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How to Save Money Buying Inexpensive Furniture for Your Home

By Casey Slide

furniture store displayRecently, a friend of mine told me her young son was jumping out of his crib. He is only a year and a half, and his new ability took his mother by surprise. She had concerns about the safety of her son, and concerns about the costs associated with buying her son a new toddler or twin bed.

Whether you’ve been saving up to buy some furniture to decorate your home, or you need to make an unexpected furniture purchase, there is no need to worry about the cost. Fortunately, there are a variety of places to shop, and many ways to save money on furniture.

Where to Shop for Furniture

1. Online
Acquiring furniture consists of two main steps: shopping and buying. Before you buy, you need to shop. By shopping online, you can get a better idea of what styles you like, and how much you can expect to pay for the furniture you need. You can also browse more stores in a shorter amount of time, without spending money on gas.

Once you have a better idea of what you need, and what you can expect to pay, start browsing stores to buy furniture. Look on a variety of different websites, including eBay, Ikea, Macy’s, Overstock.com, and Pottery Barn. If you peruse online auctions, discount shopping websites, and department stores, you can find a range of prices for similar items.

Pay close attention to the construction of the furniture, and compare prices for hardwood and laminate. Hardwood furniture lasts longer, but inexpensive laminate furniture can be an excellent choice if you plan on replacing it in the next five years.

2. Thrift Stores
A friend told me recently that he bought a really nice, sturdy dining room table at Goodwill. He brought it home, sanded it down, and painted the table. Best of all, he only paid $25 for it, and $20 for the restoration supplies. His wife loves the new table, and especially loves the price he paid.

You may have to put a little elbow grease into cleaning up used furniture, but in the end, you’ll have something cheap and unique that you can be proud of in your home. Pay close attention to scratches, dents, and other signs of wear and tear when shopping for used furniture. Determine whether you can fix the damage, or if you can live with it.

Watch for special sales days, to get the best deal on your used furniture. Goodwill and the other large thrift store chains offer additional savings on specific items in their stores during sales. Thrift stores also offer discounts to senior citizens.

3. Garage Sales/Estate Sales
In addition to thrift stores, garage sales and estate sales offer many treasures. Use your imagination when looking at pieces, to think how you might use them in your own home. For example, an old stereo cabinet could be a fun alternative to a newly constructed entertainment center. However, keep in mind that the furniture found at garage sales and estate sales may require some refurbishing.

A little luck finding the perfect piece never hurts, but try employing the buddy system, where friends and family members shopping at garage sales keep an eye out for the furniture you need.

4. Classifieds/Craigslist
Check out the classifieds and Craigslist to quickly find used furniture, without going from garage sale to garage sale. Use some creativity as you look through the listings to envision how you could restore and use each piece in your home.

Use a variety of words and phrases when conducting your online search on Craigslist. For example, search for wardrobes and armoires, couches and sofas, and end tables and side tables, to narrow your search and find the furniture you need.

furniture stacks

5. Freecycle
The Freecycle Network enables people to give away their unwanted items to other people for free, as a way to recycle. Sign up on the website to begin searching for free furniture in your area. These items may need refurbishing, but since they are free, that certainly makes up for any supplies you may need to buy for restoration. When you use Freecycle, you also act as a good steward of our planet, by keeping waste out of the landfills.

6. Warehouse Clubs
When my husband and I were shopping for a bedroom set, we happened to receive a flyer in the mail from Costco. I occasionally shop at there, but I never knew that warehouse clubs sold furniture. After researching the Costco product line, we found deeply discounted, high quality furniture. They also offered free delivery for the items we purchased.

Based on my experience buying my Costco bedroom set, I would definitely shop at a warehouse club for furniture in the future.

7. Outlets
Outlet centers offer great deals as well. I bought furniture from a Pottery Barn outlet for a fraction of the original cost. Outlets do not always offer bargain prices, however, so make sure you comparison shop before buying furniture from an outlet mall.

Tip: Before you buy furniture from an outlet store, do some research to find out the original, pre-sale prices. Unless the furniture at the outlet mall is substantially discounted, you may want to wait and see if the item goes on clearance.

8. Clearance/Scratch and Dent Area
Many furniture stores have a clearance area, or a “scratch and dent” area, in the back of the store. When you enter, head straight for the back of the building. My husband and I found a table we wanted, along with some chairs, for a quarter of the retail price, mainly because each piece had a tiny scratch on it. If we had missed the clearance area, we would have paid full price for the table, and all of the chairs.

When you examine items in the clearance area, make sure to inspect the furniture carefully for damage. Remember, everything ended up in the clearance because it didn’t sell, so it may have scratches, stains, or other signs of wear.

9. Ikea
Ikea has a contemporary style, while providing unique storage in order to maximize your space. While Ikea does offer great prices, if their modern style does not match well with the motif of your home, you may not want to take the time to get lost in the store. Ikea has inexpensive furniture, but watch out; many of the items require self-assembly.

10. Auctions
Auctions offer another way to buy furniture for bargain prices. Visit auction houses in your area to find out more about the types of upcoming auctions they have planned. When you bid on an item, remember to stick to your budget. You don’t want to overbid or get caught up in the moment, and bid more than you can afford.

When buying used or antique furniture at an auction, examine it carefully beforehand. Look for evidence of wear and tear, scratches, tears, and other types of damage. Determine if the furniture needs restoration, and if it does need refurbishing, consider the cost of the work and the supplies as part of the overall cost.

11. Hand-me-Downs
Make sure friends and family know that you need furniture, and accept the gift of used furniture from them. It might seem embarrassing, but most people start out this way, by accepting an old couch or TV from a friend or family member.

You help your loved ones clear out some much-needed space in their homes, and they help you furnish your home. One day, you can return the favor, giving some of your gently used furniture to someone else in need.

How to Save Money During the Buying Process

1. Evaluate Your Needs
When it comes to home furniture, less is definitely more. The less furniture you have, the more space you have to live. Determine what pieces you truly need, and which pieces you can do without. Also consider how to arrange furniture to optimize your space before you shop.

2. Repurpose and Recycle
Before you shop for new or used furniture, check to see if you have anything in your home that could be reused. For example, if you have an old couch, can it be re-upholstered or made to look more contemporary? Also, check your attic or basement to make sure you haven’t forgotten anything that you could use for furniture.

3. Have Patience
Inevitably, stores have sales, and it pays to wait until those sales occur. If you can wait until an item goes on clearance, that’s even better. Patience is certainly a virtue when it comes to furniture shopping!

4. Factor in Tax and Delivery into the Cost
Set a budget for buying furniture, and make sure to include tax and delivery in the final price. If you want a recliner and have a budget of $500, for instance, look for recliners in the $300 to $400 range. Some stores may also tack on some sort of furniture protection treatment, which also adds to the final cost of the item.

5. Buy the Floor Sample
In order to get a decent discount, ask the salesperson if you can buy the floor sample. You may have to wait to receive the piece, but it will be well worth the wait. Some stores may even have floor sample sales, so make sure to check the Sunday paper each week, just in case. You could also ask the salesperson about upcoming floor sample sales.

chair floor samples

6. Use Your Credit Card
I’m not always a big fan of credit cards, because they lead many people into debt. However, whenever I make a large purchase, I use my credit card to earn credit card rewards, or cash back, and then I immediately pay off the balance the following month.

Many stores offer 0% financing for furniture purchases. If you take advantage of a “same as cash” deal, make sure to pay off your balance before the interest rates begin to accrue.

7. Shop at the End of the Month or Quarter
Some salespeople have sales quotas that they need to meet by the end of certain time periods. Wait until the end of the month or quarter to shop for furniture, and you may be able to save even more on your purchase. Stores also try to turn over their older inventory during these times, so take advantage of those savings, too.

8. Consider Furniture Upkeep
Consider the cost of upkeep when deciding on furniture. Some colors, and some types of fabric and materials, need more upkeep than others. For example, if you have to vacuum or steam clean fabric, and you don’t own a steam cleaner, you will have to pay to hire a professional cleaner or to rent a machine.

9. Buy Patio Furniture for Indoors
Patio furniture often costs less than indoor furniture and can work inside your home. In fact, I often can’t tell the difference between indoor and outdoor furniture, because the newest patio furniture is so well-made.

Look at stores like Pier 1 and World Market for outdoor furniture that can work inside your home. Brands like Lloyd/Flanders offer high-end, all-weather wicker furniture. Best of all, if you decide you want a change in the future, you can easily move your wicker furniture outside.

10. Negotiate
Never forget to negotiate a deal. Salespeople often have the power to negotiate, so it never hurts to ask. If they can’t offer a discount on a single piece that you want to buy, find out if they can offer a discount on multiple items, or throw in free delivery or some other deal to help make the price more affordable.

If you need some help in this area, learn more about effective negotiation strategies to get a good deal.

11. Buy One Piece at a Time
When shopping for furniture, remember, you don’t have to replace everything in your home at once. You can spread out your purchases, so you only buy one large item for your home each year. This saves you money and gives you time to wait for annual sales, your next annual pay raise, or even your tax return money.

Final Word

If you put more effort into the furniture hunt, and you’re willing to restore used items, you’ll save more money. Shop with an open mind, and let your imagination run wild, finding creative uses for used furniture. Remember to have patience, and know that it may take a while to get what you really need for your home, at the price that you want to pay.

How have you saved money while shopping for furniture?

(photo credit: Shutterstock)

Casey Slide
Casey Slide lives with her husband and baby in Atlanta, GA. She graduated from the University of Florida in 2005 with a bachelor’s degree in Industrial Engineering and worked for a prominent hospital in Atlanta. With the birth of Casey’s son in February 2010, she decided to become a stay-at-home mom. Casey’s interests include reading, running, living green, and saving money.

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  • http://www.startwelllivewell.com Meghan

    I like these ideas–I don’t think avoiding the zero percent financing is always a good idea. If you are disciplined enough to pay regularly and make sure to pay it all off before the interest starts then it can be really beneficial.

  • Danielle

    I think all these suggestions are tremendously helpful but I would have appreciated not only hearing what the salesmen said but what exactly you said to get him to take 15% off.

  • finallygettingtoeven.com

    For me I personally LOVE zero % financing. But I am very OCD so I follow the terms exactly and then I truly have zero %. I have purchased most of my furniture this way and although it has long since been paid off through the years it still makes me smile when I think about how I beat the company (okay, maybe I didn’t, I probably still way overpaid for things that were worth 1/2 the cost) oh well, can’t win them all.

  • http://savingmoneytoday.net Mike – Saving Money Today

    I agree with Danielle. Maybe you can write up a post explaining how to negotiate with a salesman to get a better deal.

  • http://financialbondage.org Financial bondage

    yard sales. if you pay retail you are paying too much.

    Always use cash… and negotiate a lower price. if they want $500, offer $400… or $350. If they say no, leave with your money and shop elsewhere.

  • avani

    Now a days decorating a home is become trend and that’s why it affect the budget of homeowner. The Classy Home online store offers furniture in various range that suit’s everyone’s pocket. The Classy Home online store offers quality furniture at very affordable price. They offers from best furniture brands like acme furniture, Ashley, global furniture, coaster furniture and more. you have option to choose according to your style and budget.

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