First Person: Finding Exceptionally Cheap Furniture in Chicago

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I frequently tired of the way my place was decorated, so off I went to peruse price tags hanging from retail furnishings and out came the checkbook or charge card. Things have changed dramatically since I retired and my budget morphed from "Can you deliver?" to "You're charging how much for that coffee table?" Once I began ferreting out great merchandise deals, I wondered why I ever plunked down so much cash back in the day when I was swimming in it.

Light up my life. I needed lamps badly, but since my cat thinks he's a member of the flying Wallenda family, paying $100 for living room lamps simply wasn't in my future. Instead, I hit several of the Room Place Outlets in the Chicagoland area and voila! I snapped up two tall, glass designer table lamps with original shades for $20 each. I love these lamps and hope to own them for years to come, but in case Tuna crashes into either of them while rehearsing his moves, I can shop the showroom full of lamp markdowns at Room Place Outlets near my home.

A Store Named Savers. Nearly-new furniture by the truckload awaits my inspection each time I stroll one of the many Savers stores in my community. Launched in 1954, this national chain didn't arrive in the Chicagoland area until a few years ago, but it became so popular so fast, there are now eight in my vicinity alone and it pays me to take time to check them all out if I'm on the hunt! Only top-quality, gently-used merchandise is accepted at Savers and I've found décor items for a buck or two that frequently make converts of folks who are still paying retail.

It Does Compute. I needed a computer desk but even super-cheap ones weren't affordable. That's when I strolled Target and spotted one -- still in the original box -- for $6. I had to put the desk together by myself, but no worries. I own tools. I love my desk, though nobody believes I paid just $6 for it. The secret to finding the best bargains at stores like Target is to circle the periphery like a cheetah. Discontinued merchandise winds up on remote end caps within the bowels of stores. Last week, I shopped Target for a replacement coffee carafe and I was about to fork over $15 for it when I happened upon an entire new coffeemaker for $16 on an end cap. Guess which deal I chose?

Dine on a Dime. High style for $100 at Value City Furniture stores? You bet. That's how an ornate, new dining room table found its way to my place -- and weeks later, while introducing a friend to Value City, I snagged the 9-foot-high, matching breakfront marked down from $999 to $199. It's worth the drive to visit Value City Furniture stores in my area because the chain's already-affordable signature furnishings are regularly marked down or discounted due to scratches, dents or blemishes. The aforementioned friend likes National Furniture Liquidators, with five Chicago locations and itty-bitty price tags, but now, she makes it a practice to check out both stores when she's on the prowel.

Mean Machines. I wouldn't think about shopping for appliances without hitting the Melrose Park Sears Outlet first. Located at 2065 George Street, just off North Avenue, I am in there often to check out washers, dryers, 'fridges and appliances for friends, all of which have been deeply discounted because models are either discontinued or the cabinet sustained minor damage. I wouldn't bat an eyelash if I had to replace my bargain Sears dryer with a new one, but thus far, it's a workhorse that I got it for the equivalent of horse feed and it's lasted longer than the Maytag it replaced. Bottom line: When it dries my laundry, I couldn't care less about the dent on the back of the cabinet.

New Lease. My kids swear by Cort Furniture, the company that leases furnishings to companies and designers in the business of staging homes, decorating models and furnishing hotels and executive apartments. Once each furnishing does it's job, it's retired and heads for any of the Cort Clearance Centers in the Chicagoland area where all types of items sell for 70-percent off. Delivery is available, but if you've got a pickup truck (or a friend willing to show his love), head for either of these suburban locations and snap up a bargain: 161 South Gary Avenue in Carol Stream or 300 West Golf Road in Schaumburg.

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