Outfitting a home in style requires that you have a few things in place - a design plan, a clear idea of what you need (vs. want) and plenty of patience. And while it can sometimes make it easier and faster, what one doesn't necessarily need is a big budget. Our reader community is a generous one - everyone freely shares their helpful "secrets" regularly in the comments - and today, I've gathered some of their great ideas on how to shop smarter and find great deals...on anything.
laurenalexis: One trick I learned, is that for stores like Pottery Barn, West Elm, etc make sure you know the online price before purchasing in store. I went to buy some bedding that I saw for sale online and when I got to the store, it wasn't marked on sale. I asked the employee who was helping me at the register and they honored the sale price. I saved a lot of money that day. (This is where smart phones are also a blessing.)
LowBrowLawnParty: Something that has worked for me lately is Hukkster.com. You can receive notices when something you are interested in purchasing goes on sale to a specified percentage off. I've used it to successfully purchase items at 70% off.
: I find it takes time to properly assess your thrift store circuit
. I've cultivated a batch of 5 stores that almost always produce deals for me. I try to pop-in whenever I am passing one of my favorites...or when I am heading to a destination near by, I'll bake-in 30 extra minutes to zip in. Frequent visitation is key—and knowing what sort of stuff they get. For instance, one of my 'regulars' is in an aging neighborhood—loads of vintage furniture and housewares. Another store I love is between the affluent 'burbs and the downtown office towers—so if you are looking for a designer suit—that's the ticket. If you are just shopping on weekend—you are in competition with all the other smart shoppers. Swinging in at 6:50pm on a Tuesday—that's when you get the freshly stocked bargains.
Julia [Chris Loves Julia]: When I am shopping online, I use Google Image search a lot!! I can search the image of the product I am looking for and it brings up all the stores that sell that product, as well as (!!!) "visually similar images" or products. Jackpot.
truepeacenik: DIY. Especially things like padded headboards, or simple graphic pillows, etc. what do you know how to do? Or a friend who might trade skills? I have a bookcase that "cost" me two frozen meals for two for six months. So, I cooked one Saturday for a few hours and got a handcrafted book case.
I've shared Amazon wish lists, which can host off site items, including etsy, with people who are downscaling, and if they had something similar, Huey's can offer it to me at yard sale prices, or at least "didn't have to fuss with craigslist" prices.
sarabryant: Don't forget to google for the promo code - nearly all stores have a code out there for 5-15% off. Sometimes it's linked to signing up for their email list, but it's worth it to save the extra $.
Amy T.:Stores like Big Lots and Tuesday Morning also get many of the overstocked or discontinued items from stores such as Target or the big box home centers. Not sure if these are national or regional stores, but I got a nice Target fabric shower curtain for $3 recently. Also know that if a price point at Target ends in "8", it is not likely at its lowest markdown.
: If you are going to haggle, be confident but polite
. I shop in the downtown Los Angeles fabric district on a regular basis. I am always surprised by the rude hagglers. On more than one occasion I have gotten a sweet deal right after a merchant has had to deal with one of these people. A smile, promise of buying enough yardage to make the discount worth it and an assurance that I will return to his/her shop always wins them over.
I worked with a carpenter
who constructed the furniture we custom-designed for our itty bitty apartment in between his large projects. Unbelievably, the total cost with delivery and installation for two rooms of furniture came out to be less than the nearest equivalent furniture/storage from Ikea and of much better quality. He was happy because he kept his guys busy for the odd days here and there and we were ecstatic with the results and the price.
As a former contractor, I used to give discounts for customers with small jobs who could accommodate our schedule. Ask around, you might be able to work something out in this soft economy.
: You can find anything you want for 20-30% off its retail price just by waiting for a sale. This can slow things down... I've been waiting for a quilt at Restoration Hardware to go on sale for about six months (I just couldn't swing it over Christmas). But when it does, I'll snap it up.
Shop locally for custom alternatives to very expensive items. You may be surprised. I fell in love with the steel Parsons tables at Room and Board, at $500 ea, plus tax and $200 shipping. On a whim I contacted a local machine shop that laser-cuts steel for industrial application. They made me my tables for $150 each! I still have to get glass, but that will be about $120.
Ask your like-minded friends to keep their eyes open for you. My friend is shopping for a budget minded chaise to go under her new pergola. Every time I see one I think she might like, I take a pic and send it to her.
Please add your tips and ideas to the comments for our next roundup!
Re-edited from a post originally published 6.25.2013 - cm