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The Art of IKEA Shopping

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A display inside the new IKEA store in Centennial (credit: CBS/Duncan Shaw)

A display inside the new IKEA store in Centennial (credit: CBS/Duncan Shaw)

CENTENNIAL, Colo. (CBS4) – Now that “Big Blue” is here, how do you get the most “brak” for your buck?

I am not an IKEA fanatic, but I have bought my fair share of household goods there. For me, like many people, the attraction is having everything under one roof.If you’re on a budget, that’s also a pitfall.

It’s one thing to make an IKEA run to buy a carefully budgeted sofa or bookshelf. But there are so many colorful nick nacks along the way, it’s pretty difficult to resist impulse buys.

IKEA is really, really good at creating a need.

An exchange between my husband and me might go something like this:

Brooke: WOW! Look at this cute, mesh clothes hamper! And it’s only $1.50!
Brooke’s husband: Do we need a hamper?
Brooke: Well, not really … but this one folds down flat! We can always use that!

And, alas, our house now has an extra hamper.

It’s hard to stick to a list at IKEA, because it’s not really that kind of place. So, at checkout, my husband and I always go through the entire cart and take a good, hard look at each item — whether it’s 50 cents or $50.

That said, I have gotten good use out of some of the “extras” I’ve picked up along the way at IKEA, such as dish towels, a plastic bag caddy, washcloths, planters, wrapping paper and travel alarm clocks.

IKEA has a reputation for fitting the needs of financially disadvantaged college students or people just starting out and furnishing an apartment.

ikea 71 The Art of IKEA Shopping

A display inside the new IKEA store in Centennial (credit: CBS/Duncan Shaw)

The furniture has a sleek Scandinavian design element, and much of it is quite inexpensive.

The least expensive furniture tends to be made of laminate and pressed wood (think particle board), so it is not heirloom quality.

IKEA does offer leather and solid wood pieces, but if you are looking for something inexpensive to fill a space (I have “birch” LACK side tables for which I paid $9.99) you will find it here.

This is probably not the place to buy furniture you’ll pass down for generations.

Also, if you are not talented with assembly, perhaps find someone who is or follow the directions VERY carefully. We made a big move with some of our IKEA furniture, and it actually held up just fine.

I knew some of our IKEA furniture would get colored on, kicked, spilled on, and banged up. I’m very happy I didn’t spend a lot of money on children’s or guest room furniture!

Of course, it’s not for everyone … but what store is? It’s a matter of personal taste.

ikea 4 The Art of IKEA Shopping

A display inside the new IKEA store in Centennial (credit: CBS/Duncan Shaw)

So, what are the best bargains at IKEA? I’ve done an informal poll, and here’s what I found:

1) Household and kitchen items. Many IKEA fanatics rave about the dish towels, washcloths, food storage, light bulbs, glass wear, non-stick cookware, candles and wrapping paper. A 10-pack of my favorite baby washcloths is $3.99. Tea lights are $3.99 for 100. You get the idea.

2) Household accessories: Picture frames are hugely popular at IKEA. Also, planters, rugs, vases, mirrors, and framed prints. I absolutely love my big IKEA Kandinsky print. It is nicely framed and was less than $40. Again, this is not art I’ll pass down to my children, but the bright colors make me happy.

3) Children’s items. IKEA has increased its children’s range to include high chairs, rugs, quilts, cribs, toys — you name it. I can’t speak to the children’s furniture, but I’ve heard from a couple of people who are happy with it. They do have some darling children’s accessories, like a giant nylon tent and tunnel ($9.99 each) my kids played with for years, and a space-themed mobile that transfixed both of my kids ($4.99).

What NOT to buy at IKEA? Check out a link from Kaboodle.com about which items do and don’t rate well with some consumers. This author of the article believes IKEA mattresses are not as low a price point as they should be, that pressed wood products don’t last long enough, and that the lamps tend to lean.

Colorado has some wonderful furniture stores, and some are quite budget friendly, with good quality. There are fantastic bargains to be found on one of a kind items at boutiques and consignment shops, for instance, and they provide an opportunity to support our local businesses. Some of our big box stores have great, inexpensive, and stylish options, too. IKEA shopping doesn’t have to be mutually exclusive.

Just make sure you pick up some meatballs or hot dogs, which, by the way, people mentioned as the NO. 1 bargain at IKEA!

There are some great blogs about what to buy and not buy at IKEA. You can check out this link and this link.

There is an art to shopping IKEA.

When you walk in, take advantage of the lobby area to pick up pencils, paper, a catalog, tape measure and a cart.

Your list is not just a tool to jog your memory at IKEA, it’s a lifeline.

You’ll want to mark down catalog pages, plus all your needs and check them off. In IKEA, there is a traffic flow. Once you jump in, it’s not so easy to backtrack.

Plan to spend the day. This store is not a “run in, run out” kind of place — it’s an event.

There’s a supervised play area for the kids, and a restaurant, so make sure you have your game plan and expectations ready to go.

Get some more ideas on HOW to shop IKEA.

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