13 Money-Saving Tips When Buying Furniture

By Alice Garbarini Hurley · October 18, 2023 · 8 minute read

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13 Money-Saving Tips When Buying Furniture

Buying furniture can be a major expense, especially in this era of quickly rising prices. Some shoppers are holding off making purchases: Inflation is pinching consumers across all income levels, and home furnishings sales are falling.

Still, if you don’t have a bundle of cash earmarked for furniture shopping but need to decorate a space (hello, newlyweds, roomies, and downsizers), you can learn how to save money buying furniture and score great finds. Here, learn how to save money on furniture with surprising techniques, including:

•   Finding free pieces at the curb

•   Lucking out with returned or floor-model items

•   Getting the timing right for sales

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How Much Do People Spend on Furniture a Year?

As of 2021, the average expenditure on furniture per family (or single person household) was about $716 in the United States. In more affluent households, the average annual spend was $1,490 in 2021.

Recommended: 10 Most Common Budgeting Mistakes

What Are Some Costs to Consider With Furniture?

When shopping for furniture, remember that it’s not just the cost of the table or chair you might be buying. You’ll also need to build in these extra expenses:

•   Taxes.

•   Shipping or delivery fees.

•   Extra costs for assembly or for getting a piece up the stairs or around the hall corner and into a room.

•   Possibly paying to have the old piece you are replacing (a bed or sofa, for example) removed.

•   Stain-resistant treatments on upholstered furniture, which generally add to the value and longevity of a sofa, chair, or headboard.

Recommended: Questions You Should Ask Before Making an Impulse Buy

Saving Money on Furniture: 13 Ways

Now, for the details of how to save money buying furniture. Here are some smart secrets to try.

1. Shopping Curb Discards

Many towns have bulky waste pickup days, and savvy people know to cruise curbs around town on those dates. You could find anything from still functional bookcases to an antique side table to patio furniture to a great lamp or two. It’s generally safer to avoid mattresses, box springs and upholstered furniture due to the possibility that bed bugs are lurking.

2. Signing Up at Sites You Love

Many online retailers are eager to get your email address and/or cell phone number as a “subscriber” so they can alert you to sales and special offers. In exchange for this information, they may dangle discount or free shipping codes for your first order. Yes, these messages can clog your inbox, but you can always unsubscribe once you score the furniture deals you want.

3. Buying Directly From the Manufacturer

Another idea for how to save money on furniture: Go straight to the source. For more than 50 years, shoppers have been buying well-made furniture from manufacturers at Hickory Furniture Mart in Hickory, North Carolina. The Mart unites local independent furniture retailers, including custom order showrooms, factory direct outlets, furniture outlets, and dedicated manufacturers’ galleries. Check their website to see the various vendors available.

Recommended: 15 Creative Ways to Save Money

4. Checking Out Furniture In Person Before Clicking Online

Many consumers are confident enough to order items online, but with big purchases like a sofa, it can help to see products up close (and sit on them) first. See if your local department store stocks the sofa you have seen online or other pieces made by that brand, so you can get a feel for the fabric, design, and construction. That could save you the time, effort, and cost of having to return an item.

5. Considering the Upcycling Option

Many things are upcycled now for a more sustainable planet with less of a carbon footprint. That means taking something that could have ended up in the trash and turning it into treasure. Paint a lamp and pop on a new shade, for example, or refinish a worn out table or dresser to refresh its good looks and perhaps pop on some new hardware, too.

Recommended: Ways to Save Money While Living Sustainably

6. Planning a Realistic Budget for Your New Home

Are you starting from scratch to furnish a home? Experts say a furnishing budget generally depends on the size of a new residence. You might make a budget based on a percentage of the total cost of your home. Your furniture/decorating budget might range from a low of 10% to a high of 50% of the home’s purchase price, depending on your finances. And certainly, with the shopping hacks listed here, you can whittle that down.

Recommended: Tips for Furnishing a New Home

7. Turning Down Store Credit Cards

Department or furniture store credit cards can often run up staggering interest rates, something you definitely do not want when buying furniture. If at all possible, save enough money to pay for furniture in full and with cash or debit card.

8. Building Your Own Furniture

Could you DIY something, like a bookshelf, wood bench, or Shaker-style dresser? Good old YouTube has videos to teach you.

Recommended: Why Saving Money Is Important

9. Buying Secondhand

Another idea for how to save on furniture: Buy used vs. new. For starters, check Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist for deals. Many people are paring back or moving and want to get rid of things without adding them to a landfill. You can also look for bargains at antique stores, flea markets, garage sales, and thrift shops.

Recommended: Tips for Buying Furniture on a Budget

10. Staying Tuned In to Sales Seasons

To cut costs, know when prices are likely to be lower. Desk chairs and office furniture are often on sale in the fall. Cyber Monday can be a huge opportunity for savings of all kinds. Ask the salesperson when prices will dip to make way for new merchandise on the sales floor.

Recommended: Best Time to Purchase Furniture

11. Creating a Gift Registry

You might be able to get loved ones to help a bit with the cost of furniture; group gifting options on your wishlist items could allow several people to chip in. This is, as you might guess, especially popular for couples starting their lives together. Crate & Barrel, for example, often offers perks, such as free shipping (at a certain spend threshold) and 15% discounts on wedding registry purchases.

12. Finding a Local Auction

Here’s another way to save on furniture: Check out local auctions. You might be able to find old treasures, from sideboards to headboards, that make great statement pieces at an affordable price. Estate sales are also good sources for items like these.

13. Shopping for Returned or Slightly Damaged Items

If you can live with furniture that isn’t brand new and untouched by anyone else, you could score some great deals. On the Pottery Barn website, for instance, search for Open Box Deals, which are returned items that sell at discounted prices. Sometimes it’s just that someone didn’t like the color. In furniture showrooms, inquire about slightly damaged items (perhaps a table has a scratch you barely notice) and also ask about floor models.

The Takeaway

With the right shopping skills in your toolkit, you can save money on buying furniture. By employing smart strategies, such as scouring estate sales and thrift shops, buying returned items, and negotiating on the sales floor, you can save a bundle on great-looking as you furnish your home.

3 Money Tips

  1. If you’re saving for a short-term goal — whether it’s a vacation, a wedding, or the down payment on a house — consider opening a high-yield savings account. The higher APY that you’ll earn will help your money grow faster, but the funds stay liquid, so they are easy to access when you reach your goal.
  2. If you’re creating a budget, try the 50/30/20 budget rule. Allocate 50% of your after-tax income to the “needs” of life, like living expenses and debt. Spend 30% on wants, and then save the remaining 20% towards saving for your long-term goals.
  3. When you overdraft your checking account, you’ll likely pay a non-sufficient fund fee of, say, $35. Look into linking a savings account to your checking account as a backup to avoid that, or shop around for a bank that doesn’t charge you for overdrafting.
Better banking is here with SoFi, NerdWallet’s 2024 winner for Best Checking Account Overall.* Enjoy up to 4.60% APY on SoFi Checking and Savings.

FAQ

Is it better to buy used or new furniture?

This is not a question of better or worse. Some shoppers prefer snagging deals on used furniture and enjoy hunting for pieces such as a vintage oak dresser at a thrift shop. Others want new pieces, either because they prefer the style or they like the idea of owning something that has no wear. It’s a matter of personal taste, though buying used pieces, in addition to costing less, may help keep pieces out of landfill and sync with eco values.

What should I look out for when purchasing furniture?

Search for styles, colors, and lines you love, as well as comfort and function. A desk won’t help you out if it doesn’t have the drawer space you need, and a sofa is a fail if it’s not comfy and solidly made. Also look for solid wood, not composites or laminates, if you want a long-lasting quality piece. Some pieces (such as an upholstered chair) may come with warranties against wear and tear and stains.

Where can I purchase used furniture?

As more people strive for sustainability and resist tossing away furniture, options abound for finding used pieces. Check thrift shops, donation centers, secondhand stores, estate sales, garage sales, Craigslist, and Facebook Marketplace.


Photo credit: iStock/Vanit Janthra

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