I'm in the process of trying to make my flat more homely, but on a budget. I’m on the hunt for bargains and one-off pieces that don't cost a fortune - and don't leave me without any option but Ikea. I've done pretty well so far, so I thought I’d share my furniture hunting tips.
The most obvious place to start is charity shops. Not only can you get a deal but you also feel good in the process! There can be quite a big difference in price across different ones, so shop around. The trick here is to go to the charity shops in wealthier areas.
I used to get dragged along to auction after auction as a child and I found it so, so boring. But now an adult, I can see that there are a few bargains to be had. You sometimes have to be prepared to sort through a lot of people’s old junk, and sometimes you’ll have to buy a bundle of things you may not want just to get the one thing you really do want – but you’ll definitely find some one-offs. (Just don’t take your kids along!)
Similarly, house clearances, garage sales and car boot sales are key for finding cheap items of furniture. The good thing about all these options is that you get to meet the seller face-to-face and so have a chance to haggle. Timing is key, too. If you go early you’ll snap up rare items, but go right at the end of the day to get dirt cheap items (sellers will often want to shift things so they don’t have to take them home again).
In some areas, people quite literally leave things outside their houses for passers-by to help themselves too. I’ve picked up a coffee table and a mirror recently from neighbours down the street this way. Make sure they’re not left out for the council first, but if you’re quick enough you could grab something great on your walk home. Some local councils also allow you to take dumped furniture from tips – for a small price.
And then there’s the wonderful internet. Freecycle is a brilliant community where people give away stuff for free that they no longer need. There’s all sorts on here and you can sign up to be on the mailing list of your local area to get daily updates. You will get swamped with emails, but if you’re in desperate need it will be worth it. The idea is that someone advertises an item and users reply telling them that they want it and why. Sometimes it’s first come, first served, other times they’ll give it away to the person with the best sob story – for example “I need your bed because I’ve been sleeping on the floor for four years...”
You’ll also find furniture aplenty on Gumtree and eBay. With eBay, don’t limited yourself to “local pick-up only” listings under your postcode area. Widen the search area a little and you could get something better and cheaper for the sake of £5 more petrol.
Image: by Michael Martine's Flickr