How to Furnish Your Home on the Cheap
Destination: Barn Sale
Barn sales are the new rage. Located a short drive from your nearest metro area are farm hands turned furniture gurus, presiding over showrooms of restored furniture. Barn sales are great places to find unique pieces of wooden furniture at reasonable prices. Still too rich for your blood? Most barn sales have an area (read: barn) filled with furniture not yet restored. Pick up a dining room table, dresser or hutch at deep discounts and do the restoration yourself.
Check Out Your Local Thrift Stores
Thrift stores are another excellent source of inexpensive home furnishings. It may take a little digging (and persistence) but you're sure to find a few gems. Most thrift stores carry smaller items such as side tables, lamps and chairs, and some will have a selection of larger pieces. Be sure to ask what days they put out new merchandise so you can keep checking back.
For some items the best way to go might be to do-it-yourself (D.I.Y.). Whether it's the 2x4 and cinderblock bookshelves that have donned countless coed dwellings over the years or a rescued piece of furniture, consider taking on some D.I.Y. projects. You'll be amazed at what a few nails, a coat of paint and some new knobs can do for a broken-down dresser or cabinet.
Take the Plunge: Discount Furniture Stores
Over the past decade, discount furniture stores like IKEA have become the staple for budget shoppers. These stores carry everything from textiles and a selection of home décor to beds, sofas and dining room sets. Armed with an Allen wrench and a healthy dose of patience, these warehouse stores can serve as your one-stop shop.
For some items, particularly mattresses and box springs, it pays to shop the sales. Shopping for a bed at the right time of year can save you a pretty penny. Holiday sales, particularly those around Memorial Day, are the best time of year to invest in a new bed.
Go Hunting at Outlets
Some of the higher end furniture retailers have outlet stores. Here you can find styles similar to those displayed in their main showrooms, but with lower price tags. Also check out internet outlets like Overstock.com.
Yard Sales, Garage Sales and Flea Markets, Oh My!
Yard sales and garage sales are the old standard of budget furniture shopping. As the weather heats up, so do these sales. Early morning offers the largest selection. Late in the day offers the lowest prices (but fewer options). Also, consider hitting up area flea markets, which also come alive in spring and summer.
Surf the Web
Perhaps the largest selection of budget and free furniture can be found on Internet sites such as Craigslist, Freecycle, Etsy and eBay. While the quality can be highly variable, these sites offer some of the best deals. Be sure to check out your neighborhood listservs as well. You're new couch might be (literally) just around the corner.
Go In for the Slightly Worn
Champagne taste with a Coors Light budget? Never fear. Some higher end retailers and department stores will sell damaged furniture or floor models at deep discounts. Most of the time, after a good cleaning, these bargains look as good as new.
Host a Furniture Swap
Ask around. Your family and friends may have pieces of furniture they'd be happy to have you take off their hands. Alternatively, consider hosting a furniture swap. Invite friends and family for a get together where each guest brings at least one piece of furniture. At the end of the party, everyone leaves with a new item to add to their home décor.
Katherine West Slevin is a freelance writer living in Washington, D.C.