I recently learned from a friend that one of my favorite furniture consignment shops is going out of business, so I was inspired to write a guide to purchasing furniture on a budget. Furniture is dear to my heart. When we were first married we could not afford furniture so we used whatever we could beg, borrow, or steal (if you count dumpster diving). We became very creative and started purchasing furniture from ads on craigslist. When we needed an additional piece, we would sell the furniture we had purchased – often at a profit – and then purchase more furniture from craigslist and start the whole process over again.
If you are looking for furniture, I highly recommend PATIENCE. There are three things to consider when purchasing furniture: What you want, what it costs, and when you can purchase it. You might be able to find exactly what you want right now, but it will be full price. And you can often find what you want at the right price, but that often takes patience. The last option is that you can purchase something that is not exactly what you want, but it is the right price and available now. Pick two, because getting all three at once is an anomaly.
The first step in purchasing furniture is to determine what you need. Do you need a bed? If so, do you have particular type of bed in mind? Maybe a storage bed or a canopy bed? Are you flexible and willing to try anything as long as it’s as particular size? What colors are you interested in? Maybe a dark stained wood? Painted white? Light wood? The great thing about furniture is that you can mix and match pieces from different sets if you have a finish that nearly matches. Or you can even put white dining chairs with a dark table. You can even refinish furniture to match. We love grouping pieces with slightly different shapes and coordinating them by color.
Once you determine the pieces you need, determine how soon you need them. If you need a bed, you can get by surprisingly well with just a mattress, box spring, and a cheap bed frame ($30 or $40) until you find exactly what you want. I recommend waiting to find something you really like instead of purchasing a set at a furniture warehouse. You may have an empty house for a while, but the end goal is to have a beautiful house later, not an empty pocketbook now and a few items you only kind of like.
I have included a few photos below that show where we got our furniture, as well as a list of places we look when we are on the hunt.
Here are my favorite ways to find furniture:
- Ask family – Do you have any heirloom pieces laying around? Our favorite chair, a beautiful dresser, and a telephone chair are all from family members and we love them.
- Craigslist – I love craigslist for furniture, although it takes some seriously sleuthing to get nice furniture at a good price. I will have an entire craigslist post in the future, but for now, get ready to use as many different key words as you can possibly imagine and filter through a lot of stuff. My best finds have all been on Craigslist. Be patient and do not spring for something expensive unless it is exactly what you want (brand, color, etc.) and at a manageable price.
- Online Yard Sales– We are members of a few online yard sales groups on Facebook. Our favorite set of barstools was one of the best finds we have ever had, so I definitely recommend this. Really good deals tend to go fast on Facebook sites, so you need to be proactive.
- Thrift Stores – Thrift stores can be great, but you often have to visit quite a few before finding gold. Ask around about the best thrift stores. Our favorites are pretty far away.
- Consignment Shoppes – Yes, that’s the British spelling. That’s because our local consignment shops consider themselves super upscale and overprice everything. But I have found a few good deals. Check with the store to see if their prices are negotiable. Most local stores have set prices that go down at a particular rate according to the date the furniture was put out for sale. Those prices are listed on the tags. Some stores will make a deal, especially for a cash sale.
- Yard Sales – We are not your typical get up at the crack of dawn to go yard sale-ing people, but we have heard you can get nice stuff at garage sales if you are persistent and lucky.
- Local Stores – We have found some *really* good deals on open box items at Target. They can be up to 75% off. You most likely will not find a specific item you have been wanting for years, but it is worth looking at the end caps for clearance items. You may find something amazing! If you have something specific in mind, World Market has a 25% off sale periodically. Do not purchase anything from World Market at full price. Their furniture has gone down in quality and they consistently have sales. IKEA has inexpensive new furniture, but you can get much higher quality furniture for a better price by patiently searching through craigslist.
Word to the wise: I generally steer clear of Marshall’s, TJ Maxx, and HomeGoods when it comes to furniture. While you can find the occasional gem, the majority of furniture they sell is cheaply made and not worth the price they are charging. If you shop for furniture at those stores, go for a brand you trust.
We also avoid the mass retailer stores and furniture warehouses – especially when purchasing matched sets of furniture. You are better off slowly purchasing quality items from thrift stores or craigslist. If nothing else, you will save a lot of money. I should add, however, that you can find some good deals through Costco and other warehouse clubs.
One thing to note: if you are completely in love with a particular style of furniture from a particular brand, you might find what you want on craigslist – in another city or on the other side of the state (or in another state for those of you who live in smaller states). Be ready to travel to pick it up. If there is a particular item you want, some name brand stores have periodic 20% off sales on specific lines of furniture or specific days that they email 15% off or 20% off coupons. And you can often find floor models on clearance. You will never be able to fully recoup your cost if you have to resell these items, but the discounts can be worth it if you really love the furniture. Get friendly with the employees at your favorite store and ask when they typically have floor sample sales or whether the price on any furniture is negotiable. You may be pleasantly surprised.