If you've just moved house and you're not Richie Rich, chances are you're planning a trip to the Swedish Flatpack Dream World known as IKEA. I've put together 16 extremely useful tips to help you survive your shopping trip.
1. Write a damn good list
If you don't write a list before you even step foot in IKEA, you're asking for trouble. Order it room by room so you can make sure you've crossed off everything you need - plus it's super-useful for when you're navigating through the showrooms. Have a good look at Ikea.com to see what takes your fancy. On your first online search, save all the products you like to a bookmark folder. This way you can revisit them to see if you still like the look of them.
When writing your final shopping list, note down the 'Article Number' which can be found on the product page. During your showroom visit, you can double check the article number against the item and then again in the self-serve furniture area when you go to pick it up so there are no chances of placing the wrong product in your car. When you get all your furniture back home, you can also go back online, find the items, and download the Assembly Instructions if you need to have two copies.
2. Arrive at IKEA as early as possible
Beat the crowds and get there as early as possible. Do some research and park by the exit, so you don't have far to lug all your goodies to. IKEA have special 'showroom browsing hours' which allow you to view everything you want, as long as you're not at the checkout paying. Once you've done your viewing, head down to the self-serve furniture area, grab your bits and pay before everyone else. Congratulations, you're a winner!
3. Eat a MASSIVE breakfast
You have a HUGE mission ahead of you. Enjoy a big tasty breakfast to give you strength for the day ahead. If you haven't eaten one from IKEA before then prepare to be shocked - you can feast on an 8-item breakfast for just £2.95. This price does vary from restaurant to restaurant but good news - they're all this price, or cheaper. Taking the kids? They can dine on 3-item breakfast for just 99p.
The restaurants open half an hour before the store opens - at the same time as the showroom browsing hours begin - so you can enjoy your breakfast and still be early for shopping. Huzzah!
You may be interested to know that IKEA might offer such a brilliant breakfast deal for a reason. According to some, they sell their food for the lowest price, even if it means taking a loss. This is because you'll know that their food is a bargain, and be more inclined to believe their furniture is a low price too. You'll also think positively about IKEA, feel comfortable shopping in-store, and then be more likely to buy their products.
4. Keep those blinkers on
If you're anything like me, you might need someone to help you with this one. I know I shouldn't, but sometimes I'll be distracted by items I REALLY don't need. After all, for a brief moment, it's easy to think one's life just isn't complete without 4 packs of over-sized tealights.
Stay strong, just keep checking your list and try not to look around too much. You'll be helping your wallet if you question yourself continuously throughout the shop - do you really need that pack of hangers or are you just momentarily blinded by how cheap they are?
5. Know your limits
Have you looked at the items you're going to buy online before you go? If so, it's easy to work out what will fit in your car space. In the product information section, you will see 'Package measurement and weight' which gives you everything you need to know about the box you'll be taking home. If you're going for a big trip, consider renting a van, or using their delivery service.
6. Test everything
Now this is the fun part. If you're getting a new sofa, armchair or bed make sure you test it out! Take your time and sit, lay - do whatever you have to do to make sure that IKEA piece is for you. After all, you'll be building the item with your own bare hands so you have to know it's worthy of your time before splashing the cash on it.
7. Measure up
If you know you want a chest of drawers and you know where it has to fit, then take your trusty tape measure and do your research. Make sure you note down to the width, depth, and height. It's important to take into account things like skirting boards, proximity to the door, fixtures and any other obstacles you might encounter with a new bit of furniture.
Kitting out a whole room from scratch with IKEA furniture? Draw a plan on paper, or use masking tape to create furniture outlines on the carpet. This will help you to visualise where everything will go. Remember to leave lots of space around the furniture so you can move about.
8. Don't take the kids...
This entirely depends on how young the children are that you're taking with you on your IKEA mission. Try to remember when you were a child and taken to the shops. Did you have fun? If they can stay with family or friends then let them. You'll have more chance to focus on your shopping trip.
9. ...but if you have to take the kids
All of the IKEA stores have a supervised play area called SMÅLAND. Children can stay and play for 1 hour and it's absolutely free, as long as they're between 3 and 10 years old. They also supply high chairs, organic baby food and warming stations of baby food in their restaurant area - kids can even enjoy a free piece of fruit with every child's meal.
Look out for designated play areas dotted around the store where your kids will be entertained. The toy showroom has plenty of things for them to test out too, so be prepared to spend a while in there! All the IKEA stores host kids activities so have a look at what your local store has planned before you go. For all those bits in between? Take along their favourite toy to distract them while you're zooming through the showrooms.
10. Try not to argue
The next time you visit IKEA, have a quick peek at the other couples shopping. While you're walking through a store which has simulated rooms, it's easy to get into an old repeated argument about who does the household chores. In the bathroom looking at towel racks? You'll suddenly remember that your other half DOESN'T EVEN BOTHER TO PICK UP TOWELS SO WHY SHOULD YOU BUY A TOWEL RACK ANYWAY. Try not to argue while you're in the shop. Save it for when it comes to assembling the furniture at home. You can help avoid arguments by doing this next IKEA survival tip...
11. Set goals
If you are mainly going to research options for your new home then make sure you set out some goals, whether they are to get verything you need for your new kitchen, or kitting out your child's room. Before you go to IKEA, work out a style that you and your partner all agree on. This will save you some time in the shop and you'll be more focused on your trip. Give yourself a bit of a break time during shopping time and head to the cafe to enjoy a nice rejuvenating cuppa and a slice of Dime cake as a reward for all your hard work.
12. Remember room colour schemes
While that bright yellow BILLY bookcase looks good in the showroom - will it really go with all the furniture in your living room? Remember the colour schemes in each room you're shopping for, or if you can't do this, take photos with your mobile phone camera to remind you.
13. Try not to get lost
You are probably aware that the IKEA layout is confusing. Experts say this may help in disorientating you, so you end up making impulse purchases - you know that you won't be able to make your way back later to that cheap basket of plug adaptors, so you stick them straight in your trolley when you go past. Keep a steady eye on those arrows on the floor and try not to deviate from them!
14. Check out the discounted section
Right at the end of the shop before the checkout, there's a whole section of furniture pieces that have been heavily discounted, due to small scratches or dents. You never know what item you could get and mostly these pieces are already assembled. If you dare, go against the rules and head there first - it could save you a whole trip around the shop!
15. Think outside the box
I've been using this website for years, it's so fun and useful - have a look at Ikeahackers.net for inspiration. It's full of loads of amazingly creative ideas for converting all your IKEA furniture, like adding shelves to your kitchen islands, creating a rolling ladder library with your Billy bookcases or making a storage bench for your hallway. You can even build a custom shoe rack, as seen in the picture above.
16. Get an IKEA Family Card
It's completely free and you can enjoy lots of rewards! You'll even get cheaper food at the restaurant, so it's definitely worth picking up an IKEA family Card. Every time you visit you can also get a free cuppa. Don't forget to swipe it every time you purchase something and you can look forward to monthly offers and exclusive discounts.
17. Treat yourself
Congratulations, you've survived IKEA! It's time to treat yourself. Buy that frozen pack of meatballs for your tea tonight. Eat that hot dog. Grab eighty packs of Daim choclate treats. You deserve it.
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