I’d love to prove to everyone I’m a true frugalista, and say that when we moved from the Dirty South to the Midwest, we kept all our existing furniture. After all, it’s significantly cheaper to use furniture you already have to decorate your home rather than furniture shopping for new stuff. But if I told you that, I’d be lying.

Since moving in to our new home, we’ve updated the furniture in four entire rooms. Everything in our son’s bedroom, home office, kitchen, and family room is new (well, kinda). Some purchases were out of necessity; my son outgrew his crib and needed a big boy bed, for example. But in the majority of cases, our new home furnishings were purchased simply because we wanted to update.

So, if I:

  • Don’t have a ton of money in our discretionary budget.
  • Don’t have a Money Settlement to cash in.
  • Don’t want to get yet another side hustle.

What’s a girl to do to furnish her home?


My mother insists on calling this site “E-T-S-Y” – spelling out the name, a la ESPN – rather than pronouncing it as though it rhymed with the woman’s name “Betsy.” But however you choose to say it, this site is AWESOME.

While you can find big, handmade or reclaimed pieces for sale on this site, it’s not the best place to furnish your home if you’re looking for couches, bedroom sets, and dining room tables. But if you’re looking for the special accents that make a house feel like a home – things like mismatched kitchen chairs, a hand-woven rug, custom pottery, or any and all types of wall art – this is your place. And, I’ve found, the prices are incredibly reasonable, especially when you consider that the majority of the products for sale on Etsy are handmade, rather than mass-produced.

But my favorite part about this site is that I feel like I’m helping support someone’s cottage industry. Sure, I might not be doing business with a local entrepreneur in my home town, but I am buying from a small-scale operation instead of a big box store. And with that “small-scale” experience comes BIG customer service; I’ve become a repeat customer at one particular “shabby chic” store on Etsy, and now the shop owner regularly gives me 10% off or free shipping on my purchase.

Consignment Shopping

I’ve always been a fan of buying things second-hand, but now, I’m more into buying things “on consignment” than ever before. We found a great consignment furniture store in our town, which has proven to be a treasure trove. A good consignment shop is picky about what they take, ensuring that the goods they display are all sturdy and made with integrity.

My husband and I had spent the better part of three months looking for the perfect end table for our living room. We were looking for a truly unique piece, but just couldn’t find exactly what we were looking for. Then one day, we walked into our favorite consignment shop, and saw it – a gorgeous, octagon-shaped table that was just the right height… but it was the wrong color. No worries, though: our consignment shop employs an expert in chalk paint, who was able to overhaul our table to our exact specifications for a fraction of the price of having the whole thing custom made. Now, it looks like a really high-end piece, even though we paid second-hand price for it.

But buying consignment – or merely second-hand – doesn’t have to happen in a brick-and-mortar store. You can troll thrift stores in your area, visit rummage or consignment sales sponsored by local groups like churches or women’s clubs, or even the burgeoning number of online groups that allow you to shop via Facebook.


My aunt is currently in the process of trying to sell her house, and wanted to temporarily declutter. So I ever-so-graciously offered to hold on to her upright piano and a gorgeous cedar chest. Now, I won’t be able to “borrow” these pieces forever, but for now, they’re allowing me to “try out” a few different pieces in my home without having to purchase them.

Reclamation Projects

When we lived in the South, we had something called “bulk trash day.” That was the one week of the year when our city’s sanitary department would take large items, without prior arrangement. The result? Everybody in the city would toss their sofas, old tables and chairs, and rusted patio furniture to the curb… and the “scavengers” would come. They’d come in pickup trucks, towing trailers, and in one unusual case, with a full-sized uHaul van. They’d pick up all our “trash,” and before long, it would turn up in local second-hand stores, suddenly somebody’s “treasure.” (We saw this happen firsthand to a few of our items!)

Now, before you think, “Gross! Why would I want to take somebody’s trash off the curb?” let me say this: if the item is in good structural shape, it can be salvaged. Upholstery and padding can be replaced; table tops can be sanded; chairs can be painted. My husband and I did this with our very first kitchen table, and it lasted us seven years! Just look beyond the reality of a piece, and look at its potential.

What creative ways have you used to furnish your house for less?

Libby Balke

Libby Balke