Photo credit by Wickerfurniture
Furniture is not just utilitarian; people buy furniture that defines who they are. Even the cheapest chair needs to last for the person buying it. It should not cost you dearly just to accessorize your room. With a little bit of planning, you won't need to spend as much as you might be worried about.
Furniture sales generally are found in the season that they are not hottest in. This means that if you're looking for summer items (such as deck chairs and patio furniture), the best times to buy would be near the beginning of summer and anytime during the winter. The logic is pretty simple; in the off-season, non-seasonal furniture is just taking up space so it needs to move. At the same time, selling seasonal furniture gets customers in the store to buy other items. By selling those items, the store is simply trying to draw in customers. Obviously, this is a good thing for someone trying to buy furniture cheap.
Some stores specialize in certain types of furniture. For example, wooden furniture, modular furniture, even children's furniture are particular niches in the furniture world. Although that furniture can usually be a little more expensive due to specialization, there are certain times of the year when they have sales. Those sales can actually be pretty good. The key, obviously, is to know your furniture.
Children's furniture will usually go on sale at the beginning of the school year, and right before Christmas. They are tapping into the parent's heightened awareness of items geared towards kids, and those are times that parents will usually buy furniture anyway. For more faddish furniture, it's a good news/bad news situation; it's going to be more expensive during the fad, and seriously cut afterwards. You can have that faddish stuff, but only after the fad has passed.
Wooden furniture is a bit more problematic. Your best bet will be to wait until the end of the year during the clearance sales. Stores attempt to eliminate as much as stock as possible to avoid being taxed on any stock remaining at the end of the year (that applies to any furniture store). However, pay attention to the weather as well. Wooden furniture, even sealed, tends to expand a little during humid weather. The more natural the wood, the more it expands. This means that some of the furniture may be damaged simply by the weather, and is thus marked for clearance as soon as possible. So watch for rain, fog, and even high humidity in general, and you should do okay.
The key to buying furniture cheaply is to keep a close eye on the kind of furniture you are looking for. The biggest thing to bear in mind is that you shouldn't be worried about paying less for quality furniture. You're not so much as taking advantage of cheap prices as you are shopping wisely. Of course, if you get an added bit of enjoyment taking advantage of a store, then so be it. Feel free to enjoy that added little vicarious thrill to your furniture shopping experience.