A Question for Our Readers

This may seem somewhat ridiculous, but I’ll ask it anyway because I’m curious what people think. What is a reasonable amount of money to spend on a couch? At what point does the expense of the couch become an excess? How does the quality of the couch and the time that you will be able to use the couch affect the legitimate magnitude of the expense? Is it absurd to buy an all-leather sectional?

I ask because I want to know what Christian discipleship looks like in all things in life. And because honestly, I’m not sure. Sometimes, it’s easy to know what Christian discipleship looks like. For example, I know that willingness to die for the faith is very Christ-like. I know that prayer is an essential part of Christian discipleship. And I know that adoration of the Blessed Sacrament is our highest good as human beings. But these are high and holy actions for our faith life; what about things not as obviously related to our faith life, like putting furniture in a house or apartment?

I look forward to hearing what you may think, or not think if the question totally bores you. So please let me know – am I the only one who asks these types of questions? Should I just chill out? Or what? In the meantime I think I will try to ask God in prayer.

18 Responses to A Question for Our Readers

  • Well, I guess it depends on the brand or style of the couch you would like to purchase. In addition, where you are located makes a difference on the price of the merchandise. I would say anywhere up til about $650 is reasonable for a couch.

  • Never spend more than $500.00. After Christmas sales are a great time to buy. Avoid leather, especially if you have animals and or small kids. Try it out in the store. By try it out I mean stretch out on it and be alert for any sagging in the couch. If you have kids and a spouse have them try it out. Go for durability and comfort over appearance.

    I doubt if Christianity plays into this decision unless you have taken a vow of poverty or are using ill gotten plunder to satisfy a couch fetish. :)

  • (Guest comment from Don’s wife Cathy): Remember that cheap is no bargain if it’s a poorly-constructed piece of junk. A local furniture store that sells used sofas (other customers’ trade-ins) and offers free delivery may be a better value than a discount store’s “some assembly required”/”bring your own pickup truck” offerings.

  • I doubt if Christianity plays into this decision unless you have taken a vow of poverty or are using ill gotten plunder to satisfy a couch fetish.

    I agree. You would know if you were being stupid. Contrast this:

    “Look honey, this couch would go great in our living room and is of quality workmanship, do you think we have enough room in the budget for it?”

    To:

    “Oh, hey babe, this couch is made from genuine ostrich skin that is riveted with 24 karat gold studs. We could borrow the extra $10,000 from our retirement fund.”

    Again with Cathy. If you buy a couch for $300 at Big Lot, you’ll probably find it only lasting a relatively short period of time and likely being uncomfortable very soon. If you buy a decent couch that you like for $800 and it lasts three times as long you were a better steward and you’re family is happier (there is nothing immoral about that – there is a time for penance and a time for partridge dontcha know). :)

  • You might check the consignment shops in your area.

  • It depends if you or your wife wants to pay me. If your wife is paying me, I’ll agree with her that you are being unnecessarily stingy. If you want to pay me, I’ll agree with you that it is too much money and an issue of vanity.

    I tend to be somewhat conflicted on the question. I believe firmly that a person should be willing to pay for quality craftsmanship. I also know quite a few deal queens that try to bankrupt themselves 50 cents at a time. My general rule is to sacrifice quantity to quality. If you have one entertaining space, I don’t believe it is an issue of vanity to make it pleasing. Outfitting 3 or 4 entertainment spaces seems excessive, regardless of cost.

  • My wife & I usually hit the local St. Vincent DePaul Store, GoodWill, or Salvation Army stores & gotten VERY nice couches for under $200. Always pray before we go.

  • Depends whether or not you are a shrink. ;-)

  • Determine what is affordable in your budget and go from there. Many furniture stores offer good discounts and have good deals on furniture.

  • I believe this is a part of our catholic upbringing. That is if you are a cradle catholic, in which case I am. So I’m often plagued with the question “to buy or not to buy?” most of the time my guilt comes on the most when I’m buying something for only me, even if it’s something I need. When im buying for my children that’s different. So just keep a balances amount of frugality mingled with necessity and as some of the other posts suggest good quality. Quality is also important and ties into frugality because if you are buying something too cheap it won’t last and in the end you will be spending more. I’m also an accountant so couple that with being a catholic and then I become borderline Scrooge. I do believe we are to enjoy the fruits of our labor so if you can splurge a little for something nice once in awhile you are fine. Just keep vanity and materialism at a far distance. Anyway, you are not alone. Hope that helps :)

  • I agree with Bill. You can great deals at St. Vincent DePaul stores so I think anything over $200 is too much. Also try craislist.

  • I agree w/ RL – unless you’re in the realm of ostentatious, then it’s fine to get a good quality couch that you like.

    Also, if the couch is in your budget, I’m torn on going to thrift shops/St. Vincent DePaul because I always feel that there may be someone who could really use that couch (or what have you) at that price. This is obviously a personal question each person needs to ask taking their budget into account etc.

  • The first couch I ever purchased (as a single person) cost $300 in 1990. I had it for over 10 years but eventually it began to deteriorate significantly, cushions got squashed, upholstery falling apart, etc. and we had to dispose of it.

    The second couch I ever got was a sectional in an L-shape that cost about $650 in 2001. Got it from a local discount store. It was OK but we moved several times after buying it and it was a bear to move. We also ended up giving that one to Goodwill.

    My current couch is actually a futon with a metal frame that cost about $200. It could fold out into a guest bed if necessary but we’ve never had to use it for that purpose. It seems to be holding up well, we’ve had it for almost 3 years. We are thinking about possibly getting a new futon cushion for it in the next few months — which would cost considerably less than a new couch.

    The main reason we went with a futon as opposed to a regular couch was not cost (although that was a big factor) but the fact that it was easier to drag up to a third-floor apartment than a regular couch would be!

    A futon might not be the best choice if you have several boisterous young kids jumping around on it or if you need something softer.

  • I’d be a little leery of buying any used, upholstered furniture with the current bed bug infestation. Seriously.

  • Thank you all for your words of wisdom..the lighthearted stuff but nevertheless serious stuff is fun sometimes.

    I’m surprised at the prices that are being thrown around here! Is anyone local to New England? I can’t find a couch for less than $800 in any store.

  • My wife & I spent $550 on a payment plan (6 months, 0% interest) from Big Lots for a 3-seater couch last year. We found a love-seat recliner the year before for $300 at a store because it was an older model.

  • I have two couches. So sue me. They are both from IKEA, from the “as is” room. They are both small, mid-range leather couches that normally cost about $450. I got one for $50 (!) because it was damaged. My husband fixed it and the damaged part is in a place you can’t see. The second was a floor model and was $150. They are set in our living room in an “L” shape. Leather is a great choice for children and dogs, as long as it’s not suede — you can clean it easily and it lasts forever.

    You have to go by your taste, and of course the things available in your area. I paid $650 for a La-Z-Boy recliner as a gift for my husband (I paid it off over a year), and for the quality of the piece I think it was a good buy. It should be around forever, and he works so hard that he deserves a really comfortable chair! But all my other chairs were much cheaper.

    A good quality chair or couch will last decades, and many high-income people will regularly pay more than $2000 for a couch and more than $1000 for a chair. I would never do that, but people do.

    We have several overstuffed chairs in the family that have been recovered numerous times. I also have a chair we bought for $10 at a garage sale that turned out to be everyone’s favorite chair. It cost $400 to recover, but it will probably outlast every other chair in the house. Several chairs that were about $300 at a going-out-of-business sale (you’ve got to watch those — some ship in other merchandise that isn’t a deal at all) look terrible after only a few years and the frames are not worth recovering.

    Fabric makes a huge difference — some fabric doesn’t wear well at all. The type of fabric used on hotel furniture wears like iron, but it costs a lot too. I’m talking A LOT. More than you wanted to know, I’m sure…

  • When you try to live and breathe the faith, questions like this are going to come up. An ongoing conversation with God is bound to be wrapped up in practical day-to-day stuff. Why cut Him out of shopping for furniture or anything else?
    I live in NY State so for a sectional in a middling quality leather, $800 seems like a decent price. In terms of robustly constructed furniture covered in thick bridle leather—if you expect to be sacked out on this couch with grandkids climbing all over you in an unspecified number of years—then $2000 is a floor, not a ceiling. I guess the absurdity of the initial cost here might be offset by the life expectancy. Just definitely avoid exceeding your Christian comfort zone, because the last thing you want is to feel guilty every time you stretch out on your magnificent new sofa.

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