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How to Furnish Your Home Without Using Savings or Racking Up Credit Card Debt

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Spencer and I moved into our first home in November 2013. Before, we had lived separately or in an apartment together. We have a three bedroom, two and a half bath, two-story town home. I remember the feeling of walking into the home once it was finished. It was sparkly and new and completely empty. At that very moment, I wanted to fill it up. Not just with any furniture and home accents, but the ones I had imagined in my head or pinned on Pinterest. I didn’t want to furnish our house over time. I wanted to move in and go on a big furniture and accents shopping spree so that every room was filled and complete.

Luckily, Spencer stopped me from doing this. We had savings when we moved in, but that savings was not for new furniture and household items. If I had gone on my big shopping spree, we would have racked up thousands in credit card debt or completely depleted our savings account. After talking with other friends and couples that have moved into their first or new home, it dawned on me that this urge I had to fill up the home was not unique to me.

After that initial urge wore off (when Spencer talked some sense into me), I developed a system for furnishing our home. This system has saved us money and allowed us to fill our home with quality items.

1. Do an inventory.

Take inventory of your home. After we moved in all of the furniture that we owned, I walked through the rooms of the house and took inventory. I wrote down things that I wanted to have like a picture here, a side table there, or a mirror in a specific spot. I also included items that I wanted to replace. For example, I wanted to replace our nightstands. We each had a nightstand, but they didn’t match (in height or color). So I put nightstands on the list. While doing inventory, I tried to balance being happy with things we had vs. always wanting new things. I didn’t leave much off my list because if I was unhappy with the things that we had, I wanted to work those into the furnishing plan. Doing this inventory allowed me to visualize what I wanted in each room for our home for years to come. Not temporary decorations or wall art, but things that I could put on the wall or in the room that would stay there forever.

2. Make a list of things that you want.

During the inventory, I wrote down all the items that I wanted, and all the things I wanted to replace. I consolidated this list and tried to add detail when I could. I didn’t force myself to add too much detail because often things like table accents or wall art are a “I-will-know-what-I-want-when-I-see-it” type of thing. However, I was specific when I knew exactly what I was looking for. For instance, I wanted a trash can in our master bathroom to match the toilet paper basket that we already had in there. So that item was added to the list with extreme specificity.  Additionally, I tried to add size or color information when I could. This allowed me to know better what I am looking for and narrow down my options. Specificity will help because it will keep you from going off track when you are out shopping or browsing online. It will save you from purchasing the wrong item or something that doesn’t work with how you envisioned the room. The main thing to remember for this step is, don’t be skimpy on your list. If you want it, put it on the list.

3. Prioritize your list.

After making the list, you should put the items on the list in order of their priority. For instance, if you don’t have a dining room table to eat on or a couch to sit on, those would be at the top of the list. Also, things that you have but want to replace would be at the bottom of the list. Aside from those suggestions, the order of priority should be based on what items you want to add to your home first. I like to keep this list in my planner so I have it with me when I am out shopping so I know what to keep an eye out for!

4. Purchase items over time.

This is the kicker right here. This is the step that will keep you on track financially and likely save you money. You can’t go out on a big shopping spree, like I wanted to. You have to furnish your home in the confines of the budget you have. Using this system, I look for the next items on the list for our home over a span of months. Often, that means buying the item when it is on sale or when I have a coupon I can use. Additionally, it means that we can save big ticket items for when we have extra cash or receive a gift card. Although I like to focus on the next item on the list, I usually look at the list as a whole so I don’t miss savings on an item farther down the list if a coupon pops up.

Our “shopping” budget is a monthly budget. This means that I evaluate what to buy for our home, if anything, at the beginning of each month. If your shopping or home furnishing budget is a yearly one, I would recommend evaluating what you can buy for your home at least halfway through the year when you have a better idea of what you have spent on other shopping items, such as clothing. There are some months, usually December, where we use our shopping budget largely or completely for other things (i.e. Christmas presents) so I have to wait until the next month. This practice of patience (on my part) allows us to keep our financial goals.

Over the last two and a half years, I have used this system, and it has allowed us to fill our home with long-term, quality items within the confines of our budget. Some months, I am able to buy many items but there have also been stretches of time (which seem like forever) where no household items fit into the shopping budget. When those stretches of time happen, I look back at how long my list used to be and remind myself that eventually all the items will get crossed off! My list is so short these days- hooray!

It means so much to me that I am able to buy things to make our house a home without putting our financial stability at risk. I know it is not the most glamorous and certainly isn’t like what you see on television, but it works.

Try it out and let me know what you think!

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