Thursday, July 30, 2009

Restoring Used Furniture

So, you've just bought an ugly duckling at a bargain price using Craigslist. Way to go!

Now what?

The following steps will get your piece of furniture from ugly duckling to beautiful swan.

Here's the table I just bought for $85 using Craigslist. It's a solid wood cocktail table that measures 40in x 40 in.

Closeup of the chewed up corner.

Sample of scratches.

Step 1: Wipe the surface clean.

Step 2: Use Restor-A-Finish with a rag (or fine steel wool for deeper scratches) and gloves. Follow the instructions on the container--wipe over entire surface, then wipe dry. That's it. It took me about half an hour.

The result.

Unfortunately, the chewed up corner still shows up too much for my liking.

Step 3: Sand the chewed corners. Then wipe clean.

Step 4: Stain the corner to match the rest of the table. I used a medium oak stain.

Step 5: Make sure to thoroughly, but gently stir the stain before using it.

Step 6: Dip the rag into the stain, then dab onto the wood. Wipe excess off gently.

Step 7 (Optional): Finish with Howard Feed-N-Wax wood preserver. Saturate a rag, wipe on surface, let sit for 20 min, then polish with a clean rag. This step gives the wood a little extra sheen and protection.

Final result...

...and at home in my family room.

  • Find all the supplies at Home Depot or Lowe's: sandpaper--$3; stain--$4; Restor-A-Finish--$8; Feed-N-Wax--$8.
  • Save the supplies for your next project, since these will supply you with more than enough.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Shopping for Quality Furniture

In order to get the best value for your money, you need to be able to identify quality furniture. I don't claim to be an expert, but I have picked up a few techniques along the way.

  1. Look for solid hardwood. A lot of furniture is made with veneers. Ideally, an item would not include veneers, but that's difficult to find. Veneers are fine as long as they are over hardwood rather than soft wood or engineered wood (MDF).

  2. Look for sturdy furniture. Wiggle the furniture. Sit on it (even a little forcefully--like my kids do on my furniture daily). If it wobbles at all, pass on it.

  3. If it has drawers, look for dovetail joints. Dovetail joints are the sturdiest type of furniture joint, and it indicates quality craftsmanship overall.

  4. If it is upholstered, check for plenty of foam. Do this by pressing on an upholstered section that is over the frame (eg, the arm of a sofa). If you cannot feel the frame through the foam, that indicates good quality.

  5. Check seams and pleats. If they are straight and match up well, that is another indicator of good quality.

Have I missed any? Share your tips for finding good furniture with me!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

BH Sale Alert: Sprouts

Don't miss these great deals at Sprouts this week (through July 29):

  • Large Seedless Watermelon: $1.49 each.
  • Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breast: $1.77/pound.
  • Yellow Peaches: $0.59/pound.

Try this recipe with your watermelon:

Delicious Frappe

1/2 large watermelon

36 ozs. Ginger Ale
1 (12 ounce) can frozen limeade concentrate, thawed
Lime & Lemon Slices (fresh & sliced)

Remove seeds and rinds from watermelon. Cut melon into chunks. Combine melon, limeade and ginger ale in blender. Freeze for several hours. Thaw partially to serve. Spoon into tall glasses and garnish with lime or lemon slices. Makes 1 gallon.


  • Freeze chicken breasts individually for ease of use. Spread chicken breasts on a cookie sheet and place in freezer. Once frozen, store in a ziploc freezer bag.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Bissell ProHeat 2X Turbo w/ DryAire and Microban

Check out what happens to carpet in 9 months when you have 7 people running around in one household: The picture hardly does it justice. I want to gag just looking at my floor.

I don't like to fork over hundreds of dollars a year for a professional carpet cleaning nor can I stand to wait longer than 9 months to clean it. Therein lies my conundrum.

Here's my solution:

Buy a carpet cleaning machine, the cost of which I recoup after 1 to 2 cleanings.

The best deal out there right now is the Bissell ProHeat 2X Turbo w/ DryAire and Microban from Costco. (Don't you love my blue leisure suit?)

The current coupon mailer (good through Aug. 2) from Costco includes a coupon for $30 off this Bissell, which brings the price down to $159.99. In addition, this model comes with extra accessories and cleaning solution. The closest competitor sells this Bissell for $235.

My favorite features on this machine include the option to clean for heavy traffic, normal soil, light soil, or just a rinse; and the built-in heater.

Here's what my carpet looks like after the Bissell did its work:

No more gagging...and it feels softer, too.


  • Want to purchase the Bissell ProHeat for even less? Share the cost with a few friends. Since you'll only use this a few times a year, it lends itself well to rotating between households.
  • If you aren't a member at Costco, you have a couple of options: 1) Have a friend who is a member take you there to purchase the Bissell--even if you miss the Aug. 2 deadline to use the coupon, it's still a good deal; 2) Purchase the Hoover F5914-900 SteamVac with Clean Surge for $146. It receives excellent ratings as well.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Buying Furniture on eBay

I have a story to tell. What you're about to read includes real events...not even the names or dates have been changed to protect the innocent. (However, I did omit the name of the mean dude.) This story will teach you how to purchase furniture on eBay.

Step 1: I went to

Step 2: I entered the item I was looking for into the search field. In this case, I entered "table."

Step 3: I selected "used." (But I have also purchased new furniture on ebay with great success!)

You can click on the images to enlarge them.

Step 4: I entered my zipcode and chose a distance of 50 miles from my location, so I could pick it up rather than pay for shipping (which can add a huge cost).

Step 5: I checked the seller ratings, the pickup options, and the details about the item ("approximately 45 x 45"--exactly the size I needed). Then it all went wrong. My mistake involved the seller rating. I normally only bid on items where the seller has higher than 97% positive feedback AND has at least a few hundred ratings. In this case, the seller had 100% positive, but only 33 ratings. I thought since he lived locally, it would be okay.

Step 6: So I placed a bid.

Step 7: Then I confirmed the bid.

Step 8: I won the auction, immediately payed through Paypal. (You need to register with both eBay and Paypal.) Then I contacted the seller about pickup.

Step 9: When I picked it up the next day, the table seemed small, but figured I was stuck with a table smaller than I had planned. However, when I got home, I checked the listing, and it DID say "45 x 45." The week following I spent emailing back and forth with the seller trying to resolve the issue. I did end up getting my money back, but the resolution didn't satisfy me. Furthermore, some of the communication from the seller's end included R-rated language, so I left negative feedback.
The moral of the story: Give seller rating PLENTY of weight.

  • My story shouldn't scare you away from eBay. This is my first bad experience on eBay (out of over 50), and some of my favorite furniture purchases came from eBay. The point is this: Give plenty of weight to the feedback score. I should never have bid on an item from a seller so few feedback scores.
  • Speak up! My second mistake happened when I didn't speak up immediately about the table size.
  • Use Paypal. They offer buyer protection. If the seller hadn't agreed to give me my money back, I could have gone to paypal for resolution.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Bargain Huntress Faves: Furniture

My kids keep telling me, "Stop buying furniture. We have enough!" My reply: "Don't be silly!"

Especially when there are plenty of places to find quality furniture at bargain prices. Here are my favorites:
Craigslist is great for finding a diamond in the rough or an ugly duckling at a great price.

Costco sells a different quality furniture collection bi-annually at affordable prices--especially if you have the patience to wait for the prices to drop.

Ebay offers both used and new furniture. Stay tuned for a tutorial.

If you're lucky enough to live an hour or two away, Pottery Barn outlet is a great place to shop for nice furniture. As for the rest of us, bring a truck, trailer, or pay for shipping.

5. sells traditional and contemporary styles at affordable prices. Bonus: shipping always costs $5 or less.

Here's my latest furniture acquisition using Craigslist:

Solid wood cocktail table originally from Weir's a few years ago. The seller listed it for $150; I eventually talked him down to $85.


Monday, July 13, 2009

Nordstrom Anniversary Sale!

My sister, Jen, has mothering down. When her son was about 3, she pulled into the Nordstrom parking lot, and he shouted, "We're home!" If only I could be a mother like her...

Her favorite sale of the year, Nordstrom's Anniversary Sale, starts this Friday, July 17th at 8 am.

Click on the image to find more details and preview the catalog.

What's so great about this sale? Usually the big discounts are on styles that have been in the stores for a while. For the Anniversary Sale, you'll find the newest styles for fall discounted. Furthermore, all the summer stuff is on clearance, too....Double the fun!
  • If you're someone who loves to shop the day after Thanksgiving until you drop, get there at 8am on Friday. You'll have the pick of the entire sale and get an adrenaline kick from the crowds.

Need Help Finding a Deal?

The Bargain Huntress loves to go on the hunt for you!
Include the following information:
Item you're looking for (inlcluding any specifics, such as color, size, etc.).
Price you'd like to beat.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Confessions of a Shopaholic

Confessions of a Shopaholic featured on our flat screen last night. I won't review the movie other than to say that it gave pause for thought. Did it ring true to me?....Slightly, I must confess.

Rebecca (is her name a sign to me?) finally admits to being a shopaholic when she explains why she shops--it makes the world better...for a little while; then she has to shop more.

In the end she discovers that relationships with people bring more joy than a relationship with a credit card.

Overall, a good reminder of what is most important. To me, that's my fam. I get the most joy out of sitting down to a nice dinner conversation with my husband and kids, or playing a game of football/softball in the cul-de-sac on a pleasant spring night.

Those moments bring true, lasting happiness.


  • You can use the step-down method for movie night: watch it in the theater for $10, rent from Blockbuster for $4/movie, sign up for Netflix for $10 a month (one-at-a-time, unlimited), or get it from Redbox or DvdPlay for $1/movie. WWBD: I have done all of these at one point or another. There are pros and cons to each, but lately we usually do to DVDPlay and spend about $2 or $3 a month.
  • Use this website to make the most of your money. Get the items you need/want while spending less rather than getting more than you need by spending the same amount. For example, if you need a pair of shoes, you can find a great deal and spend half as much on one pair of shoes (use the other money to save for a great family vacation). Finding a great deal doesn't mean you should now buy 2 pairs of shoes for the original price. Make sense?

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Newport News Sale: Save an Extra 25%

Remember my swimsuit debate (click, then scroll to the very bottom)? Today the "less-expensive-more variety" side of the argument won. Newport-News has a sale offering an additional 25% off everything--even clearance. I happen to be in the market for swimwear.

Here's what is now in my repertoire:

Embroidered empire halter suit; originally $49. (Click image to see it at

Tankini top in Bright Emerald; originally $29.

Skirted bikini bottom in Bright Emerald; originally $29.

One-piece halter; originally $29.

A total savings of over 80%!
When I figure out how to get the bod and face to come in the mail, too, I'll let you know...
  • Check the sizing chart for the right fit.
  • The sale ends July 5.