How to Shop for Antiques on a Budget

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 seeeven 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 todayhow 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.

How to Shop for Antiques on a Budget

1.Can I DIY this? And if so, how much will I save?

The first question I ask myself before I buy anything decor 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 a decor 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 DIYdecor 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.

How to Shop for Antiques on a Budget

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 project 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 antique decor items 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 authenticlike 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.

How to Shop for Antiques on a Budget

The key is knowing what’s an antique and what isn’t. But let me clarify one thingmass 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 home 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.

How to Shop for Antiques on a Budget

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 yourselfhow 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!

How to Shop for Antiques. 5 Money-Saving tips for antique stores and boutiques

Let me add one last thingif 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 checkpoints 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!

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How to Shop for Antiques. 5 Money-Saving tips for antique stores and boutiques

Welcome!! I’m Sarah-- mama to three kiddos + wife to my high school sweetheart. I'm usually over-caffeinated, browsing Amazon + running on lots of grace. Grab a snack + get comfy!

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  1. 7.3.17
    Jody Jackson said:

    I love your blog and look forward to it everyday. Thanks for tips on how to go antiquing. Wish I could go with you some time. I’m new to the world of Modern Farmhouse and just love it. I’ve been a long time Primitive lover but decided to venture into Farmhouse as the 2 are similar. If you’re familiar with primitives maybe you could do a blog on either transitioning to Farmhouse or how to blend the 2. For example, my dining rm is all primitive and my living rm is (recently) done in Farmhouse. Also can’t wait to see what you suggest for adding Fall decor ideas to Farmhouse. Thank you. And God bless you and your new little baby coming soon. I pray for an easy uncomplicated delivery. Jody

    • 7.3.17
      Sonya said:

      Jody, agree. I have the same transitioning home. Lots of primitive and love to incorporate farmhouse.

    • 7.3.17
      Sarah said:

      Hi Jody! Would you be willing to email me a few photos of your dining room? I’d love to see how it looks with the primitive decor as I’m not really that familiar with that look. Maybe if I see what your decor looks like I can make some suggestions on transitioning to farmhouse style or how to blend the two. My email is Thanks!

  2. 7.3.17

    Don’t you just love it! ???? you go junkin’ and uou find …perfect. I’ve found some really cool stuff for way cheap. It is such a thrill when that happens. Last fall, for instance, I found a dessert set, serving plate and 6 little plates from Bulgaria for $2.50. Looked it up on line, worth $125.00! I’ve been so lucky finding stuff. My last little foray netted me two pieces of really old ironstone, a pitcher and a mold. Four bucks each. Love it!???? Enjoy the hunt! Deb

    • 7.3.17
      Sarah said:

      Holy cow!! That’s a heck of a find on those dishes Deb! Don’t you just love finding treasures like that for bargain pries?! It’s addicting!

  3. 7.3.17
    Andrea said:

    Thanks for your tips. I always love reading your blog and I always watch your insta stories first! They are my favorite! Thank you. You give me lots of inspiration. ????

    • 7.3.17
      Sarah said:

      Aw that’s awesome Andrea, I’m so glad you enjoy my random stories! xoxo

  4. 7.3.17
    Susan said:

    I agree with you shopping for antiques! Like you, I’ve seen Hobby Lobby things in antique stores too! My husband and I have enjoyed antique shopping for at least thirty years. Seems like this is the new thing and prices can be so high now days. We hope to find some good shops in Savannah, Georgia when we go in September! Love your blogs! Hope your precious baby comes soon! Blessings on an easy delivery and healthy baby!

    • 7.3.17
      Sarah said:

      Ohhh how fun Susan, good luck hunting for treasures in Georgia! I wonder how prices are down there? Thanks for the well wishes for the our little babe, she’s still not here yet!

  5. 7.3.17
    Maureen said:

    Love the stool ..I just realized I have one in my basement almost like it ..I’m gonna dig it out and clean it up ❤️Thanks

    • 7.3.17
      Sarah said:

      Yessss, go get it Maureen!!

  6. 7.3.17
    Brenda said:

    I go by these same rules, great advice…grin! Flea Market/Antique shopping is my most favorite thing to do and is so fun when you find a special little treasure at a great price!

    • 7.3.17
      Sarah said:

      It’s definitely my favorite thing to do too Brenda. There’s nothing like the finding a great treasure for a good price!

  7. 7.4.17
    DoreenRuth said:

    Thanks Sarah for today’s tips on antique/flea market shopping. I also hagger with the price and they always budge a bit. No one wants to turn away a sale. ???? Happy Fourth of July. Wishes for a smooth, easy delivery on your baby girl.

  8. 7.7.17
    Vickie said:

    When you redo frames, are they usually plastic, wood or both?

    • 7.7.17
      Sarah said:

      They’re always wood!

  9. 7.10.17
    Tracie said:

    I love your tips. I notice at the thrift stores I go into, a lot of times, how something is set out determines if it is still there. I found a Fossil bag that still had a new care label inside and paper, but it was behind 18 ugly purses (literally 18) twisted in a knot around it. I untwisted and untwisted because I saw the corner of the pattern and liked it, and it was a brand new Fossil for $3.

    The furniture and antique items in thrift stores can be like that, too. My bookcase was a Pottery Barn bookcase but had a beat up toolbox, a hammer, and three inches of dust. It was the resting spot for the stuff while repairs were being done to the wall. The bookcase was marked $212. It was originally at Pottery Barn for $898 and was a ladder style solid wood gorgeous bookcase. Not a scatch on it. I love having it!

    My coffee table was displayed with cheesy looking old plastic fruit and a mismatched tray and a couch it didn’t go with. The table was worth $600 and I got it for $33.

    Thrift stores can take a lot of regular visits to come across the diamonds in the rough. That doesn’t always work for a lot of people, like busy moms like you, or if you don’t live conveniently to one. I live less than half a mile from one I have found a ton of stuff in, and there are many great thrift stores in my area. Very lucky finds. I don’t live close to affordable antique stores; the ones around here tend to be higher end
    and they are more traditional in style.

    The things you have done so prettily in your farmhouse look are very achieveable for people who don’t have the high end budget to do! I have the cottage look with hints of farmhouse really, and it is just such a personal look. You have nailed such a beautiful, personal style.

  10. 7.10.17

    I love this article! I agree, I will pay more for authentic, early items and will buy good reproductions if they give me the look I need “now”! I have had good luck at flea markets, ebay and craigslist. The hunt for the bargain is always harder (and more satisfying) than just buying because you can afford it. Keep up the good work, I am pinning this to my pinterest and facebook pages! Kindest regards, Trish (Vintageblessings)

  11. 7.10.17
    Tracie said:

    I notice that some people have tended to not notice or be dismissive toward antiques and unusual or old items just because they are older pieces and don’t really imagine the nice ways you can decorate with them. In my area, those things sometimes are just ripe for the picking at thrift stores.

  12. 4.23.18
    Annie said:

    Hi Sarah! I know I’m a bit late to comment. (only about 10 months late) The joys of Pinterest! Everything old is always new to someone and with this post, that someone is me. I truly appreciate your tips and advice on how to shop at antique stores and boutiques. On occasion, I’ve had buyer’s regret when I find I’ve paid too high of a price for something. I am ever intimidated by negotiating on price, either because I’m not sure the value of something or fear that a price I offer might insult the seller. I’ve watched people negotiate flawlessly and pay exactly what they wanted to pay and always wish I could do the same.
    This is my first visit to your blog, it’s inspiring, I simply HAD to sign up!

  13. 8.27.18
    Laura said:

    I used to be in the antique business and you are absolutely right about purchasing from those shops. I would add that if you know where the auctions are you can get some really good deals. Don’t be surprised if your favorite shop owners are there 😁

  14. 10.31.18

    Great, All the 5 ideal looks amazing. I’m always looking for innovative ideas to decorate my home without spending too much. Your post really helps me to find some unique ways to decorate my home. Keep sharing this kind of initiative idea with us.

  15. 10.31.18

    All the 5 ideal looks amazing. I’m always looking for innovative ideas to decorate my home without spending too much. Your post really helps me to find some unique ways to decorate my home.

  16. 5.2.19
    Debra said:

    Great tips.Just started looking for things from my home.Thanks

  17. 10.15.19
    linda said:

    Thank you for sharing this great tips. After reading your article, I came up with unique ideas to decorate my home without spending too much time and money. Hope you can have more creative ideas