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You don’t have to break the bank on furniture

It’s easy enough to find yourself in such a predicament whether you’re just starting out or you’ve been established for years.

Don’t worry, though – the following tips can help you consider your options and save some of your hard-earned cash.

1. The Internet is your friend. Rather than blow hour after hour of precious weekend time visiting furniture stores on a potentially fruitless search, do some shopping around online first. You could compare the prices and details of similar pieces of furniture at 10 to 12 different stores in a matter of minutes.

2. Reflect on ways to spend nothing, or almost nothing. Don’t necessarily turn your nose up at the idea of scoring free or low-cost pieces of furniture from other people who live in your area. You could find exactly what you’re looking for via Web sites such as Craigslist (check out the “free” link under “for sale”), The Freecycle Network, Sharing Is Giving, Freecycleamerica.org, ReUseIt Network and FreeSharing.org. Here’s something to remember, though: When visiting all of these Web sites with the exception of Craigslist, try to have an eye toward giving as well as receiving. Also, don’t try to trade or swap through these sites; the idea is to give stuff away with no strings attached.

3. Check out the goods in person. As convenient as it can be to shop at home, it’s still important to be careful about buying furniture solely on the basis of a tiny thumbnail image on the Internet. If at all possible, try to inspect the actual furniture before you buy so you can see its overall finish and appearance. Another benefit of examining the furniture in person: You could avoid exorbitant shipping fees that way.

4. Remember warehouse stores. Places like Costco and Sam’s Club aren’t just for bulk purchases of dog food, diapers and artichoke hearts, you know. You often can find surprising deals on high-quality furniture at warehouse stores and literally save hundreds of dollars on the purchases you make.

5. Be alert for deals. If you’re in the market for furniture, get in the habit of scanning the ads in your Sunday paper, in your mailbox and in the windows of stores in your area. Stay on the lookout for going-out-of-business sales and same-as-cash financing deals with zero-percent interest for six to 12 months. (Note: If you finance a furniture purchase in this way, be absolutely sure to pay it off in full in the time you’re given to do so.)

6. Think ahead before you buy. You may fall in love with the look of a certain piece of furniture, but take a moment to read the care instructions. Reflect on how the piece will hold up after a few encounters with your small children or pets. If it’s likely to be trashed in mere days or weeks, don’t buy it.

7. Examine the construction. For units such as bookcases, tables and entertainment centers, determine whether the items are prefinished or made of unfinished wood. Bear in mind that sanding and finishing a shelving unit can take a great deal of time and effort. Also think twice before buying “wood grain” laminate or particle board that looks fake, and watch out for sloppy corners on moldings and doors that don’t align properly.

8. Measure, measure, measure. Before you do any shopping – and certainly before you bring a piece of furniture home – be sure to measure the area where you want the furniture to go so you can be confident that it will fit well and it won’t overwhelm or underwhelm the room. With shelving units, remember to write down the dimensions of the items you want to store on the shelves.

9. Plan ahead for transportation. Make sure you have the capacity to transport big, heavy items home or have the store deliver them for you – hopefully for a fee that isn’t too hefty. Also, if you decide you don’t want to keep the item, will you have to lug it all the way back to the store yourself?

10. Eyeball the warranty carefully. Make sure you understand what it does and does not cover, and get the details of any agreement in writing. For instance, if a salesperson verbally raves about a fabric-guard guarantee that sounds fabulous, make sure the details of that guarantee are clearly spelled out in writing.

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