How to Shop Ikea Like a Pro (and avoid buying the whole store)

This post is sponsored by IKEA Stoughton, but all words/ideas/opinions are entirely my own!

1980s Germans spent a lot of time watching MacGyver, listening to techno—and, apparently, going to IKEA.

At least, that’s what my family did.

Don’t worry, we did other fun things too, hiking and zoos and movies and normal family things. But because of IKEA’s inexpensive meals and built-in childcare, some of my earliest memories with my parents—both struggling students at the time—are of ball pits, mini POANGS, and Swedish meatballs.

So believe me when I tell you: I love IKEA.

Fast-forward 20+ years, and Adult Me is still filled with glee whenever I “have to” go to IKEA. And I mean, what’s not to love? The affordable designs! The silly names! The vast showroom that lets you realize that you, too, can have a chef-worthy kitchen!

And for those of you whose own fondness for everyone’s favorite Swedish import has been hampered by a lack of enthusiasm for shopping in general, don’t worry. As a life-long IKEA shopper (a truly enviable title, I know), I’ve compiled some tips for how to shop IKEA like a pro—and even avoid buying the whole store when you finally do get swept up in the awe of it all.

How to Shop IKEA Like A Pro @idlehandsawake

Make a better shopping list.

Basic, I know, but avoiding impulse buys starts with making a thorough, practical list.* I don’t just mean chicken scratch on the back of that receipt you fished out of your bag. I mean, go to any product on the IKEA website, and use their “save to list” feature to be super organized about what you want to buy.

You can even select your local store to check the stock updates, and avoid trekking all the way to the store only to find that they’re out of that SINNERLIG plant pot you just have to have. AND you can print the shopping list to sort by location in the store, which will list the item number, where to find it, how many packages you need to pick up, and your spending total. It’s magical.

How to Shop Ikea Like a Pro

*I should note that when I read this sentence to my husband out loud, he started laughing so hard he cried. Let’s say I’m still practicing the art of restraint.

The early bird catches the FULLFÖLJA.

As at any store with great prices, IKEA can get a bit crowded at times, especially weekends. If you’re not able to plan your shopping excursion for a weekday, try to get there right when it opens, or wait until a few hours before closing. You’ll skip the long lines and be able to test out every bed in peace.

How to Shop Ikea Like a Pro

Become an IKEA family member.

No, you won’t get spam emails. No, you don’t have to collect points. You’ll simply get extra discounts on certain items in the store. Earlier this year the BESTA series was 15% off for “family members,” and I managed to snag a cute tv console for way cheaper. Forgot your IKEA family member card, or forgot to sign up at all? You can do it right in the entrance at a handy little kiosk.

Follow the arrows…but not too closely.

IKEA makes it easy to navigate its home furnishings empire by providing handy maps and lining the path with arrows. And you should absolutely start at the beginning and spend some time in the Showroom, because it is a glorious cavern filled with more design ideas than you can possibly imagine—particularly if you live in a cramped storage-less apartment (Boston folks, you know what I’m talking about).

How to Shop Ikea Like a Pro

How to Shop Ikea Like a Pro

Oh, heeeeyyyyyy….

But, if you’ve seen it all before or don’t want to imagine yourself living in a perfectly organized model home, 1) know that I’m judging you just a little bit, and 2) know that there are shortcuts along the path. Just follow the blue signs:

How to Shop Ikea Like a Pro

Grab some food.

You may think that you don’t need to stop at the restaurant. But peering into every single kitchen drawer to see precisely how to organize your overflowing utensils is hard. Be good to yourself and take a little break. Be impressed at how very efficient a Swedish-style cafeteria is. Eat lingonberry jam. Oh, and there’s vegan meatballs now! Adult Me is pleased.

Don’t lose your resolve in the Marketplace.

Beyond the Showroom and Restaurant is where the real fun begins: the Marketplace. This is where you get to start grabbing all those great products and sticking ’em in your cart. And it is very easy to go overboard here! Resist, resist, just stick to your list. I’m saying this as much to me as to you.

How to Shop Ikea Like a Pro

Write down aisle and bin numbers.

Did you forget your painstakingly prepped and printed shopping list? You’ll find item locations on all the tags in the store, so when you fall in love with a certain configuration of PAX wardrobe, you’ll know just where to get every individual piece. IKEA even provides golf pencils, blank lists, and—amazing—paper measuring tapes. Because IKEA knows we are but fallible mortals who try our best to be organized but get derailed by having to feed the cats and suddenly you’re halfway to the highway before your realize you forgot the printout on the kitchen table, right beside your purse…

How to Shop Ikea Like a Pro

Stay calm in the warehouse Self-Serve Furniture Area.

It is big. Really big. But you’ve got your lists and your locations. Breathe. Or, grab an IKEA employee.

How to Shop Ikea Like a Pro

There’s a right way to load your cart.

Little things in a yellow bag, hanging on the cart handles. Flat/large items on the cart, label facing forward to make check-out faster. You got this.

How to Shop Ikea Like a Pro

Hit the As-Is section.

Treasures untold await you in this hidden area at the end of the warehouse, and with your shopping list in-hand you could save yourself a lot of money. As long as you are realistic and remember that you don’t need 20 discounted cabinet doors because you have no cabinets.

How to Shop Ikea Like a Pro

How to Shop Ikea Like a Pro

So. Many. Cabinet doors.

Oftentimes you can find the very products you are looking for at huge discounts, simply because they’re floor models or someone returned an opened package. That’s how I scored this gem for $17!

How to Shop Ikea Like a Pro

Get delivery.

Car too tiny for that OPPLAND? Home delivery is pretty reasonable. You can even have the employees do the furniture picking for you. This is especially helpful if you are shopping alone, as flat-packing can only go so far with reducing weight (or, my will is strong but the SKOGSTA is stronger).

And above all…have fun. It’s just shopping.

You’re probably at IKEA because you’re doing some sort of a home makeover. In which case, shopping is the least of your worries:

How to Shop Ikea Like a Pro

Do you like how my hair looks like it’s growing out of a NORDEN? Totally intentional.

Who among you is planning a makeover? Is your significant other crying yet?

Read the whole series:

Scandinavian workspace inspiration for renters

Scandinavian workspace makeover — Before

How to hang heavy shelves on horsehair plaster walls

Scandinavian workspace makeover — The Reveal

DIY Copper Inspiration Board

This post is sponsored by IKEA Stoughton, but my words and opinions are truly my own, pinky promise. In fact, I reached out to them for the collaboration, and the story of me spending fond childhood memories at IKEA in Germany—100% true! Thank you so much for supporting the brands that support Idle Hands Awake!

Author: Marlene @ Idle Hands Awake

Maker, baker, cat momma, total nerd, perpetually covered in glitter/sawdust/paint. Blogging DIY and design for modern creatives.

14 comments on “How to Shop Ikea Like a Pro (and avoid buying the whole store)”

  1. These are such great tips, I always end up having to search for items even though I can easily note them straight from their site!!
    Thank you for sharing:)

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