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I guess you could say I’m on a wallet-draining roll lately. In addition to my spontaneous purchase of two vanities for the primary and guest bathrooms and the splurge for a laptop table, I also went to Ikea after work one day last week.

Okay, twice.

Every time before this experience, I’ve gone to Ikea on a Saturday. As much as I love their prices, the other circumstances surrounding a trip to the store (the parking, the crowds, the more than 30 minute drive, the odd smell of meatballs in the morning) always made me feel like it was, well, a chore. Getting through the store takes forever, which I realize is on purpose, but by the end of the dizzying maze, I’ve usually misplaced the second or third list I’d created hoping to get to the right products, getting flustered/distracted, and ultimately snarling at a stranger who gave me the stink-eye because I couldn’t control my cart (why do I always get the cart that only wants to go sideways?).

I realize that my opinion may not be popular in the Ikea-obsessed blog world, and I certainly don’t hate their products, which is why I continue to return despite the dread I’ve felt before planning a trip. But I find the experience of shopping there on a Saturday akin to visiting Walmart on Christmas Eve. In other words, H*LL on Earth.

This time around, I decided to go after work simply because it’s a shorter drive from my office than it is from my house, and I’d been window shopping online for an anti-slip rug. Most stores that sell them in the size I need are $30 or more, which means I’d be $60 in the hole for something that goes under something I’m trying to decorate the house with. It won’t even be seen, and I’m cheap. Ikea sells them for $9.99 for the large ones, and you can trim them to size. Perfect.

But if I’m going to head over to a store I consider a chore, I’m not going to make the drive just for two rug underlays. C’mon, I might as well make it truly worth my while, right? So instead of my usual and impractical “I don’t need a cart” method (which turns into my “Four dollars no way I need six where were those carts?” method), I had a better game plan:  I made a list of what I wanted to get on the ikea.com site, emailed the list to myself, and pulled it up on my phone as I walked through the store. Not only did this eliminate the putt-putt golf pencils (does anyone else have this association too?), but it meant that I actually had a budget.

  • ANTONIUS desk top – $20
  • ANTONIUS shelves (3) – $5 each
  • GOSA TULPAN pillow shams (4) – $11.99 each
  • FJELLSE bed frame – $49.99
  • KAJSA curtains – $29.99
  • STOPP anti-slip underlay (2) – $9.99 each

GRAND TOTAL: $182.92

I arrived with the list in hand phone, and immediately felt less stressed than previous trips. And to my surprise, the place was nearly deserted instead of the usual madhouse I was used to.

After the experience of visiting the store on a weeknight, I’ll say this:  I’m never shopping at this store again on a Saturday. The difference was – delightfully – night and day. The experience was so jarring to me, I actually took this photo of one of the model kitchens with my cell phone – and no one in it.

I realize I’m making a really big deal out of this, but it was just so fun for me. Instead of feeling awkward with my sideways cart and getting annoyed at others (I know the people there on a Saturday are just as annoyed, if not more so, as I am, so I don’t blame them really for the attitude – but sheesh, get out of my way already!), the entire stroll through Ikea this time was different. I could casually walk through the store as fast or as slow as I wanted to, take note of the little rooms on display, and even turn around and go back for something I thought I’d missed. Try to do that on a Saturday, my friend.

The fact that I could easily go back and change my mind about a purchase made it easier to stick to my budget. I felt free to think:

  • I changed out the four TULPAN shams for four others that were the same size for only $6.99 each, opening up another $20 in my budget for some bathroom cannisters.
  • The ANTONIUS shelves weren’t as narrow as I wanted them to be, so I’m going to try the DIY version instead.
  • The KAJSA curtains (which I’d planned to paint more color onto anyway) were a little more grayish-blue in person than I’d anticipated, so I chose some $24.99 white ones instead. The feel of the fabric is much higher quality too and not too thin, so I’m thinking it was a happy accident that I was forced to find an alternative – and save myself another $5!

As you can see, I left the place with quite a haul, and this isn’t including the two larger boxes I had to precariously lift and fit into my car for the desktop and bed frame (the days I wish for a truck to haul things are few and far between, but on those days, I have to remind myself how much money I save on gas).

You can probably guess where I’m planning on putting a few of these items, but we’ll get to all of those projects in time. I’d like to be able to say I left without any impulse buys, but I did walk out with one:  this adorable blue bag that I plan to use for an upcoming beach trip. It was only five bucks and the perfect size for a beach towel, magazine, and sunscreen.

Alright, enough blabber for today. Time for your feedback. Do you usually plan out your shopping trips, or do you wing it? Does anyone share my distaste for crowded stores on weekends? I know I can’t be the only one.

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  1. While we were waiting for our closing date on our house, we spent a lot of time in the fake kitchens at Ikea planning planning planning. We actually loved walking through the maze and dreaming about what our house would look like when we were finally done all our renos.

    And then, we actually got the house and started buying things and realized what a time and energy suck the place actually is. Now, when we go, we know exactly what we're there for and just beeline it. No meandering through living rooms and bedrooms for us. My conclusion? Weekends at Ikea are fun if you don't actually want to buy anything.

  2. I always plan, because otherwise I'll end up spending a whole bunch extra for stuff that seems cool but I will never use. Of course, I have never been to an Ikea before and I hear it's “life-changing” or whatever, so maybe after we've got the remodeling done and it's time for decorations, I'll visit and end up a grand poorer and with a hundred new things to put together/install/find a place for.


  3. Your IKEA is only 30 minutes away? I'd be there all the time! Mine is 4-5 hours away, if there's no traffic. If I want to go, I plan it out and take a day off in the middle of the week.

    When I lived back east, the nearest IKEA was 5 hours away but only 20 minutes from my uncle's, so I'd say overnight at his house to accomodate my IKEA shopping spree. One time it snowed – not much, but enough – and I went to IKEA the next day. The place was wonderfully deserted! If it snowed where I live now and if IKEA was close I'd be there every time it snowed.

  4. I love IKEA, but agree with you, it's a bit of a nightmare on the weekends! I love to dream, especially while cruising the various rooms but like a previous comment and this post, it's important to stay disciplined with a budget and a realistic idea of where you'd put everything! Big fan of IKEA though :)