You got the new house! Now, how to af­ford the fur­ni­ture?

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - REAL ESTATE - By Laura McMullen

Con­grats on sav­ing up for that down pay­ment! And hats off for com­mit­ting to mort­gage payments, home­own­ers in­sur­ance and prop­erty taxes. Now for your re­ward: home sweet, sparsely fur­nished home.

Fur­ni­ture shop­ping may be the last thing you want to do, but it may be nec­es­sary if you moved into a big­ger space or parted with un­wanted goods in that process. Avoid over­spend­ing with these strate­gies.

Stick to cash

Ear­mark­ing sav­ings for fur­ni­ture can help home­own­ers pay for it in cash. And that’s the “ab­so­lute best way” to buy, says

Justin Ni­chols, cer­ti­fied fi­nan­cial plan­ner and di­rec­tor of op­er­a­tions at Gar­rett Plan­ning Net­work. How much to save for fur­ni­ture de­pends on your needs. (More on that later.)

If you al­ready bought the house and didn’t bud­get for fur­ni­ture, do what you can to stick to cash — and live with some open space while you save. “In the big scheme of things, it’s OK for a room to be sparsely ap­pointed or even sit empty for a while as you save to pay cash,” Ni­chols says.

If you can get a credit card with a no-in­ter­est pro­mo­tional pe­riod, and you know you can pay off your pur­chases in that time, that’s the next best op­tion, Ni­chols says. The worst choice? Rent­ing-toown fur­ni­ture, he says.

Pri­or­i­tize pur­chases

Iden­tify and buy what­ever essentials are miss­ing from your new home first. “For­mu­late your strat­egy around your most ur­gent fam­ily needs,” says Dan DiC­lerico, home ex­pert at HomeAdviso­r. Those needs could in­clude a kitchen ta­ble if you never had one in your small apart­ment, for ex­am­ple, or a crib if you’re ex­pect­ing a baby.

Next, shop for a few big, func­tional pieces. “Even if you can’t af­ford to fill the space with fur­ni­ture, adding a large rug will help the space look full,” says Betsy Hel­muth, in­te­rior de­signer and owner of the Af­ford­able In­te­rior De­sign firm. Rugs also pro­tect your floors and serve as a “dec­o­ra­tive state­ment,” she says. Hel­muth rec­om­mends the web­sites RugsUSA and Way­fair for af­ford­able rugs and sug­gests sav­ing money by choos­ing syn­thetic fibers rather than wool.

A sofa, prefer­ably a sec­tional, will also make your home feel fuller — and co­zier, Hel­muth says. She adds that for her, “It’s all about Macy’s” for sofa shop­ping.

In­dulge in af­ford­able ex­tras

If you have cash to spare, buy a few items that are both prac­ti­cal and dec­o­ra­tive. These can make an un­fa­mil­iar house feel like home and show off your style. For ex­am­ple, Hel­muth says, lamps are like “sculp­tures for the room,” and, un­like over­head lights, they “cre­ate cozy pools of light on a hu­man level.” She rec­om­mends Lamp­sPlus.com for in­ex­pen­sive op­tions.

Drapes are an “af­ford­able way to add vis­ual in­ter­est to your walls” and “soften up a space,” Hel­muth says. She also sug­gests hang­ing a few prints, even if they’re place­hold­ers un­til you can af­ford nicer, more ex­pen­sive art. Con­sider paint­ing the walls, too, which “im­me­di­ately in­fuses per­son­al­ity,” Hel­muth says.

Don’t pay full price

You can some­times save a few hun­dred dol­lars by ne­go­ti­at­ing fur­ni­ture prices, DeC­lerico says, par­tic­u­larly on “big-ticket items” like so­fas and ta­bles. At in­de­pen­dent re­tail­ers, he sug­gests men­tion­ing your in­ter­est in sup­port­ing lo­cal busi­nesses when you hag­gle. At big-box stores, you’ll have bet­ter luck re­quest­ing dis­counts on floor mod­els with wear and tear, he says. Take ad­van­tage of price-match­ing, coupons and sea­sonal sales in Jan­uary, July and hol­i­day week­ends too, he adds.

Ware­house clubs like Costco have some “pretty amaz­ing deals,” DiC­lerico says, al­though se­lec­tion may be lim­ited. Fur­ni­ture from thrift stores, as well as Face­book Mar­ket­place, Craigslist and Nextdoor, can also be in­ex­pen­sive.

DAN POW­ERS/THE POST-CRES­CENT 2018

Fur­ni­ture shop­ping may be the last thing you want to do af­ter buy­ing a new home, but it may be nec­es­sary.

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