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You Got the House! Now, How Do You Afford to Furnish It?

May 15, 2019
Managing Money, Personal Finance
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Congrats on saving up for that down payment! And hats off for committing to mortgage payments, homeowners insurance and property taxes. Now for your reward: home sweet, sparsely furnished home.

Furniture shopping may be the last thing you want to do, but it may be necessary if you moved into a bigger space or parted with unwanted goods in that process. Avoid overspending with these strategies.

Stick to cash

Earmarking savings for furniture can help homeowners pay for it in cash. And that’s the “absolute best way” to buy, says Justin Nichols, certified financial planner and director of operations at Garrett Planning Network. How much to save for furniture depends on your needs. (More on that later.)

If you already bought the house and didn’t budget for furniture, do what you can to stick to cash — and live with some open space while you save. “In the big scheme of things, it’s OK for a room to be sparsely appointed or even sit empty for a while as you save to pay cash,” Nichols says.

If you can get a credit card with a no-interest promotional period, and you know you can pay off your purchases in that time, that’s the next best option, Nichols says. The worst choice? Renting-to-own furniture, he says. The Federal Trade Commission warns against it, too. From the FTC website: ”[B]uying on a rent-to-own plan can cost double or triple what you would pay for the item with cash, on layaway, or on an installment plan.”

Prioritize purchases

Identify and buy whatever essentials are missing from your new home first. “Formulate your strategy around your most urgent family needs,” says Dan DiClerico, home expert at HomeAdvisor, a digital marketplace for home services. Those needs could include a kitchen table if you never had one in your small apartment, for example, or a crib if you’re expecting a baby.

Next, shop for a few big, functional pieces. “Even if you can’t afford to fill the space with furniture, adding a large rug will help the space look full,” says Betsy Helmuth, interior designer and owner of the Affordable Interior Design firm. Rugs also protect your floors and serve as a “decorative statement,” she says. Helmuth recommends the websites RugsUSA and Wayfair for affordable rugs and suggests saving money by choosing synthetic fibers rather than wool.

A sofa, preferably a sectional, will also make your home feel fuller — and cozier, Helmuth says. She adds that for her, “It’s all about Macy’s” for sofa shopping.

Indulge in affordable extras

If you have cash to spare, buy a few items that are both practical and decorative. These can make an unfamiliar house feel like home and show off your style. For example, Helmuth says, lamps are like “sculptures for the room,” and, unlike overhead lights, they “create cozy pools of light on a human level.” She recommends LampsPlus.com for inexpensive options.

Drapes are an “affordable way to add visual interest to your walls” and “soften up a space,” Helmuth says. She also suggests hanging a few prints, even if they’re placeholders until you can afford nicer, more expensive art. Consider painting the walls, too, which “immediately infuses personality,” Helmuth says. “You will not want to paint later when you have furniture in the space.”

Don’t pay full price

You can sometimes save a few hundred dollars by negotiating furniture prices, DeClerico says, particularly on “big-ticket items” like sofas and tables. At independent retailers, he suggests mentioning your interest in supporting local businesses when you haggle. At big-box stores, you’ll have better luck requesting discounts on floor models with wear and tear, he says. Take advantage of price-matching, coupons and seasonal sales in January, July and holiday weekends, too, he adds.

Warehouse clubs like Costco have some “pretty amazing deals,” DiClerico says, although selection may be limited. Furniture from thrift stores, as well as Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist and Nextdoor, can also be inexpensive. And, of course, you can’t get any cheaper than hand-me-downs from family and friends.

While paying little for furniture may be financially responsible, Helmuth warns against filling your new home with stuff you don’t love just because it’s cheap or free. “You start creating a space you’re not crazy about,” she says, adding that getting rid of furniture once you own it can be tough. Whatever you buy, she says, “keep in mind it’s going to stay longer than you think.”

This article was written by NerdWallet and was originally published by The Associated Press.

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