Buying Furniture on a Budget
Whether you need to fill an apartment or replace an old sofa, furniture shopping can be stressful and expensive. Here are some pointers so you don’t break the bank.
Measure everything. You don’t want to fall in love with some perfect items, only to find out that they don’t fit together in your place, like unmatched puzzle pieces. Worse yet, you might not be able to fit something through a doorway. Measure everything you can and write down the dimensions.
Avoid veneers, go for solid wood. Veneers are used to dress up otherwise cheap wood, such as MDF or particleboard. You’re better off finding used pieces made from solid wood. Veneers are also prone to damage: splitting, chipping and delaminating. If that happens, you’ll never have any luck fixing it.
Buy new for “soft” things. Fabric and foam cushions can conceal a dirty history. It might seem clean on the surface, but you’ll never be sure if you can trust it, unless you buy new.
Look out for bedbugs. If you insist on saving money by purchasing all your furniture used, including the “soft” stuff, check for bedbugs. They can live in anything with fabric or foam, like upholstered chairs or curtains. Look up some pictures of the telltale spots they leave behind. If an item passes that test, don’t forget to do a smell check.
Craigslist is great for “hard” stuff. Tables, cabinets and wooden chairs all fall into this category. Some people are wary of using Craigslist, but as long as you’re meeting in person and dealing in cash, you can be confident that you’re not going to get scammed over a piece of furniture.
Inspect all used items thoroughly. Test all hinges and joints to make sure they work and feel sturdy. Don’t forget to check visually obscured spots for anything amiss, like water damage.
Take it one step at a time. If you can help it, slowly buy everything you need, piece by piece. Start with the most important items, e.g., beds, couches and tables, and work your way to smaller stuff, e.g., side tables and lamps. You’ll be able to spend more time finding things that match your other stuff — and are priced — “just right.”
Check with the dearly departed. Estate sales are a gold mine for quality furniture at reasonable (or even outrageously cheap) prices.
Beware of price promotions at stores. An item discounted from “regular price” probably isn’t really discounted. It’s a common practice to mark a piece up 50 percent over what it’s expected to sell for.
Haggle. If you’re at a store, you might be able to get a display model for significantly less than the sticker price. Unless they’ve just been set out, these pieces have been put through the wringer of public inspection. As long as you’re happy with it, you can probably talk the salesperson into a steep discount.
Haggle some more. Accessories, such as rugs, sheets and pillows, sell at a markup. Instead of purchasing them on their own, see if you can get the salesperson to throw them in with a larger purchase, such as a couch, or mattress and box spring.
Use movers. Unless you’re a professional mover, hire a service. It’s not worth the headache to hunt down a friend with a large vehicle, secure the furniture, and then risk throwing out your back as you manage the items up a flight of stairs.
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