Solid Furniture on a Skinny Budget

solid furniture on a skinny budgetWhen my wife and I were moving a few months ago we packed everything up in the back of a Uhaul truck. We were actually just moving a few blocks away and renting out our first home. Everything made the trip without a scratch with the exception of one piece – an Ikea dresser. It basically disintegrated in my hands as we tried to move it out of the house. It turns out that particle board does not transport well!

About nine months before the move my wife and I had needed a bit of extra storage space. We decided that Ikea might be the best option for us penny pinching frugalites. And while that fifty dollar wardrobe did its job for a while and held clothes inside of its flimsy doors as advertised, it turns out that many of the uber cheap Ikea products just aren’t made to last – or even be moved once assembled!

But honestly, did we ever expect that furniture we put together with an allen wrench would stand the test of time?

cheap ikea furnitureI had another experience recently with a chair that I picked up at a furniture auction. It cost me $40. It has needed a few repairs over the last few months because of the incredibly cheap manufacturing techniques. Cheap pine and tiny little nails that would barely hold two pieces of paper together are the downfall of this modern cheapo marvel.

So coming from a guy who loves a bargain, buying something on the cheap is actually a bad idea when the thing you are buying is made cheaply. So how do you avoid buying cheap crap? You’ll want to avert nabbing just a cheap deal but concentrate instead on scoring a good value.

Hit the Yard Sales

I have a counter story to my modern piece of junk chair that cost me $40. I was checking out some yard sales last month and found a killer mid-century chair for the same price. This forty bucks went much further for me. Real wood and sturdy design mean that even though this chair is six decades older than its poorly constructed counterpart, it will continue to hold up better over time. Yard sales are great places to find sturdy old furniture that can be a part of your decor for a long time to come – and the prices are pretty hard to beat!

Search Craigslist often

Think of Craigslist as a giant online yard sale. Twenty four hours a day this gem of a website is open for business. Taking to Craigslist for your next furniture purchase could net you some sweet finds. I scour the site a couple of times a week. I even look in other cities when I’m making a road trip to see if there are any awesome deals to be had. Just make sure to be a discerning shopper. Deals abound but so do the scamsters as well. Side note: Sometimes you can even get such a great deal on Craigslist that after you use it for a couple of years, you can sell it for more than you paid! Side note: You can also set up a Craigslist alert for certain searches.

Get Adventurous with Antiquing

Some of my favorite – and most sturdy pieces – have come from antique shops. I recently purchased a beautiful old wooden king sized headboard for $110. You can’t get a new headboard – even at Wal Mart – for that price. It’s solid wood, has amazing style, and will last for a long time to come. Antique shops come in all sorts of different shapes and sizes. Try and find one close to you that offers good bargains on solid old pieces of furniture.

So let this be a reminder to us all. The cheapest option can actually cost you more in the long run. A poorly made product might seem like the right quick fix but you’ll most likely be looking to replace that piece far too soon. You might jump on it because of the super low price tag but it’ll cost you more in the end. Be on the lookout for real value! That’s how you maximize your dollar when furniture shopping.

Have you made cheap furniture purchases that you ended up regretting? Have you had any couches, tables, or chairs just fall apart on you? How do you go about scoring nice pieces on a skinny budget? 

[photos courtesy of Duncan and Collin]

13 Comment responses

  1. Avatar
    September 27, 2013

    While I have definitely purchased cheap furniture, I don’t believe that I ever regretted the purchases. Most of the furniture purchases I made when I was in my 20s was purchased because it was inexpensive; however, I never had any expectation that it would last beyond the apartment or house I was renting at the time. As you note, if the piece of furniture contains a lot of pressed wood (particle board or MDF) and it is put together with a couple of screws and the magical allen wrench, how long do you really think it is going to last?

    I have found that furniture is one of those items that you can sometimes bargain for a lower price or free delivery. Too often, people are just afraid to ask for a lower price.
    James Molet (SavvyJames) recently posted…DetropiaMy Profile

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    • Avatar
      September 28, 2013

      I guess now that I’ve had a few cheapo pieces that didn’t hold up for very long at all, I would just prefer to look around a little bit more for pieces that will hold up for a long time. Like that headboard for instance, it was cheap, but it wasn’t built cheaply.

      And great suggestion on just asking for a discount. The first piece my wife and I purchased together we used that approach – and it worked! It was a clearance couch from Crate and Barrel. We basically got a $4k couch for $1k. Pretty sweet!
      JoelLarsgaard recently posted…When Cheaping Out Costs You More MoneyMy Profile

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  2. Avatar
    September 27, 2013

    Oh! I love me some IKEA. I’ve never regretted a purchase there! But, I’ve gone in with eyes wide open. Like you said, what do you expect with furniture built by an allen wrench.

    My husband is a great negotiater. If we are in the market for quality furniture (which truly is rare because I like to change our decor too much) he comes along. He has yet to pay full price.
    Taynia | The Fiscal Flamingo recently posted…An Accountability Partner – Why You Need One If You’re In DebtMy Profile

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    • Avatar
      September 27, 2013

      I was once able to get about 30% off a piece of furniture by apprising the salesperson that I had just bought a new home – which I intended to fully furnish – and if he didn’t cut me some kind of deal, I would definitely never come back…on the other hand, I promised that if he did, I would buy at least one more piece of furniture, specifically from him. Keeping my promise, I went back about two months later and bought a nice chair for our living room.
      James Molet (SavvyJames) recently posted…DetropiaMy Profile

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    • Avatar
      September 28, 2013

      It’s always nice to have a shrewd negotiator on your side!
      JoelLarsgaard recently posted…My Google Chromecast ReviewMy Profile

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  3. Avatar
    September 27, 2013

    You can find decent furniture anywhere, but you need to be careful. Some of the cheap options are ‘too good to be true’ and would probably not survive the first move. We’re lucky enough to have 2 friends who work in the industry, so we had custom made furniture at some really small prices, not to mention a LOT of good advice ;)
    dojo recently posted…Emergency fund: why is it important and how to grow it fasterMy Profile

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      September 28, 2013

      Ooooh. Custom furniture is fancy! I have a buddy who is an amazing wood craftsman. I gotta get him to make me something soon. The stuff he builds can is so sturdy it can be handed down to another generation.
      JoelLarsgaard recently posted…7 Things That Will Never Go Out of StyleMy Profile

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      • Avatar
        May 06, 2014

        Custom furniture can be very long lasting can be easily repaired which will make it look like a new one and you rightly said that it can be handed down to another generation. I mean there are other good craftsmen like your friend. :)

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  4. Avatar
    May 31, 2014

    When assembling furniture from Ikea and the like, I always GLUE the joints with a good carpenter’s glue. It lasts longer; some of mine have gone through several interstate moves.

    Other secrets: tighten joints every time you detect even the smallest wobble. Shim it to level and avoid more stress on joints.

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