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A Guide to Furnishing Your First House on A Budget

Buying your first home is a big step and investment, and there are many financial considerations to make even after you've moved in. Budget is a big deal, especially with 38% of first-time home buyers finding saving for a downpayment the most challenging step in getting a house. 

The typical first-time homeowner also pays 100% of the asking price, which has steadily increased in the last quarter. With what economist Daryl Fairweather calls the "least affordable housing market" in recent times, maximizing your budget will be the key to turning a house into a home. With good planning and proper allocation of funds, you should be able to furnish your place without burning through your savings.

Pick out your non-negotiable pieces first

There are some items you shouldn't scrimp on: appliances you use regularly, your bed, your couch, and your main tables, for instance. Before shopping, list non-negotiable pieces - anything you must have in the home and need to function for daily living. If you plan to have people over all the time, buying an L-shaped sectional might be something to seriously consider. The Stark Light Grey Sofa sold on Living Spaces features a reversible chaise and swivel chair, so you get more bang for your buck — and keep all your future guests comfortable.

Once you have this list, you can allocate most of your budget to these pieces. It's worth the investment because they last you a lifetime, regardless of how long you plan to stay in your new home. The median stay for people in their purchased homes in the United States is 11.9 years, a trend primarily driven by Americans who want to age in place. With that length, you should save yourself the headache and get something that won't need replacing in a few months. If you splurge, go for pieces that don't feel dated so you can happily maintain them. 

Sell what you don't need

A majority of first-time homeowners are moving from homes they previously rented places with a partner. While this is a convenient way to have already furniture on hand, it also means cutting down on items that aren't essential. There will always be compromise when building a shared space, but more so when maximizing the potential of your home on your budget.

When you sell things you don't need, you make room for better pieces that suit your new home. You also earn some money you can allocate toward bills or new pieces. Selling what you don't need is especially useful when moving across the country. Even if you're buying a home for yourself, this is a great way to shed excess and furnish your place with more intention. There are many vibrant online marketplaces for selling old furniture, such as those on Craigslist or Facebook, so try to look through those sites to see how other people price similar items.

Go on thrift runs

Not every piece of furniture needs to be brand new, especially once you've got your big ticket items out of the way. Thrifting can help you find unique pieces that also save you a lot of money. Since this is your first home, doing a few thrift runs is worth it. An excellent way to get some goodies is to ask when the thrift store gets new stock, as this nets you more choices and gives you more time to think about what you want to get. 

These days, there are also plenty of reputable online thrift stores specializing in furniture. Brands like Kaiyo and AptDeco check every pre-owned piece to ensure they're ready for a new home. You can also use social media, though this route would require more care to check for potential quality issues. 

Take your time

Don't rush! Getting your first home is an exciting time, and it's easy to get into the rush of getting everything at once. That said, you don't want buyer's remorse when you're on a strict budget. Take time to map out what aesthetic you want to build in your home. This will also give you more space to find cheaper finds you may not have initially considered. 

Expert interior designers also warn against going for seemingly cost-effective solutions that effectively result in more costs later on. Elle Cole of Elle Cole Interiors shared that buying faux flooring is one of the worst mistakes a homeowner can make, as it doesn't last a long time and ends up being a great expense to replace.  

You may also want time to scout places for furniture. Aside from finding that random amazing garage sale, you also avoid the pitfalls of online marketplaces. Studies show that 73% of people have buyer's remorse after online shopping, so time is your wallet's friend.

Your home is your place of comfort and rest. If you're going to thrive in it, make sure you make some good furnishing choices that won't come back to bite you. 

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Julie Liss

Written by Julie Liss

Julia G. Liss is a freelance writer and researcher. As a mother of three, Julia is concerned about how to manage a household well with budget constraints – a topic she’s sure her readers also appreciate. When she’s not trying out different finance tips and hacks for her articles, you can find Julia experimenting with recipes in her home kitchen.

Read more posts by Julie Liss

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