Outside of your home and car, furniture and electronics represents some of the biggest purchases the average consumer can make. Buying furniture can be expensive, but there are dozens of ways to save. Here are a few tips when shopping for furniture on a tight budget.
Make a List: First and foremost, make a list of the furniture you need and prioritize it. When weighing purchases that are not on your list, just ask yourself “Do I really need that other lava lamp?” If you don’t trust yourself to stay on task, bring a frugal friend to help keep you on task.
Measure Twice, Buy Once: Measure the dimensions of your apartment and envision what pieces might fit where. Also, you should measure any doors, hallways and elevators that you have to move any purchased furniture through. Take these measurements with you when shopping so you know it will fit. While some retailers will allow returns, many do not. Be sure to inquire about their return policy before you commit to any purchase.
Measure the Value and Life of Furniture: When shopping for furniture, think about the short term cost and the life of the piece. Will you take it with you to your next home? Does it only fit in this specific room? The third rule is to consider purchasing more expensive items that you will take with you, like a bed and couch, and fill in the rest of the apartment with less expensive items you can replace over time.
With these rules and measurements in hand, here are the best places to find budget –friendly furniture.
YARD/GARAGE SALES/FLEA MARKETS
As the old saying goes, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” Finding a useful piece of furniture at a garage sale can be an amazing coup for the enterprising renter. From beds to armoires to dishes and kitchen equipment, people are always trying to make a dollar or two of the household items that they are no longer using. During the warmer months from spring to early fall, checking your neighborhood for garage sale signs can be a wonderful way to help you find furniture for your home. Most yard sales tend to be advertised locally, so check out your local paper, sign posts or even your neighborhood website for listings. Your local paper’s website will also likely give information for Garage/Yard sales on the classified section of their site. If you’re getting ready to go to a garage sale, check out some tips from YardSalePortal.com.
ONLINE RESOURCES (EBAY/CRAIGSLIST)
Online community sites like EBay and Craigslist are terrific venues for those who prefer to pick their treasures from the comfort of their own living room. In addition to having a full stock of retail furniture, Ebay’s Furniture Category is a great place to buy consignment furniture. There are a couple of benefits of EBay over garage sales: it’s virtual, meaning you never have to leave the comfort of your apartment, and it is offers thousands of items from the obvious to obscure, so you’re more likely to find the piece the you’re looking for. As with any “virtual” purchase, it is difficult to know exactly what you are buying. When making your selections, check the seller’s rating to ensure the source of your purchase is credible. Chances are, if dozens of other people have been pleased with the person or vendor, you probably will be, too. To save money (and potential haggling later on), be sure to negotiate the delivery of the item ahead of time.
If you are looking for more local resources, log onto Craigslist and start shopping the virtual isles of furniture. Craigslist is a more personalized and localized approach, but requires more personal involvement and negotiation. You must negotiate the terms of the price, condition and delivery directly with the seller. You should go and see the piece of furniture before committing to the purchase. Take precautions such as speaking to the seller on the phone, getting the seller’s full name, arranging a meeting in a public place, taking a friend with you and leaving a record of where, when and why you are meeting the seller. Craigslist has gotten a bad reputation over the years, but if you take precautions, it is another great way to find gently used, affordable furniture.
CHAIN STORES (IKEA, TARGET, WAL-MART, etc.)
Shopping at a large value based retailer might be the most reasonable and achievable way to furnish your apartment with new pieces on a budget. A great benefit of making a furniture purchase from a huge retail store is that it can be a virtual purchase requiring nothing more than a couple of minutes on a website and a credit card, or it can be an actual real world purchase where you can see and touch your furniture purchase. These retailers leverage their goliath distribution and marketing networks to bring you the very lowest prices on practically everything. While the desk set from IKEA may not be the last piece of furniture you own, you can’t beat the selection of attractive, low priced options the Big Box stores provide.