questionshow much should i pay for a lower end mattress…

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It depends on how "lower-end" you are wanting to go. I don't know about where you live, but I'm pretty sure I could direct you to a few neighborhoods with matresses behind the dumpsters... Does that count as "free"?

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@dergage: Oh, my bad. You might also want to specify "new." Like, new to you, right?

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@dergage: Correct. Brand new. Never used. (Although open box would be okay if that's a thing for mattresses)

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Why new? If I were you I'd be looking on Craigslist. That's where I got my last mattress. I sold my king sized bed for $200 on Craigslist and bought my twin sized bed there. Daybed with brand name mattress and popup bed with a mattress beneath it that can be connected to make it a queen sized bed or used separately as two twins. I paid $50 for all of it. I went to a bankruptcy furniture sale last weekend and picked up an $800 premium pillowtop twin mattress and box springs for $200. My old mattress is languishing in the garage, along with the new box springs. I'm going to sew a canvas cover for it and give it to my Great Dane to sleep on this winter.

But to respond specifically to your question, I'd expect to pay no more than $100 for a low end mattress set new. Look at Big Lots.

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@ern3sto09: Fair enough. You might try online, like GoogleShopping. Or Woot! has some good memory foam deals sometimes...

And for the record, I think a one-time-used mattress is gross. I don't think I could ever sleep on a Craiglisted mattress, and I won't even touch one of those aforementioned "street mattresses"...

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@moondrake: Why new? Ever hear of bedbugs? That's why new!

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I'd rather sleep on the floor than on some cheap mattresses; innersprings that create pressure points and/or pokes you aren't worth it at any price, y'know.

Call it old-age, but I prefer memory-foam based mattresses nowadays. Buy.com and Ikea are two places I'd look at for overall value, but even then, budget $3-400 for just the mattress.

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@djp519: I put my used mattresses in an airtight mattress cover for the first year or so I used them. They are quite cheap at Walmart. New doesn't necessarily protect you from bedbugs. They are hitching rides in on new products as well as old. As much as I travel I pretty much figure it's just a matter of time before I have to do battle with the things anyway.

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this is gonna sound strange however one can buy a mattress at most box stores (as in walmart and kmart). around 200. i have seen (and bought) both inner coil spring and memory foam mattresses. both come in a box that would fit in the back seat of a car and carry with wheels built into the box. when you get it where you want it just open the box, plastic wrap and stand back (be sure to have either febreeze or lysol for that plastic smell). it takes about an hour to fully "plump up".

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Lower end? I wouldn't go there. One step up and $300 is not unrealistic. Check local furniture stores. There is no replacement for a decent night's sleep.

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I'd reconsider having a goal of spending "as little money as possible" on your mattress, unless you're graduating in nine months. Sure, you won't spend that much time sleeping as a student, but one still spends a fair amount of time in bed and it's key that sleep be refreshing; your ability to focus, memorize, and succeed in school is dependent upon treating your body with a modicum of respect: that includes rest, but it also includes physical aches and pains, which are more likely with a cheap/uncomfortable mattress. I have a significant back injury and my pain level decreased dramatically when I gave up my discount-store innerspring mattress and bought a memory foam mattress. I actually dislike traveling now, because the pain level in my back increases on a regular mattress!

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I bought a $269 new queen set direct from a no-name factory in downtown Los Angeles which included delivery.

Had it for 6 years now and no problems. I understand that some people need to spend more (much much more apparently) for a mattress that they can sleep well on, but I sleep very well on my cheapie with no aches and pains.

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How about low low end? I sleep in a hammock several nights a week, quite well. Comfort's a subjective individual situation; you may or may not want pillowtop or memory foam.
There's a lot of remanufactured mattresses available, where only the innerspring part is reused after cleaning. If you can locate them(often at bargain furniture stores, since most of those won't or can't sell used mattresses) you're likely to spend $100-300, depending on size.

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I bought my mattress and box spring from Sams Club a few years ago. Paid about $250 for a twin size. It's been comfortable and I've had no problems with it.
Alternatively you could buy a higher end Thermarest camping mattress for around $100. It's on the small side and only gets you a few inches off the floor but my Thermarest is almost as comfortable as my real bed.

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Free on the side of the road! will even come with pets.