as most valuable…and why I love your blog…Thanks again Ash! (Can I call you Ash? πŸ™‚ – PS LOVE YOUR HAIR! – Super cute long and wavy!) – Tiff

  • Bora - Your tablecloth looks almost like the designs on your website! Super cool find!

  • Marie - I love the quilt, but the collection of treasures in your studio is a wonder of whim. Gorgeous!

  • nicole neesby - haha! LOVE THIS! all the tips you guys shared reminded me of all the bargaining i have done on trips to china. such great memories! πŸ˜‰


  • Ashley - It’s so important to live within your means – thanks for being so honest. I wish I was a better bargainer, I always buckle under the pressure and send my husband in to do the negotiating!

  • emily anderson - you know, i’ll be there soon. PLEASE SAVE YOUR GIVEAWAY STUFF. i wanna look through it. i’m serious. very serious.


  • Victoria / Justice Pirate - That is really great how you bargained!!
    I doubt we’d be able to get away with bargaining in NJ. . .everyone is so obsessed with their money here, and we haven’t enough money to even afford our bills, let alone get something we might like, so I have people give me hand-me-downs (most of our furniture was given to us and are all falling apart. . .but we survive). I think this table cloth is very pretty!!

  • Jenny - Oh my! That tablecloth is lovely! I am such a sucker for vintage linens! Oh, who am I kidding, I am sucker for all things vintage!
    You must have some really great flea markets and such where you live because I rarely, and i mean rarely, find awesome pieces where I live that I can actually afford.
    Great finds! πŸ™‚

  • Jaime @ Raising up Rubies - yes. i’ll take your tablecloth. just one please. πŸ™‚
    it’s beautiful!!

  • Amy Maurer - Oh my mercy! Love seeing that picture of Mary!! She’s the one who told me I must be from the South. I laughed and said my accent must have given it away. She said, “No, no. It’s that you called me ma’am. Yes, ma’am. No ma’am. Only people from the South are that polite.” HA!!!!! All I could do was laugh! And of course, say “yes ma’am.”

  • Abby - I love how you’ve used all your fun finds for decorating your home. My husband is an auctioneer, so I see lots of neat things that I like at estate sales, but don’t really know what I will do with them! (Plus I always get nervous bidding!) You inspire me to really use what I love and find. Such a fun style!

  • TerrieG - I feel like that tablecloth was made just for you!
    I love what I see you & Meg do with vintage.
    How come I feel if I would try, it would just look like junk?
    Loved all the photos from Craft Weekend too!!
    Looks like you rocked it with the power tools!!

  • elizabeth H - LOVE your goodies ~ what an awesome thrifter you are!!

  • Project Simplify + Free Printable - […] the back, but to encourage you to use your gifts and extras to look for ways to help others.** quote source Just one day after we talked about starting this ministry, I heard of a lady who was moving into […]

  • camille @ Chez Moi - What a lovely, bright studio space, Ashley! I can imagine lots of creativity goes on in such an inspiring place. I love it!