Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Another frugal first!

I'll be honest with you, even though secondhand is our go-to for absolutely everything - cars, clothes, books, furniture and household appliances, and although I'll happily mooch around junk shops, secondhand book shops and charity shops for hours, the thought of a car boot sale used to make me feel a little faint. 

Maybe it's the sheer overwhelm of row after row of stuff or the depressing sight of all those planet-killing cars. Perhaps it's the prospect of haggling (which I'm useless at) or the stressful Sunday morning Son and I once had, directing cars at a huge car boot sale as a fundraiser for Cubs (some people became very grumpy and rude if they couldn't park their cars right near the entrance or in the space reserved for disabled drivers).

But spurred on by other frugal bloggers' buying and selling successes, and with the aim of getting nearer Daughter's fundraising target for her Iceland expedition next year, we finally plucked up courage and took ourselves and a car full of tat that we had been accumulating over the summer, to the local car boot. We had procrastinated long enough and there are not going to be many more fair weather Sundays this year, so it was now or never.

How much for the grumpy old man in the woolly hat?

Here's what we learnt.

  • Get there early for a good spot. We arrived at 7am.
  • Doing a car boot sale in October is chilly business. I wished I'd taken a coat and gloves, and we were both thankful for the flask of coffee we had thrown together at 6.30am.
  • We had been told that the dealers will try to rummage through your stuff as soon as you arrive, and indeed they do. One guy was even shining a torch into the back of our car to check out our trash treasure. 
  • It's oh-so-true that one man's trash is another man's treasure. Things that we thought would never sell, did, to our surprise. There will always be a place in somebody's heart for a mug with cats on it or an ugly little bedside lamp. I also hadn't expected that I'd be able to sell Husband. One lady thought his woolly hat/shorts/wellies combo rocked, and was disappointed when, after some consideration, I decided I wouldn't let him go for less than a fiver. Maybe I'll pop a Santa hat on him and stick him in a Christmas raffle.
  • Selling at a car boot is actually very sociable. We met people we hadn't seen for ages, and lots of buyers wanted to have a good chat and tell us why they were buying their selected items.
  • Things that sold well were kids' books, small bric a brac items, toiletries, shoes and boots. We had a lot of clothing that I thought would sell well, but didn't.
  • We have better self control than we thought - we barely spent any of the takings - just £2 on a ream of recycled printer paper, which we needed anyway, and I blew a whole 10p on three good writing pens.
I have no idea what constitutes good takings but considering we didn't have any big ticket items, we were glad to go home £40 richer, especially as we didn't stay until the bitter end.

Now we've done one, I would definitely feel more confident about selling stuff there again, and I would also feel happier to go and hunt for bargains. Although the nature of car boot sales encourages car use, obviously, if stuff is being kept in circulation and out of land fill then that's got to be a good thing hasn't it?

If you're a car boot enthusiast with any top tips I'd love to hear them! Or are car boot sales really not your thing?


  1. I have a car boot sale every so often. I go with the sole aim to get rid of stuff and have no expectations of making money as I've spent the money already so anything back is a bonus. Tips ? - take a flask and butties and plenty of change, take your time setting up and make the stall nice and clean, a cloth on the pasting table & price things before hand. Not everyone will agree with this but not everyone likes to haggle. It saves you being caught on the hop 'how much?' ummmm?? if it's labelled you have a starting point. I change prices up or down depending on how it's going. I won't haggle over pennies, I'd rather throw it away. Have fun, I've sold a toaster with free crumbs and any number of things with free dust. I don't do carrier bags. Bring your own if you are shopping a car boot sale. Don't expect me to sell you something for 50p and gift wrap it. Car boot sales - sometime I love them and sometimes I hate them and everyone will be the last one that I ever do.....until the next time!

    1. Thanks for all those tips! We thought of some of those things - table cloths and the flask - and mustered enough change by paying the entry fee with a £20 note but I wish I had taken some food as I was starving by 10am!

  2. I never make very much selling. Last time I went I made about £50, but the stall next to me made £150! They were kind enough to mind my stall while I hunted for some bargains - an unused baking tray for 30p, a tin opener for 50p, a gardening book for 20p, and a pair of PJ's for £1 that still had the label on. I have decided that for me the savings are made buying rather than selling.

    Tips for buying is to get there early. Not so early that people haven't had time to unpack though. It feels rude to hastle half-asleep people who are trying to set up. I take a shopping trolley and a big ikea bag, in case I buy something bulky (normally wicker baskets, but occasionally light fittings or a clothes horse). Most stallholders will let you leave things with them while you finish shopping though - just don't forget where they are! Walking boots warm layers and a bottle of water are essentials too.

    I rarely bother looking at the first row of stalls. I find that I buy the most on row 3 at my local carboot sale. I think the regular carbooters or professional sellers or keen people who want to earn a lot, are normally on the first row. The middle rows are full of 'occasional' booters who aren't used to an early start. They shop at Next and have lots of lovely homeware or clothes that are clean and in good condition. The last row are the ones who haven't prepared. They just chuck everything in the car and arrive late, without a table, and their goods tend to be less cared for too. Have I over analysed this?!!

    The next tip is to look at the stallholders, especially if you are buying clothes, because the chances are they will be selling something similar to what they are wearing. If you don't like their look walk on and it will save you rummaging through looking at the labels. Don't be afraid to rummage through clothes, it can be a bit daunting the first time. If you find one thing you like on a stall that is the size you are looking for then rummage through everything else, because you are likely to find some more. If you don't like the first few things you see or they are the wrong sizes then walk on.

    Try to buy useful things that you like and need. Don't waste money bringing junk home. Have a few things in mind that you are looking for, like warm ski wear for your daughter or some books, that way you can skip all the stalls with electrical gadgets or baby clothes. I have been looking for things for the allotment and bought a push mower for cutting the grass paths for £2, a dibber for 10p and some shears for 50p.

    If the price is £1 always ask them if they would take 50p. That is all there is to haggling. Most of the time people say yes. Did you say yes when you were selling? If they say no you decide whether you still want it for that much or not. If I am pleased with the original price (like with the lawnmower) then I don't bother haggling. If the price is too high, then don't buy it (especially with clothes that may not fit), because chances are you will find another one cheaper on a different stall.

    Are you going to the carboot this coming weekend? I hope you enjoy it and let us know all the bargains you find. You could come to one with me if we lived a bit closer, but I hope my tips help :-)

    1. Wow! You could write a book on car boot buying and selling! It sounds like it would be worth travelling to Loughborough just to visit a car boot sale with you! Thanks for all those great tips.

  3. £40 is better than a poke in the eyes with a sharp stick isn't it? well done. I try and avoid the "trader" stalls and just go for the booters who want to get rid and go home as they seem to have a more reasonable pricing scheme.

    I'm glad you went, it's an eye opener ok lol x

    1. Yes, absolutely happy with £40 for a fun morning that was no hassle. I agree the ordinary booters' stalls are more fun - more random stuff to rummage around. Thanks for helping inspire us with your car boot blog post a while back!

  4. I have never seen a car boot sale. There are flea markets where you can rent a table, but not a place where you can drive your car up. Did you have to pay rent for your space?

    1. So there's no US equivalent? Maybe Yard Sales are the closest you get to a car boot sale? We paid £6 to sell. There is a free car boot in Trowbridge but it's further away so we decided to stick with our nearest boot sale.