5 Tips for Buying Furniture on a Budget

eHow Money Blog

Furniture shopping can be a challenge in part because of the dizzying variety of options, styles, price points and levels of quality. Whether you’re a recent grad furnishing a first apartment or you need to fill in some gaps with a few new pieces, these tips will help you get the most bang for your buck.


  1. Assess your needs. Before going furniture shopping, make a list of what you need so you stay focused. “Don’t look all around,” says Kathy Peterson, a design expert, TV host and author. “Scout for what’s on your shopping list, and stay with it. If you’re seeking furniture, skip the china section.” Robert McNellis, a vintage reseller and flea market veteran, also suggests making a floor plan of your space, complete with measurements. Otherwise, it’s all too easy to buy a coffee table that’s too big or too small or a desk that doesn’t quite fit your office.
  2. Consider your options. For those who prefer new furniture over used items, McNellis suggests hitting a furniture store’s outlet or asking if the store has any floor samples for sale. If you’re open to buying used, however, you have a lot more bargain-friendly options, including thrift and consignment shops, flea markets, antique markets or shops, estate sales, yard sales and websites like Craigslist. When browsing Craigslist, McNellis recommends looking under the furniture category as well as exploring the garage sale and estate sale section.
  3. Bring supplies. Carry a tape measure to check that items will actually fit your space. For flea markets or estate sales, where you may be buying lots of smaller items in addition to furniture, Peterson suggests bringing a few large shopping bags so you can carry things around more easily. For estate sales, she also suggests that shoppers “carry some tape and note cards with HOLD and your NAME or it the host does not allow that, rhey may give you their own signage. Otherwise, [have] a partner who can stand by the piece guarding it from others who want to buy it.”
  4. Check used items carefully. Used furniture is bound to have a few little nicks or dings, but make sure that the item is sturdy and that any drawers open and close properly. “Don’t worry if it’s pink,” Peterson says. “You can always change the color with paint if it’s a great find. Loose joints, if not damaged, can be easily glued together. With stains, be careful if you’re seeking rugs, artwork or fine wood pieces. Use your best judgment if it can be cleaned or repaired.”
  5. Don’t be afraid to negotiate. Furniture prices are often negotiable, especially when an item is used. Having sold items at numerous antique markets, McNellis suggests being polite and telling the seller you’re serious about buying. “The worst thing you can say is, ‘That’s only worth 30 dollars,’ ” he explains. “Instead, say, ‘I’d really like that table, but I’ve only got 30 dollars.’ Another trick is ‘What’s your best price? I really like it, but I’m on a budget.’ ” A strategy he’s seen work is offering what you’re willing to pay and asking the seller to call you if the item doesn’t sell and will accept that price. “As long as you’re polite, you can negotiate a lot of places you wouldn’t think,” McNellis says.

Photo credit: Getty ThinkStock

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