A trip to Ikea — for all its wonderful attributes — can sometimes make you feel a bit like being trapped in the world’s largest furniture store maze. You don’t know where to turn next. Ikea designed the warehouses this way on purpose, making it necessary for you to wind your way through every single department before reaching the stock area and checking out.
To help you feel less overwhelmed and reach expert-Ikea-shopper status, here are some lesser-known tips for shopping there while still saving money and time. Whether you go to Ikea once a month or are about to make your first trip, these tips won’t steer you wrong.
Sign Up For Ikea Family
If you haven’t already, you need to sign up for the free Ikea Family card. Some of its biggest perks are 90-day price protection on buys, an extra 30 minutes of free childcare at the shop’s on-site child care center (normally only an hour is free), a free cup of coffee or tea on each visit and an entry for a $100 gift card every time you swipe your Family card at the store.
Sign Up For The Moving Program
Sign up for Ikea’s Moving Guide and you’ll get a coupon for $25 off a $250 in-store purchase. Plus they’ve got some perky, motivating tips for purging, packing, moving and settling into your new place.
There Is A Best Time Of The Week To Go
There are a few theories on the best time to go to Ikea, but none of them include the middle of a weekend day when everybody else is there.
Suggestion No. 1 is to go on a Monday after the busy weekend is over. You’ll probably have the best selection of items in the “As-Is” section, as people return a lot of items over the weekend.
Suggestion No. 2 is to go on a weeknight after work and have some dinner while you’re at it. Wednesday night is recommended in particular because the “As-Is” section will have an additional 10% markdown this day.
Suggestions No. 3 is to try Saturday night after the daytime crowds have headed home.
There’s Also A Time Of The Year To Avoid
If possible, avoid Ikea trips in July and August because you’re likely to encounter college students stocking up for back-to-school items and people loading up on goods for the houses they just bought over the peak summer house-buying season. Plus, Ikea’s annual catalog with all its new releases comes out in August/September. So unless you need something that’s new and are worried it will go out of stock fast, hold off and wait until the fall when in-store traffic is a little slower.
Measure the space in your home where you’re planning to put your new Ikea purchase before you’re at the store so you know what will work for your space. Bring a tape measure (or use the free paper ones they have in-store) to check the dimensions of pieces you’re considering. Don’t forget to measure how big your vehicle’s storage space is, too. It’s no fun to have just purchased that awesome new entertainment console only to realize the flat packs it comes in won’t fit in your trunk.
Do Online Prep
If you’ve found an item online or in the catalog that you want to check out in the store, search online by store location to make sure the item is in stock at the location nearest you. The Ikea website also offers a good reminder of any sales going on.
Once you’re at the store, take a photo of the big blue Ikea map at the entrance. Paper copies are available too, but you can save a tree and have one less thing to lose while you’re shopping by using a phone pic. Study the map so you know the shortcuts to the departments you want. This avoids any impulse purchases you might make as you wind through the entire store.
You should also take photos of the item tags on the big pieces you want to buy so you have the numbers down when you head to the stock pickup section. It’s quicker than using those Ikea-provided golf pencils to jot down the ID number and it prevents any mistakes when transcribing the numbers.
Dig Into The ‘As-Is’ section
Near the checkout area of Ikea is an “As-Is” section filled with returned, damaged, incomplete or floor model merchandise marked down to a great price. This section has the most stock on Mondays because people tend to return items over the weekend. But on Wednesdays, the”As-Is” area gets marked down an additional 10%, so you might want to hold out a little longer.
One skilled seamstress posted about using Ikea fabric leftovers she found in a remnants bin to make her daughter a dress. You can find some great treasures in this area depending on when you go.
There Can Be Great Finds For Woodworkers
In the “As-Is” area, some stores call the cabinet and shelves area the “Handyman Corner.” People like Instagram user @mr.kahoy have posted about finding solid wood pieces for a fraction of the normal cost or creating their own coat rack from extra pieces and a cabinet door. This is a potential goldmine if you’ve got DIY skills.
Go In Through The Exit
If you’re using the Småland play center for your kids (usually by the entrance) or the department you’re looking for is closer to the front of the store, this tip isn’t applicable. But parking by and entering Ikea through the exit doors can save you a lot of time, especially if you already know the exact items you want and can head straight to the stocking area to pick them up. There’s also a bistro (not to be confused with the larger restaurant and market) near the checkout stands where you can start your shopping trip off with a hot dog or the like so you’re not shopping “hangry.”
Get Cheap Decorations
Ikea is a treasure trove of cheap vases, candles, linens, frames, bottles and other pieces of decor that could be useful for the DIY savvy bride. It’s also a great place to find inexpensive seasonal decor. Did we mention they have awesome candles?
Visualize Your Home (Literally)
The IKEA Place app allows you to virtually try out Ikea items on top of a 3D scanned image of your room. This is definitely something you should check out before heading to the store, but it’ll also help you decide whether you want items once you see them in person at a warehouse.
Ikea isn’t the first place you think of when you need new plants. But the store actually has great (and cheap!) houseplants and other potted plants and shrubbery. And they were ahead of the boho-chic plant trend long before it was a thing. Plus the store sells plant accessories like pots and vases.
Only The Stores Have A Complete Ikea Selection
Online shopping is super convenient and keeps you out of the Ikea maze. But then you have to pay for shipping, plus you miss out on a lot of store-exclusive items. As the Ikea website states, “this [website] is only a small portion of IKEA’s complete product range. Each store carries a much larger selection. Be sure to visit your local IKEA store for a look at our full selection.”
Click And Collect
OK, so you only do online shopping. If you live near enough to an Ikea warehouse, the store offers a “Click and Connect” option that basically amounts to free store pickup. Order and pay for your item online and it’ll be waiting for you at the furniture pickup area at your local store. It’s the Starbucks mobile ordering of the furniture world.
Don’t want to build that stupidly complex piece of furniture from IKEA with its picture instructions that are about as discernable as hieroglyphics? There’s TaskRabbit for that. It’ll cost you. But isn’t your sanity worth it?
Get 5% back
If you’re a huge Ikea shopper, it might be worth it to get the IKEA credit card, which gives you 5% back on in-store rewards with all purchases, installation and TaskRabbit assembly.
It’s A Cheap Date For Parents
You can use Ikea’s free childcare center whether or not you buy anything from the store. So why not drop your kids off for a free hour of childless time. Head to Ikea’s cafe for a cheap meal, and you’ve just created a cheap date. This all assumes you don’t end up buying a bunch of stuff while at the store that puts you over your own personal monthly spending budget.
The Ikea Family rewards program is awesome. But even without that, the Ikea cafe in some countries (not the U.S., sorry) offers free baby food with a purchase. Some cafes also give a free piece of fruit with a kids meal order. Ikea’s super clean bathrooms have changing tables and also often have free diapers and feminine hygiene products. Plus they regularly have food promos you’ll want to take advantage of, like free breakfasts on Monday mornings, kids eat free Tuesdays and the like. And there’s always the actual children’s department in the store, where your kids can try out all the fun products and furniture.
The Food There Is A Huge Perk
Ikea’s cafe food can be hit or miss. But there are some regular mainstays (tasty Swedish meatballs and yummy desserts are a constant) that you can get for a great price. The store’s bistro also has cheap ice cream cones and hot dogs you can use as a bribe, er, reward, after a successful shopping trip with your kids. Plus, there’s tasty pre-packaged food you can buy to take home.
Family-Friendly Parking Spots
Did you know there’s a family parking section at Ikea? Pregnant moms and families with children can make use of these designated spots. This is awesome when parking at the store is full up, especially on the weekends.
Ikea Kitchen Sale
Ikea has several kitchen sales a year (at least one usually takes place in the winter) where you can get free delivery and up to 15-20% off your kitchen design purchases. They also have design specialists who can help you select your new kitchen. The discount on your order will be in the form of an Ikea gift card.
What To Buy
According to Money Crashers, Ikea is best for home decor, kitchen items, bedding and curtains, kids items, shelves, closet organizers and organizing systems. But Money Crashers isn’t a big fan of some of Ikea’s cheaper furniture items, appliances, flooring and mattresses.
Check Out Ikea On Amazon
Did you know Ikea items are sold on Amazon? Sometimes there are good deals. But be wary of third-party seller markups. Make sure to compare item costs on Ikea’s own site.
But considering that Ikea won’t ship to some states (like Hawaii and Alaska) or that you might not want to head to a store or pay Ikea’s shipping costs, the option to get free Amazon shipping on even marked-up but coveted Ikea items might be a good option. Just price it out.
What’s your favorite Ikea shopping tip?