The First Time Buyer's Guide To IKEA
Congratulations! After years of savings, months of planning and probably a rather complex conveyancing process, you’ve finally completed on your property purchase and can proudly call yourself a first-time homeowner. This is a major life milestone and one you will want to make the most of. We imagine you’ve already spent hours trawling through Pinterest (Read our article - How To Make Your Home Pinterest Worthy) dreaming about how you’re going to furnish and decorate your house or flat to truly make it feel like home. Then will come time to take part in another important life milestone - the first trip to IKEA as a home-owner. Let the fun begin!
Tips for making the most of your trip to IKEA
You’ve probably been to IKEA before - but stocking up on candles and cushions for your rented flat is a little different to shopping for a home of your own. You’ll probably be on the look-out for more substantial items such as beds, sofas and tables and you’ll need to align your dreams with a (probably tight) budget. A blind IKEA outing is not advised. Here are a few tips to help you and your co-owner prepare.
Don’t eat lunch beforehand (but don’t shop on an empty stomach either)
If you’ve ever taken a trip to the Swedish superstore before, you’ll understand that food is a big part of that experience. As far as we’re concerned, every respectable person who visits IKEA stops for a spot of lunch (or at least a snack) in IKEA’s canteen-style restaurant, where you’ll find an array of Scandinavian delights on offer.
In most (or perhaps all? We’ve been to a lot, but sadly not all) IKEA outlets there are multiple entries to the food hall - somewhere close to the store’s entry and again mid-way through, usually as you’ve passed the main furniture sections and are ready to move towards lighter homewares. As seasoned IKEA shoppers, we would advise serious shoppers to opt for a mid-shop meal or snack. This way, you’ll have had a chance to look through the furniture section and can consider what the best options for you, your home and your budget are over a hearty meal or uplifting cake and coffee break. Then, with a full belly, you can make your decisions.
It’s never a good idea to shop on an empty stomach though, so best have a good breakfast or filling snack before you enter the store.
As for what to eat at IKEA, of course, the primary answer is always going to be - MEATBALLS! IKEA’s food hall is famous for its Swedish meatballs, which now come in meat, chicken and a vegetarian option, and are traditionally served with mash, a creamy gravy-like sauce and sweet Scandinavian jam. Good news - you can also purchase packs of meatballs to take away in the food store (located after the main cash registers), so you can even enjoy a taste of Sweden in your new home!
Other delicious things to eat at IKEA include:
- Salmon salad (Gravadlax). If anyone knows how to smoke a salmon well, it’s the Swedes. If you’re after a healthier lunch option, this delish salmon salad with a yum mustard sauce is for you.
- Frozen yoghurt soft serve. Need we say more?
- Cake. Let’s face it, they all taste pretty good! We’re particular fans of the berry cheesecake. Best enjoyed with a cuppa.
- Hot dogs. If you’re still peckish after your shopping, pick up a quick and tasty hotdog at the food stall (IKEA bistro) near the entrance.
The best groceries to buy at IKEA
- Frozen meatballs and a jar of Lingonberry jam, to recreate your IKEA experience at home.
- Elderflower drink. Organic and flavoursome, this very Swedish beverage is sure to woo guests to your new home. Maybe even throw an IKEA-themed housewarming party?
- Frozen marinated salmon. A healthy, filling dinner for when there’s nothing left in the fridge.
- Brod (soft wheat bread). Your mornings will feel fancier knowing your toast is Swedish!
- Mustard and dill sauce. Mixed with olive oil, this makes a delicious and creamy salad dressing.
- Frozen cinnamon buns. You’ll never be stuck for a sweet breakfast or afternoon treat again!
IKEA’s catalogue is available online. It’s always a good idea to have a little browse beforehand, so you don’t feel overwhelmed upon entering the (huge) store. You can get a feel for what you like and what might work in your home.
On that note, write a list of what your new home requires, including items that are urgent and less so (maybe you’ll only buy them if there is a great deal available, for example), so your trip is more focused and you don’t end up spending all your money on these hooks that look like chairs, for example!
Knowing the measurements of each room and having a rough idea of how big each furniture item should be is also invaluable. Once you’re in-store, you can also take advantage of IKEA staff, who can help you map out rooms using a computer programme. If you’re based in London, you can also visit the IKEA planning studio, where staff can help you realise your dream kitchen or bedroom, perfectly. Make an appointment here.
Working out a budget and roughly how much you have to spend on each item will also save you a lot of stress down the line when your credit card bill or bank statement arrives!
If you’re a really focused shopper, you can actually complete your shopping list first using the IKEA app so all you need to do upon arriving in-store is head to the furniture pick-up section (enter through the exit door, if you don’t want to be seduced by the showrooms and restaurant offering - although that’s not so fun!).
Get an IKEA family card
It’s free and easy (you can use the self-serve machine available in-store) to sign up for IKEA’s loyalty card scheme, which gives you discounts and exclusive offers on a range of different products. Now that you’re a home-owner, you’ll likely be spending a lot of time at IKEA or online at IKEA.com, so it’s worth building up your loyalty points sooner rather than later.
Some of the special offers available to IKEA family members can be found on the IKEA website.
Make your furniture look better (and last longer)
Flat pack furniture is wonderful for first-time buyers, given it can be assembled without the help of a professional and is super affordable. There are ways to improve the pieces you purchase at the likes of IKEA though.
In this video, watch how adding wood glue to your pieces can help extend their lifetime.
Here are some articles on how to spruce up some common IKEA pieces:
Design your home to suit your life
As wonderful as Pinterest and Instagram are for interiors inspiration, these aspirational channels make it easy to get distracted from your own personal needs and how your home must serve you and your family or co-owners.
As you browse the IKEA showrooms, don’t forget to consider what your living spaces need to do for you.
If you work at home, you’ll need a good desk and dedicated workspace (over a home bar or second dining area, for example). We love this article about fashion blogger @carolinaflores and how she used IKEA items to create her first home.
In contrast, maybe you work in the city a lot, so you’ll want to your home to be a sanctuary of sorts, so may want to focus more on the bedroom and lounge room areas, filling them with fluffy rugs, soft cushions and other homely items.
The IKEA Place app is a handy tool, as it allows you to visualise how different items will look in your space.
Other useful tips for shopping at IKEA
- IKEA candles are the best cheap ones out there. They are long-lasting and super fragrant. If you’re planning a wedding or event, the pillar candles are also a great, affordable option
- If you need to make a return, do it first thing in the morning to avoid long queues.
- Missing parts can be sent directly to your home. Call your local store for more information.
- Look for Last Chance yellow tags. These items will be at their best prices.
- Consider making multiple trips to IKEA. The first for essential items, another for less essential items etc.
- Furnish one room at a time. This can make life a lot easier and you’ll be able to more easily envision the theme.
- Download images of room looks you like ahead of your trip, as some IKEA stores don’t have very good phone reception.
Happy shopping (and meatball-eating)!
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Content correct at time of publication.