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Last year, I moved into a one-bedroom apartment in Manhattan. At 28, I was living alone for the first time. It was tremendously exciting, but I also had a problem: I had no furniture. For weeks I slept on an air mattress that would be mostly deflated by the time I woke up.
After almost a decade living with roommates, when everything felt shared and temporary, I longed to make the new space feel like my own. I wanted each item, even my wine glasses, to say something about me.
But I was soon intimidated by the high costs of couches and tables and considered going into debt. Instead, I spent a lot of time wistfully scrolling online through all the beautiful things I couldn’t afford.
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With inflation hitting furniture prices of late, many other people are also likely finding it harder to decorate at a reasonable cost. Household furnishings and supplies were up 10.6% this summer compared with last, according to the consumer price index.
Yet there are ways to creatively use your budget, said Athena Calderone, author of the design book “Live Beautiful.”
“While it can feel really stressful to decorate on a small budget, the good news is that constraints are far from confining,” Calderone told me. “In fact, they’re often the source of true creativity.”
Here are some tips for saving money on furniture, home goods and decor.
1. Know when to splurge and when to save
Elizabeth Herrera, a designer at Decorist, an online interior design company, tells people to tune out the trend cycles and follow their hearts while they’re buying furniture.
“This way they won’t be wanting to redecorate every few years,” Herrera said.
People should also know which items are worth splurging on, she added: “It’s fine to purchase lower-cost, trendy accessories to refresh your space, but keep the larger pieces classic.”
It’s easier to tell when core items, like your couch and dining room table, were cheaply bought, experts say.
This is also the furniture you want to last.
“Think long-term,” said Becki Owens, an interior designer in California. “If you are patient with the process and invest in quality pieces when you can, you will have items that you can build on.”
“I have pieces that are 20 years old in my home.”