Know What You Need
With a few exceptions, IKEA is quite inexpensive. That and the clean aesthetic are the reasons we love it. The danger strikes when you get to the marketplace (endless miles of bins) and start throwing things willy nilly into your cart. You didn't come for a cheese grater, but why not? And, these adorable blue vases? Of course you need them! Even if each impulse buy costs roughly $1.99, it all adds up. Making a list and sticking to it is imperative if you don't want to blow your budget. If you know you're prone to such acts of impulsivity (or even need a bit of bribery to get through the excursion) set a max of five surprise items. Yes, five candlesticks equals five items.
Make Two Trips
Moving to a new city and decorating from scratch is overwhelming. In this case, make an inspiration and a buying trip. Expecting to get it all done in one day will only make you sad when it doesn't happen. And, those comfy display beds are not meant for full-blown weeping. IKEA's layout is supposed to be a journey (hence all the winding paths), but that doesn't mean you can't choose your own adventure. Take a shortcut to the marketplace if you know you just came for a bedskirt and cutting boards. Skip the showroom entirely, and hit it when you come back for the big buys.
Visit The Small Spaces
Many locations have model rooms tailored specifically to the lifestyles in the surrounding area. The Brooklyn outpost has small-space displays listed by square feet, so you can really see how to Tetris-fit your own pad. Take pictures of the sets for inspiration on how to arrange furniture when you get home.
Some store locations have poor cell reception (it's a big place!), so download all your Pinterest inspiration before stepping inside. When you're in the moment, surrounded by 12 bookcase options, it'll be easier to recall what you really envisioned.
Pick One Room
Shopping with a new roommate and still feeling out your relationship? Furnish only one room and pick the the top five to 10 essentials. That's it. We already know tackling a whole apartment in one trip is impossible, add the prickly interpersonal dynamics of a person you don't totally know but are about to live with and you're just asking for trouble. One room, a few key items — you guys can do it. And, there's lingonberry soda if you need to take a time out.
Divide & Conquer
If you have a return to make and stuff to buy, it's best if you and your partner split up. Delegating roles is the best method. With the reception issue, it's best to synchronize your watches old-school style and plan to meet in the lighting section, or wherever the next big decision needs to happen.
Take A Half Day
Employees gave us the scoop that July and August (when the new catalog comes out) is the busiest time of year. Not to mention all the college freshman are getting their dorm gear. The least crowded times to go are early in the week (Monday through Wednesday). If you need to make big decisions, go on a weekday when you'll have lots of elbow room.
Only Make Returns At 10 A.M.
Not all returns are equal. There are inevitably a lot of questions when someone takes back a big-ticket item. With assemble-yourself pieces, every now and then a screw is missing or an instruction is unclear — customers come to the counter with all of these issues. To best avoid a time-consuming ordeal, make sure you're first to grab a numbered ticket.
Think Outside The Section
One major upside to the clean, streamlined products is their versatility. A wicker basket in the kitchen section might be an ideal fit under your bathroom sink. There's a mini-marketplace in the kitchen section with plenty of multipurpose containers.
Measure Twice & Buy Once
What might look like an average-sized utensil drawer is most likely not. Remember, this is a European company. If you live in a tight space, it's crucial to measure your drawers and closets, or table height, or whatever it is you're aiming to match, beforehand. Frames are especially tricky, too. A standard 8-by-10 frame may not be available, so check the site ahead of time. If you forget the measuring tape, the stores have nifty paper ones laying around.
Make A Playlist
Traveling alone? Create a feel-good song list to help you power through. We love skipping through the aisles to the tune of "Dancing Queen," and can't help but pat ourselves on the back for choosing a band with such thematic relevance.
When In Doubt, Ask
If you're looking for a certain something, it often pays to seek out a yellow-shirted employee. They can advise on what's in stock at other locations, or help come up with alternative ways to deal with a space dilemma. After all, they hear the same furnishing questions over and over again.
Remember The Salmon & Succulents
The frozen section is usually after the checkout and the last thought on your mind when you're busy strategizing how to get an armoire home. But, the frozen Swedish delicacies are gold. (And, they solve the post-shopping dinner dilemma which you hadn't even started worrying about yet.) If you still have any of your five impulse buys left, the pretty succulents in the garden section are a total steal at $2.99.
Call An Uber
If you have small, packaged furniture, like chairs and tables, the cab can sometimes be easier and cheaper than the $59 to $140 delivery services, depending on where you live. (Plus, IKEA doesn't deliver you home, just your stuff.) Be sure to get an estimate first. You might want to save some money for the store's assembly service, that starts at $79, if you know you're hopeless at reading those word-less comic-book-like instructions or don't have a helper for the heavy lifting.