Swap Meets

When was the last time you were invited to a swap meet? How many of us actually remember them? For those of you who are new to the ways of the frugalista, a swap meet is “An informal gathering for the barter or sale of used articles or handicrafts.” The last swap meet that I recall was at my elementary school back around 1974.

Until this year.

Swap meets are now back in fashion. The Great Recession has made thrift and fiscal responsibility fashionable, even for people who can afford to spend as if it were 1999 again. People are swapping women’s clothing, books, and pretty much anything else that can be traded. Swaps are being organized in private homes and in public places and the rules of each swap can be as varied as the people participating in the swap or the items being traded.

If you look around your home, I suspect you will find a lot of useful items that may now be useless to you. For example, I have a wardrobe of clothing that I wore when I weighed 80 pounds more than I do now. I am not likely to ever need those clothes again (and my wife has made it very clear to me that I better not need those clothes again) so those clothes are ripe for trading. I am sure that if you check your closets, drawers, garage, storage spaces and any other place where you may keep your possessions, you too will find a lot that you can trade in exchange for items that will be more useful to you.

Of course, in order to trade with others, you will need to find a swap meet, and that may require you to organize the swap meet first. Here are a few simple rules for organizing your swap meet:

Establish the rules for your meet before you send out the invitations: You can establish any rules that you want to establish. Your swap meet may be modeled after a rugby match with everything piled into the middle of a large room and participants fighting and pushing their way through the pile to get the best items. Of course, I would look for something a bit more civilized and structured, whether that means drawing names from a hat to establish the order for picking items or something else just as organized.

Plan your guest list so that there will be something for everyone: If you invite 12 people to a swap meet and none of the people have similar taste or sizes, there may be nothing to trade. Look for compatibility among your participants — but not so much that no one wants to trade away their own items. Also, think big. I recently read about one woman who planned a swap meet at a night club. She invited everyone in her Facebook friend list and told them to invite their friends. Three hundred people showed up for the event.

Consider your theme: A general swap meet involving people who bring different items might work, but you will probably have greater success if you instruct guests to bring “ten clothing items” or “ten baby items” or “ten best selling books” rather than issuing a general instruction to bring “stuff you want to get rid of.”

Serve Refreshments: Turn your swap meet into more of a party by serving refreshments and ensuring that the event is both social and practical. Guests will be more likely to return for subsequent swap meets if you make the event fun for them.

Decide up front what you will do with items that are now swapped: Some people may want to keep items that they cannot trade away. Others might be happy to see them go to charity. State in your invitation what guests should expect at the end of the event? Will everything go to a charity or will they have to sift through a pile of cast offs to figure out what they need to bring home?

Whether you are hosting a swap meet or attending one. Whether you hold a meet in someone’s home or in a church hall or some other public place, a swap meet is a great way to get new items for your wardrobe or your library or your movie collection or a host of other things, without having to spend any cash. What do you think? Will you be swapping with anyone anytime soon?

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4 Responses to Swap Meets

  1. Ann says:

    Have to admit that recently I heard about women from high income families getting together to swap designer clothes and laughed a bit, but thought it was a good idea!

    Don’t know about elsewhere, but here in the midwest there still are the big outdoor swap meets.

    I have a friend who used to look for antique pottery at yard sales, etc, take it to a swap meet in one of the higher rent areas and sell it for a profit to collectors. She tells me that those type of swap meets have gone downhill — lots of cheap, imported items and little of any worth, plus a shortage of buyers willing to part with their disposal income.

    When I left corporate, I kept a handful of very expensive outfits that now don’t fit. I checked out some resale shops but they’re getting so much traffic these days that they weren’t even willing to meet! I’m not quite ready to give them to Goodwill or the Salvation Army and am considering checking out E-Bay. They’re all things that, if worn at all, were only worn once and then cleaned. Your idea is an additional option.

    It’ll be interesting to see what people have to say! :-)

  2. Annie Jones says:

    I’m also from the Midwest, and there are several places…usually outdoors at drive-in movie theaters…where swap meets happen every weekend. Or at least every weekend that the weather allows. We go to them several times a year.

  3. Persephone says:

    I have never tried a swap meet and I don’t think I could. Trading clothes just seems awkward to me.

  4. spicoli says:

    I would love to be able to trade movies. I have a lot of DVDs that I know I will never watch again.

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