Sunday, October 24, 2010

What I learn from ‘the car boot sale @ swap meet’.

It’s Sunday today, my husband and I have some plans to give our sitting area a new look. How I wish we were in the UK or Australia right at this moment to be at the car boot sales to find the odd and unique items with a cut-rate cost, but not shoddy (if you choose wisely).

I enjoyed my Sunday mornings –  rain or shine at the basement car boot Greenside Edinburgh (suffocating though); another covered swap meet at Broadway Fair, Perth, WA; the huge open parking area of Belmont shopping centre, Perth, WA (approximately 200-250 sellers and traders (with a bigger number of bargain hunters, of course); and some other times, when we went visiting friends all around the UK, car boot sales were one of the main activities on Sunday mornings, especially for the postgraduates families.

By the way, to those who are unfamiliar with car boot sales (UK term) and swap meets (OZ term),  it’s a place to buy bargain stuff, mainly pre-loved items (clothing, shoes, luggage, house decors, kitchen appliances) as well as other new unused items sold by traders. In swap meets, pots of plants (flower plants to herbs, including curry leaves, lemon grass, chilli plants), fertilizers and insecticides could be seen and bought.

For some, it’s a crowded place selling junks, but for me, it’s an interesting place to see the culture of others, to have a peep in another’s life, and ultimately, to find something that I need with lower prices (oh, and I could brush up my bargaining skills too!). For the newbie in town, car boot sale is also a place to meet Malaysians!

There were some lessons learned from these car boot sales;

Firstly, I need to have a list. If I didn’t plan things that I needed (and wanted) to buy, I ended up buying things that I didn’t need. When I was in Australia, what I did was (during recuperating days after giving birth to Alwani), I planned on how I want to furnish each room in the (imaginary Malaysian) house (3 bedrooms+2 bathrooms +kitchen +lounge).

Then I usually added another bullet point or two of the things that were needed immediately i.e Alwani’s winter wear size 00-0, Al Fateh wooden puzzles (not compulsory, though! Hahah). For the wives out there, do seek your husband’s permission; he’s going to pay the shipment!

Secondly, if you fail to produce a list, don’t despair, you can still go, BUT you must set a budget. Though from my experience, this was a pretty bad idea. Consider this scenario, I had AUD15 budget, and I brought only that amount to Belmont, no more, no less; and I intend to finish every cent of it on the things that I might need. Do you think it’s wise? But at least when having a (small-ish) budget, you won’t be coming home with too much regrets.

Hence, if you don’t have a list, stay at home! Or better yet, use your $15 budget to buy goodies at Woolies for a picnic/BBQ brunch at King’s Park or Burswood Park, by the Swan River. Or if it’s a beautifully rare sunny day in Edinburgh, why don't we enjoy a cuppa steaming hot coffee with prawn mayo sandwiches accompanied with a truly good book at the Princes Street Gardens. Bliss!

Thirdly, I learn the art of bargaining. I must admit that I'm a good haggler! I think it's inherited from Mak.

Fourthly,  I learn to choose wisely (expensive less quality items vs cheap high quality stuff). If you're a pro-car boot bargain hunters, you'll learn to be choosy. Always remember that you're going to use this item for a long time. And when you found 'it', BARGAIN! It's a must! Wajib!! Oh, and do pay attention to  the sellers, too, since they are the indicator of the products being sold.

Fifthly, when you plan well on the things that you ought to buy, trust me, you'll save a huge sum of money. For us who were just starting our lives in Malaysia, only having our wedding gifts to start our lives with, car boot sales offer a large variety of things that could be essential in your house, both in the UK/Australia as well as Malaysia, that is if you're not too fussy. Roughly, our house that we're staying in at the moment are 80% filled with stuff we bought abroad, both from car boot sales and store sales. Quick instances: Hamza Yusuf are still wearing Al Fateh's clothes which we bought from swap meets, their funky sturdy bookshelf reminded me of the days teaching in Al Hidayah Islamic School, where I used it there earlier.

However, sometimes it's better to save the money from the car boot sales and wait for the Boxing Day sales. i.e. I did not find a suitable and attractive floral arrangement for my lounge, so I did not buy any from the swap meet. It would be useless if I buy the bouquet (which I did not fancy) because I believe that it'll remain in the shipment box forever and ever! Trust me, you should not pay the shipping fees for the things that you don't need. Life's too short to waste your time, money, energy...

So last but not least spare your money for the first-hand items. Use your Argos catalogues (in the UK) and weekly junk mails (Western Australians) as your guide. You need to do your homework to compare prices. Our lovely Corelle was 'buy 2 and get 1 free' sale item at Big W ($80 for 24pax set!), the TEFAL and Marks &; Spencers cookware were bought during post-Christmas sale. Remember the floral arrangement in my list? I found the perfect dark red 'fresh' peony arrangement at Target, 4 days before we shipped our 'treasures' from Australia. And not to forget, for huge furniture, we frequent the charity shops to find good bargains i.e Al Fateh's pine bed and the sturdy study table.
CBS collections: mirror panels 3 for $5, wooden frames 5 for $5, and my lovely red 'fresh' peony $35.99 $9.75 (I still have the price tag on!)

To those who can still enjoy car boot sales and swap meet, I envy you!


  1. saya pun rindu CBS dekat Belmont..
    and of course if i get to know my husband before he came back to Malaysia, i will make a full list every sunday for him to go and buy me things on CBS in london..heheh

  2. hahah, benar, memang benar! Insha Allah ada rezeki duduk oversea lagi nanti.. muda lagi korang! Bila mula sambung belajar?


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