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How to furnish your home on the cheap

Cheap home decorating.

Cheap Home Decorating

After 12 years of marriage and 3 kids, my husband and I moved to a new house. Some of our furniture was exhausted (that’s the stage beyond tired), so we saved up to replace it and give our new home a fresh start.

Off to the stores? I think not. Instead, to furnish our home on the cheap, I discovered that Kijiji, Craigslist and local sites have treasures waiting for a new home, for a fraction of retail prices.

Here are some of my finds and lessons I learned along the way:

Think outside the box

I went online to Urban Barn and Crate & Barrel to get inspiration for a low entertainment cabinet. I found this one for $600. Definitely not in the budget.

Entertainment Unit

Entertainment cabinets I found on Kijiji were tall and bulky, so I searched under “sideboards”. And there it was… a sideboard intended for china, that works perfectly for our entertainment gear. The sliding glass door also allows a remote control to operate our system, even when it is closed.

Purchase price: $150

Entertainment Stand

Be persistent

When Kijiji sellers posted this fabulous chair and a half, with matching ottoman, they received non-stop emails. I happened to be one of the first replies and I sent follow up notes to show that I was a serious buyer. It worked!

Be persistent if you see something you really want. We use the ottoman in front of our couch, and the mega chair gives a cozy reading spot in that little nook.

Retail: $1000
Purchase price: $250 for 2 pieces (so $125 each!)

Chair and Ottoman

Search specifically

Our fireplace has a quirky corner mantel. One splurge item that I was hoping to add there was a square mirror. I found the perfect mirror on Kijiji, but I couldn’t pick it up right away, and then the post was gone.

Six months later I took a long shot and did a very specific search for “square mirror”, and there it was again… waiting for me. The seller had just re-posted it and this time I scooped it up right away.

Retail: $400
Purchase price: $140

Square Mirror

You can also search under a specific retailer (for example: West Elm, EQ3, Pottery Barn), if you are hoping for higher-end item. As well, I recommend searching Craigslist under “Furniture-By Owner” to eliminate the furniture posted by dealers, since dealers will likely be a bit more expensive (or a lot more expensive!).

Know your prices

Ikea’s unique furniture names make it easy to search for specific pieces second-hand. Their Hemnes line is my favourite for appearance and quality. These pieces hold their value and sell for at least 50% of the retail price. But if you search diligently for a specific piece, you might do better than that.

I happened upon the Hemnes wardrobe from a motivated seller. It is now a dresser/closet combo for our nursery. We drove a bit further than our local Ikea store, but it came assembled, which is worth a lot!

Retail: $450
Purchase Price: $125

Ask the important questions

Make sure to ask the seller specific questions about the condition and dimensions of an item, and also if it is from a smoke-free and/or pet-free home (if that is important to you). You don’t want to waste your time going to check out an item, only to realize you forgot to ask an important question and the item isn’t what you expected.

Also, consider how the picture appears; a well-presented item is less likely to disappoint. Most importantly, if you are going to negotiate the price, do it through email or phone. As a seller, I expect buyers to pay full price unless we have made another arrangement before pick up.

Final challenge

Before posting this article, I decided to give myself one more challenge to find the perfect accent chair for our bedroom – one at an online retailer and a comparable one second hand. I love the shape and style of this one from Urban Barn (Sale price: $349). Don’t love the price, and it is too grey for our space.

Accent Chair

Following my own advice to search specifically, I looked up “accent chair” in our area. Drum roll please…

Corner Chair

Love the shape, dimensions, colour and the price of $80. I asked all the important questions and the presentation convinces me it is from a clean home. Now to go scoop it up!

My home decorating summary

Overall, I spent about 25% of retail prices to update our home. Each purchase has a story behind it, and a sense of victory that comes from a fabulous find.

It’s hard to believe that a few years ago I overheard someone talking about buying skates on Craigslist, and I asked who Craig was. Since then, I have become an avid online shopper – and I’ve never looked back.

How do you furnish your home on the cheap?


  1. Sarah

    So glad you posted this! Just bought our first home in August and we furnished the ENTIRE house on Kijiji, and I mean EVERYTHING! Bedroom furniture is all Hemnes 😉 I love that line too! I buy or sell something almost daily, it’s an awesome way to save money and still get what you want!

    By the way, thanks for the couponing tips Mrs. J, I just started and am LOVING it!!!

    • Karen

      Thanks Sarah. We should start a Hemnes fan club. Glad to hear you are doing well with couponing – Cassie is awesome (note: I am not Cassie, or that would sound really arrogant) 🙂 Keep it up!!

  2. Jacquie

    Love Kijiji! Took me a while, but I finally found a pair of matching electric recliners for $100 each! They are only 2yrs old, but the seller was moving out of the country & wanted them gone!

    Another fave decorating secret in the GTA is Moveline Liquidations! (Hope it’s ok to post – They get inventory from hotel renovations – some of it brand new, much gently used. I got a huge gilt mirror for my dining room for $25 & some framed floral paintings for $5 each. If I had room for it, they had a gorgeous red leather love seat the day I was there last for $130. Definitely some cool finds at good prices.

    • Karen

      Great example of patience when you have something specific in mind. I haven’t heard of that liquidator’s before-appreciate the lead.

    • Olivia

      Thanks so much for the link. You can actually shop online. They have some excellent pieces. I’ll wait for my next move or when my grown children move out and furnish their place

  3. Sarah

    Who’s Craig – Hilarious. My Mom told me she looked at both local malls and couldn’t find the Kijiji store anywhere 🙂

    • Karen

      Hilarious!!! Tell your mom she is a kindred spirit indeed.

  4. CD

    I’ve bought a few nice wood pieces through Craigslist as well as in local thrift stores but there is something about used upholstered furniture that bothers me. You just never know what could be inside that stuffing. I’m glad it works out for others but I will stay away from those items.

  5. zoey

    YOUR HOME looks lovely and I think you are teaching us all to live within our means and prosper for the future. Good Job!

    • Karen

      Thanks. You are so right about the importance of living within our means.

  6. Jamie

    I’ve found Winners/Homesense can be great for furniture… the key is, you have to go there often and be ready to jump on a great deal because they often only get a single piece, sometimes only to one specific store, but the savings can be huge. I recently found a great deal on a chaise there, and it was 50% lower than retail because of a defect; the defect was a chip on one of the legs. This is a leg that is UNDERNEATH the chaise, so the only way you can see it is if you flip the thing upsidedown!

    • Karen

      Nothing like a great deal…bit of a rush if we are honest, right? That sounds like a fabulous find.

  7. Jo

    Love Kijiji, sometimes distance can be a problem but if you are patient you can furnish your home for much less $ than retail. Just be sure to look everything you buy carefully for any defects as not returnable like a store of course.

    • The other Karen

      That is very good advice about checking for defects Jo. I once bought a Hemnes nightstand sealed in the box and got home to find it was not the colour that the gentleman had advertised. Thankfully I was able to exchange it at the store, but I did learn my lesson!

  8. Jen

    To me, that seems like a huge price that you paid, but if you’re happy with the amount you paid that’s what matters.

    As for couches and chairs – I would NEVER, and I mean NEVER buy them secondhand. With the infestation of bed bugs hitting Southern Ontario and the fact they can live for up to a year… yeah, never happening!

    • The other Karen

      I completely understand your concern about bed bugs. The chair and ottoman were from a house that looked like a model home in a very ritzy area (not that there couldn’t be bed bugs with good taste, but I had a good feeling)…living on the edge!

    • Karen

      I know I spent more than some readers might, but this time I wanted to invest in pieces I loved (and not fall into my bad habit of settling for something just because it is on sale). Plus, I budgeted ahead of time for these items.

  9. Betty

    We’ve found liquidation stores are very good for buys on new furniture. Bought a tub chair (suede/grey colour) for $25. new because it had a little nick at the back of the chair. Reg. price was $300. @ Leon’s & Bad Boys. But because I knew how to repair the nick (fabric glue) & the fact that it would be facing the wall made it a perfect fit. Have also bought at the same store a nice table lamp for $25., wooden end table for $35., wooden dinette table with 4 chairs for $50., dble. mattress & box spring (frame included) for $100., etc. nice just to look around these places.

  10. Olivia

    Great article with fabulous tips. Your home looks lovely… did a great job by placing that square mirror on a corner fireplace!
    Enjoy the savings. Another place to buy deals is Habitat for Humanity, depending what you are looking for (doors,storage,hardware, cabinets, etc.)

  11. samantha

    Bed bath & beyond is another fabulous place for the “scratch & dent” section”. I found a huge painting in a gorgeous frame which was reg. $169.99 reduced to $24 because a little piece of the frame was missing in the corner.

    On another trip I found a gorgeous ottoman (huge actually) where the lid comes out and flips over to a serving tray on the one side and padding on the other, with storage inside. Was reg $129 and was reduced to $19 because someone broke the strap that is used to flip the lid around (like seriously, either sew it or take them all off!!)

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