Yeah, yeah, we know about IKEA. For better or worse, it's the place where many of us go to furnish our homes affordably without having to go through the hassle of going to a furniture store. However, you're not always going to live close to the mothership of "First Apartment Furniture" -- or, maybe you just don't want to set foot in an IKEA. Your choice. If you want to furnish your home cheaply, here's a reminder about frequently-overlooked places to find furniture.
Flickr photo by benjamin stone
It depends on the estate, of course. Generally speaking, we've found everything from Midcentury bedroom sets to classic solid wood tables, all for a fraction of what you'd pay for at an antiques dealer. You can find estate sale listings on Craigslist, but you'd also do well to sign up for alerts for your area on EstateSales.net. On the day of the sale, arrive early, bring cash and have a friend come with you to help lug the stuff back to your home. If it's a multi-day sale, know that the best bargains are to be had on the second day.
Flickr photo by TravelHyper
The most widely-known store tends to be the Habitat ReStore, which sells new and used furnishings, appliances, building materials and more. In our research, we've stumbled upon never-used, high-end items from stoves to couches used in model homes. Other salvage stores focus on a specific type of item category (architectural elements, building supplies and leftovers from estate sales), but tend to be pricey.
"Big" Thrift Store Chains
Flickr photo by Jeremy Brooks
Goodwill and Salvation Army process thousands upon thousands of donated items daily. While you can still often find a basic bookshelf for less than the price of a movie ticket, we have noticed an uptick in prices (and, overall, less furniture in many stores).
Your Local Thrift Store
Flickr photo by VJ Beauchamp
The tinier church or community-based thrift stores may have slightly less convenient hours than your local Goodwill, but items tend to be cheaper. We've also had more success with finding higher-quality furnishings at local thrifts than at the chains, but it all depends on the stock. Getting to know the volunteers can help you get the best goods.
You'll likely find a treasure trove of '80s and '90s furniture, but if you need to furnish a place for the cheap, yard sales are a great place to start. We like them mainly because you can ask the original owner questions ("Is that a...discoloration?") and because there is room for bargaining.
THE CHEAPEST (Read: FREE)
Your parents/grandparents (or your friends' parents/grandparents)
Yes, that hulking bureau is basically the embodiment of 1979. It will, however, last. Previous generations tended to take better care of their furniture (or, furniture was just made better back then). Chicken-or-the-egg. Either way, they'll be delighted if you take it off their hands.
The Craigslist "free" section.
It's not always old treadmills and firewood. Check it often for curb alerts and occasional higher-end items that owners don't want to lug to their next home.
Curbside on large furniture item pick-up day. (See also: Move-out days around the nearest college campus.)
Get to know your town's trash cycle and maybe pick up a new chair. Just, um, use your judgment. (And your nose.)