You’re Probably Spending Too Much Money on Furniture and Appliances. Here are 20 Ways to Save Big
Some of the links in this post are from our sponsors. We’re letting you know because it’s what Honest Abe would do. After all, he is on our favorite coin.
We’d been looking for a round coffee table for a while, because my wife hates sharp corners, and last month, we scored a beautiful solid wood table — no particle board or wood veneer — for $35 at a thrift store. It would cost at least $180 new.
We love to get a deal, and not just on used items. Last year, we bought a new washer and dryer for $445 total, including taxes — I'll explain how below.
And your priciest purchases are a natural place to look for savings.
Here are some of the tricks we've used over the years to save big on furniture and appliances.
1. Buy Returned Appliances
Talk to a floor manager to see if there are any returns the store can sell at a discount.
I bought a nearly new clothes dryer for $90. A previous buyer had returned it to the store after a week to get something different, but it still had a two-year guarantee. During the six years I owned the dryer, I never had a problem with it.
Tip: Save yourself some time by calling all the vendors before visiting stores to see if they have any returned appliances.
2. Buy Used Appliances
If you're really on a tight budget, consider used appliances. When my income was lower, I bought several used washing machines for $90 to $125.
Each came with a 90-day warranty from the used appliance store, and I figured if they lasted that long, they weren't likely to break anytime soon.
In fact, they were all still working when I left them behind to move on to my next home. Google “used appliances” to find local vendors.
Tip: Never pay more than 40% of the new price, or 20% if the item is more than five years old. You should get a discount sufficient to make up for the fact that part of the useful life of the item is past.
3. Get Post Office Coupons
When you fill out a change of address form, the post office sends you a moving kit with coupons in it.
When we moved last year, we got several good coupons in our kit, including one for 10% off at Lowe’s, which saved us $105 when we spent $1,050 on various home stuff.
Tip: Sometimes you can get these moving kits at the post office, even if you're not moving.
4. Get Coupons From Your Real Estate Agent
After we bought our house last year, our agent emailed us coupons for Home Depot, Lowe’s and other stores. They were good for at least 10% off any purchase.
Many agents have access to these deals for new homebuyers. Just ask.
Tip: Ask for coupons for both you and your spouse, so you can get those 10% discounts more than once.
5. Use Discounted Gift Cards
I've previously written about the best places to buy discounted gift cards, and I've used the strategy myself to save up to 13% on purchases, including appliances and furniture.
You can buy physical cards, ones you download and print, or even just the registration numbers. Spend them like cash, and save anywhere from about 3% for popular cards, like Walmart, to as much as 20% for some stores.
Tip: Buy the discounted gift cards using your best cash back credit card for additional savings.
6. Combine Strategies
When we moved into our most recent house, we bought a washer and dryer at Lowe’s. By getting them on sale, and using a 10% off coupon, and paying with gift cards I bought online for a 6% discount, the set came to just $445 total.
I also bought the gift cards using a cash-back credit card, so the savings were actually more than that.
Tip: If you don't need the item right away, get your discounted gift cards and then wait for a sale.
7. Buy Damaged Goods
We've received discounts several times on furniture and appliances by simply pointing out damage to a salesperson or manager. Some stores even have “scratch and dent” appliances set aside to sell at a discount, so ask.
Tip: Think about the placement of the item in your home. I the dent is going to be on the side of the fridge that's against the wall, you may never notice it.
8. Buy Floor Models
We bought an $89 bookcase for $40 at Big Lots. It was a floor model and there were no others in the warehouse.
Not only did we save about $50 with tax, but I didn't have to assemble it. Ask a manager about available discounted floor models.
Look for any damage or excessive wear and tear, but also watch for big savings on everything from tables to refrigerators.
Tip: The manager usually has discretion to set a price for floor models, so try to talk him down by pointing out any flaws in the item.
9. Invest in Used Furniture
Sometimes used furniture is almost as good as new. It can be even better if you buy higher-quality items that you couldn't afford to buy new.
But you can do better than just saving money. As I explained in a previous post, if you buy smart, you can turn your furniture into a money making investment.
Tip: Avoid the cheapest low-quality stuff; the best buys are the high-quality used items, which save you money up front and because they last longer.
10. Go to Rummage Sales
We won't buy used mattresses, and we're careful about getting anything used that is upholstered (dirt, sweat, bedbugs), but rummage sales are a great place to get wood furniture.
My wife once bought a beautiful vanity table at a rummage sale for $10, and after using it for several years we sold it at a consignment shop for $80 — our cut was $48.
Tip: Go early or late for the best deals. Early gets you the good stuff before it sells, but at the end of the sale, owners are usually more willing to negotiate.
11. Go to Flea Markets
We've bought some nice furniture at flea markets, for much less than buying new.
Negotiate. On our last purchase (a chair), we made a low offer, were told “no” and walked away, only to have the vendor come looking for us to agree to our price.
Tip: Flea markets are an especially good place to get antiques, because you'll generally pay a lot less than at an antique store.
12. Make Your Furniture
I've made a few pieces of furniture over the years, and saved a lot of money versus buying the items already made.
TPH writer Chris Ronzio says he saved $5,000 building his own furniture.
Tip: To save money without a huge time investment, I stick to simple things, like tables and basic bed frames.
13. Do Your Own Repairs
One sure way to save money on furniture and appliances is to repair them yourself. I'm not mechanically inclined, but I have put a new belt on a dryer, fixed washing machine leaks, and tightened up loose furniture legs.
Everything you need to know is usually in a YouTube video.
Tip: If you get good at repairing things, read my post on how one man makes up to $2,000 per week buying and selling used appliances.
14. Use a Table as a Desk
My desk is a 2-by-4-foot plastic table I bought for $40 seven or eight years ago.
Nobody comes to my home office, so appearance is not an issue (and it looks fine to me). Functionality is what counts, and this is the most functional desk I've ever had.
Tip: The molded plastic tables with fold-out legs are the strongest for the price. Avoid ones with fiberboard tops — I have had them warp more than once.
15. Skip the Extended Warranty
Someday you might pay for an appliance repair that could have been covered by an extended warranty. But when that happens, don't complain; just add up the savings from all the extended warranties you didn't buy over the years.
Stores wouldn't sell these warranties if they didn't expect you to spend more on them than you'll save in repairs.
Tip: Check your credit cards to find one that offers an extended warranty on purchases (many do), and use that for your purchases.
16. Get an Inflatable Mattress for Guests
Why spend hundreds of dollars on a bed for occasional guests when you can get an inflatable queen-size mattress for under $50?
It will save you money, store away neatly in a closet and also keep guests from staying too long (you think I'm kidding?).
Tip: The next-best inexpensive option is a futon, which you can often buy for $129 or less at Walmart or KMart.
17. Buy Online
We've purchased smaller items like fold-out chairs and beds, room dividers and small appliances online without a problem, often finding better deals.
Tip: If you're worried about returning items, buy online for in-store pickup so you can return items locally.
18. Announce Your Needs
Let people know what you're looking for, and you might get a freebie from family or friends, or at least learn where to get a great deal.
I once mentioned I needed a new couch, and a neighbor sold me one that was two months old for $35 because his wife hated the color. It looked just fine to me.
Tip: You can also post your needs in the “wanted” section of Craigslist.
19. Live in Smaller Homes
My wife and I have always liked smaller homes. Not only is there less to care for and a lower bill for things like utilities and property taxes, but a small apartment or house also needs less furniture to fill it.
You don't have to join the tiny home movement, but why does a couple without kids (like us) need more than 900 square feet of space?
Tip: You may find that any house feels roomier with less furniture in it — a nice bonus to buying fewer things.
20. Get Creative
Sometimes you just have to think outside the box.
A bookcase can make a nice TV stand for half the price, and my wife and I have used matching wooden stools as bedside tables to save money.
In a previous post I explained how we saved hundreds of dollars on a king-sized bed by making one from two singles.
Tip: You can see photos of what others have done and get great ideas on Houzz.com.
Steve Gillman is the author of “101 Weird Ways to Make Money” and creator of EveryWayToMakeMoney.com. He's been a repo-man, walking stick carver, search engine evaluator, house flipper, tram driver, process server, mock juror and roulette croupier, but of more than 100 ways he has made money, writing is his favorite (so far).