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Have you ever felt like that person in some coming-of-age movie, sitting on the floor alone in their new apartment? You’re there in this scary, new city accompanied by one cardboard box.
Did you feel like that when you started out on your own? Because that’s exactly how I felt.
After moving out of my parents’ house and spending several years accumulating a hodgepodge of furniture, a flood took it all away. I was moving to a new city with… a coffee table, an ottoman, and a TV (the only pieces of furniture that survived).
The feeling isn’t great. You look around, and many of the people you know have the nice, matching furniture sets from fancy furniture stores. Not to mention every adults’ house you remember from your childhood was decked out much the same.
It’s easy to feel like you need that or deserve it too. It can make you feel behind your peers when you don’t have a “fully-stocked” house or apartment. Wouldn’t it be reasonable to finance a bunch of furniture, so you have everything you need?
That is the expensive and lazy way out. Take it from someone who’s been there; there are so many other, better ways to furnish your home without spending thousands on costly matching furniture sets or taking out a loan.
In this post, I’ve compiled my eight best tips for how to furnish a home when you’re broke.
Adjust Your Mindset
Why do some people feel like they need a complete set of luxurious furniture right away?
If this is your first instinct, you have to work on your mindset before I can help you. These tips will guide you in affordably furnishing a home, not show you ways to score designer furniture that’ll make everyone jealous.
So what’s pushing you towards financing expensive furniture? You need to identify that to begin working through adjusting your mindset.
Is it because your friends have it? Because you feel unsuccessful without it?
You define success, and responsibly furnishing a house within your means is successful behavior.
1. Shop Furniture Liquidators
When a business closes or downsizes and needs to turn its property into cash, it sells furniture they don’t need to a furniture liquidators store. Furniture liquidators can also get stock from mainstream furniture stores if they overstocked certain items or didn’t sell them.
This can mean lower prices for you! Slightly used, overstocked, or less popular inventory doesn’t indicate lousy quality furniture.
The best couch I’ve ever had I found at a Furniture Liquidators store. It was half of a sectional that couldn’t sell at the retail store because the cloth on one side was damaged. It was large, it was comfy, and it was $436! All we had to do was cover up the side by finding matching fabric (which we easily found at a local store).
2. Browse Estate Sales
An estate sale is a way to liquidate someone’s belongings, basically, turn possessions into cash. There are many reasons to hold a sale like this, often it’s because of a death or divorce, but you can also have an estate sale if you’re moving or downsizing.
Estate sales are like a garage sale on steroids. The person isn’t just getting rid of some items in their house they no longer want. Estate sales are on a grander scale.
It’s a sale or auction to get rid of a considerable portion of a person’s belongings. It’s the same principle as buying a used car. You’ll pay a fair price, but it’s more affordable than buying a new piece of furniture.
3. Visit Garage Sales & Thrift Stores
Someone else’s “trash” might be your great way to get affordable furniture.
Although probably not the first place that comes to your mind, you can find some excellent discounted pieces at garage sales and thrift stores if you’re willing to search.
You can stumble across some great furniture by driving through neighborhoods on the weekend looking for garage sale signs. Thrift stores are also fantastic places to search for those hidden gems.
4. Learn to Rehab Furniture
Sometimes, you can score some furniture for a discount because it’s just plain ugly.
Whether it won’t sell at a retailer’s or it’s an out-of-date, beat up coffee table you just got at a garage sale, learning how to rehab ugly furniture could save you money.
Sanding and staining wood, applying a fresh coat of paint, or reupholstering a chair can give a worn out, hideous piece a fresh, new look that you’ll love.
Another useful rehab tip is to look for slightly damaged items that might be marked down.
I’m not recommending you purchase an item with an ugly, unknown stain. Yuck! I’m talking about a chip in the wood you can hide, a broken board you can replace, or other small damages you can quickly fix up as good as new when you get home, but they can afford you a discount.
If you notice a defect and the price doesn’t seem to reflect it, speak with a sales representative, and request a price deduction based on the imperfection. Always remember to be polite with this. Ask for an amount to be taken off the price and state your reasons why. As my grandmother always said, “You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.”
5. Pace Yourself
Nothing says you have to furnish your living space wholly and immediately.
Even if you’re a frugal shopper, you still may not be able to afford to furnish your home all at once. And that’s okay!
It’s better to pace yourself and purchase one piece of furniture each month than to take on debt to have everything right away.
Start with the pieces of furniture you use the most like a mattress, couch, or kitchen table before moving on to the things you won’t miss as much. It’s relatively easy to get by without a desk, nightstand, bookshelves, or home decor.
This is one of the methods I used when I lost all my furniture in a flood. My TV, coffee table, and ottoman were the only pieces of furniture to make it. I was able to round up a mattress a relative generously gave me.
The mattress sat on the floor, no bed frame. The TV sat on the floor (no TV stand), and the ottoman made a mini, make-shift couch.
Slowly, we bought a kitchen table, an actual couch, bookshelves, tv stand, etc., but this took time.
6. Skip the Un-importants
Is there some furniture you don’t feel like you need? You may find yourself thinking, “But everyone else has (fill-in-the-blank furniture).”
If you won’t use it or it isn’t significant to you, don’t buy it. Don’t own many books? Don’t buy a bookshelf. Don’t care about a bed frame? Please, don’t buy it.
Buy the furniture that adds value and has a purpose in your living space. Ignore what your peers may tell you you need.
7. Ask Around
If you know anyone who’s moving soon, it’s worth asking if they have any furniture they plan to throw out. Often moves are when people start thinking about getting rid of old furniture and buying the new items they’ve had their eye on.
Maybe no one you know is moving, but you know someone shopping for furniture. Find out if it’s because they’re replacing something older. If they just want a piece that’s a little more modern, their older furniture is probably still in good shape. Offer to pay a fair price for it, but don’t be surprised if they end up giving it to you for free.
8. Don't Be Afraid to Negotiate
It’s incredible how many people accept the quoted price at face value without even a second thought. Furniture can be expensive! Don’t forget you have more opportunity to negotiate on larger purchases.
Do your research, know the value of the item, and strategically haggle it down.
So is your broke self ready to use these eight tactics to get affordable, non-financed furniture?
Learning to shop savvy and get creative when it comes to purchasing furniture can save you a lot of money. Many people think furniture is just expensive and they can’t afford it on their own. So they end up financing thousands of dollars in bedroom sets, couches, you name it.
It just doesn’t have to be that way. Countless options will get you affordable furniture that won’t take a piece of your paycheck every month. And that’s how you furnish a home when you’re broke.
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