Furnishing A House The Frugal Way

Well, September is here and with it, the cooler weather, shorter evenings and a general feeling of back to schoolness. Hence a blog post. I have made several new (academic) year resolutions:

  1. Prise open the long unused laptop, blow the dust off the keyboard and write more blog posts.
  2. Run more so I can eat more (cake).

  3. Get to school on time…

Yes that’s right, the eldest child has started school! Not being a morning person, I am dreading the resurgence of the morning routine. I have been quite happy in my summer holiday mode of not really doing anything (like getting dressed) until gone ten. She is desperate to start though, and I am very excited for her. Her little brother is going to miss her a lot, he has been her shadow and partner in crime all holidays and at two and a half, has no idea that she is suddenly going to disappear for most of the week. I’ll miss her too, of course!

So, in the spirit of sticking to my resolutions, on to the subject of today’s post: furniture. Of the frugal kind.

This is one of my favourite frugal things. When we moved into our current house we needed quite a bit more furniture as we came from a two bed rented flat with lots of built in wardrobes. It was then that I discovered the joy of second hand furniture warehouses. If you’ve never been, imagine a cavernous warehouse filled to bursting with heaps of furniture……pretty much does what it says on the tin. They are great places, and you can really find some good stuff if you have the time to look through the rubbish. The turnover is often high, so you never know what might have turned up in between visits. As long as you know what you are wanting to buy and make sure what you are getting is decent quality, there are some real bargains to be found. I basically furnished our house from these places. I had a list of what we needed and would pop in every time I passed, over a few weeks our house filled up with good quality furniture, none of which cost more than £150.

Kids modelling table (charity shop) and chairs (skip)

Having said that I would give the sofas and armchairs in those places a wide berth, they were always pretty grotty and looked like there may have been other things living in them….

There are more really good places for picking up furniture frugally, mostly virtual ones. This is what I tend to do now rather than drive out to places, I can use the kids or general laziness as an excuse. Sat on the sofa (gumtree) I can spend a happy time scrolling through Facebook selling pages, and have been known to win on ebay a few times. In the olden days (four years ago) we used to look through the FridayAd at the items for sale and we even brought a Dyson through an ad on one of those notice board things on the back wall of sainsbury’s that no one looks at ever. Good old hand-me-downs feature a lot in our house too. It does mean that nothing really matches (lets call it ‘eclectic’) but definitely doesn’t mean we have scabby furniture, we do have some taste and we make sure we get well made things. I like the character of our furniture and the sense of smugness satisfaction that I get from knowing it cost us peanuts.

The thing about buying from the warehouses or from facebook sites is that sometimes you have to get things when they turn up rather than when you need them. Which is precisely why we have ended up with a filing cabinet, sofa and two large bookcases. In the new house, Mr B will be working from home, so the filing cabinet is destined for his boxroom office. When I saw one advertised on facebook for free I couldn’t resist, as a better bargain was not likely to come along anytime soon. The sofa and bookcases were from Mr Bs office in London, offered for free first come first serve. Another sofa was on my wanted list but the bookcases were an added ‘bonus’ that Mr B convinced me to agree to. The only cost was a man with a van to get them down from London. Apparently they might come in useful….at the moment they are getting in my way…..

Kids modelling new sofa (Mr B office discard)

It may seem a bit presumptuous of us to buy furniture for a house we haven’t even bought yet but as I said, often you have to get things when you see them in order to avoid paying more. It helps, therefore, to have a Master List of all things you need. This way, when scrolling through facebook or wandering into a charity shop you know what to keep an eye out for. Also, we know we have the money at the moment. By the time we actually have the house we probably would have spent most of it.

We were buying furniture second hand long before we made the decision to cut back on spending and save money. In all honesty when we were first married there was no way we could have furnished our flat any other way. It always seemed a bit silly that you basically had to take out a small mortgage to buy a new sofa. Luckily we were living in Eastbourne, a favourite of the retired community, where there is no shortage of charity shops which generally look like they carry out house clearances every other day.

Nativity angel in front of bookcase (charity warehouse) and sideboard (family hand-me-down)

One last tip: make sure that what you buy can actually fit in your house. I brought a large wardrobe when we first moved in which wouldn’t fit up the stairs without being dismantled (with an axe) first. Mr B valiantly (there was a lot of swearing) took it apart, then cobbled it back together upstairs. Thinking about getting it back down the stairs for the future move, we came to the conclusion that it won’t. Therefore Mr B set about carefully (violently) dismantling it and it has now been sent to the dump. I replaced it with facebook finds of a smaller wardrobe (£40) and a rather nice tallboy chest of drawers thing (£100, found the same one online at M&S for £400 new), both of which can make it up and down the stairs with only minor huffing and puffing and definitely no axes.

Hopefully we will manage to move to our dream house as, currently, I have filled all the available space in this one with furniture and unsurprisingly we have run out of room.

Current Master List: (On hold due to lack of space…)

Double bed frame

Replacement chest of drawers for kids room (…current one is a bit rickety and may not survive another move)

Office style chair

Table lamps

Proper farmhousey style kitchen dresser (always wanted one, will be my ultimate secondhand success if I can find an affordable good quality one)

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