How to furnish your home on a tight budget

Ok friends, it’s time to talk about cheap furniture…or shall I say, affordable furniture.  Back when our parents were outfitting their first homes, it was pretty tough to find affordable furnishings, particularly if you wanted to purchase new. Nowadays, there are lots of options! The challenge today isn’t finding something at your price point, but rather, discerning between what’s a good value at your price point, and what is total crap. (Pardon my French.) Truth be told, it’s easier said than done. Today, I’m sharing what I’ve learned while trying to buy quality furniture at accessible prices.

Take your time
The most important thing I’ve learned over the years is to slow down when you’re outfitting your home. You don’t have to buy everything at once. Seriously. Stop comparing your place to something you saw on Apartment Therapy or Elle Decor. Those places either 1) had unlimited budgets to get the best of everything from the get-go or 2) were cultivated into the perfect home after a long period of time. Since you are probably not Bill Gates, let’s assume option 2, so remember to take your time. Making a house a home isn’t an overnight activity, it’s a process. Get what you NEED and wait for the things you WANT. If that means hanging onto hand me downs for a few years while you find what love, so be it!

Minimum Viable Product (MVP)
Related to taking your time, figure out the MVP of your space. What do you absolutely NEED, right now, in order to make this space yours? With our new place, this meant painting the orange/red wall, getting a couch in the living room, and beds in each of the bedrooms so that we and our guests could comfortable sleep there. Do I want to replace the sconce lights in the bedrooms? HELL. YES. Am I going to buy something I don’t love to replace them in the meantime? Nope. I’m waiting until I find something I LOVE to make those changes. Similarly, I want to completely redo the kitchen one of these days, but that’s a giant overtaking that we don’t have the budget or bandwidth for right now. Instead, we got some peel and stick wallpaper (not kidding) that matches the bulk of the countertops to cover the one awful piece of red countertop. Is it a permanent solution? Of course not, but for $35, the whole thing looks cohesive (not wonderful) and I can live with it for the next year or so.

 

What makes it a home?
This question will help you identify the MVP for your house/apt. What about your space actually makes it a home? For me, it’s a combination of the space feeling like ours and having all of the functionality we need to host our loved ones. Absolutely everything else is just frosting. (Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE frosting). We prioritized the purchases mentioned above to bring our space to MVP, and then added the things that we needed to make it ours. For Ryan that meant that we invested in a grill for that fabulous porch ASAP, and that we moved up all of the necessary kitchen/cooking tools (we had a lot of doubles since we moved in together after we were both grown adults living on our own). For me, it meant folding a few throw pillows into the budget, painting that damn red wall, and getting stools for the kitchen counter so I (and future company) can sit and chat with Ryan while he cooks wonderful meals.

Grill Master

Read reviews
Over the past year, I’ve become quite the online shopper. From toilet paper to furniture, we’ve been getting anything you can think of via the magical world wide web. It’s awesome on so many levels: unlimited options, delivered to your door, access to things that you can’t buy in your area. However, you don’t really know what you’re going to get when buying things online. Let’s be honest, returning stuff via shipping is a giant pain in the butt. My solution – read the reviews! I started reading reviews on Sephora’s website a few years ago, and it has completely changed the way I make online purchases. Wayfair and it’s affiliate brands, Joss & Main and Birch Lane to name just a few, have GREAT review sections. There were definitely pieces I thought about buying that I decided against after reading the reviews. On the other hand, there are at least three things in our new house that we bought because the review were so darn good. (See this bed, this rug, and this chair.)

Editor’s note on Wayfair and Co.: You can create “Idea Boards” on all their sites so you can store the items you’re considering. Since we’re both pretty busy, Ryan and I have been using one to toss suggestions back and forth during the work week. It’s been a great way for us to tag-team our selection process!

Don’t write off Ikea
I know it has a bad rap you guys. I know we all have some awful particle board bookshelves from our youths that we just do NOT want to relive, but Ikea has come a long way. They have tons of lovely designs that are well-made at really fantastic prices. To add to the deal, they also treat their employees pretty well, which is great if you’re trying to be a responsible consumer. We scoured their website in advance so that we knew what we wanted to look at before going. Know that not everything you’re interested in will be a hit, but still give it a chance. After a lot of back and forth, we landed on two pieces. I went by myself on two separate occasions (because we live 15 mins from an Ikea and I am the QUEEN of getting in and out of there) to pick them up before we headed up to the house.

Sofa sleeper magic

I am OBSESSED with this couch because 1) it’s just lovely and the absolute right size for our little place and 2) it magically and simply turns into a comfortable bed for two people without looking like a terrible 1990s sleeper couch and 3) it has space to store all the bedding we need for that comfortable bed. Is it the Article couch of my dreams? No. But, is it less than $1,000, lovely, and meets all of our needs? Hell yea!

Editor’s note: (I don’t know why I keep calling these editor’s notes, it’s all just me. Whatever, I like the way it breaks up a post. Please just go with me on this one.) HomeGoods and Target are also solid sources for affordable things that look nice.

Go secondhand
There are so many great options for buying secondhand furniture and decor these days. Between AptDeco, Craigslist, traditional yard/garage sales, you are bound to find what you’re looking for…eventually (see take your time above). I’m currently on the hunt for an old-fashioned hat/coat rack (hit me up if you’re selling one), so I’ve been scouring the web and hit up a few garage/barn sales last weekend. I haven’t found “the one” yet, but we did pick up some awesome vinyl. I’m also on the lookout for art, tables, a bar cart, etc right now – all of the things that will make the house more fun and fabulous, but aren’t absolute necessities!

So that’s my best advice for starting your home-making journey. What else would you recommend? As a follow up, would y’all be interested in seeing what I would buy if money was no object?

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I'm Aubrie - nonprofit professional / triathlete / adventurer / blogger / currently on a frugal design journey as a new homeowner. Irreverent with good intentions.