Starting out with a "blank slate" can be both a blessing and a curse. The blessing comes if you have enough money to furnish your home with whatever you want from wherever you choose. Furnishing a home on a shoestring, though, takes creativity, an eye for a good value, and possibly some elbow grease.
While some discount stores, such as Ikea, sell inexpensive new furnishings, careful shoppers can find better quality for less money with used furnishings. Here are a few ideas for getting what you need at dramatically discounted prices.
Whether you are furnishing one room or a whole house, it's important to have an idea of how you want the room to look before you go shopping. Once you have the design in mind, it's easier to shop for the components.
Model homes in new home communities are great places to get decorating ideas. These homes are carefully decorated to appeal to a broad range of homebuyers' emotions. Color schemes, accessories, and furniture choice and placement all play to the shopper's emotions.
Interior design and decorating websites may also be good sources of inspiration. Check out Better Homes and Gardens, HGTV, Real Simple and Southern Living for budget project ideas to get your household furnished for less.
Used is Good
One of the hardest things to learn is how to look beyond the obvious wear and tear to the actual "bones" of used furniture. Look beyond the fact that the upholstery is ratty or the legs are scuffed – look at style.
If you like the lines of the coffee table, buy it. Scratches and dings are easy to fix. Hate the ugly green upholstery on the otherwise perfect Chesterfield-style sofa? Buy it. Have it recovered in a yummy fabric of your choice.
Once you've mastered the technique of not judging furniture by its cover, it's time to go shopping.
Garage and Estate Sales
Yes, there are differences between garage sales and estate sales. The latter is the disposition of goods of a person's estate. The garage sale, on the other hand, is the sale of a person's extra belongings or things they no longer need. Both sales offer used items, but estate sales typically have a better variety, and the items are usually in better condition.
Expect to pay more for estate sale items than garage sale items, and prices are typically not negotiable. In both cases you'll need to supply your own moving labor and transportation, so factor that cost into the cost of the items you want to purchase.
You can find garage and estate sales advertised on Craigslist, in newspaper classified ads, and by following directional signs in neighborhoods.
Furniture prices tend to be a bit higher in consignment stores than if you were to purchase the items directly from the owner's home, but you can occasionally find some bargains.
Salvation Army, Goodwill, Deseret Industries (in the western U.S.) and hospital auxiliary thrift stores are sources of deeply discounted used household items. Finding something decent is a bit challenging, but once in a while you'll find just the piece you've been searching for, so don't disregard these sources.
Craigslist is the best online site for inexpensive home furnishings – mainly because it's local. The first place to navigate once you arrive on your local Craigslist page is the "For Sale" section, where you'll find a link named "Free." Everybody loves free, right? Within this category you'll see ads that are headlined: "Curb Alert." These ads contain free items that the owners place at their curb, available on a first-come, first-served basis.
Directly beneath the "Free" section is a link to the furniture section. Here you can find everything from new furniture to gently used designer pieces and ratty junk. Craigslist gives you the opportunity to search by owner or by dealer and to use keywords, which saves you from having to scroll through hundreds of ads for headboards when you're looking for a dining room table.
You may also want to peruse the "Household" and "Antique" sections, also located under "For Sale."
Another website where you can search for furniture is eBay. You can find some bargains here, but keep in mind that shipping charges may just destroy any savings you realize on the items themselves. One way around this is to click the down arrow next to "Sort." At the bottom of the list you'll find "Nearest First." Click on that link to re-sort items according to geographic location.
Etsy is an interesting website for perusing handmade items, such as artwork, containers, planters and pillows suitable for accessorizing.
Finally, join the freecycling group in your area at Freecycle.org. Membership is free, and so are all the items posted.
Shopping frugally allows you to make big, dramatic changes to your home décor without breaking the bank.