Frugality enables Mr. FAF and me to simplify our priorities. Buying expensive furniture to adorn our house to the max is just not one of them.
I am not a minimalist, and neither is Mr. FAF. We keep what we need and will need in the future.
But when we bought our first house in DC, we wanted to furnish it and make it our home. We tried to do it on the cheap.
Before buying the house, we had budgeted a good amount for urgent home repairs and furniture.
But we wanted to spend as little as possible and put the rest to our mortgage payment.
Today I’ll share with you how Mr. FAF and I bought a sectional sofa, a coffee table, 2 new beds, 4 night stands, 1 study desk with book shelves, a file dresser, and two dressers for our new house for roughly $3,000.
And all of them were new. To put things into perspective, a sofa alone can easily cost you $3,000.
Getting free furniture
As Mr. FAF and I were getting more serious about buying a house, we started to stock up on hand-me-down furniture from friends and neighbors.
We lived with Baby FAF and my in-laws, who were there to help out with the baby, in a 2bd/2bth apartment fully furnished with stuff we either got for free from friends or picked up on the curb side (aka trash).
None of us had any problems with that. All we cared about was to save money for the new house and take good care of Baby FAF.
We got the dining set on the left for free from our friends since they were moving away. The second set was from the trash; we put it in our breakfast nook.
My in-laws’ newly made Chinese friends in the community also told us whenever they saw furniture thrown on the curb side. We would go to check the item and pick it up if we needed it.
We lived in a residential areas with a lot of single family houses. Sometimes my in-laws would drive around the neighborhood and bring back some treasure.
One time they brought back a coffee table and a whole set of kitchen table and chairs. My mother-in-law then went to a thrift store nearby to buy a $3 curtain to reupholster the chairs.
She made sure to wash the curtain, cut it, and sewed each piece of cloth onto each chair. She gave the chairs a totally new look. Her sewing wasn’t perfect. But the set looked amazing.
We got the dresser in the picture from another friend who was also moving away. One knob kept falling off, but it’s still in good condition. They told us they had picked it up from the curb side, so this dresser has changed owners multiple times.
We spent $0 on these pieces of furniture except for maybe a couple of dollars on gas to pick them up.
Buying discounted furniture
I was totally fine with all the used and free furniture we got. But Mr. FAF insisted we buy new furniture for our new home, so I eventually agreed.
While waiting to close on our new house, Mr. FAF and I went to look at the furniture at Costco, Macy’s, and various high-end stores. We were first-time homeowners and really enjoyed the feeling of designing the interior of our home.
We took pictures, commented on every piece of furniture that we saw, and talked about what they would look like at our house. It was a fun experience.
But at the end of the day, we weren’t ready to part with our money on a $1,500 bed set just yet. We wanted to see if we could find deals.
I have read online about stores that sold high-end furniture with minor defects such as a tiny scratch. Some pieces of furniture were on display and experienced a lot of trying and touching from potential customers. Over time, they started to show some wear and tear, and no one wanted to buy them anymore.
But I did, and I told Mr. FAF about my findings. He was immediately hooked. One day he came home and told me with a big smile on his face that he had found just the store we were looking for: Bob’s Discount Furniture.
I was intrigued and couldn’t wait to see it. Mr. FAF drove me to the store. We arrived at 8:30 PM that night, 30 minutes before it closed.
I saw all the nice and expensive furniture in the front, but he took me straight to the back room (aka “The Outlet”) where all the imperfect furniture was.
In excitement, Mr. FAF showed me the nice pieces of furniture that he had found earlier that day. I could see some scratches here and there, but nothing major.
We came back a couple of times afterwards to pick the pieces that we liked. The only brand-new piece of furniture we bought that wasn’t on clearance was a $999 sectional couch that could also be a nice bed for a guest.
They delivered the sofa for free, but not the clearance furniture. We got a $50 clearance coffee table (originally $250) and a $23 Walmart rug to pair with the sofa.
We bought two dressers for about $100/each (originally $450). We put one in the living room and placed a free TV we had gotten from our friend on it.
We got 2 beds for $120/each (originally $900) and 4 nightstands for $50 each (originally $200).
Mr. FAF rented a U-haul truck for $150 and asked two friends for help with the moving. We treated them to dinner afterwards and were grateful that they had agreed to help us.
We spent roughly $2,000 on the furniture at Bob’s Discount Store, including the U-haul rental and treating out friends to dinner.
Buying furniture on Amazon
Mr. FAF wanted to buy a nice desk with bookshelves for his study after using a series of free and $10 desks for years. We went to various stores to look for one, but the prices were always above $1,000. We decided to turn to Amazon.
With our free Amazon Prime account, we purchased the following items from Amazon. They were much cheaper than the ones we saw at the store.
1. An L-shaped desk with a hutch for $466.93
2. A file dresser $202.45
3. A queen mattress for $104.86
4. A twin box spring/bed frame for $45.72
5. A twin mattress for $97.49
6. A full bed frame for $150.99
The only downside is that they came unassembled in a box. Mr. FAF spent almost 10 hours putting together every piece and nail of the L-shaped desk.
If we added the cost of Mr. FAF’s labor (i.e. $200 at $20/hr), it’d look like we didn’t save much. But Mr. FAF did all that in his free time. We considered it a good workout for him.
In total, we spent $1,068.44 on Amazon.
The furniture collecting and buying process was exhausting and fun at the same time. Mr. FAF and I were happy we got to furnish our first home together.
To this day, I still think $3,000 was still a bit high for what I was willing to pay for furniture. I’d be happy to get free stuff or pick things up from the curb side. If we ever have to move, Mr. FAF and I plan to bring the good furniture with us and give away the rest or sell them for low prices.
Whenever I see the items we got from our friends or neighbors, I feel grateful. To them, the furniture might have been something they no longer needed. But to us, they were a valuable gifts that helped us build our family on a stronger financial foundation.