Frugal Shopping Secrets Discovered from Buying a Chair

by David Ning · 10 comments

shopping chair
Last week, a frugal shopping event for an office chair satisfied me as a learner, frugalist as well as a consumer. What am I talking about? Let me explain.

I’ve been discussing with my wife about a new chair for a while. Mine is old and ripped but more importantly, I was getting back pains from all the time that I was playing charting writing working hard at my computer.

First, we went to an office furniture store and sat on office chairs that costs over $1,000 dollars. “Yikes.” I thought. Maybe next time. After putting it off for a while, my wife takes me to Office Depot and to my surprise, they got amazingly comfortable chairs. Best of all, they were $150 a piece.

At the end, I came out a happy customer, save a boatload of money and learned a few things about shopping as well. So without further ado, let me share with you what the experience taught me.

  1. Have an Open Mind – When I was looking for a desk chair, I had completely crossed off places like Office Depot and Staples. I got my current chair at those stores, and it sucked. Luckily, my wise wife dragged me there anyway and we saw chairs with comparable quality for 20% of the price of offerings from office furniture stores.
  2. Online Doesn’t Always Mean Bargains – I’m so used to shopping on the net that I almost immediately believed online stores will yield a better price. In actual fact, the store was selling it at $149. The online website? $199. A quick search came up with a $30 off coupon, but I got a $15 off version in the mail for my brick and mortar purchase.
  3. Price Isn’t Everything – Actually, there are certain products that just makes more sense in an offline environment. Being able to try the chairs is much more important than the raw price. Other items like shoes and clothing would also fit in this category.
  4. Resist the Temptation of Extended Warranty – I thought only electronics had these but the salesperson was trying to sell me extended warranty on the office chair. It was only $15 but I can’t see how it made sense. Please, for the 100th time you’ve heard it this week, do not buy extended warranty, especially for something like an office chair.
  5. Details Could Cost You – While black is my preferred choice, I ended up with an dark brown chair. It turns out that the brown version had superior leather and was much more comfortable. Why did the manufacturer do this when all color schemes were the same price is beyond me but I will take whatever advantage I could find.

    Note: Actually, the leather on the chair that I got is comparable to ones that are sold for $500 – $1,000 elsewhere.  I should just buy a few and open up an office furniture store.

  6. Extreme Frugality May Not Make Sense – In certain cases, saving every last cent may not make sense. While my old chair was still working fine, I was starting to get back pains after hours upon hours of sitting in front of the computer typing away. For me, investing for a comfortable chair made perfect sense. Other items that fit in the same category? Computer monitor for your eyes, beds and pillows etc.

If saving money means using your health or well being as a trade off, just say NO.

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{ read the comments below or add one }

  • Ray Hsu says:

    I’m looking for a new chair too, but we don’t have office depot here…

  • Slackerjo says:

    I bought my office chair, slightly used, at a used furniture store. They had 1000s of chairs from banks, offices, the government. I bought the exact same type of chair I used at work. It cost me $80. If I had bought it new, I would have spent 2-3 times that amount.

  • MoneyNing says:

    Mike: You are right about the details of the external warranty. It all depends on the details of the warranty. A good way to gauge whether it’s worth it or not is to think of it in the company’s point of view. For an office chair’s extended warranty, the cost of fixing a chair for the store is a replacement, so in order to make a profit on it, the replacement cost (on average) must be lower than the cost of the plan itself. Therefore, buying it is probably not in your favor.

    On the other hand, extended warranty from the dealer may include labor cost, which is free for them but costly for consumers. This can make a win-win for both the dealership AND the consumer.

    jay: Good for you but I think $150 is still a great deal because of what it represents (better back, more productive sessions etc).

    rm: I remember when my room mate in college bought an Aeron chair about 10 years ago. We were all talking about it and how he overspent (in reality, we were all jealous that he could afford one). Congrats on the purchase and yes, a chair can last 10+ years for sure.

  • rm says:

    I work a lot at my computer and have an Aeron Executive and it was WELL worth the $1500. The chair will last >10years.

  • Jay says:

    I love my Office Depot chair. It looks a lot like the one in your photo. It once sold for $150, but I caught it marked down 50% a couple weeks before Christmas. I had a coupon for $25 any purchase of $100, so I was able to get some printer ink and photo paper to raise to total up to $100 and then the coupon got it back down to the $75 I was going to pay anyway. Knowing I got a good deal makes me like the chair even more 😉

  • Mike @ TheThriftyLife says:

    How about extended warranties for cars.? We just bought a new car and doubled the warranty because we know we’ll have this car for 10 years and a 10 year, 100,000 mile COMPLETE warranty is absolutely worth the price we paid. It all depends on the scale of the purchase and the value of the warranty.

  • MoneyNing says:

    Nate: Extended warranties for everything aren’t worth it in my opinion. Your hard drive could’ve died, but how many times did your computer’s hard drive died through all the computers that you bought? At a few hundred dollars of extended warranty, you might be able to buy a spare hard drive.

    marci: I never thought about keeping myself on the chair if I fall asleep but hopefully everyone will just go to their bed if they are tired.

    50% off would be nice but I’m sure customs at the airport will look at you weird if you try to take on an office chair 🙂 I wonder how much shipping would’ve been. Maybe it would still end up being cheaper but I’m sure the situation would be complicated if you find something wrong with the chair after you took it out.

    Kai Lo: I highly recommend getting yourself a comfortable office chair. You are saving a few bucks by using your dining table chair but the long term issues with a bad back are both frustrating and expensive.

    One other note. I spent 45 minutes putting the chair backwards (it was very hard to make the screws fit but I managed to do it after some effort). Then I probably took another 30 minutes to take it apart and put it on the right way. For $5, office depot would put it together for me so it might be worth the trouble and time spent since I would probably be more productive doing something else for 75 minutes.

  • Kai Lo says:

    Hey… I use a chair from my dining table. I just sit up straight, but my lower back does get tired. I’m looking into buying a real office chair.

  • marci says:

    An investment in your health is a good spend 🙂

    I particularly like the chairs with arm rests…. more comfortable while you
    are pondering your next move, and if you happen to fall asleep…..well, it’s more
    difficult to fall out of them 🙂 Enjoy.

    While on vacation I noticed an Office Depot going out of business in FL – the furniture was 50% off there… but nothing I wanted to take home on the plane.

  • Sometimes the extended warranty could be nice. Like the time when our computer hard drive crashed…

    Thanks,
    Nate

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