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Budgets, bookcases, and bargain-hunting advice

Joan Fieldstone

December 22, 2014

By: Joan Fieldstone, Home Improv Advocate

In: Interior Design

When I was growing up, I was fortunate to never want for anything. My parents, who lived through the Depression Era, worked hard, became successful, and had no qualms about spending for what they perceived was "the best that money could buy." I certainly don't blame them after spending their childhoods not knowing whether there would be food on the table.

I, on the other hand, eventually went through that rebellious phase -- which apparently never ended -- to distinguish myself as an independent entity from my middle class roots. Coming of age in the late 1960s at the height of the hippie era, I did my utmost to adopt the identity of an idealistic, starving bohemian. At some point I had to admit that I was no longer idealistic and that if I didn't obsessively watch my expenditures, I surely would be starving. Thus was born my love of finding a bargain.

Not just any bargain. I won't spend a dime on something I don't need. Necessity, however, is often subjective, like beauty, and I have a hard time passing up certain aesthetically pleasing objects, too, if I can come up with a way to fit them into my strained budget. I have, therefore, cultivated a network of favorite places and methods of saving money. When I see something, especially of good quality, that I either need or want and it's really low-priced, I no longer hesitate to buy it. I know from sad experience that the object of my desire will usually be gone if I decide a day later I can't live without it.

Furnishing, organizing, and decorating my bedroom and home office have been top of the list for this fall's projects, so I've been keeping an eye out for the things I need. I mentioned how I found a gently used four-drawer filing cabinet at Cort's clearance center and a bookcase for my office on clearance at Target that matched the style of the desk I bought there a few months ago.

bookcase and desk

I liked the bookcase so much and considered buying another -- they can actually be stacked -- but even at the clearance price I didn't think I could afford it. I really knew, however, I needed more bookcases and never expected to find the very ones I wanted marked down even further a couple of weeks later. I couldn't resist and when I got to the register, I was even more excited because the price rang up even lower than what they were marked. The same bookcase Target sells for $79.99 online and for which I paid $55 a few weeks earlier was only $23. I bought two.

Bookcase in home office

dark bookcase

Other ways to snag a bargain besides 'on clearance'

If you can't find something on sale or at a price you like or can afford, there are other ways to score price reductions these days. Did you know that on big ticket items like appliances you can actually haggle in some retail stores? Try it. Sometimes the salesperson can get approval from the manager if they are trying to move inventory. And if you see the same item for which you paid full price just last week on sale this week at the same store, you can go back and ask if they will give you an adjustment for the difference on your credit card -- or if you paid cash, a store credit.

Even if, like my parents, you want "only the best," once you get into the bargain-hunting mindset, you can find countless ways to decorate and remodel your home without straining your budget. But be warned, however: bargain hunting is known to be habit-forming. So that you don't go overboard and end up spending more than you're saving, it really helps to have a very clear idea of what you are looking for. Then, be patient and wait until you find it at a price you can live with.

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