Living Below Your Means
Buying furniture BYM

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December 5, 2002

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As many of you know, I will close on my house next month and I have virtually no furniture to start out with. I have been looking at what I thought was pretty high priced stuff, until the posters of this board told me I was not actually looking at high end prices at all.

Well, after 4 weeks of visiting every furniture store in the city, I finally ordered some furniture tonight. I ended up furnishing 3 rooms and saving a total of $2100 by using some things I learned along the way. I thought I should pass these on to others who might be facing similar situations.

Shop around - Never buy anything on your first visit to your first store. Good furniture can be a lifelong commitment and you should treat it as such. You will never find the perfect item waiting for you in store #3 if you jump in and buy from store #1.

Talk to the salespeople - I know most of these people are as annoying as used car salesmen on 0% down day. But they will be the gatekeeper between you and your new furniture. Go to stores several times and get to know the sales staff a little. Pay close attention to how they treat you in the store. Do they follow you around like you are going to steal? Do they not understand the term "just browsing?" Do they seem like someone you could spend 3 hours with looking at sofa fabrics? Make mental (or even written) notes about how you like the sales staff. This will be the most important criterion in choosing a store.

Write down prices - Don't let ANYone tell you that you shouldn't do this. I took a small pocket calendar with me everywhere and wrote down every price and model number on everything I liked. If anyone asked me what I was doing, I said i was making my shopping list and didn't want to forget where I saw this item. Twice the salesman immediately came with a better price, which I got in writing.

Pick the store that treated you the best One thing I did not realize is that almost every store can order from almost every manufacturer. Don't be fooled by what's sitting on the showroom floor. They all have catalogs of all the companies and you can spend hours looking at all your options. This is powerful info to have, especially if you kept up with your price book. Pick the store that has the salesperson you clicked with the best. You will be working with this person for hours and they might even visit your home a few times. So you better have some rapport with them.

Force a price war - If you like bed A from store 1, ask store 2 for their price. Play one store off another to find the best price, and then take that best price to the store you intend to order from and ask them to meet the price. If they cannot meet or beat the lowest quoted price, tell them how sorry you are because you were interested in many other pieces but their overhead must be too high. They will come down. Like I said above, I saved $2100 on a $8000 order by keeping great notes and forcing the price war. I let the store manager know that I have a lot of business to do with THE store that treats me right, but that if they screw me on one piece, I will take ALL my business out of their store.

Don't pay for delivery - No discussion. It is not even an option to me. I left 3 stores because they would not budge on this. I figure if I spend $8000 in your store and you want to charge me $30 to deliver it...then that is nickel and dimeing and that makes me feel dirty. If you want to blow an $8000 sale over a $30 delivery charge, fine. You don't need my business.

Take pictures of your rooms to the store - These prove to be vital in planning your room.

Use the free designers - I went into this with a preconceived notion of what I wanted. During that process i found myself getting sidetracked. I would become fascinated by the wall art and clocks and things, when these were not even in my budget right now. My salesperson is also a decorator. I showed her my pictures and she immediately knew the look I was going for and suggested MANY complimentary things that I would have never thought to pick out. I actually found that the stuff i went in after was a hodgepodge of stuff that did not match at all. She took that hodgepodge and made it orderly. We started with one piece and built off of that. Now I still have most of the qualities I was looking for, but it is all tied in together and looks great.

Try the furniture out for real - I see a lot of people sit on sofas like a flute player at a recital. Sitting straight up, back straight, knees together, 2 feet from the back of the sofa. Is this really how you sit? I don't. I gave the sofas the real workout. I kicked right back and propped my feet up on the coffee tables. That's where they will end up anyway, right? I laid down on the couches and wrestled around until I got comfortable. Then I got back up and looked at the sofa. If it looked like a grizzly bear had just woke up from hibernation, I moved on to the next one. I don't want to spend all my time fluffing pillows and straightening cushions every time I get up. I want it to look as good after my nap as it did before. I found several that passed this test.

Put your color samples together - Don't pick out a sofa in room 1 and a loveseat in room 2 without putting the fabric together to see if it clashes or not. 9 times out of 10, it does. That's why they put them in different rooms.

Ask for freebies - This didn't work much...but I did get them to throw in a $200 lamp (which was really worth about $75) for free.

Ask about discounted floor items - All stores have them. There is nothing at all wrong with them. You just have to take the one that was the floor demo. You could save over 50% this way. My only problem was everything I wanted was from the catalogs, so it was all special order. But you can buy the floor items at huge discounts.

I hope these tips can come in handy to some of you who may be looking for furniture. The bottom line is to find a store you trust the most and despise the least, and go with them. But never be afraid to go back out price shopping.


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