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?

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  1. Jamie says:

    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!

  2. Jo says:

    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 says:

      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!

  3. Jen says:

    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!

    • Karen says:

      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.

    • The other Karen says:

      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!

  4. Betty says:

    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.

  5. Olivia says:

    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.)

  6. samantha says:

    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!!)

  7. Olivia says:

    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

  8. Karen says:

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

  9. Karen says:

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

  10. Karen says:

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

  11. Karen says:

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

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