How to furnish your home on the cheap
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 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
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.
Purchase price: $250 for 2 pieces (so $125 each!)
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.
Purchase price: $140
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!
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.
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.
Following my own advice to search specifically, I looked up “accent chair” in our area. Drum roll please…
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.