How to furnish your home on a low or non-existent budget

Does anyone else love those kinda interior articles where they pick an expensive ‘investment piece’ and then source a budget option that is often very similar?  I love it when magazines and bloggers try to make their content accessible to people like us who have a realistic budget and can’t blow the families’ winter shoes and coat budget on a new lamp.

Sometimes I find myself getting frustrated though, because even the ‘budget option’ makes my debit card quiver with anxiety, which, all things considered, is a bit unfair on the author really.  Everything is relative and they can’t please everyone.  I’m sure spending £179 on a coffee table IS a budget option for someone, and, in a similar vein, when I suggest spending £40 on a coffee table as a bargain, others may disagree with me too.

With that in mind though, I’d love to let you know about some of our own resources for spending less money as well as sharing a few of our mistakes so you can learn from them…

We’ve brought nearly all the furniture in our house from auctions.  My Dad started taking me to them when I was a child and I’ve never lost that adrenaline rush when you raise the card above your head, and hear the ‘going, going, gone’ followed by the rap of the gavel on the old wooden desk.  It may be a bit intimidating at first, but once you get used to it, there are real bargains to be had.  In fact, our furniture shopping experience has been so skewed by the prices we pay at auction that we often refuse to shop anywhere else!

For instance, we bought the king sized bed frame below for £19.  The chest of drawers to the right are the first thing I ever bought at auction at aged 16, and they cost me just £60.  I ‘ve written a couple of blog posts with our top tips for buying furniture at auctions which you can check out here:

11 steps to buying furniture at a real-life auction

How to buy furniture at auction like a pro

Bedroom Corner Chest of Drawers Exposed Brick Wall

If real-life auctions aren’t your thing, you can always look at eBay, local groups on Facebook or Gumtree.  These do require a lot of time and discipline though as you just have to keep on searching and searching and searching!  When we first moved to this house, we didn’t have a wardrobe so had our clothes on a hanger and in suitcases for the best part of three months!  We hadn’t found anything we liked at auction and everything suitable on eBay was just too expensive.  We were so desperate and frustrated by not having anywhere to store our clothes that we even ended up seriously considering shelling out for an Ikea one.

Eventually however, our persistence paid off and Matt stumbled across one that seemed perfect.  It had to be really large (to store both our clothes in), come apart to fit up the narrow staircase and preferably be natural in colour and made of solid wood.  Voilà! We bought the one below for £210 including next day delivery.  We had the money in our budget because Matt had recently switched over a couple of our bank accounts to new ones where they pay you a £100 joining fee.  Job done.

Pine Wardrobe Budget Ebay Bargain

Another area where you can be resourceful is to reach out to your friendship network.  When we moved house I had an excess supply of curtains that wouldn’t fit our new windows.  Before having the girls, I was a self-employed curtain maker so I’d like to think these curtains were pretty good quality, all bespoke, interlined, black out lining, pinch pleat heading etc etc.  I managed to sell most of them to friends by advertising them on my personal Facebook page and one pair went to a family who couldn’t afford to pay for them but gave us their girls old Ikea toddler bed as payment instead which was absolutely perfect timing as we were just about to move Darcey out of her cot.  (You can read about the girls bedroom makeover here.)

We also have a friend who is an accountant but loves carpentry in his own time.  I had a particular design in mind for our peg rail shelf but couldn’t find anything I liked online that was anywhere near being reasonably priced.  I also wanted to make the most of the space and have the shelf stretching the whole distance of the hallway so a bespoke option was required.  Our friend enjoyed the work so much, and is such a good egg that he only charged us for the materials!

Now, I understand that not everyone has a friend who does carpentry, but it is always worth seeing what hobbies your friends are good at.  Is there anything they can do for you, and then you can bless them with something you are good at in return?  Even if it’s just a few homemade meals or the offer of childcare services, mowing their lawn and looking after their pets when they are on holiday or in my case, making them a pair of curtains.

Toddler Bed Ikea Nursery Girls Room

One of the most effective ways you can save money is to edit what you buy.  It may seem obvious, but if you’re anything like me, I still really struggle with it.  I am a fool for a bargain and when I see something cheap that I like, I buy it even if I don’t need it.  Does anyone else do that?  But then over time I end up replacing three perfectly good prints on my walls with three new prints, which if I had resisted in the first place would have left me with some money to finally purchase a bedside lamp, something which we actually (and still) need.

I’d be the first to admit that social media has a part to play with this one, as we all attempt to keep up with the Jones’s.  Only where once the Jones’s were next door, and all we could see was perhaps the clothes they wore to and from work, the car they drove, or a flicker of some wallpaper as we walked past their window, now we can scrutinise every inch of their homes on Instagram or Pinterest.  Photographs taken in the best light, the tidiest angles, the ugly washing basket hidden out of view.  We can see people ‘unboxing’ products on their stories, displaying their kids tasteful toys in a ‘shelfie’ and heck, some people even have gorgeous wooden dust pan and brushes these days, nonchalantly hanging, unused, from a shelf.

I hope this doesn’t come across as critical because as you all know, I am just as guilty of posting these types of shots as the next person.  I find Instagram an incredibly inspiring community and absolutely love being a part of it, but, like with all things, you do have to take it with a pinch of salt.

I have also found so many incredible inspiring makers on Instagram that I love to support as and when we can afford to do so.  And that is the point.  Owning the most recent ‘on trend’ product by an up and coming maker is not the be all and end all if you can’t actually afford it.  You guys, it isn’t even the be all and end all if you CAN afford it!

I love ‘things’ as much as the next person so for me personally, it is a constant battle of being content with what I have.  I am always reminding myself what is important; family, food, heating, clean water, clothing, trips to the farm, or going to the seaside and being able to treat everyone to ice cream.  A desire to make more memories like those is often what helps me back away from the ‘one touch with Paypal’ button.  I’m also trying to really live that phrase of ‘buy less, buy quality’ and only invest in stand-out heirloom pieces that I utterly adore, are amazing quality AND that I fully LOVE myself, and not just because it’s trendy or @thejoneses have got it.

Another way of saving money when buying through high street stores, is to search for the website you are ordering from through Top Cashback, it takes very little time and simply means clicking on the link to John Lewis or B&Q for instance, via the cashback site and you get a percentage of what you spend back.  It all goes into an account which then sends you your combined savings every quarter or so.  It also works brilliantly for car insurance, internet providers and other boring stuff like that!

Finally, and probably most importantly when taking on big jobs around the house, make sure you get good tradesmen in.  It is false economy to always go for the cheapest quote.  I hope we have learnt by our mistakes on this one but we have hired a few cowboy tradesmen over the last few years who have either left us with a job we’re unsatisfied with, or, in another case, did such a bad job we had to pay someone else to rectify what they had done (or in this case, hadn’t done!)  Always go with a personal recommendation if you can and never rush the decision as it’s better to wait for the right person to do the work than have to pay for the work to get done twice.

Victorian Terrace Living Space to hallway

I hope this helps to put a few things into context for you about how we purchase things for our home and achieve a ‘finished’ look.  Of course, it will never actually be ‘finished’ and there are already things that are starting to look scruffy or need replacing but, even if it goes against the ethos of an interiors blog, life isn’t all about what scented candles you’ve just bought or where your sofa is from.  Our aim has always been to build a home that utilises and stretches our creativity in a fun and stylish way, but most importantly to feel homely, comfortable and welcoming and you definitely don’t need to shell out loads of dosh for that.


What top tips do you have to save money whilst furnishing your homes?


Related Blog Posts:

11 steps to buying furniture at a real-life auction

How to buy furniture at auction like a pro

Our Girls’ Shared Bedroom Makeover

The best way to get smarter storage in your small house

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