A Broken Recliner Puts Frugality to the Test

Photo courtesy of le

Our family recliner has been on its last leg (literally) for some time now.  After years of use, a couple moves, and kids substituting it for an indoor jungle gym, it finally bit the dust.  The base of the chair splintered off two Sunday afternoons ago just as I was kicking back to recline and watch a little football, sending me to the floor in a heap, and sending my wife and kids over the edge with laughter.  You know you are a member of the frugal class when the first three things you think to yourself are, “Does my back hurt?  Does my shoulder hurt?  How much is in our emergency fund?”  Sad, I know, but at least I had the priorities in correct order.

Searching for a New (Old) Recliner

A brief (and I mean brief–open furniture ad, grasp chest in response to the price of recliners, and toss ad in trash can) survey of the Sunday sale ads didn’t provide many leads.  Unfortunately, we missed the window of yard sale opportunities by one day, but decided we could make do with our old sofa (which is also in need of replacement) for a few days.  I hit Craigslist and eBay (looking for local auctions), but those searches yielded nothing. Nothing on the bulletin boards at work or at the gym.

I checked back with Craigslist near the end of the week and a search for “chair” in my area revealed a yard sale on Saturday morning with a used La-Z-Boy recliner as one of the items for sale.  We woke up early and headed over to the address listed and liked what we saw from the street.  The light brown recliner matched our other furniture well (not that this was a big concern), and it appeared to be in good shape.  Upon closer inspection and test ride (or sit) proved that the chair was sturdy and lacked any stains or weird odors.  The homeowners were asking $40, and we paid them without haggling (I hate haggling over garage sale pricing).  Sure, we might could have talked them down a few dollars, but the chair retailed for a few hundred bucks, so I considered it a win-win for both parties.

Patience Over Impulse

With the back off from the base the recliner easily fit in the back of our SUV.  We carried it in, reattached the back and everyone gave it a try.  We’ve had it a couple weeks now and I can say it is a very comfortable chair.  My wife thinks I say that just because it costs us $40, and there might be some truth to that, but it really is a solid recliner.  I was proud of us for holding off on a new chair from the furniture store for two reasons.  One, we saved a ton of money, and two, we took an old chair off someone’s hands and kept it out of the landfill where it would take years to disintegrate.  I put our old chair out by the curb with a sign marked, “Needs Work–Free” and an industrious passerby picked it up and hauled it off.  I guess there is always someone out there more frugal than you!


  1. Great story, I am glad that things worked out for you.

    If this had happened a month or two later and there had been no yard sales and you couldn’t find anything on ebay or craigslist, how long would you have waited before heading out to the store?

    Two years ago my wife and I moved into a new house and needed to furnish several rooms starting with nothing. We were able to find a couch, two chairs, lamps and end tables for the living room at at phenomenal prices at clearance sales and by purchasing floor models. However, after several months of looking we still could not find an attractive, sturdy dinning table. We ended up purchasing a very nice table at almost full price. We like the table, it has plain, traditional styling, and should last for a long time. We hated to pay so much, but after months of looking we decided that it was no longer worth living without a dining table.


  2. Dad, I’ll bet your in for the “in my first apartment….” stories!

    I’d love to do that, pick furniture from other people’s houses, but I’m always terrified of bring roaches into my home. Did you do anything to prevent possible infestation?

  3. I loved this story! Much of our furniture is from yard sales, estate sales, or free! And one of the best gifts I ever got was from my college friends, who got me a recliner for my dorm room from a store called “Diggers.” It’s basically a step above dumpster diving – they sell things by the pound! It was a great chair and they only paid $2!

    Frugal furniture is the best because it’s all broken in already!

  4. Great story! I find that sometimes things show up when I need them, like the exact lamp I wanted (an antique mogul-style) at an antique store for a good price. But sometimes, like the first commenter, I’ve looked and looked to no avail. We have been seeking a coffee table for a long time. So far, no luck on the style we want. But we haven’t broken down and bought new, either.

  5. I’ve yet to experiment with curbside furniture swapping, but two of our couches (which could not be further from matching) were snagged from relatives. We were actually looking at furniture stores for quite sometime. We even almost bought a $200 love sweat, which we found to be a great deal. But then we called up my mother and lo and behold, she had a hideous looking blue couch sitting her garage. She didn’t want to throw it out and get charged by the dump, but she also didn’t want to keep it in her garage over the winter, because it’d mold.

    So we moved it here and put a slipcover over it. Good as new!

  6. Your recliner sounds just like one of ours. It’s on its last leg too, but we keep patching it up! The other day my husband fell over backwards in it, b/c the back broke off! But he patched it up and we’re still using it!

    Also, please stop by the grand “re-opening” of our blog (Engineer a Debt Free Life). We’re giving away $10 Walmart gift cards! We’re so excited to finally have our own domain! Woot!


  7. We’ve come across some great furntiture finds that people were discarding. Our current dining room chairs found their way into out home when our neighbors got a new set. They coordinate perfectly with our dinig room and the table.

    With that said, I’m very hesitant about taking anything with upholostry secondhand because of bedbugs. I know a few people who had to deal with erradicating them, and it’s an expensive and endless process (not to mention just plain gross). So, when we spoted a papazan chair that my husband had been wanting forever, we took the frame and bought a new cushion for it.

  8. I have trouble with second hand upholstered furniture too. I do and have reupholstered furniture on several occasions but there’s something just a bit icky about taking upholstered pieces from someone I don’t know. I’m on the fence on this one.

  9. The only thing I can’t buy used is a mattress, couch or chair. I have two toddlers (boys) and I know what goes on my couch and chairs each day! (Not to mention that I nursed on them- ewe!)
    ~The Bargain Shopper Lady

  10. Great find! My husband and I, too, have a hard time buying new furniture. My latest find was in the dumpster beside the thrift store I frequent. My daughters call it my hippie chair, as this sturdy 1950s kitchen chair must have been recovered during the 60s. Great colours and swirls — and it was in the bargain bin!

  11. Great find! I’m glad you were able to replace your recliner. I would recommend trying freecycle also, before buying a used one. I see recliners given away on freecycle regularly.

    I’m lucky to live in the one of the largest freecycle networks in the world! I’m still so surprised that so many have not heard of this organization. If you aren’t familiar with it, please check it out at http://www.freecycle.org to find the group in your area. There are freecycle groups in every major city in the world.

  12. Thanks for the morning smile Jas…I too have fallen out of the recliner when the frame flatlined…

    I am blessed that in our area we have a few really cool furniture consignment shops. When hubby and I bought a bigger house and needed furniture, I was able to walk in and find almost everything I needed. And they delivered. So for what my parents have spent on a sofa, I was able to furnish 4 rooms. As with clothing consinment, you have to look regularly and it does help to make friends with the owners; they will call you if they have something specific that you are looking for. And, when you are tired of your things or need to change, they will take your stuff too…win-win!

    Anyway, thanks again and here’s to many hours of “guy time” in your new guy chair!


  13. I’m almost in the same predicament except that I don’t even have a recliner! A year after moving into our house (3 years ago), my wife made a big sale and had a sizable check. We agreed that our “makeshift” furniture was just not cutting it in the living room and we didn’t even have any dining room furniture — it was just a blank space. After shopping around for almost two months, my wife finally found a furniture store that was having a “going out of business” sale. Yea, right. Anyway, she played some serious hardball with the owner over a living room and dining room set. I was so proud of her! She managed to get both sets, which would retail for about $5K for only $1900! We financed for 24 months at 0% interest but paid it off in 10 months. After we got the furniture home, I wanted a recliner and went out shopping. After a few “clutch the chest” moments, I had to give up. I don’t want one second-hand because I’ve seen what people do to theirs (spillage, baby spit-up, dog poo, etc.) and haven’t found one at a significant enough discount to justify the purchase. Oh well.

    Glad to hear you were able to find one you could live with FrugalDad!

  14. Oh, I forgot to add that we did pay for the set with the “sizable check” my wife got, except that we spread it out over the 10 months. This both helped the ol’ credit rating as well as allow us to maintain liquidity in case something would have happened. We can be thankful that nothing did!

    This can also serve as an example that financing is not always evil and can be quite useful sometimes.

  15. @RDS: I would have waited until Spring when people were again having yard sales, or continued to look on freecycle.org (thanks to all those who mentioned it), or Craigslist. I just refused to pay retail prices for furniture.

  16. Patience is not only a virtue – patience pays!
    Way to go!

    I have to say, in my 50’s now, and I have only bought 2 new pieces of furniture EVER. One was a bed on a 5th anniversary – the other was a LazY-Boy double rocker recliner love seat (I couldn’t find one of these used and it had to be small for my little house) I bought the loveseat 12 years ago and don’t regret it for a minute, but I did wait for both a 10% off sale and a $100 off coupon from the store.

    The rest of my furniture I jokingly called “Early American Salvation Army”… altho it came from a variety of sources, mostly free 🙂

    Freecycle is great also!

  17. That chair is almost, but not quite, as horrific as the one from the Frasier sitcom. 😉

    Craigslist can be great for furniture finds though. Heavy things like that aren’t items most people are going to bother selling on eBay, and often times they’re willing to let them go for free (or cheap) if you’ll haul them away.