Furnishing (or re-furnishing) a home is no easy task. There is pressure to buy everything right away, to buy everything brand new, to make your home look exactly like the homes you see in magazines and catalogs. But guess what: the only person who has to be happy with your home is you. Furthermore, there is no rule that says you have to spend multiple months worth of salary to make your home feel homey. Here are some tricks on how to furnish and decorate a home when you’re on a budget.
1. Focus on the Few
There are a few items that, in spite of what we said in the intro, it really is better to buy brand new: your bed and your upholstered seating, like your couch or an armchair, etc. These items need to be bought brand new to keep your risk of bedbugs and the introduction of other pests (like fleas, etc) as low as possible. These items can be quite costly but you can reduce this expense a lot by shopping at independent retailers. Independent furniture shops are more likely to work with you on pricing (corporate stores can’t haggle). They are also more likely to work with third-party financiers who can smooth out the purchasing process for you.
According to the Crest Financial twitter feed, using a cash windfall–like your tax refund–is another great way to buy or at least reduce the amount of money you have to come up with for these types of purchases.
2. Thrifting Fun
After you’ve bought the important items brand new, you can start looking for the rest of your furnishings–tables, dressers, bookcases, etc. The best places to find these items is in thrift shops. Yes, you can shop via sites like Craigslist but more often than not you’ll wind up spending hours driving from one seller to another only to find that “slightly used” means “mostly broken but not totally unusable yet.”
Thrift shops, on the other hand, are treasure troves for bargain hunters. You can get an entire set of perfectly good cookware (including cast iron!) and serving ware (plates, glasses, etc) for a few dollars. You can find cheap frames for your posters and artwork. You can even find larger items like tables, buffets, shelving, etc.
Another great strategy for thrifting is to hit antique and flea markets. Antique markets in particular are good because the store owner will vouch for the authenticity of every item in the shop. Even better, if something isn’t in exquisite condition they will often offer great discounts and deals just to get you to take the item home and clear space for something fancier. When you get it home you can use our third best way to furnish your home on a budget.
Reinforcing the joints and adding a coat of paint to that antique bureau won’t take you more than an afternoon–at most a weekend if the piece needs more repair work. As much flack as the shabby chic movement has taken, the techniques it espouses are quite helpful for the cash strapped. With some sanding and paint you can make anything look like new.
Plus with DIY there is no limit to your creativity. Some spray paint is all that’s needed to turn some old milk crates into perfectly adorable storage bins or small shelving units. Crochet your own throw rugs using old pairs of jeans. Replace cabinet hardware with leather pulls. There is no limit to what you can do with your creativity and some basic art and carpentry skills.
The point is this: furnishing your home with beautiful pieces and decorations doesn’t have to mean buying everything brand new. Buy only the most important items new and then bootstrap the rest. You’ll create a home that is truly unique and your own.