So you have a new home to fill: Where should you shop?

Moving into a new home can be daunting, especially if you’re also on the market for new furniture for that new home. The good news is that there are plenty of options for saving money, and those options just keep getting better.

guest bedroom/home office
We found this futon at Walmart. Its black faux leather is just the right look for extra seating in a home office. Plus, it lets the room double as a guest bedroom.
  • Ask around. Most people have stuff they don’t use. From surplus silverware and china to old dining sets, if you ask enough friends and relatives, you can cobble together almost an entire household. If you have a trustworthy source, you could go so far as to get a mattress for super cheap. (Maybe even for free!) Though you shouldn’t accept upholstery without first giving it a thorough inspection. After all, your Aunt Marge might have an old sofa that she’ll give you if you’ll just come pick it up, but you might show up for it and realize it smells worse than her ash tray.
  • Go thrifting first. Spend a weekend visiting garage and estate sales, check your local Goodwill, visit flea markets. Any place that sells used items is going to have at least some of what you need for cheaper than if you were to buy it new. But thrift smart. Haggle for a lower price when possible, and don’t buy anything that’s so worn out that it’ll cost more to fix it than to buy the same thing new.

    home office/guest bedroom
    This desk is from IKEA, and the chair–believe it or not–is from Costco!
  • Buy new upholstery. Yes, coffee tables and shelving units are easy to find on the cheap and easy to fix up if they’re a little worn, but couches are a different story. Just like you should always buy mattresses and box-springs new, it’s safer to buy upholstery new. If you’re buying a ratty old thing with plans of re-upholstering, forget it. Unless you know how to do it yourself or know someone who’ll do it for cheap or even free, re-upholstering won’t save you money. Besides, old upholstery is dusty, musty, hard to clean, and possibly full of bedbugs. Safer to buy new for sure.
  • Comparison shop. Where you find the cheapest version of what you’re looking for will depend on what it is you need. Walmart’s furniture selection has gotten trendier over the years, but they still don’t have much beyond futons. Places like Target and Bed Bath & Beyond regularly have sales, but you might have to wade past stuff aimed at college kids to find the classier items. Check TJ Maxx, Marshalls, and HomeGoods for smaller pieces like accent chairs and storage benches as well as decor to tie a room together. Amazon, Overstock.com, and Wayfair have competitive prices, but stick to free shipping to really keep that price low. IKEA is still an excellent place to get everything you need, especially if you browse their as-is section as well as the store itself.

Shelf liners: good for your security deposit

We’ve been seeing some nifty ideas online for affordable shelf liners that make for easy clean-up. Of course, we look at these ideas and think they’re perfect for renters who want an easier time cleaning their rental when it comes time to move out. Here are some of our own tips when it comes to shelf liners:

  • Not just for cabinets, shelf liners are also an excellent idea for your fridge and freezer. We’ve read plenty of online tips suggesting plastic wrap as an excellent liner for fridge shelves. If something spills, you just peel away the soiled plastic wrap and replace it. Now, we imagine that’s a lot messier in practice than it is on paper, but it’s worth a try.
  • Not just for the kitchen: consider lining the shelves of your medicine cabinet and bathroom vanity as well. Do you have shelves in closets or buildt-ins? Line those too!
  • Wax paper is good for lots of things, and with a little double-sided tape, you can use it to line your drawers and cabinets on the cheap.
  • Aluminum foil would be ideal for completely wrapping up a removable shelf. Slide the shelf out of your fridge or cabinet, wrap it up, securing edges with tape if necessary, then slide it back into place.
  • Shelf liners as drip guards. Do you have a fridge with metal grate shelving instead of solid plastic? If you’ve ever spilled something on the top shelf of one of those, you know what a pain it is to empty and clean the whole fridge from top to bottom (though you should do that regularly anyway… not just when your roommate’s flavored coffee creamer takes a tumble and coats everything in a sticky pumpkin spice film). If you wrap the grate shelves, it’ll keep stuff from spilling through to lower levels of the fridge.

You might be wondering how a shelf liner is good for your security deposit. It’s pretty simple, really. When you move out of your apartment, you’ll significantly cut your cleaning time if all you have to do is remove your shelf liners to reveal squeaky clean surfaces beneath.

Fall Festivals galore!

Pittsburgh and the surrounding area is beautiful in autumn, thanks to the changing foliage. Starting later this months, several communities throughout Pittsburgh are celebrating the season with festival fun for all ages. Because there are so many festivals, we’ve curated a list that includes only those with free admission and only those with an explicitly autumnal theme. We also tried to avoid overlapping events, so if you’re a hardcore fan of fall, you could attend every single event on this list, one day at a time.

Pittsburgh in Autumn
In addition to enjoying the gorgeous fall foliage, there are plenty of fall festivals to keep Pittsburgh residents busy throughout the season.
By John [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Most of these festivals offer the same standard entertainments like petting zoos and pumpkin decorating, but the varied locations should offer a nice change of pace.