Trimming the Average Budget: Household Furnishings

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.

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42 thoughts on “Trimming the Average Budget: Household Furnishings

  1. Shane says:

    Love your ideas, keep them coming!

  2. marta says:

    Again, the fewer pieces of furniture you need to store your stuff (clutter), the less house you’ll be needing. That would trim your shelter costs.

    Same as with not getting married or having children — no need for extra chairs or beds. There is always a way to trim furniture and/or shelter costs, but that doesn’t mean you’ll like it.

  3. Erin says:

    Slip covers are fantastic. I’ve made a few different ones and change them depending on my mood. Plus they protect my chesterfield from stains.

  4. Tracy says:

    Agree with Marta :)

  5. john says:

    I would have thought that choosing to reupholster rather than buy new would be a way to save money but what we found was almost the opposite, at least if you start with quality furniture. We had a couple of couches that we loved but we had let them get threadbare and it was time to do something about it. Rather than throw them out we chose to redo them and since we have no skills in that area we paid a reputable company to do it. Total cost was more than if we had bought new (of a lower quality).

    On the one hand I could see that a strategy of buying cheap and replacing more often could work but on the other hand that isn’t great for the environment I guess.

    That’s the problem with consumption at some point you have to pay for it again.

  6. guinness416 says:

    I think the most savings are to be made, by far, when you buy a house. And best thing you can do is curb your excitement and buy as little furniture as you can until you’ve lived in a new place for a few months and see what your patterns are. We’ve all had the exerience of moving somewhere new and finding out a few months later that you’re spending all your time in room X rather than, as you thought, room Y because it gets the sun at the time you’re home or has a great view of the garden or is close to the kitchen or whatever.

    Also if it’s your first house, don’t splash out on new lawnmowers, snowblowers and other expensive garden stuff until you see if your neighbours are the type to let you use theirs for a beer (on my street there is one gas lawnmower and one snowblower and we all share).

  7. Jenni says:

    Slipcovers! Spend a little money on a decent set (or get 2 & change out seasonally for a fresh look–feels like new furniture!). Also, when one of our slipcovers bit the dust, I took it apart at the seams and made a a pattern out of it so I can make my own slipcovers with material of my choice for considerably cheaper now.

    And I love your tip about rearranging instead of buying new stuff. I’ve even gone so far as to switch rooms (swapped dining room & living room).

  8. Nicole says:

    Oh boy – I think my biggest weakness is home decor items! I just love this stuff, and creating a beautiful home and changing out the decor occasionally (ok, somewhat frequently) is a passion of mine. I’m talking more about smaller decorative items (not furniture – like couches and tables).

    My strategy to help curb my spending in this area is:
    1. Reuse what I already have. I have “old” decor stored in my basement that I haven’t displayed recently. There’s nothing wrong with it, I just tired of it and put it away. So I’m going to try to reuse it in different rooms or perhaps paint or otherwise change the item to make it into something “new”.

    2. Sell anything I really don’t like anymore or is of a different style that I no longer enjoy. I’ll clear out some of my clutter and make a little money off it. Hopefully, I’ll save this money, but I figure even if I turn around and use the proceeds for more decorating, it’s not coming right out of my pocket : )

    3. Set a budget and a list for when I shop. It’s so easy to go into a store and see items I had no intention of purchasing, but they’re so pretty I just “have to have them”! I think I’ll need a lot of will power for this.

    4. Stay out of decorating stores!! Even in the “discounted” places like Marshalls/TJ Maxx/ Home Goods, I can still spend a fortune. So just staying away is probably my best bet.

    I’m a newer reader to The Simple Dollar and I’ve vowed to improve my financial situation in 2010! Thanks for all the great advice!

  9. deb says:

    In addition to reinstalling the operating system on an aging computer, pop open the cover and give it a good vacuuming. Often times there’s a buildup of dust, especially in the fan area that makes the computer heat up, which makes it slow down and become very loud. Many times you’ll need to remove a few screws around the fan to get at the thick blanket of dust and lint that accumulates there, but once you do it you’ll be happy you did. Make a point to do it every six months for a much healthier computer.

  10. Kat says:

    I have never been a fan of the Decorated look. Like guinness416 says, wait a bit, let things evolve. Buy a piece you really love and gradually shift, modify, replace the other items around it. Work on function first and then – as you are inspired – begin to make it pleasing to the eye!

    We slept on a mattress on the floor for several years until I felt we could afford a bed to go under it. It was not as uncomfortable as it sounds – kind of nice to just roll off the side in the morning!

  11. Maureen says:

    I wouldn’t put computers in this category.

    I would buy major home furnishings (couch,rugs) in neutral, solid colours. That way they will become less dated it you change your colour scheme. Use accessories to make your look more fashionable.

    A can of paint will go a long way in transforming your living space.

    Lots of frugal creative folks transform 2nd hand furniture into treasures. Sometimes it just takes a can of spray paint.

  12. Kathy says:

    A couple of years ago, we took a couple of white, wooden storage units we were not using for storage, propped them on their side, painted them and converted them into bedside tables for our bedroom. All it cost was these storage units (I think they were ten or twenty dollars apiece when we bought them) and the price of the primer and paint. There are a lot of frugal things you can do to decorate a room that involve a little creativity, imagination, and some elbow grease.

  13. KC says:

    Buy quality furniture when you do buy. Get wood furniture – not presswood or laminate. If it comes from Ikea, Williams-Sonoma, Pottery Barn, Rooms to Go, Target, and the like it isn’t real wood furniture. If its made in China or Mexico it isn’t likely real wood. I live in central NC so I have no problem accessing quality wood furniture. But I know it is expensive if you can’t take advantage of location – when I lived in Memphis I paid through the nose for quality wood furniture – but its worth it – I still have it and it still looks new.

    When I do buy I buy things that have a timeless quality – I don’t try to be trendy. I look at a piece and say “Will I still want this in 20 years?” “Will this work in any room?” I have pieces of furniture that looked great in my small townhouse and now are in my much larger suburban home and they still look great – regardless of the room and its size.

    As for upholstered furniture the same principles apply – quality and wood – but its on interior, which can be harder to tell. But the chair or sofa should be fairly heavy and should support you well when you sit on it. Go sit on a Sherrill or Ethan Allen sofa and then go sit on a Rooms to Go sofa – you’ll feel the difference. When you buy quality upholstered furniture you can easily have it recovered for years and years of usage.

    As for making it last remember that wood is soft. If you plop your keys on it or your feet on it everyday you are damaging the wood. If your kids eat off it it will damage it. Any unnecessarily hard contact damages wood. So take care of it – use coasters under your drinks, don’t put your feet on it (buy and ottoman for that), and don’t put things on it repeatedly that can damage it. If you are “redecorating” – move the furniture carefully by picking it up – not dragging it – as that weakens the legs on tables, chairs and sofas.

    For upholstery take care of it too – don’t drink when you are on upholstered furniture (or be really careful). If your pets get on the furniture or like to sit against the furniture put on a slip cover or towels/blankets on the area they like to sleep – you can take it off when you are expecting guests.

    And yes, take it slow, like another reader suggested. Just cause you have a new house doesn’t mean you have to fill it up right away. Take your time and look and wait for sales. I’m glad I waited cause I got some great deals on real furniture when the recession hit and all these places in NC couldn’t sell their wares. I also have in-laws with a house full of nice antiques and furniture. As morbid as this sounds this stuff will have to go somewhere when they die. I’m hoping some of it will end up in my house – so I’m in no rush to fill my house up with furniture if I can get great stuff for free.

  14. Anna is now Raven says:

    “Focus on functionality” — yes, BUT.

    Of course our furniture is to sit on, sleep on, eat at, etc. That doesn’t mean we have to settle for ugly. The opposite of functionality is not buying new, as is implied by the statements above. We can have functionality and still satisfy our aesthetic instincts by looking for sturdy used furniture, such as good semi-antiques at yard sales.

    Then, as we enter each room, we can appreciate its appearance before we ever sit, sleep, or eat.

    Of course, if one doesn’t possess an aesthetic sense, then functionality is all that matters. In my experience, very few people lack an appreciation of beauty.

  15. kamilaji says:

    There are so many great shelter blogs that provide inspiring solutions for home decor, many using vintage, thrift or estate sale finds. I tend to be more eclectic in my tastes and don’t like the “decorated” look. I am in complete agreement that waiting for 6 months is a good plan, along with checking Craigslist regularly.

    How about slipcovers? Aside from reupholstering, which can be expensive and you lose your sofa/chair, etc. for a few weeks, a slipcover can solve a problem or hide a stain, quickly. An interesting piece of fabric, or blanket can serve as a slipcover.

  16. Amateur says:

    I find that it’s cheaper to toss stuff out than pay for all of it to be moved. I’m big on temporary furniture if renting because sometimes the items do not even fit in a new place if a move has to happen at some point. The cheap furniture doesn’t move well, either, it can fall apart along the way.

    It’s possible to make cheap furniture last longer. Remember to drill proper holes with a real drill or dremel so no screws are forced and mashed into fiberboard, and use some serious glue along the joint that are being connected. I think there are only a few things that should be of high quality, like a quality mattress and a supportive chair for a desk.

  17. Carrie says:

    my little sister just moved into her first apartment this week so i’ve been thinking about advice on this topic a lot lately.

    another tip i’d add is don’t buy cheap furniture that you don’t love just to fill the space. it’s okay to go without while you look around and find and save for exactly what you want.

  18. triLcat says:

    We chose the opposite for our couches. We figure the IKEA Ektorp couches have a decent reputation – should last around 10-15 years, have washable covers that are replaceable, and were fairly inexpensive. We figure they’ll last through until our kids are old enough not to smudge them, and maybe the next dog won’t be allowed on the couch (if there is a next dog). In the meantime, when our 2-year-old threw up on the couch, we pulled off the cover, threw it in the machine, and in two hours, the couch was back to normal.

    Likewise, I grew up with this fancy wood table that we had to be really careful about all the time. My parents eventually sold that whole dining room set and got formica. Now my dad doesn’t get tense every time someone lays a spoon down too abruptly.

    I prefer to LIVE with my furniture.

  19. Michele says:

    In my family, we pass furniture on to our kids. I have some awesome antique furniture in my house that has been in the family for many years. It’s so well made we don’t have to baby it- our kitchen table is very much loved and well worn, but still in great shape for 150 years old!
    Trent- the suggestion to buy at estate sales is right on point! Buying classic, vintage well made furniture and updating it with new upholstery is a wonderful idea. Well made furniture does not have to be babied!

  20. SEC Lawyer says:

    Throughout my life, I’ve acquired only two kinds of furnishings: very inexpensive pieces (“free” being ideal, of course); and “heirloom” pieces. My thinking was that I would not hesitate to discard the very inexpensive pieces as I acquired additional heirloom pieces, whereas I probably would retain middle-quality (serviceable but mediocre) pieces longer than merited. This was one of my smarter strategies. As a result, over time I replaced inexpensive pieces with heirloom pieces, and felt no guilt about it, and for a decade or longer have had only heirloom furnishings in my residences. They’re beautiful, and my children will inherit only the best. A wise person once advised that the only things you should bring into your home, or buy, are those which are either functional or beautiful (or both). My recommended strategy imnplements that thought. A footnote: It’s best to put the functional items and the heirloom pieces in different rooms; and the best places for the purely-functional items are in the less-used rooms (such as spare bedrooms and basements).

  21. Kerry D says:

    We’ve had great luck finding furniture on Craigslist… decent, though not great quality, but very inexpensively filled the need (child’s desk, tubular bunk/futon, solid wood armoire) at about 20% of retail. And then we don’t worry about a scratch here or there, which are inevitable in our family.

  22. kristine says:

    Mismatched hand-me-down can all be made to go together if painted white or off-white.

    As for surviving kid activity- we buy dark busy patterns for all things fabric or upholstered. The amount of damage that is invisible, to the extent a solid or light pattern would have to be thrown away or covered up- is amazing! Our 10 year old couch looks brand new! Ditto our traditional wool rug from Costco.

    Get inventive. I bought a hug table top at IKEA for 10 dollars. Bought 2 used metal file cabinets, painted them, and plopped the custom corner desktop on. I have a huge, extremely functional, “mahogany” looking desk that has lasted forever!

  23. Amy B. says:

    Some great comments here. Classic styling and neutral colors are great advice. I think inexpensive versus quality and old versus new are largely a taste issue. For example, I purchased a quality sleeper sofa when I lived in NC, and have had it recovered once in its 20 year life. It’s a great, versatile piece and I expect to have it for years to come.

    Moving is very hard on furniture. If you are a transient person (we’ve moved at least a dozen times in the military), expect and plan for some losses. The quality pieces that we have are Maple, which will scratch slightly, but will likely never break courtesy of movers. Other pieces were purchased cheap on purpose – the thinking being if it was broken, oh well.

  24. Maria says:

    The last time I bought a piece of furniture was last year. I got rid of a tired old hand-me-down loveseat (really ugly) – had it hauled away for free by a local charity (it was still very comfortable and not worn). I found a chair to replace it for $15 at the local Goodwill that I think is really cute and matches my couch perfectly. I have three kids and three indoor cats. I’ll get some really nice stuff when the cats die and the kids grow up! ;)

  25. IASSOS says:

    Re disguise: We have dining room chairs from Ikea that have removable cloth covers. They stretch tight into place, so you’d not guess they could be removed. We have two sets of them, in different colors.

    And of course the tablecloth itself is an easy way to change the mood and look of the room.

  26. Vicky says:

    Big time IKEA fan here. Every piece of furniture I own with the exception of my couch (will get to that in a second) comes from IKEA.

    It is fairly cheap, and if you go for the slightly higher quality stuff, it REALLY lasts. Trust me – I’ve had a Poang chair for almost 6 years now that has gone through two moves in which it was completely taken apart.

    My entire house has less than $1000 in furniture in it.

    I decorate with art! Photographs make great art – but don’t forget that if you frame something you love, it’s worth showcasing! I have a letter from a friend I got for Christmas that includes a tree colored on notebook paper in purple and orange and it is framed and hung above the TV in the living room. It never fails to grab attention!

    The couch I have is the only furniture piece I did not purchase from IKEA. Simply because, IKEA had not opened yet! I bought it from Ashley’s – and I financed it. I bought the couch on a 6 months same as cash policy, and had it paid off in 3 months. We had just moved to Florida from Houston and we needed a place to sit.

    Since then, I have made my own slip covers to change the look of the couch over and over, in addition to making new pillows to ‘spice it up’ every so often. Chair and couch coverings go a long way in changing the feel of a room (not to mention keeping dirt and grime off your actual furniture)

    I’m also kind of a minamalist with furniture. I don’t have a lot of space, so I don’t stuff it with uneeded furniture. (Another way IKEA is my friend.. hello space saving furniture ideas!)

  27. Margaret says:

    I have a sofa and loveseat that are over 20 years old. They need replacing but we probably won’t do it for awhile. I have managed to keep them in pretty good shape by buying slip covers for them. They are on slip cover set #3. Sure fit makes nice ones which go on sale occasionally, Target and Walmart sell cheaper versions of the same thing, Also domestications catalog. If you have messy pets or kids, the washable ones make life a lot easier.

  28. Joy says:

    My favorite is the “move the furniture” idea. There’s another option in the “disguising the furniture” category, too, though. I’ve recently discovered that you can buy spray paint for your furniture that doesn’t come off or dry hard. It’s about $13 a can, I think, and it looks like 1-2 cans would easily cover a standard size sofa. I haven’t tried it yet, but am considering it. I just bought a $200 sofa/loveseat in great condition from craigslist but would like a different color if I ever have the time to do it. Hey, it’s worth a shot!

  29. Jane says:

    Don’t buy “expensive” furniture right away. By that I mean if you need say a kitchen/dinning room table but you are not sure what you want or what you want is $6,000 get something cheap but functional until you can find that item onsale, a floor model or even on clearance because someone special ordered it but changed their mind. I just bought my dining room table after looking for about 4 years. Before I had a small bistro table in there with two chairs I got at a department store going out of business sale.

    Also Shop clearance centers at the “high” end furniture stores. The most expensive piece of furniture in my house is a chair I paid $700 it was a $4000 chair got it at wharehouse sale. The most I paid for something was my Matress it was about $1000 but its one thing I will pay “retail” for althoug I did wait for a sale.

  30. deRuiter says:

    Slip covers are versatile, and cheaper than reupholstery, they also tend to give an attractive old money look if the right fabric is used. Eastate sales, yard sales, family attics, cutbside cruising, freecycle.com, free or cheap through Craigslist, flea markets, all great places to buy useful, interesting, often high quality items for pennies on the dollar. Buying used is great for the American balance of trade. It’s also better for the environment that buying new, no natural resources are needed, except the occasional can of paint or fabric for reupholstery or slip covers. Every time you buy a used item instead of new, you hand the money directly to an American iunstead of a large foreign corporation, you conserve natural resuources, keep the landfill emptier, and save a bundle of money. Nothing against shiny new from Ikea, Crate and Barrel, etc, but most of that stuff is not intended to last, looks rather cheap, and uses a pile of natural resources. This low end modern stuff is mostly pressboard, plastic, faux. To get great rugs cheap, cruise yard and estate sales in wealthy neighborhoods (the best sources for good quality stuff) and buy any rug which strikes your fancy. Take it to a professional rug cleaner. Granted this will cost more than you spent for the used rug, because used rugs can be had dirt cheap at sales, and for the minimal price of the rug and the cost of cleaning, you can have a blockbuster rug at a reasonable price. Don’t waste time, money and the environment on rugs made of anything but wool or cotton. The rest are cheap, environmentally damaging junk. A good wool rug will clean up amazingly. Partly threadbare Oriental rug? Rotate it so the worn area is under furniture, and realize that teally rich people with old money (the most impressive kind) have Oriental rugs with worn spots. The expression “They are people who BUY their rugs.” is an old insult used by people who instead go to the attic to retrieve Grandma’s priceless kilims to decorate the floors of newlyweds. I buy used rugs at estate and yard sales, but they LOOK like they came from the attic in the Newport “cottage.”

  31. Steffie says:

    Less stuff, furniture etc will mean that more cool/hot air will circulate making your home cooler/warmer, less insurance costs, less cleaning supplies needed, all reducing your overall costs of living.

  32. Trudy says:

    One thing that I have not seen mentioned specifically but was hinted at is to go on-line to search for frugal decorating ideas. There are wonderful websites that provide plenty of decorating ideas for minimal cost.

    I have been slowly decorating our farmhouse using ideas I have found online and the house is becoming extension of me and I have spent less than $100. Of course it helps to be slightly crafty and living in the country with access to natural objects…

  33. Claudia says:

    Our county landfill has a resale shop. People can drop off items that can be reused there instead of just dumping it and sometimes the workers will pull things out of the dump site. They charge a nominal fee which helps to pay for the landfill’s other costs. My husband picked up two end tables there which I refinished and they are gorgeous. I’ve bought a lot of my furniture at estate and rummage sales. For $7.50, I bought an antique couch table, some glue and refinishing and it’s beautiful. Older furniture is much better quality than even some higher end new furniture.
    If you have some sewing skills you can reupholster yourself. Get a book from the library, it’s time-consuming but not really that difficult. I’ve reupholstered some chairs which required no sewing, just fitting the new material and stapling it to the bottom.

  34. Rachel says:

    I mentioned this on another site recently. Our neighbors have the exact same floorplan that we do. In their living room and dining room they have patio furniture. The living room has a white wicker set. we live in Florida, so this does not seem unusual, and the living room is small, so it does not look to cluttered. She keeps a tablecloth on the dining table, and at first I could not tell it was patio furniture. This works well for them. She has a bad back, so is in bed a lot, so the husband spends a lot of time in the bedroom as well, watching t.v. with her. Their kids are grown, and they do not have grandkids, so it is a perfect set up for them. They generally go to other relatives homes for holidays. I host many holidays in my home, and kids are grandkids are always coming for a weekend visit, so I cannot see patio furniture working too well for us. But it is intersting to see someone think “outside the box.”

  35. Aaron says:

    With furniture cushions or decorative pillows you can often add fill to them to give them more or less support to meet your liking. It’s cheaper than buying new and the work involved is pretty minimal.

    You can also buy fabric and make your own pillows. My wife and I did this as sort of a fun arts and crafts activity. Cheap pillows that matched the couch exactly.

  36. priscilla says:

    I grew up in a home where we didn’t have much money. Scrounging is second nature to me, and the only furniture we’ve bought new since I’ve been married has been a couch (which we have since had re-upolstered) and a dining room table and chairs. Put your money into large pieces that will stand the test of time.We buy from garage sales, thrift stores, antique stores, and we also have gotten wonderful things from the curb! It never ceases to amaze me what people throw out. Always ask the owner if you can search through their trash. My experience has been 100% positive with doing this. The owners will tell me what’s good in their trash pile, and even help me load the stuff into my truck! Some stores will let you go through their dumpster. Always get permission first!

    Paint your walls a light neutral color, upholster your stuffed furniture with a solid neutral color (doesn’t need to be light, though,) and be careful about placement of furniture. Balance is the key to having a room look great. Put your largest piece on the longest wall; place a piece of furniture opposite a door or window; hang a mirror opposite a window for reflection of light into the room. Accessorize with throw pillows, candles, works of art, books, interesting objects that you enjoy.

    When I go to a paint store, I always check the mis-tints that they always have on hand. You can get a gallon of paint for a few dollars. I’ve mixed several of these together to achieve some lovely colors. Save the labels from the cans, and if you have to match it, just take these to the store and get the same shades, mix together, and paint away.

    Be creative, think outside the box, don’t be shy, and enjoy the face that you’re saving a LOT of money that you can put toward your kid’s college fund, a savings account, a better car, landscaping (a whole other area where you can scrounge and save hundreds of dollars).

  37. HT says:

    @Deb #5 – please use a can of compressed air, not a vacuum cleaner, to get dust out of your computer! A vacuum is too strong and can easily knock something loose. Keep compressed air out of reach of kids.

  38. Treva says:

    It took DH months to convince me we needed a new couch and, once he did, it then took me over a year to find one I really liked. Never settle! I mean, you have to live with this stuff a long time so it needs to be exactly what you want at the price you are willing to pay.

    I also agree that rooms can be easily freshened by a coat of paint. Sometimes just painting one wall can make all the difference. Also, rearrange the accessories you already have to create new looks. Or, if you have lots of stuff, box some of it up and switch it out every few months.

  39. anna says:

    Ask around your community for warehouse sales, a local furniture store that sells high end (talking $1800 dressers) has an annual sale to clear out their overstock. I have had luck buying a king size headboard ($20) and a set of 4 end tables ($100 for all 4) just because I knew what I was needing and waited for a sale I knew was upcoming, now I’m on their mailing list.

    Also buy furniture and accessories that can be put into any room or would even be appealing to others. I have a group of close friends that I swap furniture with regularly, whenever I am craving a change I call up a friend and ask her if she’s got an item that would look good on my bathroom wall or call a friend mentioning I have a 5 x 8 cranberry persian rug I’m getting rid of if shes interested. Allows changes to be made easily without spending any money.

  40. Furniture is one area where quality really counts. I would say to do it right the first time. We still have bookshelves made in grad school (30 years ago!); we wish we’d used nicer wood. Unlike clothing, furniture amortizes itself over time.

    Also–bear in mind that used is often cheapest and best. Case pieces from 40s-60s are better made than most of what is available now. I got two end tables for $20/each.

  41. Anitra says:

    When we have a furniture “need” that may change in 5 years or less, we tend to buy cheap stuff (e.g. the first 2 desks we had, kid’s dressers, a SMALL kitchen table until we have more than 3 people eating together regularly). More long-term than that, we tend to look for high-quality used furniture (or mid-quality new).

    The one thing we will NEVER buy cheap quality is bookshelves. Cheap or even mid-price bookshelves are usually pressboard, which will bend and warp after only a year or two of use under heavy books. We buy solid wood shelves from the unfinished furniture store instead, and finish them ourselves so that they match the decor of the room.

  42. triLcat says:

    An important thing to keep in mind is that you don’t need everything right away. When we got married, we had couches that we’d gotten from a neighbor who was throwing them away (they were junky futons). Our “dining room set” was a junky & old plastic table & chairs that my sister was upgrading to a wooden picnic table for her yard. Over the years, we’ve upgraded piece by piece (the futons had to go when I was pregnant, because I couldn’t get up from them.)
    For beds, you can screw cheap plastic legs directly into a box spring to get a little height, and then have a good mattress and box spring (at a normal height) to begin with and add a “real bed” or headboard later on. One set of beds that we did that with still has those legs (though they’re in a guest room) 14 years later. Not bad for $5.

    Fine furniture is nice, but think practical too. Some of the nicer dining room sets, especially the older ones, have leaves that have to be stored. Our IKEA table has leaf storage inside the table – very practical in a small apartment.

    And while it’s nice to have things that last forever, if something lasts 20-30 years, then something that costs 5 times as much might outlive you, but your children might not have the same tastes, and might end up selling it for $15 at a garage sale someday, so I wouldn’t invest big bucks in it.

    @deRuiter: Have you cleaned vomit out of a wool rug? Because I’m told it’s not as easy as cleaning it out of acrylic (which I had to do twice last week… ah the joys of motherhood)

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