Flea Market Maven
August 14, 2007 7:28 AM   Subscribe

My wife and I will be moving stateside from Bermuda next year. We will be moving into an empty house with NOTHING except outdated wardrobes and cash. With that said, we will be acquiring a lot of stuff. We will need cars, furniture, appliances, electronics, art, tools, clothes, insurance, etc. etc. How can we maximize our investments in all this stuff? What is your opinion on getting good deals in each of these categories? Our financial planner suggested we incorporate to get some tax write-offs. Another friend said to look into SwapLease. Yet another said to buy all of our furniture in North Carolina. If you were starting with nothing, how would you approach it? Should I walk into Best Buy and tell the manager to make me a deal? Should we buy used cars? Hit garage sales? Buy fine art and antiques? Get a part-time job at the Gap? Where and how can I find the best deals / best investments?
posted by jasondigitized to Shopping (12 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
It depends on what kind of life you want to live. Do you want a lot of stuff, or do you want to minimize? Do you like or hate used stuff? What kind of budget do you have? Garage sales, flea markets, book sales are great for bargains. You get useful stuff essentially for free. Used cars (direct from seller) are often a bargain vs. new cars. None of this applies however if you want the latest and greatest brand new stuff.
posted by DarkForest at 7:36 AM on August 14, 2007

With a few exceptions (eg perhaps some art and antiques) what you are planning to buy are not "investments" at all, but rather depreciating assets.

So when I've been in your position -- returning from abroad with only a suitcase -- my goal has always been to spend as little as possible at first, with the plan of later filling in with nice stuff. You need a car, a bed, and basic kitchen stuff right away, but you don't need things like guest room furniture, formal dining room stuff, or high-end kitchen goodies until a little way down the line.

Otherwise you spend a lot of money up-front, and may find that what you bought doesn't meet you current needs. By putting off those purchases at least for a few weeks, perhaps even months, you will have a better chance to reassess your US needs as compared to how you have been living over there.
posted by Forktine at 7:48 AM on August 14, 2007 [1 favorite]

Like darkforest said, there are a lot of unanswered questions here. Here's another: How do you value your time vs money? If you want the best deals possible, yeah, Craigslist is probably your best bet, but you'll need to wait until whatever it is you want rolls around and you're the first one to contact the seller. And so on.

First thing you'll want to do when you get off the plane is pick up a couple of cellphones. After that, probably a laptop so you can research everything else you'll be buying.

Assuming you wind up buying basic housewares and furniture new, think Target and Ikea (if there's one in your area), respectively. Ikea is a good enough deal that might be worth it to travel to the next major city with a van that you pack to the roof. Of course you can find some of this stuff at yard sales, but it's less likely you'll be able to completely kit yourself out that way. If you're going to be buying some stuff new, you might decide to just get it over with in one trip.

Cars: choose used for cheap vs new for peace of mind with a warranty. Only you can make that decision.

I would echo the advice that you try to get by on as few purchases as possible at first, and let your new lifestyle work itself out.
posted by adamrice at 8:09 AM on August 14, 2007

Estate sales.

Seriously -- do not pass go, do not collect $200, until you have gone to all the estate sales in your area.

There's just no reason to buy new furniture; at least not the hardwood stuff (tables, chairs, etc.). There's a ton of good stuff out there, being sold for a fraction of the price of new, and in many cases it's better made than what you'd buy in a store today.

Furniture would be the big thing that I'd get from estate sales, but you can also get all your dining ware (dishes, flat/silverware) and even most of your appliances if you don't need the latest and greatest.

Just get there early and be prepared to buy by the lot or box if you see something you like. (I once bought an entire box of kitchen tools because I wanted one knife that was in it ... good thing the whole box was $2.) You can always give the really tacky stuff to Goodwill or the Salvation Army.
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:42 AM on August 14, 2007 [1 favorite]

Also, one other thing ... the pickings at estate sales can vary depending on the demographics of your area. It can help to drive to a place with an aging and relatively well-to-do (middle class, suburban) population.

Any place where the population is declining is going to mean great deals. (We found that the Pittsburgh area was particularly rife.)
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:44 AM on August 14, 2007

If you want all new, how about one of the buying clubs like Direct Buy? i know nothing about them, but my cousins seemed to have a good experience after they joined.
posted by internal at 9:38 AM on August 14, 2007

The NYTimes had a story recently about how to outfit your kitchen on a budget. It is here.

I also like the idea of startboxes. The link there is to IKEA startboxes which have basically all of your kitchen supplies in one box for a low price.

When you are doing research on what products to buy my favorite resource is Consumersearch. Consumersearch is a meta-review site that aggregates reviews for products from multiple sources. My advice on appliances or other items that will last awhile is to make sure you do your research and then spend the money necessary to buy quality. You don't want to make these types of large purchases frequently, so it makes sense to buy the highest quality you can afford.

Also, I would endorse much of the advice above. I would avoid buying too much initially. I think it is better to live and see what items you can and cannot live without. I also agree that garage and estate sales are a great way to shop on a budget. My best advice is go to sales in nice neighborhoods. Before our first child, my wife and I spent about a month of Saturdays going to garage sales. We would map out 4 or 5 and hit them all before 9am. We got almost everything we needed and we got great stuff at great prices.
posted by bove at 10:03 AM on August 14, 2007

I've done the "moving country with no belongings" thing several times agree with the above - your life may change so much within the first few months that there's no point in splashing out as soon as you arrive - will the sofa you buy when landing fit the house you buy in a year? Will you get a job on the subway line and regret purchasing a car? And so forth.

However, some thoughts, if you will be buying new furniture and appliances etc in one shot, getting a discount for cash has always worked for me, as has using "local" furniture stores where the owner will let you haggle, rather than chains.

Researching a really good rewards credit card may work too if you don't want to pay cash.

Are there any big sales coming up wherever you're moving to? If so can you hold out and be one of the first in line for the deep discounts?

Grab some local listing papers (e.g. Toronto Life, Time Out NY, etc and read the "shopping" columns.

Can you get some rates from insurance brokers now, and scope out banking deals, before you move?

But I would really reiterate what those above have said - hold off on as much purchases as you can. You'll be kicking yourself when (and it's not if, it really is when) you find that really great furniture store/art gallery/small apartment a few weeks or months from now.
posted by jamesonandwater at 10:17 AM on August 14, 2007

I cannot emphasize enough. Do not commit to live anywhere sight unseen. staying in a hotel for a month is cheaper that breaking a lease to move from a home that you can't stand.
posted by Megafly at 1:04 PM on August 14, 2007

Just as an FYI, if you walk into Best Buy and say, "I'm going to buy all my appliances, a television, and an iPod, and I'm going to do it today," the general manager will definitely swing you a deal. Maybe not a good deal, but they will definitely do it.

Trust me on this one.
posted by santojulieta at 4:33 PM on August 14, 2007

I would seriously fight the impulse to just go out and buy everything you need in a short span of time. Get the bare bare essentials and build from there. My cousin did this with his house and it was the best thing he did, because he didn't waste money on stuff he would eventually replace. Get a decent/reliable used car, buy a nice bed and mattress, hit up IKEA for kitchen stuff and other really cheap stuff, maybe hit up Craigslist for a cheap temporary kitchen table or futon. And then slowly over the next six months or even more, properly buy everything you need. That way you aren't just buying out of desperation to get it all as quickly as possible. You won't replace it in 2 years and you'll have time to hit up sales as they come.
posted by whoaali at 9:09 PM on August 14, 2007

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