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10 ways to decorate without debt
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4. Make a model. Remember in kindergarten when you enjoyed cutting and pasting?

Rediscover those days by making cutout models of furniture you're considering purchasing, and arrange them on more cutout models of the rooms in your home.

"Gather pictures from magazines. Make templates. Create files for each room so you can see different things that move you," says Greenberg.

Doing so will help give you a feel for your newly decorated room before you make a big purchase.

It will also help reduce the risk of ordering bulky furniture only to discover that it does not fit in your space.

5. Shop the information superhighway (and make a stop in High Point, N.C.) Consider looking online to find furniture deals that aren't local. Since several furniture manufacturers are based around High Point, N.C., it has become a hub for bargains. The High Point Chamber of Commerce reports that thousands of people from all 50 states and more than 100 countries purchase furniture from area stores each year. They are actually the reason the bargains exist.

"We buy from the same manufacturers at the same wholesale prices (as other retailers)," says Jim Cornelison, president of High Point-based Warehouse Discount Furniture, one of the retailers in the area. "The only difference is we have a higher volume, so can have lower profit margins and offer lower prices."

While you're on the information superhighway, don't forget to visit furniture stores that are based in other cities. "A company could be in Kentucky or whatever," says Cornelison. "If they don't have the expenses of a brick-and-mortar shop, they can offer you a lower price."

Whether looking online or in a local store, be sure to record the manufacturer and model number of the piece of furniture you are interested in so that you can comparison shop. Understand how shipping costs will be computed, and do general due diligence to make sure you are engaging a retailer you trust.

6. Time large furniture purchases. Some experts say that January is the best time to buy furniture on sale because retailers are closing out last year's inventory. Others say that the best reductions happen around April and October, when retailers buy next season's merchandise. Everyone is probably right.

"There are furniture promotions going on all the time," says Greenberg.

Cornelison agrees. "On any given day, some retailer is going to have a piece of furniture that they want to move out of their showroom, and they will price it less than anyone else, including High Point dealers," he says.

Perhaps the best time to buy furniture, then, is the day you have saved up enough to pay in full. Otherwise, financing can add high interest fees that exceed the value of any discount -- especially if paid late. That eliminates the benefit of any "sale" price.

Next: "Exhaust your imagination, then call your decorator. ..."
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