I’m too cheap to buy new furniture, and too style-conscious for an egg-crate coffee table. So I found an affordable middle ground.
A few years ago, I moved to another state carrying only what I could fit in my car: a few boxes of clothes, a stack of books, and a coffee mug. Since moving is expensive – even when you don’t actually move anything – I had to find a way to furnish my entire house without draining what was left of my meager savings.
I started shopping furniture websites and realized I’d have to spend $4,473.73 to get just the basics. That wasn’t happening, so I took an alternate path through garage sales, flea markets, and clearance racks – and I saved a ton of money. Here’s how.
The living room…
1. Couch and matching chair
I got lucky with my living room furniture. My friend offered to give me his old but decent couch-and-chair set for free. I was off to a good start.
- Rooms to Go: $879.98
- Donation: Free!
- Total savings: $879.98
What I learned: For some reason, it’s not embarrassing to ask friends and family if they have furnishings they no longer need – maybe because they tend to stash the stuff in a garage or spare bedroom, since throwing it away or even donating it to charity is such a hassle.
2. Coffee table and end table
After weeks of searching with no luck, my good fortune was starting to fizzle. But then I found a near-perfect coffee table and matching end table at a garage sale.
- Havertys: $399.99
- Garage sale: $26
- Total savings: $373.99
What I learned: Websites that host garage sale ads – like Yard Sale Search and GarageSales.com – are an easy way to find local sales in your neighborhood. But don’t forgo looking for them yourself. I found the best ones by driving around looking for “garage sale” signs.
3. TV stand
For something that just holds up a TV, media stands are overpriced in my opinion. But I found one for next to nothing at a flea market.
- Rooms to Go: $299.99
- Flea market: $45
- Total savings: $254.99
What I learned: Flea markets can be hard to find on your own, but a few websites – like FleaPortal and Collectors.org – maintain a database of different indoor and outdoor flea markets across the country.
4. Mattress and box springs
A queen-size mattress and box springs don’t come cheap, but I still found a good deal at Sam’s Club.
- Mattress Firm: $578
- Sam’s Club: $394.99
- Total savings: $183.01
What I learned: My local Sam’s Club had a few mattresses in stock, but I found a better deal by going to the Sam’s Club website. The website had at least double the stock and some pretty good prices.
5. Bed frame, headboard, and footboard
Originally, I had my heart set on a modern bed from Pier One, but I found a nearly identical piece for less than half the price at Overstock.com.
- Pier One: $489.90
- Overstock: $170.99
- Total savings: $318.91
What I learned: By signing up for Omail before you shop, you can save even more on Overstock.com. I received a 15-percent-off coupon within a few days of signing up for the email list – and I was able to use it on my first purchase.
I stumbled across a nightstand on clearance at Wal-Mart. I was hesitant to buy furniture and socks from the same place, but the piece has held up well and looks great.
- Pier One: $199.95
- Wal-Mart: $24.99
- Total savings: $174.96
What I learned: The beginning of the school year (around the end of September) is the best time to look for clearance deals on furniture and home decor at mega-stores like Wal-Mart or Target. Why? Because those stores stock a ton of accent furniture and home decor items to sell with their dorm collections. Since they don’t keep the dorm-room sections open year-round, the leftovers get put on clearance after school starts.
7. Table and four chairs
I scored a dining room table and four chairs on the last day of a garage sale. I haggled a bit and got the price down from $100 to $50.
- Rooms to Go: $799.99
- Garage sale: $50
- Total savings: $749.99
8. Desk and chair
At first I wanted a huge wood desk and matching chair – until I saw the cost. Instead, I found a desk and chair set on Freecycle. They’re not exactly what I wanted, but you can’t beat free.
- Havertys: $649.98
- Freecycle: Free
- Total savings: $649.98
What I learned: I had heard of Freecyle but hadn’t used it before. Then I read Freecycle: Is Free Stuff Worth the Fuss? and gave it a shot. Works as promised.
When I mentioned that I liked the bookshelf that the flea market was using to hold smaller items, the cashier offered to sell it to me for $5.
- Pier One: $149.95
- Flea Market: $5
- Total savings: $144.95
Bottom line: It took some legwork – and a lot of early-morning garage-sale hunting – but I ended up only spending $716.97 for an entire house full of furniture. Considering what I was planning on spending, I saved $3,730.76 (or enough money to pay my rent for four months.) Knowing how much I saved, I’ll probably never buy from a furniture store again.
This article by Angela Colley appeared in Money Talk News, 2/22/12.