Wednesday, May 25, 2022
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Nifty and thrifty

On top of your deposit and legal expenses, first time buyers may face the additional problem of having to furnish a home from scratch. Kay Hill looks at ways you can cut costs on furniture and furnishings

If you are moving from furnished rented accommodation or from living with parents, then you might find that you have relatively little in the way of furniture – so how do you furnish all that empty space when you’ve just spent every penny on getting the keys?

The first thing to remember is that you don’t have to get everything perfect right away – prioritise the essentials, like a fridge, a bed and a sofa, and make do and mend elsewhere. If you have moved into a new home, you will usually find that flooring and major appliances are included, which makes life easier

Nothing’s cheaper than free!

Firstly, make the most of what you already have. Think about updating tired childhood furniture with a coat of paint (the Frenchic range is easy to use and works wonders) or buying a new throw for your old student sofa bed. 

Look for free giveaways. It’s surprising what people are willing to donate; a quick look on Facebook Marketplace, with the search word “free” and a distance of 5km, revealed 15 free sofas, a couple of double beds, a handful of wardrobes, bookshelves and coffee tables, a dining room table and two pianos! You might have to factor in the cost of van hire, but you could probably rent a self-drive for the weekend and furnish your home for free. Most towns have recycling/free stuff groups on Facebook you can join, plus check out Freegle and the “freebies” section on Gumtree.

Pre-loved bargains

Charity shops that sell home goods not only have bargain prices, but also sometimes offer free or cheap delivery. Look out for Emmaus (which also sells bargain white goods), British Heart Foundation and the British Red Cross.

Secondhand shops are a mixed bag – the kind which is piled high with stacked up random furniture is likely to be cheap and cheerful, but the swish retro places are best avoided if you’re on a budget.

Auction houses used to be scary to the uninitiated, but a surprising bonus of Covid has been that auctions have moved online, so you don’t have to worry about scratching your nose and buying an antique four-poster by mistake. The Saleroom (the-saleroom.com) gives an overview of local auctions and explains the process, including the fact that the buyer pays fees as well as the seller. For example, if you bought a sofa for £100, you would pay a “buyer’s premium” on top, often around 20%, plus VAT on the premium, so you would actually pay £124. You also have to arrange your own delivery for your purchases.

Don’t forget the old favourites either – eBay, Gumtree, newspaper small ads, supermarket boards, Facebook Marketplace and Preloved.co.uk; plus Craigslist, not as well known as it is in the US, but growing in popularity in the UK.

Nose for a bargain

Compared with a generation ago, new furniture can be surprisingly cheap, especially if you assemble it yourself. As well as IKEA, you might want to check out Dunelm, The Range, Wilko, George Home, Argos, B&Q, Wayfair and DFS – but only when the sale is on, of course! If you have no carpets (or hideous, stained ones), a 2m x 3m rug at IKEA can cost less than £100.

On the never-never?

If only new will do, then it’s worth mentioning finance. DFS, for example, offers an interest-free credit deal which allows you to have your sofa straight away, with no deposit, nothing to pay for a year, then payments spread over three years. This can help you through the difficult first year, but the monthly payments could come as a shock, so make sure you put it in your diary. Any company offering you credit will do a credit check, which will leave a mark on your file, and you could, of course, be declined. Beware of pay-weekly furniture firms – while the payments seem fairly small, the APR can come in at more than 100%.

Credit cards and overdrafts will incur interest, but several new options allow you a short breather on payments free of charge. PayPal credit allows you four months interest-free on payments of more than £99 (but requires a credit check), while if you see Klarna as an option (Made.com and Wayfair both use it), it means you can pay a third up front and the next two instalments monthly, with zero interest (and a soft credit check that won’t show on your file). Similarly, Clearpay, offered by Marks & Spencer, lets you pay in four instalments at two-weekly intervals.

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