We all know that buying used furniture saves money. But sometimes it’s nice to go into a chain store (like Ashley HomeStore or Raymour & Flanigan) and pick out a new matching set. Especially if you’re used to having hand-me-downs and mismatched pieces.
And this is exactly the scenario I recently found myself in. After years of having a hodgepodge of items, I finally wanted new furniture of my own. But since I was literally starting my collection from scratch, I knew it would be pricey. And I would need to purchase strategically.
And so far, it’s worked. I’ve been able to save over $1500 and that amount is still growing as I buy more and more items. But I’ve definitely learned a few important lessons along the way, not just for saving money, but for also avoiding the aggravation that can come with furniture shopping. And trust me, there are a lot of things that can go wrong.
That being said, below I’m sharing everything I’ve learned so far so you can save big while avoiding the pitfalls that can make furniture shopping a pain in the butt.
See if other stores sell the same pieces
One of the first things I learned when I started furniture shopping is that many stores sell the exact same pieces. For example, many of the items I’m buying are part of a collection (called Realyn), that I originally found at Ashley Homestore.
As it turns out, the same line is sold at Raymour & Flanigan, Bob’s Discount Furniture, and Wayfair just to name a few. The problem is that each store has the collection under a different name so it’s not obvious they’re selling the same pieces.
But keep in mind, sometimes there are subtle differences among the items and each store carries different pieces (like one may have a matching TV stand but another one doesn’t) but they still all match perfectly. So when you find a furniture collection you’re interested in, check other stores. That way you can buy individual items from the store where they are priced the lowest (or where they ship the fastest).
Compare shipping prices
Shipping prices can vary greatly so always check each store to see how much they charge. Not only that, see what’s included for the price you’re paying. Will they bring your items inside and put them together? Will they remove old items like mattresses if you are buying a new one? Sometimes you can avoid shipping charges altogether if they allow you to pick up your items directly from the store. Which is easy to do if they’re small.
Also, always take pictures of your home before your furniture is delivered. In case the delivery persons scratch your floor or cause other damage, you will have proof that it was not there previously. And always double-check that the furniture you received is not damaged. If it is, some stores will tell you not to accept it and the delivery men will take it back. And some stores only offer you a set period of time to report the damage so let them know right away.
Note: I should also note that furniture stores will tell you that their delivery drivers will call you about 30 minutes before they arrive. Trust me, they won’t. If you’re lucky, you’ll get 10 minutes notice. Just something to keep in mind.
Find out price matching policies
Always find out the price matching policies of the store you are buying from. In some cases, the same furniture is sold by multiple retailers so if you find a better deal, they will match it. And also ask if they will match their own prices. Say you order a bedroom set and it goes on sale within two weeks, find out if they will match their own price.
And last but not least, see if the in-store prices are the same as their online ones. Some furniture stores will offer better deals online. For example, individual dining chairs might be $200 in-store. But online, you can buy them in a pair of two for $150. So if you’re buying a lot of chairs, you can save quite a bit. If you do find a better deal online, just let your salesperson know and they will likely adjust the in-store price for you.
Be aware of delays due to Covid
Currently, there are massive delays in production and delivery due to Covid. This is understandable, but you need to be aware of a store’s rules and policies so you don’t get burned. For example, say a furniture item is ordered and is scheduled to be delivered 3 months later. Eight months later, you still don’t have the item. Can you cancel the order without penalty if you want?
Also, when will your credit card be charged? Will you be charged for the item now or when it ships three months from now? With most credit cards you only have a few months to file a complaint with a merchant you’ve purchased from. So if you are charged right away, and eight months later you still don’t have your item, you may lose your ability to file a chargeback (complaint) with your card company.
Buy around the holidays
Many websites and news articles say the best time to shop for indoor furniture is in January. If you cannot wait that long, I recommend that you shop around the holidays which is when furniture stores like to run their sales. This includes days like the 4th of July, Memorial Day, Veterans Day, Black Friday, etc.
And keep in mind that sometimes you need to be quick. Some items go on sale for weeks but for others, it can be less than 24 hours. The bed I’m buying from Ashley Homestore, for example, recently went on sale for just one day only, which I didn’t realize until the next day. So I missed out on saving $70. So now, I have to wait and see if the price goes down again.
Take lots of photos in the store
Always take photos when you see something you like because you will forget the details of it by the time you get home. Especially if you are looking at a lot of different items. And while you’re at it, take photos of the prices and dimensions if available so you can compare those prices to their online ones.
These photos can also be helpful later on if you need decorating ideas. Maybe you loved the way the item looked in the store, but at home, it doesn’t look quite right. If this is the case, you can refer back to your photos to see what the store did to make it look so good. The store may have paired the item with a rug or used different colored pillows, for example.
Update: My friend just went through an experience where taking pictures was crucial. The furniture item she received (which cost over $1,000) had a distressed finish that looked nowhere near as nice as the one in the store. The finish on her piece was sloppy and made the item look cheap (trust me I saw it). Luckily, she had the pictures she took in the store to compare it to (and as proof). Thankfully, the store has been very nice about it and is doing an exchange.
Find a good salesperson and stick with them
A good furniture salesperson can be a huge ally in your furniture search. In my own recent experience, I had to change an order right away and I couldn’t get through to the store (for hours). Luckily, I had the cell number of my salesperson and they were able to assist me. And because they were so helpful, they not only earned my trust but my future business as well.
So any contact information your salesperson offers you, like their email address or cell phone number, save it. Then if you have any questions or issues (like warranty claims), you can contact them directly and they will be happy to help you. If you end up with a salesperson who is pushy or doesn’t answer your questions, I would come back another day and see if another one is available or visit another retail location.
I should note that even when I have a great salesperson, I get everything in writing. There’s always the chance of them making an honest mistake. And any time you call corporate or the furniture store’s main customer service line, anything they tell you over the phone is meaningless unless they email you the information or tell you where you can find it.
Be wary of warranties
Almost as important as what a warranty covers, is what it doesn’t cover. And that’s usually a lot. So make sure you get the warranty in writing. This includes both the manufacturer’s warranty (which is usually included) along with any other extended warranties you purchase. And make sure you consider the cost of an extended warranty and the credibility of the company that is offering it. I highly recommend you check online for reviews of the warranty being offered. In many cases, they are pretty bad.
Also, consider whether or not the money spent on a warranty could be used elsewhere. For example, instead of getting a warranty for a dining table (which may not be honored by an unreputable company) consider using the money to purchase a glass table cover. Or similarly, have a protective cover made for a couch (instead of purchasing the warranty).
Stalk your items
If you don’t need your furniture right away, I recommend stalking your items. Basically, you write a list of the items you like along with their prices. Then, whenever you can, check the prices online (especially near the holidays when the sales occur). Over time, you will see how the price varies so you can buy when it’s at its lowest. I know there are apps that track these types of things but personally, I’ve never found one that works on all the sites I like shopping at – so I just do it manually.
To make it easier, you can save the items you’re tracking to your online cart. That way you can check all of the prices in one spot (just make sure to refresh the page each time). I realize that tracking your items like this can seem like a lot of extra work. But you’re not just saving $5-$10. You’re possibly saving hundreds which I think is worth it. And even after you receive your furniture, you should continue to monitor the price since many stores will price match their own prices for a period of time.
Ask if the store has a scratch and dent section
Many furniture stores have scratch and dent sections where you can purchase furniture with slight flaws. In some cases, the flaws are barely noticeable but you will end up saving hundreds. When looking at imperfect pieces, don’t write off an item if it needs just a few simple changes. Knobs and pulls, for example, are super easy to switch out. Or say you find a rug with a small tear in it. If it’s going to be covered with a couch anyway, you’ll never even see it.
Find out return and cancellation policies
Always check the return policy of the store you are buying from. Some charge restocking fees or rescheduling fees if you have to change the delivery date or return an item. And keep in mind that many states have a law where you have a cooling-off period after signing a contract (it’s usually a few days). So if you sign a contract to buy $5,000 worth of furniture and decide within 24 hours that you’ve changed your mind, you can get out of the contract without any penalties.
Also, be sure to check the fine print. With mattresses, for example, they often advertise you can try a mattress for 6 months and then return it if it doesn’t work out. But then you read the fine print and realize they charge you $75 to come to pick it up and you have to pay a 15% restocking fee.
Take advantage of credit card incentives
To save money, you can sometimes use credit card incentives. Some furniture stores, for example, will offer a percentage off if you open and use one of their credit cards. Or as another option, they sometimes offer interest-free financing.
You can also take advantage of other credit card offers that aren’t affiliated with the store. Many credit card companies, for example, will offer cashback if you sign up for a new card and spend a minimum amount within a certain time frame. Remember though, you shouldn’t open a new credit card unless you can pay it off on time. If that’s something you can do, it’s an easy way to save a few hundred bucks.
Remember . . .
There are many benefits of shopping in-store, as opposed to buying online. Probably most important, you are able to see the colors and details of the items in person. Plus, you can sit or lay down on them to see how they really feel. I can’t tell you how many reviews I’ve read saying an online item was comfortable only to have it be as hard as a rock when it arrived. And having to ship furniture back is a huge pain. So whenever you can, buy furniture you can test out first.
Know any other techniques to save money at furniture stores? Please share in the comments!