Swedish Finances: 3 Money-Saving Lessons from IKEA

Fjellse. Hemnes. Svelvik.

That’s Swedish for bed frames, in case you weren’t fluent. At least if all of your entire bedroom was purchased at IKEA, like mine. Personally, I’m a Malm gal myself, but I’ve been known to indulge in a little Aspelund every now and then.

Why am I talking about the Swedish king of particle board furniture? I’m about to move, and I just spent the last hour dissembling my IKEA bed frame (if there’s anything worse than assembling IKEA furniture, it’s taking it apart).

I posted the frame on Craigslist, only to see that my queen-sized frame competing with 6 exact IKEA replicas listed for sale the Washington, DC area. I should have expected it. It’s an unproven statistic that most college students and twenty-somethings will own at least one piece of IKEA furniture in their lifetime. And why not? It’s classy, practical and, most importantly, cheap.

IKEA and Your Money

If you’re a red-blooded American who’s ever been on the market for affordable furniture, I bet you’ve been inside an IKEA store at least once in your life. And boy, is it an experience: you’re greeted by a restaurant serving Swedish meatballs, ushered into a labyrinth of showcase bedrooms, and corralled into a floor-to-ceiling warehouse of beams and wood boards… all the while trying to decipher a foreign language.

Despite IKEA’s blatant efforts to teach me another dialect, I certainly don’t feel like I know any more Swedish after I leave (I’m not going to go bragging by saying, “Hey guys! Check out my new Solsta Olarp!).

But IKEA does make me think about money. Every time I walk through the blue and yellow automatic sliding doors, I know my finances are about to be tested.

So I as struggle to find the miniscule screw I dropped on my bedroom floor a half hour ago, I thought I’d what IKEA has taught me about money over the years:

3 financial Lessons I Learned From IKEA

1. “You don’t have to be rich, just smart.”

I bet you’ve heard this catchphrase from Ingemar, the loveable Swedish IKEA spokesman.  But have you ever stopped to think about it? When it comes to saving money, a little bit of smarts will go a long way.

Have you ever saved a few hundred dollars by comparing the prices of laptops between different stores? Did you ever haggle down a price at a garage sale or a bazaar because you knew you could get a better deal? Ingemar’s right: you really don’t have to be rich (just smart!) to buy high-quality items at a good price.

2. When possible, do it yourself.

Some assembly required” can be the most frightening words to read on a box of coffee table parts. But the DIY philosophy could save you thousands of dollars in your life, and not just when it comes to assembling furniture. Packing a lunch instead of eating out, making homemade gifts instead of buying them, growing your own herbs and veggies instead of buying them – all of these great do-it-yourself strategies that will save you money.

3. The little things add up.

Whoever designed the layout for IKEA is an evil marketing genius. Notice when you walk through the literal maze of IKEA merchandise what you start to put into your shopping cart. The sequence of display items was deliberately designed manipulate your spending behavior.

After you’re done picking out your bedroom and dining room furniture – the big ticket items you came to IKEA for in the first place – you pass through one final destination before reaching the cash registers: the doodads, the widgets, the nonessentials. You just blew through $900 on a sleek bedroom set. What’s another $3 here or $7 there? Ooh, this pot holder looks lovely… I have to hold pots somehow, right? And I don’t have a milk frother yet.

This is where IKEA hypnotizes the average consumer into impulse-buy overdrive. By just saying no to the little things that weren’t on your list, you can save yourself tons of money (and from walking home with two $10 soap dishes).

So next time you walk into IKEA with your family, take these lessons to heart. Your pengar will thank you. (I think that means wallet… but it could very well mean something entirely inappropriate.)

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