Wednesday, February 29, 2012

frugal furniture

One of the several things I have learned in recent years, since becoming a grownup, is that furniture is expensive.  I dislike this, so I've developed the following methods of combating it.  I have listed these in order from best option to least-best (but still good).

Best option: DIY
There are two paths to accomplish this: either make what you need yourself, or refurbish and spruce up old furniture you've already got.  Some ideas for the former:  Stack up stuff (such as large books) to make a side table, use plywood to build shelves or bookcases or a table, make a platform bed out of old pallets, etc...  You're only limited by your imagination.

As for fixing up stuff you already own, there are a ton of options: add new handles/hardware, paint it (I've done this with plenty of furniture, and it's the easiest way to completely change the look), create designs and decorate it, and just do anything you feel like to make it your own.  If you don't feel like being really artsy, but simply want to refurbish something old, that's also a great idea.  One of my favorite things is an antique Japanese lamp we had sitting around that was nonfunctional, and I was easily able to rewire it with a kit that probably cost five dollars or less at Wal-Mart.  Another is our homemade bookcase (which is also by far my most useful piece of furniture).

This option is the most creative, and thus the most fun, and that's why it's my favorite.

Second-best option: choose used over new
The best option in this category is to "adopt" a family member's spare furniture, since this would be free.  Mom, for example, might be a good candidate for a furniture source, though I would suggest asking first.  Second-best (and a personal favorite of mine), is the thrift store-- the only store in which I enjoy shopping.  This could be Goodwill, the Salvation Army, or any number of thrift stores you probably have locally.  The furniture is usually of lower quality, and you'll need to weed through a lot, but remember that you could combine this with Option #1 and artfully spruce up something you pick up for ten dollars.  Another great idea is the Craigslist furniture listings.  I've gotten a few good things this way, always for a swell price.  The only downside is that you will generally need to drive to where they're at and pick the stuff up-- but there is some great stuff to be had, and it is well worth sifting through what's available.

Third-best option:  when all else fails
I am loathe to buy something new, because the other options are just so much more fun (and cost so much less)-- and because I love old things.  But when I must buy something new, my default choices are Target or Ikea.  Not everything on the Ikea website can be ordered online, so keep that in mind when attempting to order that way.  Mom and I recently had the joy of shopping in their real, live store (in Charlotte) for the first time and had a ball, and we bought one of everything (almost).  As for Target, I have found that shopping conditions are ideal in September, when their dorm stuff goes on clearance.  My freshman year I scored a sweet coffee table (for five bucks!), a nifty purple desk lamp, and assorted kitchen stuff, all of which I am still getting use out of now, years post-dorm-- so I am certainly getting my money's worth.

--One last thought: I've never tried this myself, but is also an option worth mentioning, especially for the truly broke and/or frugal.  It's a site where people give away stuff for free-- so it's certainly worth checking out!

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