Save Money Furnishing Your Home

Over years of furnishing and decorating our family homes, I’ve always done it slowly and organically. Freshly married, we found living room furniture and a vacuum cleaner and my sewing machine at our local St. Vincent’s. Our kitchen table– adorably yellow Formica like the photo to the right– came from my grandmother.  Our bed came from my childhood bedroom.  Bookshelves came from John’s house.  And here and there were other small things we bought or were given.  Suffice it to say, furnishing our first home didn’t cost much.

Each time we moved to progressively larger spaces, always it worked like this.  Something old, something new, and almost always things that were hand made or thrifted.

As we were planning to furnish an entire new house, my mind was really challenged.  I knew that so many things needed to be shiny-new:  sheets, towels, mattresses, sofas.  But we were, after all, still on a budget. Rather than completely abandoning my usual way of furnishing a home, I decided to try mixing old and new and hand made together.  I was also going to need to find bargains, lots of them.

So in the fall as the walls of the beach house went up, UPS packages began arriving at our Idaho home, to be squirreled away until we needed to decorate this crazy dream of ours.  And in the end we were able to furnish a very large home for a fairly reasonable cost.  How’d we do it?  Here are my best tips.

  1.  Make it yourself. Begin by thinking about the things that you might be able to make yourself.  My husband has mad woodworking skills, and was able to make a beautiful dining table, nesting end tables, a bathroom counter, and even a bar.  Not having to buy these items saved us a bundle and also gave the home some great one-of-a-kind features.  If you can sew, you might be able to make curtains, table cloths, place mats, or throw pillows for the home.
  2. Hunt at thrift stores, yard sales and Craigslist. Things we found include wall art, furniture, baskets and other small decor items.  We did well in the kitchenware department too, finding a salad spinner, serving bowls, utensils, and other items in good condition.  Most recently we found a great dresser for the master bedroom at a thrift store right in the same town as our beach home, a big plus since it also saved us the hassle of having to get the item from our Idaho home to our Oregon place.  After a good polish and a set of ‘new’ knobs that I found at a local ReStore, the dresser looked great.  A solid wood dresser like that would probably have cost at least $300 brand new, and we paid $100.
  3. Give an old item a facelift! I was able to paint several dressers and end tables that ended up going over to the beach house, which gave a dated-looking item a completely fresh look.  You might be able to re-cover an older piece of furniture that needs updating.  One super-easy DIY reupholstery projects is replacing the fabric seats on chairs.  Here’s a great youtube that walks you through the whole process, and it doesn’t take a stitch of sewing.
  4. Don’t forget clearance shopping.  Target often has reduced items on sale on the end caps of various departments.  Fred Meyers is another store that regularly marks down merchandise.  I found quite a few sets of nice quality sheets at Fred Meyers.  Ross was a place I went over and over, for wall art and for curtain rods.  IKEA has a whole ‘as is’ department in each of their stores, typically near the check stands.  There it is possible to buy already assembled versions of some of their items. Some things may be slightly damaged, but it’s worth looking.
  5. Be willing to consider a less conventional solution.  When it came to buying mattresses, I was prepared to give up a huge chunk of change.  After all, comfortable mattresses are hugely important to most people.  However, a friend told me of a great experience she and her whole family had with mattresses in a box.  There are lots of retailers these days, including Tuft and Needle, Purple, Leesa, and Loom and Leaf.  But the ones she and her family got are on amazon, and that’s the one we ended up buying, for 5 out of the 10 beds in our new rental.  It is called Classic Brands, and the best thing about it is that a king mattress is (at this moment) only $284.  HUGE budget savings there, and after sleeping on one of the mattresses for a couple weeks now, John and I can’t say enough good things about it.  It is very comfortable.  It has no box spring, just a frame, and that can also be bought on amazon, and delivered to your front door in a box.  Doesn’t get easier than that.  Or (we think) more comfortable.  Read the reviews yourself before buying to get an idea of whether it might be a good solution for you.  We did also buy conventional mattresses for five of the beds in the home  (hedging our bets), and those we got as high quality closeout models at a local furniture store.  Hopefully there will be a bed to please everyone at the house!
  6. Say the Magic Words: As Is.  Some online stores sell returns and one of a kind items in ‘as is’ condition.  To locate those special deals, type ‘as is’ in the search bar of the website.  Overstock.com has hundreds of items for sale on any given day. Some items have true flaws, and not all will be listed.  I bought an 8×10 rug for $80 that had a two inch cut in an edge.  I was able to position the damaged area under a couch where it won’t catch your eye or be prone to great damage.  No big deal. I bought many beautiful sets of curtains on overstock for $15 a pair where the only listed problem was ‘dog hair’  I can live with that.  Here’s a picture of a dining light I just bought for our home here in Idaho. As you can see, the original price was $184, marked down to $90.  Add in a 10% off coupon and I was able to purchase the light fixture for $81 with free shipping.  I’m not 100% sure what I will find wrong with the light.  But reading the reviews, several people mentioned an imperfect paint finish that they were able to fix with just a dab of black spray paint.  Sounds like a very doable fix to me.  Another store that offers as items is Wayfair.com.  They call their items ‘open box’ or ‘closeout’. You never know what you’ll find.
  7. Use a coupon code finder.  Any time I am going to spend more than just a few bucks online, I will take a few minutes to hunt down coupons.  Retailmenot.com is a great place to check for coupon codes.  Honey is a similar helper.  It is a browser extension that automatically finds and applies coupon codes at  checkout with a single click.  Very often I can buy ‘as is’ items on overstock.com, and use a coupon code to lower the price another 10-15%.  And believe me, when you’re buying two sets of new bedding for 10 different beds like I did recently, small discounts can add up to big savings.

Do you have any cost cutting ideas for furnishing a home affordably?  I’d love to hear your hints in the comments section.  As always, if you found this post helpful, I’d LOVE a pin on Pinterest. And if you’d like to see the result of all my careful shopping, here are the finished pictures of our home.

Reviving an old dresser

We’ve had this dresser for so long that I don’t exactly remember where we got it, except that I know it was old when it came to us.  It has lived in the rooms of various children, serving the purpose admirably, but getting more and more dinged up over the years.  Our 19 and 21 year old daughters used it most recently, and when they moved out last fall, they opted to leave it here at the house.

Though its finish is not perfect, it was initially made pretty well, with solid wood drawers, and a sweet simple presence about it.  Now as I am prepping to furnish the beach house, I am looking at every item we own, wondering if it would be a good fit there.

Looking at the worn dresser, my first thought was probably not. But my recent painting projects have gone well enough that I look at everything with a gleam in my eye.  I’ve had a jar of Junk Monkey paint in the cupboard for awhile, waiting for just the right purpose.  It is a color called Paris Grey.

Then yesterday on Pinterest I saw this really neat two tone dresser, and decided the two tone look might be an idea to try with my little dresser.

I started by removing the drawer handles and then lightly sanding and wiping down the whole dresser. I also taped off the top of the dresser, since I had decided to leave that the original wood color.

I painted the drawers with two coats of the grey paint, and the body of the dresser with just one.

I may decide to paint the body with a second coat, but I ended up liking the slightly distressed look that was created by using a little less paint. (Actually, I may try to figure out how the streaky look was created on my inspiration dresser, because it is really neat looking too.

Since the top of my dresser was pretty dinged up, I also sanded it lightly, and then lightly rubbed some dark walnut stain on the most distressed looking areas of the top to even the tone out a bit.  I really like the way the wood contrasts with my grey paint.

My final touch was a set of new silver-tone knobs, which I think adds a dab of fun to the project.  I may end up tweaking the paint a little more later.  But overall I am delighted with how well this project turned out.  The whole thing took me less than two hours, and I think it really updated the look of our little dresser.

 

 

Waiting for the ice to melt

A couple days ago I was rejoicing because finally, finally the temperatures were high enough that the snow that has lain all over our valley since before Christmas was running in rivulets down the road. It was in the 40’s and dirty snow-heaps everywhere were diminishing and we were all full of delight.

Then came yesterday morning. Heavy, thick snow, coming steadily all morning and accumulating another three inches.  By afternoon thankfully the temperature was high enough to begin melting things, and by sunset the gutters were streaming with water again, a welcome sight indeed.  Today it’s raining again, and temperatures in the 40’s are promised for the rest of the week. Hooray!

I’m no snow-lover, but I can’t think of a year where I’ve ever hated it more. It’s the worst winter we’ve had in years, with 21 inches of snow in January alone.  Add in the 14 inches we saw in December, and now this new stuff in February, and you may begin to see why there are so many snow-wear folks around here.

But today it’s melting!  Hooray!

Thanks to a couple of extra days off work, I have been catching up on things I dread doing:  most notably the FAFSA for several different kids.  I also got a jump on taxes. Since we owe money (bah, hubug) I won’t be sending those anytime soon, but now at least I know what we need to come up with on April 15th.  Exciting stuff.

I’ve also been working on step one of getting my freezer defrosted– step one being using up as much as possible so that there will be less food in coolers as the freezer thaws.  At the moment, the top shelf is almost entirely obscured–  I’m pretty sure there’s at least a steak or two stuck in the ice.  But yesterday I did pry out all the frozen tomatoes and made a big pot of spaghetti sauce.   Today I will pry out a few more things– some things probably just need to hit the trash.  And tomorrow I will unplug the freezer and get it chipped out.  Thankfully we have a washing machine drain pan under it, so if I just keep the towels changed out often enough, we should be able to get by without puddles on our laminate flooring.  I tell you, waiting for ice to melt makes my life a thrill ride.  🙂

Actually, I’m wondering if we have almost reached a time where we could get by using only the freezer in our fridge.  That freezer is so ancient that I’m sure it uses lots of electricity.  And now that we don’t have beef cows or a big garden or lots of kids at home, it just might work.  Maybe I will clean things out well and try it for at least a few weeks.

In MUCH more interesting news,we got the boat bunk beds built at the beach house!  Huge job, but it turned out well.  Here’s a photo, and you can see more on the house website.  You can also click here if you’re interested in booking the Owlhaven this summer.  We already have four bookings, which I find rather amazing considering the house isn’t even done yet.

Speaking of done, we are on track to get occupancy at the beach house in TWO weeks!!  Just about all that needs to be done in the house is to build the deck and do a little trim work and install the appliances. Yesterday I ordered cable, internet and trash service all to begin in two weeks.  And then in we come with furniture.  We are planning to go and see how much we can get moved in the last week of February.  Then later in March a bunch of our family will be there, and can hopefully help us finish getting moved in and prepped for FINISHED photos.  SO very exciting!  Can’t wait to get things in place and give you all a tour.

How’s the end of your winter?  Keeping warm?  Loaded in snow like we are?

January projects

Our January has seemed slower in pace than many of the previous months.  I think this is partly because the holidays are done, and partly because huge quantities of snow have kept us home more than usual.  For those of you lucky enough NOT to live around here, we’ve had 35.5 inches this winter, which breaks every record EVER since they started recording snowfall in our area.  It’s been staggering.  Kids in our area have already had a week or more of snow days,  which (judging by my facebook feed) has been very disconcerting to teachers and folks used to sending kids off to school every weekday.

Front yard snow fort

For us it hasn’t been so odd; we’ve homeschooled for a long, long time.  No snow days for us!  We have, however, had a few delayed starts and long lunch breaks helping dad shovel the driveway.  They even made an epic snow fort in the front yard after that first big snowstorm. Since then we’ve kinda gotten tired of the snow, and now it just sits there in our yard in grey sodden humps.

But back to homeschooling:  many other things in our home have changed in the past couple years.  We’ve moved to a new house.  We’ve had 4 kids move out.  We’ve spent lots of time at the coast checking out the house build.  The girls are adjusting to me working a day or two a week.  It’s been a lot.   But homeschooling has remained a constant, and I think we all really appreciate that.

I love being able to start each day slowly– no rushing off to school.   I love spending most days with the girls as they work through their school.  We have time to chat and time to read and play games, and to just to do nothing.  I read some interesting articles about homeschooling this week, and will share them in links at the bottom of this post in case you are interested in reading them as well.

One fun project that I did during January was paint a cute little night stand.  Over the years it has served a lot of different purposes in different rooms of our home, but I got tired of the orange-yellow finish and decided to give it a fresh paint job.  I was given some milk paint from The Real Milk Paint Company to try out, so I decided to use the oyster grey on this little nightstand. This paint is interesting because it comes in a powder form, which you then combine with water to create a thin paint that is non-toxic and dries quickly.

I very lightly sanded the most distressed parts of the old finish, leaving most of the finish untouched.  This came back to bite me when the paint dried.  Wherever I hadn’t sanded, the paint crackled and came off in chunks, which meant I had to go back, sand again, and then repaint those areas again. (Might have helped if I’d read the directions!!  Eeek!) Unlike my chalk paint project, sanding before using Real Milk Paint is really important, as is mixing the paint to be very thin.  Kind of a hassle to discover all that after the first coat–my momma always warned me that reading directions was a good idea!!– but I learned my lesson and the finished product was very nice.

I opted not to use the old wooden knobs, replacing them with a couple of black ones that I had left over from my bathroom cabinet staining project a couple years back.  I think the fresh paint gave this sweet little shelf a whole new look.  I’m so pleased with it.  I am thinking of painting the legs black for a bit more contrast.  What do you think?

Fresh paint!

January saw another paint project also. The girls have been wanting to paint their room for awhile, and a week or so ago they got that done– in 24 hours flat, AND all on their own.  It was quite amazing to wake up after having worked all night, and see it completely done.

They chose the paint simply because they loved the color.  I had it in my mind that updated bedspreads might be necessary to tie the room all together.  But they ended up harmonizing just beautifully.  I especially like the contrast between their black bed frames and the blue wall.  The paint also really makes the white trim pop.  Love it.  And now that I know they’re such good painters, I may just assign them other rooms in the house.

In other news, the beach house build has been coming right along!  You can see more details here.  We are hoping to get our occupancy permit in February, at which time we will begin moving in furniture!!  I’ve been scouring thrift stores and clearance racks for odds and ends of useful things to help make things pretty and comfortable.

We have a couple of couches coming soon, and we already have about half the beds, as well as dishes, dining room furnishings, tables, towels and sheets, etc.  I took advantage of some really great Black Friday sales at Macy’s and got about half a dozen small appliances for the princely sum of $8.99 each.

One fun little-known fact: you can go to overstock.com and type in ‘as is’, and lots and lots of really great sale items pop up that won’t otherwise show up in your search.  Doing this, I’ve found all sorts of things on great clearances on different household items, including shades, rugs, curtains, sheets, and even furniture.

We’re excited to go see the house again in a few days, and I’ll doubtless be putting up more pictures after that trip.  We also listed the house on a rental site this month, so if you are thinking you’d like to try it out this summer, I’d advise you to go check it out and save your dates.  Even though the home has yet to be complete, we’ve already gotten a few bookings, so dates might go fast, especially once we have it furnished.  This has been a dream for so many years that it is pinch-myself surreal to see the house so close to completion.  I love, love, love the idea of families (ours and others) building happy memories together there, and maybe even returning year after year.  Such a lovely thought….

Thanks for continuing to read even though I have not been posting tons lately!  I think of writing here lots more often than I actually find time to do it.  I’m guessing once the house is done, I will find a bit more time.  Would love to hear how your January is going!  And just in case you’re interested, here are those homeschooling links I mentioned earlier.

College Professors Weigh In

Dreading the Teen Years?

An Alternative to Charter Schools?

Practical Homeschooling for Real-World Families (my book)

 

Technorati Tags: , ,

August happenings

waterparkWe’ve had a busy, interesting week. Last night we went to a Family Force 5 concert that was held at our local water park.  It turned out to be a fun choice of venue.  The stage was in front of the wave pool, and the weather was perfect for an evening at the water park– hot enough we were glad for the water, but not so insanely hot that we burned out feet walking between rides.  And as always, Family Force 5 put on a really fun show.

I finished a really interesting book last week.  It’s called A Million Miles in A Thousand Years: How I Learned to Live a Better Story. The book is funny, thought-provoking and just great writing!  I’ve been recommending it to everyone in sight lately because I enjoyed it so much.

This week I’ve also slowly been painting our master bath, trying out the Sea Salt paint that I’m considering for some of the bathrooms in the beach house.  John and I both love the light, calm muted green of the paint.  It’s a winner!

In other house news, we got our building permit this week for the beach house!  The very next day our contractor got the hole dug for the beach house, with foundation-pouring happening within the next week or two. I put up a couple new posts, and we can’t wait to go see some actual honest-to-goodness progress in a few weeks!

Emily, age 14, is helping with Vacation Bible School at our church next week, and will be playing the part of an oLittle-octopusctopus in the daily skits. She and I got brainstorming about what she might wear to look like an octopus, and we decided some sewing was in order. Luckily there’s Pinterest, where almost any craft you can dream has already been attempted by someone else.

We based our project roughly on this tutorial and I think it turned out fun. You add elastic to the tends of the tentacles to get that fun curl.  Still thinking about headgear, but here’s our adorable Ali modeling the legs.  It took most of an afternoon to sew, but I think it turned out really fun, and will be interesting for the kids watching the play.

Hard to believe it is already August.  With as busy as we’ve been lately, I think we won’t be jumping back into school til September.  We’re still having too much fun with summer!  How about you?  How’s your summer going?  Are your kids going back to school soon?

 

Beach time

Here’s a snap from a quick trip we made to the beach this week.

Beach in July

Felt weird to be traveling with only two kids, but all our bigger kids were working, and so we took the plunge and went off to play without them.  We missed them all lots, but had fun with the youngest two anyway.

And if you’re interested, here’s an update on the great beach house adventure.

Any paint fanatics out there?

I’ve been poring over paint colors lately, trying to decide what color to paint inside at the beach house.  I’ve also been working on the baby beginnings of the beach house blog.  It is not super pretty yet, and doesn’t even have many posts, but I’d love for you to go over there and vote on paint colors!   I am stuck trying to decide on a nice grey, and not too many people have the patience to peruse all the similar greys I’ve been looking at lately.

agreeable vs repose

Here’s the link to the house website:  OwlhavenVacation.com.  Click on the link titled Building a Beach House to vote on paint colors.  In other house news, we are hoping to break ground NEXT week– crazyness!!