Since Jeremy and I have only been out of college for a year, we have a pretty tight budget. Jeremy is really wise with our money, so in order to reach long term savings goals and be able to enjoy little pleasures like a beautiful home, I have had to learn how to be wise in my spending.
1. Stay On The Hunt
Good finds are out there, but you have to be willing to stay on the lookout. You might visit a thrift store 5 times over the course of a month, and 4 out of 5 you walk away empty handed, but that one amazing find on your fifth try makes it all worth it. It can be really hit or miss, but you can’t give up after a few misses.
Same goes for online shopping, sale bins, Home Goods, Craigslist and antique stores. I believe beggars can be choosers, but you have to make it a routine to look for good deals. Scroll through Craigslist every few days to see if there is anything interesting. Stop by your local Goodwill on your way home from work every couple of weeks. Roll past the home decor clearance aisle at Target when you are picking up toothpaste. Hunting doesn’t just happen when you are looking for something specific. Sometimes the best finds are those you weren’t looking for at all.
Unlike box stores or expensive furniture stores where you can expect to find something wonderful at each visit, the places that offer the best deals must be hunted.
In addition, make mental notes for the future. Go into that discount lighting store on your lunch break and take a look around even if you aren’t looking for a ceiling light so that when you are looking for a new light for the guest room in a few months, you have made a mental note, and you know exactly where to go.
2. Look For Potential by Knowing What You Love
Some pieces are diamonds in the rough, but others are just rough. It takes time to learn to distinguish between the two. I believe the key to seeing potential is knowing what you love. If you know you love mid-century modern furniture, and you find a great mid-century end table that is painted an ugly shade of purple, you can see that you love the structure and imagine what it would look like painted another color. If you’ve been looking for a two toned coffee table, buy that basic oak table from IKEA and make it your own.
As I have become a follower of many other bloggers and started to pay close attention to styles I love at places like West Elm, Crate & Barrel and Restoration Hardware, it is easier to see potential in things because I notice similarities between a thrift store find and a piece I love at an expensive retailer, so I can fill in the gaps of what it would take to turn the former into the latter.
3. Know When To Invest & When To Pinch Pennies
Some things are worth a splurge. If you can afford it, allow yourself to buy pieces that you really love if you know you can’t make it or find it at a cheaper price. The homes I love the most are a combination of old, DIY, and new.
4. Know the Market
It helps to know what a good price is for something so you can budget accordingly. Do your research and know the market so that you don’t budget way less than is feasible or spend way more than you need. For example, you might set aside $50 in your budget for a couch, but for that price, you will most likely end up with a gross, stained, lumpy, ugly piece of work because it really is nearly impossible to find a couch for $50…unless maybe your Aunt Betty decides to bless you with her old couch. In which case, take it and run. But if not, put that money toward a nicer couch that will last you longer and be a wise purchase.
If you are looking for a kitchen table for four, do your research and find out what your dream table retails for and also what some cheaper alternatives might cost. That way, when you are shopping at an antique store and you see the table of your dreams, you can use wise judgement about whether it is a good buy.
Where you shop often shapes your idea of a “good deal,” so it is important to learn when something is just too expensive. Haven’t you noticed that when you are at Goodwill, a dress for $15 seems like a rip off, but in the mall, a $15 dress would be an unbelievable steal? Same goes for your home. A set of book ends on sale for $75 might seem like an amazing deal at Pottery Barn compared to all the prices you see around it, but you have to remember that you could probably find that same set of book ends for $30 at TJ Maxx. Walk away.
5. Be patient.
You are most likely to splurge when you find yourself in a hurry. Sometimes you are in a hurry. Maybe you have the contractor coming in two days to install that new lighting and you have to pick it out now. In that case, you may have to just go with what you know. But with a lot of smaller purchases, you can take your time and wait for the best deal. This goes along with all the other points, don’t settle for expensive if you think you may be able to find affordable (unless you have the money to do so. In which case, maybe this isn’t the article for you :-)).
I’m preaching to the choir here. Sometimes I get fixated on what I want for a space, and I just buy the first thing I see.
6. Don’t be afraid to buy…if you can return it.
Sometimes when you find something that is crazy amazing, it’s worth forking over the cash if you know you can take it home, try it out, and return it. This doesn’t apply to thrift shopping (although sometimes if something is dirt cheap, it’s worth buying even if you just add a coat of paint and resell at a profit).
I mostly use this method at Home Goods. I probably return almost as much as I buy, but then every time I return something, I buy something else. Oops.
But it does take off some of the financial pressure to know that if you find something you love, you can take it home, try it out, and then return it. Also, I have been known to take home something that is too expensive to see if I like the style, but then I always return it and look for a cheaper alternative…but at least I know that the style is what I want (or don’t want).
In the same breath, always get fabric samples and paint samples before purchasing. You will save yourself a lot of money and stress!
7. Use Your Resources
You are more creative than you give yourself credit for. Spend time on Pinterest, and you will see what all you can do with a can of paint, a tool kit, and some creativity. Google, Pinterest, and HGTV have the potential to make design stars out of all of us. So, have faith in your ability to shop cheap and make your home beautiful, and take advantage of creative friends, the internet, and your local hardware store to make a masterpiece out of your home!