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Alternative Furnishings: Strange Ways to Save Money

By , September 1st, 2011 | 3 Comments »

Furniture is expensive.

Even “cheap” furniture is expensive, and if you want high quality furniture prepare for sticker shock. While many people have an ultimate goal of having a nicely furnished home, some people don’t share that desire or have the means to pay for expensive furniture.

Those just starting out likely don’t have the budget for high quality furniture. People who move often also may prefer cheaper furnishings since their stuff may be subjected to more wear and tear and time in storage facilities. People with little kids or lots of pets may not want a lot of nice stuff since it’s likely to be damaged. But you still need a place to sit, sleep and store your stuff. There are alternatives to expensive furniture, although some may require some creativity or DIY skills on your part or a willingness to live with mismatched rooms. Here are some alternatives to showroom furniture.

Anything scavenged from a yard sale, flea market, thrift store, or curbside: You can find good furniture cheap on the secondhand market. Some of it may even be free. Two caveats to this: One, know your prices. I’ve seen some furniture in thrift stores that was more expensive than showroom furniture. That might be fine if the pieces were antique, but these were not. Don’t pay more than it’s worth. Two, beware of anything soft or upholstered. Bed bugs, fleas, and dust mites live in soft furniture. So does mildew and mold. Stick to hard pieces unless you are prepared to professionally clean the piece or tear off all the old upholstery and stuffing and replace it.

Assemble-it-yourself furniture: You can find inexpensive bookshelves, desks, cabinets, futons, and many other pieces if you’re willing to put it together yourself. Most come with everything you need, except maybe a hammer or screwdriver. Some are better looking than others, but you can improve the appearance of a piece by assembling it carefully and then perhaps customizing it with some trim or paint.

Skip the bed frame: You can put most mattresses directly on the floor. Unless you purchase something that needs a very specific foundation, the floor works just as well. Memory foam mattresses do particularly well on the floor. If you need to raise the mattress off the ground, you can build a box out of wood for very little money.

Build your own: With some wood scavenged from the clearance pile at the home improvement warehouse, you can build a bench. Then you get a cushion from the lawn furniture section and you have a cheap sofa. You can make a table from some old wood or a door and some sawhorses. You can also buy two cheap filing cabinets and put a long piece of wood across it to make a desk. A piece of leftover glass or a clearance mirror placed on top of a milk crate can make an end table. You can paint or stain your creations to make them more attractive.

Resort to plastic: If you need storage and a dresser is out of reach, you can purchase sets of plastic drawers on the storage aisle at Target or Wal-Mart. You can also get plastic cabinets from home improvement centers. They’re usually for use outside or in garages, but they are relatively inexpensive and can be used indoors. Paint them if you hate the color. Large plastic containers or milk crates can be used to fulfill a variety of storage needs.

Modify, improve, or hide the cheap stuff: Folding metal chairs can be made more attractive with a coat of paint. You can buy chair cushions to give you some padding. A card table can be disguised with a pretty tablecloth. A curbside find can be painted or refinished. Buy what you can afford and then make it better looking with your own creativity.

Look at lawn furniture: Some lawn furniture is as expensive as showroom furniture, but much of it is fairly inexpensive. It can also be attractive. Fake wicker pieces are widely available, as are some nice metal tables and chairs. You can find end table and coffee-type tables, too. Cushions for outdoor furniture can be bought and used on build it yourself furniture. This type of furniture also goes on sale at the end of the summer, making it even cheaper. There’s no law against bringing the outdoors inside.

You might not have a showplace home if you use these ideas, but you will have a place to sit, eat, work and sleep. If you don’t have a lot of money or if you don’t want to spend what you have on super-nice furniture, you can try some of these ideas.

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  • Livia says:

    Alternatives to furniture like those presented here may also work in the business sector. I work in a small company and my desk is the result of a DIY action. In fact all the other desks in the company are the same. It was way cheaper than the cheapest desk on the market and it is certainly more qualitative.
    A very good idea to save money!

  • Monica Clark says:

    I couldn’t agree more with your ideas for re-purposing and up-cycling furniture. Not only is is cost effective, but a great way to express one’s individuality, and avoid the “cookie cutter” decor look. There are plenty of ideas and tutorials on the web for easy projects, and usually a coat of paint will do the trick. Besides saving money, you are also preventing more stuff from ending up in the landfill, so its good all around.

  • Gail says:

    Not only did my husband make our bed frame when we got married, he made it specifically to where my knees come to the top of the mattress so getting in and out of bed has been easy even with my artificial knees as many beds are too low to the ground. Not only did he make the king size frame and headboard, it is a foundation bed with 8 full size drawers underneath for storage and no need for a mattress foundation. Lots of storage and a perfect fit. He also has made and or refinished several chairs and made ottomans, also to size, for where I sit so I can keep my legs proped up in comfort. The refinished chairs upholstered in fabric that we picked up at a yard sale for $5!


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