How to Bargain Shop for Your Home

You don’t have to pay big bucks to make your house a home.

10 secrets of bargain shopping and smart buying

Photo by Veer

Take it from bargain-shopping gurus Lauren and Derek, owners of the Curiosity Shoppe in San Francisco (curiosityshoppeonline.com): “Unless you’re hunting for [furniture] that’s widely and obsessively collected, get there at a healthy hour, around 9, heavily fortified with pastries and caffeine.”

As you shop, don’t be afraid to ask if a price is negotiable and don't be afraid to walk away. “If something is still nagging at you after walking around for a while, swing by and check in again. If the vendor hasn't sold it, he may not want to pack it up and haul it away -- maybe he'll be open to giving you a good deal.” For even more savvy furniture-buying tips, keep reading!

Buy high-end seasonal items off-season
Purchase winter or summer items at the end of the season. Restoration Hardware’s Christmas wreaths for roughly 80% off in January!

Ask stores: “What can you do for me on this?”
That’s the magic phrase, says Travis George, interior designer and design consultant for Space Modern in Atlanta, Georgia. “Someone can always do something for a price, believe it or not -- even in a mall, even at Crate and Barrel,” says George. “If they say no, ask, ‘Why not?’ Don’t be afraid. The sales associates are there to work for you as well. Just say, ‘I like this, but it’s a little much. Is there anything you can do?’” George says the manager may be able to extend their discount to you or may tell you the item is going on sale in a few weeks. “If you don’t ask,” says George, “you won’t get anything.”

Buy large furniture items on Craigslist
If you’re talking about tables, chairs, and bookshelves, it’s all just a piece of wood (or glass or aluminum), so who really cares if someone touched it before you? Some cities are better than others -- New York and Los Angeles have endless ads from people having “Moving out of town!” sales -- but wherever it is, shopping locally means you won’t have to pay for shipping.

Visit thrift stores when they’re making room for new merchandise
"Check with your local thrift stores to see if they have any special ‘sale days.’ They've only got so many square feet and are often anxious to make room for new merchandise,” explain Derek and Lauren. “One of our favorite stores has a ‘Half Off Everything’ day the first Monday of every month, which is always a bonanza for us.” While you’re there, look for diamonds in the rough,” they say. “You’d be amazed at how many wonderful things don't get bought at thrift stores because of slight imperfections or a little wear and tear.”

Seek out alternate uses for items
“Target always has really great bedding, which makes good curtains or table napkins,” says Grace Bonney of online design blog Design Sponge. Similarly, if you can’t find a tablecloth in a pattern you like, buy a set of inexpensive, patterned curtains and throw one over the table before dinner. The switch works for bigger ticket items as well: Small dining tables can be used as desks; coffee tables can be used to hold the television; and ceramic planters can be placed upside down for a unique side table.

Turn someone else’s garbage into gems
The next time a home in your neighborhood is razed for a new building, don’t groan -- be there when the junk hits the curb. New York photographer and art installation artist Phillip Graybill is always on the hunt for “big chunks of wood ceiling rafters to turn into shelving as well as tabletops for desks or coffee tables. You can’t really buy that wood anymore -- or at least without paying an arm and a leg for it.” Graybill also picks up old window frames that you can use as frames for photographs or turn into mirrors. “They’re naturally distressed, which adds character without having to pay for it. I bring mine to a glass place and have them put a mirror in an old frame for $40 or $50.” If the buildings in your neighborhood aren’t budging, see if your town -- or one nearby -- has a bulk pickup day. “Our town has one twice a year,” says New Jersey resident Jennifer. “So my sister and I drive around the night before and pick up items they may not want, but we do!”

Inquire about special sales
This final tip may seem obvious, but really, how often have you actually done it? If you have a favorite store, ask when their sales are, suggests George. “I let my clients know when I’m having something that benefits them, and other stores will happily do the same.” Go ahead and be brave -- it works.

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-- Amy Spencer

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