Furnish your flat for next to nothing!

We show you how to furnish a new place for well under £300.

Life can certainly pull the rug out from under you. For several years, I lived with my partner in a nice rented flat that we’d made our own. Then - a few weeks ago - I suddenly found myself needing a new place to live… by myself.

I finally stumbled across a little studio flat I was happy with - but my budget was tight, and (circumstances being what they were) a lot of my furniture and home accessories weren’t coming with me.

So, I started investigating how to furnish my new place for as little as possible. If you need to turn a new house into a home on a shoestring, read on!

Step 1: A cunning plan

It’s definitely a good idea to plan ahead. Measuring your space (including door widths) should prevent you wasting time, effort and money getting hold of things that aren’t suitable, or simply won’t fit through the front door.

Check out MyDeco for some home design inspiration. Ignore all the pricey things it suggests you buy, and instead use nifty tools such as the 3D room planner and mood board to work out what sort of items - and colours - will look good in your new place.

Step 2: Before you pay a penny…

You can get a heck of a long way towards furnishing your home without putting your hand in your pocket. Here are some ideas to set you on the right track:

Community freebie sites: Freegle and SnaffleUp are both initiatives dedicated to helping people find something for nothing, and other people recycle things they no longer want.

If you’re in need of a particular piece of furniture, keep an eye on the items offered - or post a ‘wanted’ notice requesting the item required. Just remember to give something back when you can, to keep the whole concept ticking over.

John Fitzsimons highlights the best sites to visit if you fancy a freebie!

‘Free’ sections of other sites: Several more general ‘classified’ sites have sections dedicated to free goods. Browse the ‘freebies’ section of your local Gumtree, or have a look under the ‘free’ tab on your local CraigsList site.

Similar site Preloved doesn’t have a specific section dedicated to freebies - but it’s still worth typing ‘free’ into the search box and seeing what comes up.

Swap what you got! If you already have furniture and home accessories - but they aren’t suitable for your new place - see if you can swap them for things that are.

The Swapz website will allow you to exchange pretty much anything, from furniture and electronic goods to items for the garden.

We are family: Don’t forget to ask family and friends - many people have things lurking in their attics or basements that they’d be happy to give away. Thanks for the spare telly, Dad!

You might even be doing them a favour. These days, you normally have to pay to get the council to take unwanted items away - so if you’re able to shift that bed base or enormous lamp yourself, it could save you both a packet.

Step 3: Cheap shabby chic

You can often pick up good quality, secondhand furniture for less than new, chipboard stuff - and in my experience it lasts a lot longer! Here are some prime spots to bag a bargain:

Charity shops: Emmaus is a charity which specialises in restoring and selling furniture and homeware items donated by members of the public.

There are currently 19 Emmaus communities around the UK, with more in development. You can use this map to find a shop near you. More general charity shops are also worth a look.

House clearance shops and auctions: These often need to shift large amounts of good quality furniture quickly, to make room for the next lot.

You won’t pick up a bargain every time you visit - but you’re bound to after a while, particularly if you’re able to transport the item yourself and avoid delivery charges.

Home improvements don’t usually come cheap, but find out the best ways to pay for them.

Auction and fixed-price websites: You can still find great secondhand homeware bargains on websites such as eBay, eBid, CQout and Amazon Marketplace.

These sort of sites are particularly useful if you’re looking for something very specific and don’t have time to traipse around on foot trying to find it.

Car boots: If you have the time, energy and haggling skills, you can pick up homeware items for next-to-nothing at car boot sales.

Visit right at the beginning to grab the best bits before they go - or pop by in the closing couple of hours, when sellers are so keen to get rid of stuff that they’re practically giving it away.

Use the CarBootJunction website to find a boot sale near you.

Step 4: Clearance bargains

To be sure electrical goods are in full working order, you might prefer to get them from a retailer you recognise.

Clearance auctions from Comet are a good compromise: Items are heavily discounted and in various conditions (end of line, scratched, refurbished, new and so on), but they are all guaranteed to be fully operational and are covered by a six month warranty.

Step 5: When you have to buy new

There are still certain things you’ll want to buy new (‘toilet brush’ springs to mind!). This is where some of the retail giants come up trumps.

Budget homeware specialists like Ikea, Argos and Wilkinson Plus are all worth a look… although I miss Woolworths at times like this.

And it’s also a good idea to check out giants better known for other goods, such as clothes or food: Matalan, ASDA, Tesco and Sainsbury’s now carry a wide range of home accessories, often at rock-bottom prices.

Have you managed to furnish your place on a shoestring? Please leave a comment and let us know how you did it!

More: Six silly ways to ruin your home | Landlords: Lower your costs


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