Do you ever feel frustrated when you pick up an interior design magazine or scroll through Instagram because everything that stares back at you is so unaffordable? I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve stopped to admire a beautiful living room or kitchen online only to check where the items come from and realise that the chances of me being able to afford any of them is slim at best, unless I find myself a second or third job.
But rather than continue to moan away at my boyfriend until he became sick of the sound of my voice, I decided to do something about it and I set up this blog. At the time we were about to move from a lovely workman’s cottage that we were renting to a flat. Essentially we were downsizing except we didn’t really have any furniture. The house had come fully furnished so when it came time to move on, it dawned us on that we’d have to buy all the furniture we didn’t have.
We had some savings but our budget was tiny and I knew that I’d have to be a little canny about finding and buying all the furniture we needed. Small budgets I realised, force you think more creatively and this is no bad thing. My boyfriend and I also agreed from the get go that nothing would be spent on a credit card or overdraft. If we couldn’t afford it then we wouldn’t get it. This idea was always drummed into me by my parents growing up. If you wanted something you had to save up for it and if you didn’t have the money for it then you couldn’t get it. I’ve carried this through to my adult life and my dealings with money.
It’s no major revelation to state that we live in a consumer culture where it’s so easy to tap your credit card and buy and deal with the consequences later. However, I’m fully conscious even as I write this that for many credit cards, pay day loans and overdrafts are simply the only way to afford a new bed when the old one brakes or a washing machine when the old one dies. But there are ways of decorating on a budget without hammering the credit card and this is how I did it.
1. Charity shops
My first recommendation may seem blindingly obvious but I’m always surprised at how many people either don’t think of charity shops as an option or who exhibit stubborn snobbery towards shopping in one. Again, when my parents first started out in their first home a lot of their furniture initially came from charity shops until they could afford to upgrade.
Whether it’s your small high street charity shop or somewhere like The British Heart Foundation’s larger stores, you can find some real gems if you’re willing to hunt around and spend the time looking.
What also continues to surprise me is that people still don’t realise that they can buy new items in charity shops. I remember when I first moved back home with my parents after University I went to the British Heart Foundation and bought a bedroom side table and a wardrobe, both new in The British Heart Foundation and both are still going strong all these years later. Not only are you saving yourself money by shopping in this way but you’re also doing a good deed at the same time. If that wasn’t reason enough, The British Heart Foundation have a section on their website that gives you upcycling ideas so if you find a piece that’s no exactly to your taste you always have the option of upcycling .
If you want to find out where your local British Heart Foundation store is then head over to their website to search.
2. The High Street
After searching through our local charity shops we turned our attention to the high street next. I wanted quite a plain and simple look in the bedroom. We decided to try Argos because we’d received some vouchers for the store when we moved house. This is a great way of decorating on a budget. By asking for vouchers at Christmas and for my birthday we were able to save yet more money whilst avoiding receiving presents we didn’t really want or need.
I don’t care what anyone says, the Argos catalogue is still a great way to search for furniture. Whilst nothing beats seeing furniture in person it does making shopping much more convenient having a catalogue you can flick through.
For the bedroom we opted for simplicity and chose a farm-style bed-frame with an additional under-bed storage because we wanted to create the illusion of space that we wouldn’t get with a divan.
Cost = £229.00
With the most important item out the way we started looking for bedside tables. We needed a bedside cabinet with storage so a table was out of the question. With most of the cabinets taking up far too much space we put the search on hold and turned to the bathroom. But as it turned out we inadvertently found a bedside cabinet when the storage unit we bought in Argos was too large for the en-suite and too small for the main bathroom. The boyfriend’s dad instead suggested that since they were smaller than your average cabinet, they might be better suited in the bedroom. He turned out to be right (don’t tell him) and so not only did we save ourselves some space in the bedroom which we plan on filling with either a tall-boy or a statement chair but we also saved ourselves some money as these were cheaper than pretty much all the bedside cabinets we’d looked at.
Has this ever happened to you? Have you ever bought a piece of furniture or an item for the home to fulfil a particular purpose only to use for something or somewhere completely different? Do get in touch, I’d love to hear.
Cost = £34.99 each
3. Discount stores
There seems to be a real shift lately towards a begrudging acceptance of budget stores on the high street. I’m talking about everywhere from Pound World, Pound Land to Home Bargains and B&M. As anyone who reads this blog regularly will know, I’m a fan of discount stores not just for household essentials for also as places to discover unexpected finds.
One example of this was the lovely side-table that now sits in our living room. We found this in Stockport’s Home Bargains (though I’m pretty sure you can find them in most of their stores) and not only was it so easy to put together (you literally screw the legs in the holes) but it was so cheap. We’d been looking at similar ones in Made.com and Very for nearly twice the price.
Not to leave out B&M, this cute little footstall was a gift from my boyfriend’s mum and dad and cost less than £20.00. Again, this is far cheaper than most of the footstalls/poufs I’ve seen elsewhere.
Cost = £15.99
4. End of stock/Ex-display
One of the most important lessons I’ve learnt ever since I started decorating my home is to speak up and ask when it comes to end of stock and ex-display items. Here’s an area where you can save massively if you know where to look and who to ask.
I’ll give you an example, at the weekend I was in Wilmslow and as I was walking past Laura Ashley I noticed that they had a bedroom side table discounted in the window. The table was ex-display and it was reduced from £500 to £150. For Laura Ashley, that’s a real bargain. This got me thinking about why people are so reluctant to ask about end-of-stock or ex-display items. I know my own reservations stemmed from the worry that there might be something wrong with the items and that’s not to say that there won’t be but that if you’re confident enough to be able to deal with marks and scratches then you can really save yourself some money. So if there’s a piece of furniture on display and you really love it, why not ask the Manager if/when they’ll be reducing or selling it. It does not harm to ask and you never know, you might just get lucky.
Nesting tables (not the same as mine but very similar)