Budget Decorating Sources

Right now, one of the biggest contributors to our frugal lifestyle is our tiny apartment. Downsizing for a limited amount of time means the money not spent on rent can be used to get our savings back to pre-wedding condition. But downsizing doesn’t have to mean downgrading – having the right sized furniture, nice decor, and the right window coverings can make all the difference between a cramped apartment and a cozy retreat. I spent a good deal of time working at an interior design firm, and learned a lot from them about how to spot the stylish needles in the home decor haystack. Here are some of my favorite sources that reliably turn up great finds that look like they’re straight out of design magazines (priced like they’re straight out of Big Lots).

  1. Craigslist
    But you knew that already. Look for solid wood pieces, even if they’re damaged they can be repaired or refinished. It’s a great source for antique pieces. The same rules from last post apply – know what you’re looking for, know what it costs in local stores, and in this case, know what it will cost you to get it the way you want it. At it’s worst, Craig’s List is ignorant people selling their old crap at exorbant prices — at it’s best, it’s ignorant people selling their fabulous stuff for way less than it’s worth. When you can find the second scenario, you score big.
  2. Auction Houses
    My favorite spot in Austin is Austin Auction. They occasionally have warehouse clearance sales – where they get rid of items that didn’t sell the first time around. This often means there’s something less than perfect about the item, but even with a little work you’ll still be getting a bargain. My best finds here: mahogany dining chairs for $25/chair (recovered), and a century old solid hardwood, hand-carved wood armoire with original ornate brass hardware for $200 (missing key).
  3. Overstock.com
    This site is great, because they are very straightforward with the price. They tell you how much the item originally costs and post user reviews, so you can know that you’re getting a quality product for a good price, not just a cheap product. Also, the shipping is usually either free or $1, even on furniture! My favorite score here was a beautiful $40 solid wood coffee table with turned legs and a functioning drawer.
  4. JCPenney Outlet
    JCPenney’s may not be a name that is synonymous with high style, but I consistently find great-looking furniture pieces and window coverings on their online outlet at unbelievable prices. Just watch out for shipping on the large items, it can cost as much as the product itself. Recently, I scored 2 beautiful sheer window panels for only $10 each, including shipping!
  5. Ross, Marshall’s, and TJ Maxx
    My friends know that 80% of my purchases come from TJ Maxx. TJ Maxx and Marshalls are the places to go for bedding, decorative pillows, and higher end kitchen goods. Ross is great for inexpensive accessories, organization aids, and small accent furniture.

Intentionally absent from this list are Outlet Malls. I’ve done some research on this – comparing the price of the same sofa in stores new, in stores on sale, in the outlet, in the outlet on sale, and on craigslist. The outlet seems to start off prices a little higher than they were when they left the original store – about the same as a mediocre sale. Don’t get fooled into thinking that just because it’s at an outlet, it’s the best price you can get.

There’s so much more out there, but these are definitely my top 5!


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