Save Your Money: Decorating on a Serious Budget

Save Your Money: Decorating on a Serious Budget

Nick Siemaska
Mar 28, 2011

Times are tough and money is tight

But designing your home still seems like it's right

So restore something worn, and do it in a flash

Find a piece that's charming, but get it without...

Wait, wait. Don't tell me. Cash!?

For the first time in my life, I drew up a personal budget. I tracked all the money coming in and all the money quickly going out. I'm so proud of myself. I can finally confirm what I've been thinking for so long - I'm broke.

If you're in the same boat as I'm in, then you know that sacrifices will have to be made. But furnishing our homes with stylish, durable, and functional pieces of furniture doesn't have to be one! People often give away used furniture that needs a bit of work for barely any money, or better yet, for free. So if you are in the mood to restore a piece for your home and don't have much money, follow me on my search!

Before starting, narrow your search by figuring out what you want. There are so many avenues for finding used pieces, so it's easy to become overwhelmed if there is no focus on a particular direction.

My apartment is small, so I'll be looking for space saving armoire for my bedroom.

Next, figure out how much you're willing to spend from start to finish. Since I'm working with a tiny budget, I'm going to set my limit to $40. That's for everything from start through restoration. I'm really going to try and get my piece for free!

Now for the search. There are SO many ways to search for free or cheap goods, but my go to source is everybody's favorite online classifieds, craigslist.org. We want to get a sturdy piece, so type in simple key search words in the free/for sale section. I like to search with adjectives like, solid or wooden to help myself avoid sifting through the countless pieces made of particle board (i.e. Ikea furniture.) We want to find a piece that's solid before we go check it out in person! Also, look as local as possible, to avoid transportation costs. If you don't have a car, ask someone you know that does if you can borrow theirs, or check to see if your city has car sharing available, like Zipcar, Hertz etc.

Side note on craiglist: Here in Boston, I like to use an amazing local blog that does the craigslist sifting for me (if you're city has a similar craigslist sifter, do tell in comments).

During my search this past week, I was lucky enough to find an armoire on my street that was going to be thrown away. So now that I think I found the piece I was looking for, I need to make sure that it's worth bringing home and restoring.

Put the piece on level ground and make sure it doesn't dramatically rock back and forth. Give it a good shake to see if it's on it's last leg. Again, avoid particle board.

Do you want to paint the piece, or sand and stain? If you want to paint, mainly look for sturdiness and character; you can fill in any holes or chunks of missing wood. But if you're wanting to sand and stain for the natural look of wood, make sure there's no thick lacquer that would require chemicals to remove. Also, look to see that the piece is solid wood or has a thick veneer. Veneers are often too thin to be sanded without sanding away the veneer itself. This is a great article that helps you tell the distinction between the two.

Lastly, make sure the piece is clean. Look for wood rot, mold, bed bugs, and other pests. Be thorough to be safe.

This armoire is sturdy, needs loving, and most importantly, it's free. I'll go over how to restore in my future posts, so stay tuned.

Until next week, good hunting.

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