Inexpensive Ways To Furnish Your Home

Lauren NowackiOctober 31, 2019

If you’re experiencing sticker shock from the additional expenses that come with homeownership, you’re not alone. One of the most common mistakes first-time home buyers make is thinking that the mortgage is the only cost they’ll incur. But there are many other hidden expenses. The one that many don’t think about until they move in is furnishing the home.

One of the advantages of buying a house is that you often get more room to spread out and comfortably live your life. The problem is that more room often means more area to fill. And if you’re used to living in a small place, chances are you don’t have the furniture needed to fill that extra space and keep the home from looking bare and uninviting. Luckily, with a little creativity and planning, you can furnish your home and create a cozy space without breaking the bank. Read on to learn a few inexpensive ways to make it happen for you.

Plan Ahead Of Your Shopping

Preparation can help you save money by giving you a better understanding of what you need and how much you can spend. With this knowledge, you can be more intentional about your spending and avoid going over budget or purchasing furniture you don’t need. Here are the steps to take when preparing to furnish your home.

Give Each Room A Purpose

Before you decide what kind of furniture each room in the home needs, you’ll need to know the purpose each room serves. For example, if you’re going to have a home office, you’ll need a desk and maybe a bookshelf or two. A guest room may require a bed and nightstand or small dresser. If you’re using a spare roomas a game room, you may need an entertainment center for your TV and gaming console, a table to play board games and plenty of seating to argue over Pictionary drawings.

Decide Which Furniture To Buy First

You may not have enough money to buy everything right away and that’s OK – you don’t need it all right now, anyway. But some pieces are more important to have than others, and that’s where you want to start. Think about the furniture you need to live comfortably and purchase those pieces first. For example, it’s more important to have a place to lay your head each night than it is to have a piece of art for guests to marvel at every now and then. Everyone’s lifestyle is different, but here are a few examples of essential pieces of furniture you may need before others:

·     Bed

·     Couch

·     Dresser or wardrobe

·     Kitchen or dining room table

·     Desk (if you work from home)

Wait to buy the other nonessential items until they go on sale or after you have money saved in your furniture fund. You don’t have to have your home completely furnished right off the bat, and adding pieces as you go does have its benefits. Besides saving you money, it can give you the time you need to build your design aesthetic and find the perfect pieces to complement it.

Create A Budget

Once you decide what you need to buy, you’ll need to have an idea of how much you’re going to spend. First, decide the total amount you can spend on furnishing your home, then break that total down into each room or each piece of furniture. You want to budget down to each piece so you don’t blow your total on just two furniture items. By breaking your budget down, you’ll also be able to spread the money out, giving you the ability to buy more pieces if you want.

If you decide to spend a little over your budget on one piece of furniture, take that amount away from other pieces. For example, if you spend $125 on a table you originally budgeted $100 for, budget $175 for a dresser instead of the $200 you originally planned.

Take Measurements Before You Buy

Before you go shopping, you’ll want to measure each room so you know what size furniture you need. Consider measuring the doorways, too, to make sure you can get the pieces in. This will keep you from wasting time and money on bigger, more expensive items you can’t even use. While you may be able to return the furniture if it doesn’t fit, you’ll have to go through the hassle of returning it and you may not get all of your money back. And if you buy any furniture from a secondhand store, you may not be able to return it at all.

Make A List Of What You Need

Have you ever gone grocery shopping without a list and ended up with way more in your cart than you anticipated? The same thing can happen if you go furniture shopping without a list. It is exciting to decorate your home, so the temptation to buy those adorable bookshelves or totally chic lamp will be even greater – and more expensive – than the temptation to throw an extra box of cookies in your cart.

Make a list of the essential pieces of furniture you need to buy, take it with you to the store and purchase only those pieces. Each item on your list should also include the size you need based on your measurements and the amount of money you budgeted for it.

If you find a nonessential item you love, take note of it and even take a picture of it, so you can remember it in the future.

Where To Find Inexpensive Furniture

Whether buying new or used, you’ll be able to get a good deal by shopping for furniture at a few different places. Each one offers a different shopping experience and has its advantages and disadvantages.

Big Box Retailers, Wholesale Shops And Furniture Stores

Before going to retail and luxury furniture stores, there are a few other types of stores to try first. Closeout retailers, discount furniture stores and warehouse locations often provide good quality, brand name furniture at a lower prices. They’re able to do this because their inventory usually consists of canceled orders, unclaimed merchandise, closeouts and items that the other stores couldn’t sell.

Superstores and department stores like Target, TJ Maxx, Walmart, Kohl’s and Macy’s have furniture departments that often include tables, chairs, entertainment centers, futons and small couches for under $500. An additional benefit of shopping at these stores is you won’t have a pushy salesperson trying to sell you a piece of furniture. And since there are no salespeople, the furniture won’t be marked up to cover their commission. Just keep in mind, furniture from big box stores isn’t often made to last and typically requires assembly on your part.

If you do decide to go to a retail furniture store, here are a few ways to save:

Shop the clearance section first. This section is usually located in the back of the store, which is a trick retailers use to make sure shoppers walk through the areas with new and shiny stuff first. Keep your blinders on and head to the back of the store before looking at the more expensive furniture. Remember, the stuff in the clearance section was once on the main floor, too.

Wait for holiday sales. Furniture stores hold large sales events throughout the year and the items on sale typically correspond with the season. For example, you may find a discount on recliners during Memorial Day sales as Father’s Day is fast approaching, while prices on outdoor furniture are typically cut during Labor Day sales when the summer season is coming to an end. However, the most popular holidays for furniture store sales events are President’s Day and the 4thof July. This is typically right before new styles hit the floor and stores need to make room. And since these are such popular holidays for furniture stores, they’ll all be competing with each other for the best sales.

Join the store’s mailing list. Sure, those emails and mailers can be annoying, but they also typically come with coupons, exclusive discounts and invitations to private events. You’ll also be the first to hear about upcoming sales.

Buy the floor sample. You can get a steep discount on floor samples because the items are technically used. They’ve been sat tested out by potential buyers and moved around the floor, so they may have a few dings, scuffs and scratches. A lot of times, these defects can be easily fixed or covered up. If minor imperfections don’t bother you, this is a great way to get a high-quality, designer piece for less money. You may even be able to barter for a lower price given the damage.

Consider custom orders – made for someone else. Some stores accept returns on custom orders and, when they do, attempt to recoup some of the cost by reselling the item. While these items are rare, ask the store if there are any returned custom orders. Because they were made for a specific person, these items are harder to sell and stores typically want them off their hands. While shopping for a new front door, my husband and I found one that had a larger, custom glass window put in. Not only did we get it for just$100, but we also got a completely unique front door with a beautiful custom window that we didn’t have to pay extra for. You never know what you’ll find.

Buyer beware: If you end up getting a discount on the furniture because it is a floor sample or rejected custom order, check the return policy. All sales may be final on these types of items.

Do it yourself.Delivery and assembly fees can be expensive. Avoid the delivery charge by picking up the furniture from the store yourself. If you need help assembling it, ask a handy friend or check out an online freelance labor marketplace like TaskRabbit, where people offer their services – including furniture assembly – for a small fee.


There are a few advantages to purchasing furniture online. For one, you get a private experience without any salespeople or other shoppers, and you can do it in your pajamas if you want. Another advantage is that you may have a wider selection of furniture since the shop’s inventory isn’t contained in a brick-and-mortar location. And if the store is completely online, its prices may be lower since the business isn’t paying money on the overhead costs associated with running physical locations.

Many online stores will offer free shipping on orders over a certain price and, since you’re buying furniture, chances are you’ll hit that price point. If you’re shopping on sites like Amazon that sell other merchandise, you can take advantage of that free delivery and add other items to your cart and avoid a delivery fee.

Your Own Inventory

Sometimes the furniture you already have simply needs a fresh coat of paint or a new wardrobe to feel like new. Repurposing your furniture is an inexpensive and eco-friendly way to furnish your home and may involve updating a piece’s look or finding a completely new use for it.

Here are a few ways to get a new piece of furniture from your old collection:

·       Repaint the piece in a new color.

·       Add a stencil design.

·       Replace the hardware with shiny, modern pieces.

·       Stain or refinish the wood.

·       Reupholster it with new fabric or paint the old fabric.

·       Add a nailhead trim to fabric pieces.

·       Add a glaze to wood pieces.

·       Decoupage table surfaces.

·       Replace old furniture legs with new, modern ones.

·       Add hooks, power strips, shelving and small storage spaces to make it more multifunctional.

When it comes to repurposing furniture, try to think outside the box to find new uses from your old pieces. With enough creativity, a crib can transform into a bench or an old piano into a bar. You can turn your dresser into a bathroom vanity or new entertainment center or use an old door to create a coffee table or headboard for your bed.

Secondhand Stores

If you can’t find a way to reuse your furniture, maybe you can find a way to reuse someone else’s. Buying secondhand helps keep furniture out of the landfill and gives it new life. Plus, it’s often one of the most inexpensive ways to furnish your home. People are often so focused on making a quick buck and getting the furniture out of their home that they may unknowingly sell it to you for a complete steal. In fact, there are several instances in which people spent a couple of bucks on random merchandise from thrift stores or garage sales that ended up being worth thousands, even millions, of dollars. While that is rare, you could still get great pieces of furniture for a good price. An added advantage of buying secondhand is that you know the furniture you’re getting is durable and built to last. There may be some wear and tear, but as long as the frame and the structure are still intact, the piece has proven it can last a long time.

To shop secondhand, visit these popular places:

·     Garage and yard sales

·     Rummage sales

·     Estate sales

·     Thrift stores

·     Flea markets

·     Habitat for Humanity ReStores

·     Consignment Shops

·     Community swap meets

·     Digital marketplaces like Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace

When buying secondhand furniture, test its sturdiness by putting pressure on the item and inspecting the legs and frame. Inspect the item for any DIY repairs by the previous owner and check the upholstery for stains, tears and odors. Be wary of furniture with synthetic fabrics like polyester and rayon as these snag easily and hold odors.

If you’re purchasing online from strangers, remember to take the necessary safety precautions. Never go to their house or give out your address. Instead, meet in a public, well-lit place. Consider having a friend accompany you and bring your cell phone with you in case of an emergency. Trust your instincts and never give out any of your financial information.

How To Make Inexpensive Furniture Look Expensive

Just because you’re furnishing your home on a budget doesn’t mean your it needs to look like it. Here are a few tricks to making your furnishings look more expensive than they are:

·     Repair any scratches or dings with paint, wood filler or a touch-up kit.

·     Replace dull knobs and handles with new, more vibrant hardware made of brass, chrome, glass, marble, ceramic or agate stone.

·     Create luxurious surfaces by adhering gold foil or contact paper that looks like marble, granite or stone.

·     Add lavish accessories, like a cashmere throw, faux fur rug or elegant place setting.

When To Splurge On Furniture

Even if you are on a budget, there are certain pieces of furniture to splurge on.These are typically the essential pieces you use every day. Getting good quality sleep is important to your health and your performance, so spending more money on a good mattress is worth it. And since your couch will get daily use from you and your guests, make sure you purchase a high-quality couch that is built to last.

When buying furniture that you aren’t splurging on, remember that there is a difference between cheap and inexpensive – even though the thesaurus may not agree. Inexpensive furniture is usually of better quality – like a designer bag from the outlet store. Cheap furniture is usually of a poorer quality – like a knock-off designer bag from a questionable street vendor. Cheap furniture will typically break down faster or wear out easily. When that happens, you’ll have to buy something to replace it. And at that point, did you really get a good deal? Whether splurging on a piece of furniture or searching for something more budget-friendly, always keep quality top of mind when it comes to furnishing your home.

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Lauren Nowacki

Lauren Nowacki is a staff writer specializing in personal finance, homeownership and the mortgage industry. She has a B.A. in Communications and has worked as a writer and editor for various publications in Philadelphia, Chicago and Metro Detroit.