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Shop thrift stores, antique stores, and craigslist. If you buy old, well-made furniture and put a little bit of elbow grease into cleaning it up, you can save a lot of money. Use the AT shopping guide to find vintage and thrift stores, and look for daily Craigslist Scavenger posts in the morning. (If you know a good thrift store, send us store tips to help us fill out our guide.) For tips on restoring a thrift store find, read this post. Image above the jump is from Salvage One and below the jump is from Jubilee Furniture.
Shop warehouse and floor model sales. The steepest discounts are usually offered on floor models and overstock furniture. Check the AT Sales and Events Calendar for regular updates (we post new sales every week). Image: 2007 DWR Warehouse Sale in Hebron, Kentucky.
Save a little at a time. To get this $899 65-inch Lenox Sofa from Room and Board, you'd have to save $150 a month for 6 months or $75 a month for a year. It might seem like a lot to put away, but if you channel money from other luxuries (like new clothes and eating out) into your furniture budget, you can get the couch you want, and it'll last longer than a night out or a new pair of jeans. (Image via Barrel NY.)
Rethink the instant gratification model. Here's one example: You can buy a fiberboard-and-wood Gustav Desk at IKEA for $299. That's a decent desk for the price, but it might last five years before it looks fairly shabby. You could also buy a steel-and-maple Parsons Desk at Room and Board for two-and-a-half times that price, $729. The Parsons Desk could easily stay good-looking for 20 years, and because the design is a little more versatile than the IKEA model, you might use it as a desk or a dining table. When you factor in longevity, the IKEA desk cost you $60 a year and the Room and Board desk cost $37 per year. Image: Room and Board Parsons Table.
Pay attention to materials. Just because we dissed IKEA a little in the example above doesn't mean we don't love them. We buy IKEA items a lot and we think they have some nice things, especially if you stay away from fiberboard and stick to quality materials. For example, their Bekvam Step Stool is made from solid beech and only costs $15. At AT:NY, Maxwell even gave step-by-step instructions to make a nice modern desk for under $100 from an IKEA countertop and legs. Image: IKEA kitchen.
Live with less. Rather than filling your home with a lot of inexpensive furniture, try leaving some empty space and saving up for the piece you really want. Make do with what you have and be patient about building a collection of furniture that you really love. Image via the Rug Company. These are just some of the concepts we've picked up trying to build our own furniture collection on a small budget. Give us your suggestions in the comments below.