This is part of an ongoing series about how to trim the budget of the average American. As this series focuses on such broad-based tips, some will work for you and some will not. You’re invited to mention in the comments the tips that you found to be the most useful for inclusion in a comprehensive budget trimming guide at the conclusion of this series.
Housing – household furnishings, equipment – $1,797
This category focuses entirely on furniture, decorative items, and some minor household items (like computers), but excludes major appliances (they have their own category). In other words, when you look around your house at the things that are there mostly for decoration, comfort, and communication and not for essentials like eating, heating, and cooling, you’re looking at this category.
How do you save money in this category, then? Here are ten effective ways to trim your household furnishings budget.
Plan, plan, plan. Before you ever even think about shopping for home decoration and furniture, make a plan. Know what you want in a room. Don’t use a store catalogue for this. Instead, focus on how you want a room to look. This way, you have an internal guide to help you find the things you want.
Hit estate sales, auctions, and so forth with your plan in mind. Once you know what you’re looking for, look for the inexpensive places to find it. Estate sales are almost always great places to find furniture and decor at a low price.
Shop at the end of the month for furniture – and negotiate. Quite often, stores (and individual salesman) have a monthly sales quota that they must meet to receive a bonus or some other perk – or perhaps to maintain employment. Take advantage of this and shop late in the month, and when you find a piece you want, negotiate.
Don’t finance smaller purchases – like furniture. If you can’t pay cash for it, don’t buy it. This is particularly true with items like furniture, which tend to wear out gradually rather than needing a sudden replacement.
Focus on functionality. Yes, we all like beautiful furniture. Yet, the reason we have furniture is functional – it provides a place to sit or it provides a place upon which to sit things. Whenever you get the urge to buy something new, ask yourself if you’re just spending money to make things prettier – and if you are, if that’s a good choice.
Give it another six months. Whenever you first make the decision that you need to replace a major furniture item, give it six months before you make the switch. Since the item likely does not require immediate replacement and is merely showing wear, keep using it while you carefully shop for a replacement and can identify a good deal on what you want.
Don’t make your house look like the Pottery Barn. In other words, don’t buy expensive home decor just because it’s decor. Instead, focus on ways of decorating your home that express you. Instead of salivating over some overpriced decoration that appears in hundreds of other stores, focus on more unique and distinctive decorations, some of which you can be involved in the creation of. A tasteful frame and a photograph that truly means something to you is an inexpensive and meaningful home decoration that always works, for example.
Move the furniture instead of buying new furniture. If a room looks stale to you, it doesn’t mean that you need to replace everything. Rearrange the furniture. Repaint a single wall. Reinvigorate what you have instead of shelling out the cash.
Instead of buying a new computer, reinstall the operating system. Quite often, when people think they need a new computer because the old one is “slow,” it’s a matter of a lot of unnecessary software and other unnecessary junk running on the machine. Instead of just buying a new computer, give reinstallation a shot.
Disguise it, don’t replace it. You have an ugly couch. That doesn’t mean it’s simply time to replace it. Instead, find ways to accentuate it – use pillows, throws, and other items to bring out the best in something. A nice throw is a lot cheaper than a new couch.
I want your help! In the comments, please let me know which of the tips you find most useful for trimming these costs. I’ll include the top choices in a comprehensive budget trimming guide at the conclusion of the series.