How Not to Pay Retail When Decorating Your Space

Everyone likes a bargain, but never before in the history of decorating has it been easier to find what you want for a price you can afford, with or without a trade discount or an interior designer on standby. Here are our favorite strategies for saving money without sacrificing style.

Know When Things Go on Sale
Buying specific items at the right time of year will ensure you aren’t paying top dollar. January is the traditional month of the annual white sale, so plan to purchase towels and bedding at the beginning of the year. According to Lifehacker, which has compiled a comprehensive list of when to buy what, January and July are good months for clearance sales on general furniture before new collections come out. Buy your TV in February or March, and get a discount on last year’s refrigerator in May. June is a great time to buy discounted dishes ahead of bridal season. And outdoor furniture will be a steal at the end of summer.

Buy Secondhand
Local live auctions, thrift stores, charity shops, church sales, junk shops, yard sales, and flea markets are all fantastic means of finding what you need without paying retail. In New York City, prop house Props for Today has an annual sale of inventory from TV shows and film shoots that is open to the public. Internet bargains on secondhand goods can be found on sites such as Craigslist and eBay (try the classifieds if you’re not into virtual bidding wars), and you can often find enticing freebies on Freecycle. For upscale antiques, check out 1stdibs.

Outlets and Sample Sales
Have a favorite brand or two? Follow them on social media, sign up for their mailing lists, check out their websites, and chat up their salespeople for information on outlet-store locations and sample sales, which are often kept under the radar.

Internet Flash Sales
Internet flash sites including One Kings Lane, Fab, Gilt, Joss & Main, and The Foundary allow you to browse during day or night for home decor often listed at serious bargains. Be sure to do an Internet price comparison on a nonvintage item that might be found elsewhere for less before making a purchase. If you are the impulsive type, consider measurements and think twice before you click because many purchases are nonrefundable and cannot be returned. If you don’t see enough information to be sure of your purchase, remember that there will always be something else on sale tomorrow. But if you see something you’ve been wanting at 70 percent off, carpe diem.

Learn How to Bargain
Strong negotiating skills are useful when purchasing furniture or decorative items in thrift stores, at flea markets, or from private sellers who advertise on the Internet. And don’t be shy about asking for a discount in a retail environment if you spot a lightly damaged floor model. It never hurts to find out what a seller’s bottom line is and how much retail mark-up he or she is willing to let go.

Figure Out What You Can Make or Do Yourself
Is there room in your design plan for DIY projects that will save you money and make you feel more invested in the overall design? Depending on your skill set, you might decide to build furniture, paint, sew your own curtains or pillows, or pay a talented friend for help.

Headboard - Sconces on either side of a headboard upholstered in a red Otomi fabric

Use What You Have
Before you go out and buy a new couch, consider reupholstering the one you own or getting it professionally cleaned. Tired of your old wooden chairs? Dip their legs in white paint for a knock-off designer look. If you need shelves in your closet but have no use for that freestanding bookcase, dismantle it, buy some inexpensive brackets, and repurpose it into shelves in your closet. The money you spend on materials will get you a new item at a fraction of the retail cost.

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