A few months ago a friend asked me for some advice about shopping at Ikea. Since I have practically furnished my entire house with Ikea purchases I felt like I had some good advice to share. Later I saw a Facebook post about her Ikea experience. I’m not sure I had prepared her well enough.
In order for this to never happen again, I’ve prepared Tips for Shopping at Ikea. This list will help you get the most out of your Ikea trip and you won’t go home with items that may have to be returned.
1. Don’t Go to Ikea in July or August
Don’t go to Ikea in July or August UNLESS you go on a weekday when the store opens. Otherwise you’ll regret it.
One of the first Ikea rookie mistakes we ever made was the time of year that we planned our visit. In July and August the latest Ikea catalogs come out. Combine that dynamic with a flurry of college freshmen stocking up and you have a madhouse. We’ve made this mistake before and let me tell you, it is so crowded that you can’t see what’s there and it is impossible to move through the store. Even if you arrive when the door’s open, you’re not going to make progress. You’ll likely stop in the restaurant and only make a ridiculous impulse purchase. If you have a college student who needs a room outfitted, go in June. If you need furniture for a new home, wait until September.
That said, sometimes there is a fabulous new item found in the latest catalog. These items tend to go fast and restock slowly. Be there as soon as the doors open and follow my directions below. You will likely snag said item.
If you wait, you may end up like me, waiting months to get an item.
2a. Have a Plan
We began planning my sewing and craft room well before we ever visited Ikea. Even when the house was being built we would think about where to put things. I had this plan of attaching Pax units into wall niches to store all of my supplies. According to the measurements I had seen online, the Ikea Pax cabinets would slip right into those two niches. Clean and tidy.
That plan was impossible because the Pax system didn’t make a door that would work for the cabinet that fit the niche. The cabinet we chose was meant to be a closet organizer and didn’t come with a door.
The key to this information is found in what is called an Ikea Buying Guide. The Buying Guide tells you the exact size, color choices, hardware, doors, etc. When we studied the Pax Buying Guide, we realized we had to adjust our plan.
In my opinion, studying the Ikea Buying Guides for items we thought we would buy saved us a ton of grief. All of the details for all of the pieces and parts to specific Ikea lines (Besta, Hemnes, Pax, etc.) are available in the Ikea Buying Guides.
We were also able to be a little creative and customize some of our pieces. We would look at the line drawing in the Buying Guide, then look it up online. This allowed us to see everything that was available, the sizes, the parts (like legs), the colors, etc. We were then able to decide exactly how we wanted something to look AND if it would fit into our space.
2b. Study the Store Map
Every Ikea has a store map that is divided into two sections: The Showroom and The Marketplace. Sometimes these are on the same floor and sometimes they are divided into more than one floor. Take time to study the map and look for the shortcuts.
The key to getting out of Ikea in one piece is knowing how to navigate the store. On the map you will see that there are shortcuts that can help you bypass walking through the entire Showroom or Marketplace. If you are on the hunt for dining room furniture, cut through and go straight to dining rooms, etc.
3. One Room at a Time
If there is anything I’ve learned about shopping at Ikea it’s this: Shop one room at a time.
If you try to pick up dining room chairs, a desk for the office, and a kid’s bed you will want to shoot yourself. Even worse, if you are shopping for a college dorm or apartment, you may need to work along side someone you are meeting for the first time.
Pick a room. Look online for the things you need. We did this when planning our home office. We went in with a specific plan and knew exactly what we wanted to get. Since we were focusing only on this room, we were able to make some last-minute in-store decisions which turned out great. By only focusing on this one room, we made great choices and didn’t spend a fortune.
Studying the Buying Guide ahead of time helped us create something that fit a unique space. We needed a tall, skinny-ish cabinet for the space between a door and wall in the office. My husband realized that the Besta line was very flexible so we studied the Besta Buying Guide and customized this cabinet using a cabinet base, doors, and drawers. This specific cabinet is not shown anywhere online or in a catalog. We put the parts together and came up with it ourselves. And, saved a ton of cash.
4. Bring a Tape Measure
We carry a this type of take measure. It comes in handy when you are picking up the flat pieces in the warehouse. You need to know if they will fit into your vehicle, through doorways, or up flights of stairs. Measuring the flat pieces before purchasing will save you a ton of headaches. (affiliate)
5a. Bring Vehicle Measurements
You’ve done your homework, shopped smart, and chosen wisely. You have checked out and are ready to load your vehicle.
It would be sad indeed if you were to make a purchase only to then find it won’t fit into your vehicle. You need all of these measurements with you in the store. The Buying Guides help you know approximately how big the assembled item will be, but you need to go one step further.
Have ALL vehicle measurements. This includes how wide your vehicle doors open, how much height you have inside the vehicle, and cargo length space.
If you’re using a pick up truck, you need to know the length and width of the bed. We always carry a plastic tarp to cover everything. And we use something like these ratchet tie straps to keep everything snug and in place. (affiliate)
Of course, you can always pay Ikea to deliver.
5b. Bring Space-Specific Measurements from Home
Even if everything fits into your vehicle, you may have difficulty getting the larger flat boxes into areas in your home. If you have a short hallway a large piece may not fit around corners, through doorways or up stairs.
We had this happen with the Pax cabinets that we purchased for my sewing room. The turn from the entry into the hall and up the stairs was very tight. We knew this going in and had a plan for getting the pieces up to my sewing room. Knowing in advance allowed us to understand ahead of time if it was even possible to get the larger pieces up the stairs and into my sewing room.
Be sure to measure hallway openings, corners, and stairway height. Know all of these before you leave for Ikea. Wouldn’t you hate having to turn around and return everything because it doesn’t fit around a tight corner in your home.
6. Know Before You Go
The closest Ikea to my home is about an hour away. I would hate to drive all that way to find out the coffee table I want is unavailable. If you’ve done your homework, you can find this out easily.
- Go to Ikea.com and open the page to the item you want to purchase.
- Find the store you plan to visit and check the inventory. It will give you an inventory prognosis. Click on the button that says: Click Here to View Stock Prognosis.
- The image below gives you the best estimate of product availability for the the next few days. It’s not a guarantee, but it certainly lets you know if something is out of stock.
- The image also lets you know the Aisle and Bin number where you can find the item. We always carry this information with us when we go to Ikea. It helps if you are short on time and want to pop in, pick up your item, and checkout.
Lastly, the exact size of the packaging is available online. Click on Product Information and scroll to the bottom of the page. There you will find the exact measurements of the packaged item. It’s a good idea to know if the package will even fit into your vehicle.
7. Verify the Article Number for Each Item
You’ve executed your Ikea Shopping Plan and now know what you want to purchase. Knowing the Aisle number and Bin number only get you to the exact location of the item you want. Keep in mind that there are a ga-zillion things in the Ikea warehouse. You’re going to need to think and choose carefully.You’re on the correct Aisle, you’ve found the correct Bin. Don’t just grab and go. Notice how there are these red arrows that go Up and Down. Pay attention to this because many of the packages are similarly shaped.
Be sure to choose your selection from the correct Bin and then verify all numbers and the color.
- Snap a photo of the item in the Showroom. It will have the Article, Aisle, and Bin numbers so you can verify before loading your cart.
- Or, find the item online before you leave home. This information is available from Ikea’s website. I write the Article numbers down before I leave home. I recommend this because the cell service in Ikea can be a bit sketchy.
8. Items with Lots of Parts
Sometimes you select an item that comes in more than one package. This Besta cabinet is a perfect example. Notice all of the different available choices. One wrong selection and you are going to be making a return trip to Ikea.
The way to avoid getting the wrong item is to check availability of ALL pieces before you leave home. It looks like they have the cabinet in stock.
This cabinet has 17 different pieces that you must pick up! (The small coffee table in Step 7 is only one item).
Before leaving the store take a minute and match the 17 items with 10 unique Article Numbers. Wouldn’t you hate to get home and find a drawer front in a different color?
9. Best Time to Shop
It is difficult to look in a catalog, choose an item that needs assembling, and purchase it without seeing it first. That means you will need to take the time to shop at Ikea and see what you like. Study the different furniture lines and see which ones match your style. Ideally, doing this means the store isn’t crowded.
Week days when the store opens are generally a good time to shop. However, we have found that Saturday evening is the best time to shop. The store closes at 9pm, but the crowds start to thin out after 6pm. We usually make an evening of it, get an early dinner, then shop for a couple of hours. We’ve even run into friends doing the same thing!
Ikea is one of those places that can save you a ton of money on home decor and furnishings if you make the most of it. Or it can make you lose your religion. Having a plan insures a successful Ikea visit!