Pro-Tip Tuesday: Ikea Demystified

1:44 PM

Photo by ZaptheDingbat

Ever since I started living on my own Ikea has been the holy grail of affordable furniture and housewares. It's the ultimate place to deck out your pad whether you're a college student, young professional, or established home owner. It's also the ultimate headache with a million tiny parts, distracting showrooms, and wordless instructions so I put together a helpful guide to make your shopping at Ikea more efficient and more enjoyable...

Check the availability of your top items online first.  The first time I went to Ikea, I was dead set on getting the Micke desk set. When I arrived it was completely sold out and I hadn't looked at any other desks. I was lost in the marketplace struggling to find some sort of substitute-- no bueno. When browsing online Ikea has a handy online tool that shows you the inventory level of your item; it's not always 100% accurate though, so be sure to have a backup selected for the items you need most.  

Avoid back to school time and weekends.  My second mistake (and the real reason I didn't get that desk set) was that I visited in late September just after the back to school season. Inventory is low, the crowds are insane, and the lines are ridiculously long. Even on weekends Ikea draws quite a few visitors. Plan your trip early in the week while everyone is heading back to work and school. I went Monday evening and while busy, it wasn't crowded. 

Bring your own bags.  Or you'll end up buying giant blue ones at the end or tossing everything into the waste baskets and bins you just bought. 

Shop the As Is department.  At the end of the Ikea marketplace, there is an As Is section for discounted merchandise  floor models, returns, damages, etc. This section is a gold mine, especially for DIYers. I found a display model of the Tullsta leather chair in perfect condition for under $100; perfect for the awkward corner in my new place!

Wear your blinders.  "Ohh, frames for $2! Cute ziplock bags for $3! Ohhhh, a stripe throw for $10!!!" That's me throughout the entire marketplace and I never learn. Get what you need, leave the cheap junk behind. The same goes for the showroom, unless you're looking to see an assembled piece, skip it. That said, I like their cookware and kitchen stuff and their lamps are a terrific bargain!

What are your best tips for shopping at Ikea? Do you love or hate their crazy Swedish names and amazingly cheap furniture?

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