Furnishing a home—whether you’re a new homeowner or you’ve moved to larger digs—can be a time- and budget-consuming struggle, especially if you want quality pieces that aren’t made of plasterboard and glue. But finding great furniture doesn’t have to swallow you—or your salary. In fact, I furnished my house for less than $3,000.
A year ago, my partner and I traded our life on the road for a cabin in the mountains. But, as romantic as settling down sounds, there was a major downside: We didn’t own a stick of furniture.
While being as thrifty as possible wasn’t initially one of my furniture goals, the game was on once I scored a like-new glass and metal patio table set online for $75. And how little I could spend on furnishing our home—with quality furniture—quickly became a challenge that had my total commitment.
The result was beyond rewarding when I realized I’d spent just under $3,000 for all my furniture. Bonus: The only new things I purchased were two mattresses. Here’s what I learned on this journey—and how you can decorate your home on the cheap, too.
1. Join local thrift groups
Buy Nothing or “garage sale” groups on Facebook Marketplace are networks of buyers and sellers that are local online thrift collectives. “Spend nothing” groups are specifically for people who want to get rid of things without charging a dime.
Facebook Marketplace is one of the best online forums for scouting used furniture. When using Marketplace, you can customize your search results by expanding the radius of your location and trying different categories or keyword searches. For example, when I looked for a patio table, I searched for both “outdoor table” and “patio set.”
Score: I also used Facebook Marketplace to find a hardwood dining set with four chairs for $100, a Mexican wormwood hutch ($200) and matching bookshelf ($100 from a different seller), a knotty pine coffee table ($50), an antique wooden chest ($75), and two bedside tables ($120).
Running total: $645.
2. Visit consignment stores
Your local consignment stores may be pricier than what you’d find online, but you can find quality used furniture and closely inspect what you’re buying. You’ll want to see whether or not some essential items for your home—like a sofa or area rug—are clean and in good condition.
Score: I found my sofa set for $800, two lamps for $30, and three indoor planters for $40 in a consignment store.
Running total: $1,515.
3. Splurge selectively
If you’ve spent weeks searching for specific items, it might make sense to spend a little more to get the perfect piece of furniture—even if that means paying full price. And once you’ve bought some furniture, you might need to shell out more to match a style or aesthetic you want to maintain.
Similarly, you might want to splurge on certain items to guarantee their quality and cleanliness. (For example, buying a new mattress rather than a cheap used one.) The key is to know when it’s worth shelling out the bucks. If it’s an item you desperately need and won’t find for less, spending more might be the answer.
Score: I bought two Casper mattresses for $700 each.
Running total: $2,915.
4. Keep an eye out for freebies
Depending on where you live, you might be able to find some quality furniture on trash night. And if you see a dumpster outside someone’s home, don’t be shy—slow down and keep your eyes peeled for anything that might be worth taking and restoring. A coat of paint can revive just about any piece of furniture.
Score: I found an outdoor furniture set, outdoor planters, and one of those hideaway hose organizers—all for $0.
Running total: Still $2,915.
5. Watch for sales
If you’re patient, you might catch a furniture sale in one of your local stores or malls. Keep an eye open for deals after holidays and whenever the seasons change. For example, fall can be a great time to find bargain outdoor furniture. Why? Because no one else is shopping for a patio set at the end of the season.
Running total: $2,990.
6. Come up with a plan
Furnishing an entire home (or even just a room) can be incredibly stressful. That’s why it helps to have a plan. Sit down, develop a numbered list of the furniture you need, and prioritize. That way, you’ll know what’s worth splurging on or if you should wait a bit longer for a better deal.
And get comfortable with haggling: Bargaining has never been my strong suit, but learning the skill is a must if you’re trying to furnish your entire home on a budget.
I found out that most sellers expect you to bargain. And it turns out that bargaining is why some sellers set prices higher in the first place: When you bargain with sellers, they’ll still be getting a fair price—and you’ll be getting the deal of a lifetime.