Sunday, March 16, 2014
Our $9,417.50 sofa!
After law school, my husband and I got our first apartment in Chicago. Our living room furniture consisted of a truly horrid green couch that had followed my husband through his undergraduate years and law school years; its earlier years remain shrouded in mystery.
My protestations of "this really has GOT to go!" were met with defenses such as "comfort", "cost to replace" and some personal affection on his part I believe.
But I was on a mission. I saw a white sofa gracing that room and upping our style quotient, and started looking at little for sale by owner ads.
Looking back, I'm surprised we were as frugal as we were. At that point, we were fresh out of law school and both working for a big law firm. Our combined income for a very short while until I jumped ship to teach, was about $140,000.
Still, in those days, I wouldn't have dreamed of paying $800 for a Crate and Barrel sofa and waited until I saw the ad reading, "White sleeper sofa (we agreed we needed a sleeper sofa for guests since we had a one bedroom apartment) Excellent condition. "$150".
I went to look at it and quickly saw why it was so cheap...it was sitting out in the hallway of her new apartment. It was indeed in perfect condition, but the owner had just moved in and the sofa couldn't make the corner of the old building into the door. She had moved it up three floors and now was literally and figuratively stuck.
I've never seen myself as an expert negotiator, but this one cried out for some wiggle room. I offered her $75 and she responded "sold!" within about four seconds.
With the help of a wonderful friend, we moved that sleeper sofa (do you have any idea what those things weigh?) all the way down the three floors, and then walked it (none of us had a truck) about seven city blocks to our building, then up to the third floor again. We still owe you Mike!
And many thanks to my then newly wed husband who graciously went along with my decorating mandates and swapped his old green couch without too much regret. I knew you were a catch on that very first date!!
Some of you might think "ewww" at the thought of a used sofa. And if I'd followed up the ad and walked in to find some gold chain wearing macho guy with personalized plates reading "SWINGER" and blasting "Love Shack" on his surround sound stereo set, carving yet another mysterious looking notch on the doorframe, I would too. But if a sofa is in new condition, it can't have been through too much....or at least so I prefer to believe.
Later we moved to Wisconsin and made an offer on our current house. We also fished around for a price on the furniture as lo and behold, another white sofa set for the living room. And our white sofa sleeper would go in the family room.
There was an island in the kitchen with five cream bar stools and a large kitchen table and six chairs all of which we would have to replace.
It turns out the living room set had been custom made and it along with the bar stools, kitchen table and six chairs had originally cost around $5000.
Everything was in pristine condition as the previous owner was and is the best housekeeper I've ever met (we have been to their new home several times and I still can't believe how perfect she keeps everything.)
We agreed to $800 for all. And ten years later, we still use all these pieces every single day. The family room sofa has had the hardest wear (picture two boys and a dog) and now is covered with a green throw and some pillows when guests come.
So let's look at some numbers. Imagine we'd paid full price for the furniture ten years ago. That would have been $800 for a cream sofa sleeper and another $5000 for new custom living room and kitchen furnishings. Today we'd have the same furniture, but not be the same place financially.
Rather than spending $5,800 (which we could have afforded), we spent $875 and invested the difference, which was $4925.
Assuming a 6.5% return over the past 10 years, that money has now grown to $9417.50.
So before you head out to buy a new room of furniture, get out your calculator, and give at least some thought to the bargains to be found on Craigslist. An aside, personally I would buy only from the original owner, only in pristine condition, and only from someone with no pets (you don't want a distinct cat odor showing up in three months).
By doing some bargain hunting, you'll have more time to actually sit on those sofas and contemplate the view rather than working a lot of extra hours to pay for them!