...and other penny-pinching secrets from an anonymous furniture-store owner.


"Not surprisingly, retailers hope to entice customers to drop their cash on a big-ticket item, like a sofa, rather than, say, a pricey ski trip. That's why they often schedule their sales to coincide with popular vacation times. So you'll find sales of up to 50 percent off starting in December (lasting through January) and then again from May to August. Even when something is already discounted, you should try to negotiate. Asking, 'Is this the very best price?' may yield you an extra 5 percent off, especially if you're shopping at a mom-and-pop store. If you're shopping at a national chain, ask for a break on the delivery fees, since you probably won't be quoted a lower sales figure.

"When buying a couch or an armchair, you can cut your costs by opting for cheaper cushion material. Instead of ordering cushions made of 100 percent down, which can go from plush to flat in an instant anyway, choose ones made with a spring-and-polyfoam core topped with a layer of down. It will save you at least $225 per sofa. That said, don't forget that certain splurges may save you money in the long run: Items upholstered in woven fabrics, like Jacquard or chenille, or in fine leather (rather than split hides) and tables and dressers made of solid, dense wood (oak, mahogany, cherry) are more costly, but they'll last at least 20 years."