Gary Foreman is a former financial planner who currently edits The Dollar Stretcher website and newsletters. He wrote "New Frugal You," a weekly Q&A column about frugal living, for CreditCards.comAsk a question
Dear New Frugal You,
wife and I have an older sofa that's looking pretty gross. We've cleaned it
many times, but that just doesn't work any more. We really don't want to put
new furniture on our credit card so we're looking for a cheaper option. Is
there some way to get our old couch reupholstered affordably? -- Sonny
decision to not run up your credit card. You'll be glad you made the frugal
choice to not charge hundreds of dollars and pay interest for the privilege.
yes, there are a number of different ways to replace that old, worn-out sofa
with something more appropriate. Let's consider some of your options.
first thing to do is to analyze what you have. You say that it's
stained, but how bad are the stains? Is it possible that a professional could
do the cleaning job you could not?
are the stains? Often the back of the couch is fine and only the cushions and
arms are worn or stained. Replacing the cushions and adding armrest covers
could solve your problem at a much lower cost that replacing or reupholstering
the whole sofa.
the couch over and check its construction. You want to make sure it's worth
reupholstering. Some furniture just isn't made to last, especially newer
furniture. If you find particle or pasteboard, it's probably not worth the
expense of reupholstering.
don't commit to reupholstering until you've compared the alternatives. Used
furniture is often better made, and, because shipping isn't generally an
option, prices are often quite low. That's especially true if you find people who are
moving. Look for estate sales and online at eBay and Craigslist.
are another alternative. If your sofa is a standard size you may find a
ready-made slipcover you like. But even a custom-made slipcover will be less
expensive than reupholstery.
assume that you've checked the options and reupholstery appears to be the best
choice. You have still more options to weigh.
reupholstery takes some specific skills, if you have some sewing experience you
might want to take it on as a do-it-yourself project. You'd still have the cost
of fabric and materials, but the labor savings could be significant.
also be able to save on the materials. Once you know how much fabric you'll
need you can shop anywhere. A simple search will turn up many fabric outlets
way to save big on fabric is to find an end-of-bolt piece that's big enough for
your job. Or you may find a piece that was cut for another job but then not used (sometimes customers change
their minds). Check online and ask at local upholstery shops.
you don't want to go it alone, take a class in upholstery, either an adult ed
class or at a sewing center. Not only will you have an instructor to lead you
through the process, you'll also have access to the heavy duty sewing machines
needed for heavier fabrics. Your project will take a couple of months to
complete, but the savings could offset any inconvenience.
low-cost option would be your local vocational school. Many teachers use
projects in class as a hands-on experience for students. You'll pay for
materials, but very little, if anything, for labor. And, since the work is being
supervised by a qualified instructor the results are generally quite good.
you finally decide to use a professional reupholsterer, shop around -- especially
if you're in no hurry. Some will discount a bit if you can wait until they
don't have other work waiting. Prices will vary from shop to shop, often significantly, so take the time to
find out what's available to you.
be surprised if a professional reupholstery job costs nearly as much as a new
sofa, especially when compared to cheaper new sofas. But, reupholstering a
well-constructed couch could be money well spent. A sturdy sofa
reupholstered in material you've chosen could last much longer than a cheaper
no matter how you proceed you're wise to avoid using your credit cards to
finance your purchase. The extra interest expense makes any purchase an
See related: Do-it-yourself reupholstery
Meet CreditCards.com's reader Q&A experts
Does a personal finance problem have you worried? Monday through Saturday, CreditCards.com's Q&A experts answer questions from readers. Ask a question, or click on any expert to see their previous answers.