How To Buy Living Room Furniture On A Budget

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Buying Living Room Furniture on $1,000 Or Less

If you're looking to get the most out of your living room furniture without spending a fortune, follow this guide to learn how to furnish your entire living room for under $1,000. While a lower spending limit is possible, a $1,000 budget is more realistic if you're looking for quality furniture that's comfortable, functional and pleasing to the eyes.

Small Budget Living Room Essentials

Start off with this list of essential living room furniture to determine what needs to be purchased first. The items will be arranged from most important, to the least important. Keep in mind, these are only the bare essentials for furnishing a living room:

  1. Sofa ($150 to $500): The sofa is the most defining piece of furniture you'll find in any living room and is almost always the most expensive. For around $150, you can find a futon sofa sleeper, which is a sofa that folds into a bed, at major retailers like Walmart. If you're opting for a real sofa, and not a sofa bed, check Overstock.com for affordable microfiber sofas. Unlike a futon, these sofas should include armrests and thicker back cushioning that you and your guests might find more comfortable.
  2. Floor lamp ($40 to $100): You have this great sofa, but now you're sitting in a pitch-black living room at night. Time to remedy this dilemma with a steel floor lamp for around $40 from Lowe's. Cheaper floor lamps are usually very simplistic in design, and serve their purpose with functionality over form. If you're looking for something a little more unique, you can opt for a Japanese influenced, lantern-style floor lamp for about $100 at The Home Depot. These types of lamps feature shades made of cotton or rice paper with multiple light bulbs.
  3. Coffee table ($100 to $150): A coffee, or cocktail, table is the next essential piece of furniture for your living room. Where else are you going to be able to rest your feet when you're sitting on your comfy, new couch? For around $100, you can get a solid wood coffee table at Amazon.com. While simplistic in design, it serves its purpose with a sleek and modern look, and a beautiful dark finish. If you prefer a glass tabletop, Amazon.com also a carries cocktail tables for $150 that feature a glass top resting above a black, bonded leather base with center shelving space.
  4. Loveseat ($200 to $250): Adding a loveseat to your living room is the finishing touch for completing a basic design plan. This small, two-seater is meant to provide extra seating in your living room. For about $200, you can purchase a faux leather loveseat at KitchenSource.com. The tufted design style and metal frame would match most futon sofa sleepers nicely. For a little under $250, you can get a microfiber loveseat in various colors from CSNStores.com, which might be a good match if you decided to go for a sofa made of microfiber.

Try pairing furniture with similar design styles and colors from this guide to give your living room a more streamlined look. Even if you opt for all the higher priced items, you should still be within the $1,000 budget. Just choose the furniture you prefer, or you can shop around for alternatives now that you have some general price tags to use for reference.

Affordable Living Room Extras

If you have some money to spare after purchasing the essentials for your living room, you can look to spend any extra cash on the following:

  • End tables: $15 to $30
  • Table lamps: $10 to $20
  • Plants: $5 to $15
  • Wall décor: $5 to $20
  • Bookshelf: $30 to $50
  • Table décor: $2 to $10
  • Ottomans: $30 to $50
  • Reclining chair: $50 to $200
  • Small TV: $40 to $150 
  • Home entertainment center: under $1,000

These are items that you can add to your living room over time once you have the available resources.

Small Budget Furniture Tips

  • Go for quality over cost if you can, especially with items that aren't so easily replaced like the living room sofa and loveseat. Like the saying goes, "You pay for what you get." A $150 sofa sounds amazing, but you have to wonder about the quality of materials and construction.
  • When shopping on a budget, you'll find yourself with a lot of items and furniture that might not match. Consider using fabrics and colors to give your living room a more unified look. Sofa and loveseat covers are great for making your furniture match. This is especially useful for when you're buying new furniture to go with some old furniture you might already own.
  • Look around your home and get creative with what you already have. An old trunk can be turned into a coffee table with the right kind of table cover. Throw some fabric over an old filing cabinet and turn it into an end table.
  • Make sure you measure the space you have to work with before you start buying furniture, especially if you have a small living room.
  • If you're ordering online and have no way of physically inspecting the piece of furniture you're ordering, make sure you look for the dimensions of the item to determine if it's the size for you. You'll be surprised how many times people are fooled by how large something looks in an online photo.
  • Some retailers offer package deals to furnish your entire living room. For example, RoomsToGo.com sometimes offers specials like a complete living room set for under $1,000. Often times, these are great deals that not only save you time and money, but also give you a matching furniture set. Just make sure you're getting a good deal by checking and comparing the cost of each individual item at other retailers.

Small Budget Shopping

  • If you're shopping for the large, essential furniture pieces, check out major retailers like Ikea, Walmart or Amazon, and keep an eye out for any sales, specials or promotions.
  • Look for discount codes for online retailers from coupon websites like CouponMountain.com to save on your online orders. You'll find useful codes for free shipping and discounts at checkout, which will come in handy for big purchases like living room furniture.
  • Craigslist and eBay are great places to look for affordable furniture items. The only problem is the limited selection, and you won't always find what you're looking for, or it may be difficult to get the item shipped to you. Use these types of online marketplaces when you're shopping for extra living room items that you don't need right away. That way, you can regularly browse for items you might want and wait for the perfect bargains.

Buying Living Room Furniture on $5,000 Or Less

With a small budget of $1,000, finding the most affordable furniture is your main priority. However, with a bigger budget of $5,000, quality, comfort and design style are things that also need to be considered. Here's a guide to help you design and furnish your entire living room if you have more money to spend.

Big Budget Living Room Essentials

When you're on a tight budget, you only have the means to purchase the bare essentials for your living room. On a big budget of $5,000, you can stretch that list of essential furniture to include extra items to enhance your living room design. Here are the types of furniture you should purchase and the higher end furniture stores you can buy them from.

  1. Sofa ($1,500 to $3,000): With a bigger budget, you have a lot more sofa options available. For example, you can start browsing the different types of sectional sofas at Crate and Barrel. Sectional sofas are larger than the standard sofa, and come with multiple pieces forming an "L," "U" or "S" shape. While sectional sofas often go for $3,000 and up, they eliminate the need for a loveseat or ottoman. If that price is a little too steep for your budget, $1,500 will get you a stylish, standard sofa from Crate and Barrel.
  2. Lighting ($250 to $500): A big budget means you don't have to settle for a simple floor lamp. You can create an entire lighting scheme with track lighting, table lamps and floor lamps at your disposal. You'll find a plethora of lighting options for your living room at Pottery Barn that should cost you no more than $500.
  3. Coffee table ($200 to $400): If you have more money to spend, you can forego the standard coffee table for something with a little more style and functionality. Pier 1 Imports carries an array of coffee tables ranging from $200 to $400 that come with shelving space and are available in wood, wicker or metal frames. Coffee tables with glass tops or pull out drawers are also available.
  4. Loveseat ($800 to $1,000): If you decided to go with a standard sofa from Crate and Barrel, you should also browse their selection of loveseats and mini-sofas. For around $800, you can opt for an armless, microfiber loveseat available in a wide variety of colors. For just a little more money, you can get the same loveseat with armrests for around $1,000.
  5. Armchair ($600 to $900): An armchair is typically found in larger living rooms to provide an additional place to sit for a single person. Pottery Barn carries a large selection of armchairs to suit your living room needs. You can find a swiveling, wicker armchair for $600 for a more casual setting, or you can opt for something a little more elegant like a wingback armchair for around $900.
  6. Ottoman ($400 to $700): An ottoman is an upholstered seat or bench with no arms or backrest; think of it as a type of stool. An ottoman usually accompanies an armchair, providing you and your guests with a place to kick their feet up. Ethan Allen carries a wide variety of ottomans, like a round, polyester ottoman available in various colors and patterns for around $400. A larger ottoman with a tufted design can be purchased for about $700.
  7. End table ($120 to $200): An end table, or accent table, is a great decorative piece to complete your living room design. They are often found beside armchairs or couches and are typically used for table lamps in the living room. Be sure to check out West Elm for their selection of end tables, available from $120 to $200.

If you decide on all the most expensive items, you'll exceed your $5,000 budget. With more money to spend, you have a lot more flexibility and options to choose from, so mix and match the furniture you buy to help fit your budget. For example, you won't really need a loveseat if you decide on a sectional sofa.

Big Budget Living Room Extras

If you haven't used your entire budget after buying all the essential furniture items, consider purchasing some of these items to enhance your living room design:

  • Daybed or chaise: $900 to $1,500
  • Accent pieces (clocks, antiques, etc.): $25 to $100
  • Vases: $30 to $150
  • Wall art: $100 to $500
  • Bookcase (larger than a bookshelf): $300 to $800
  • Large flatscreen HDTV: $700 to $1,000
  • Home entertainment center: $1,000 and up

These items will complete your living room design plan, but aren't essential from the very start. Think about adding each item as you acquire additional funds for your living room budget.

Furniture Tips on a Bigger Budget

With more money to spend on your living room furniture, you'll want to get the highest quality items. A $3,000 sofa should not have defects or signs of poor craftsmanship. Here are some tips to help you shop:

  • Check the frame and cushions of the sofa if possible. You'll want it to be both sturdy and comfortable. At the higher price range, the sofa should have five to six legs in its frame.
  • If you are shopping online and can't physically inspect the item you're buying, make sure you actually read the reviews rather than just looking at the customer rating. Customer reviews might include tidbits of information that might affect your decision. With a bigger budget, you're allowed to nitpick at every last detail.
  • Make sure you know about the fabric you're buying. For example, if the description says "leather-like," then it's not leather.
  • Get as much information as you can on the warranty. Big ticket items like sofas or loveseats should have some type of warranty. Find out who is backing the warranty, and be sure to read the fine print.

Big Budget Shopping

  • While you have the option of shopping at any of the retailers listed in the small budget section, your bigger budget will give you a wider selection of retailers to choose from like the ones mentioned above.
  • A higher price tag doesn't always mean better quality or comfort. Make sure you do your research.
  • Many of the higher end retailers have tools to help you design a living room layout online. Use these tools as a guide, but avoid the temptation of buying everything from one place.
  • When approached by a salesperson at a retail store, be mindful of the fact that most of them work on commission. While they may offer genuine assistance, they can be very good at persuading customers into spending more than they actually intended. Stick to your guns and stay within your budget.
  • Even with a big spending budget, you should still keep an eye out for sales and online promotions. Be a smart shopper and a frugal spender.

Last Updated: August 3, 2011
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About Matthew Cenzon Matthew Cenzon has been writing for numerous publications since 2003, covering topics ranging from health and nutrition to the real estate industry. He is one of the contributing writers for IdealHomeGarden.com, and is a college graduate of the University of California, Riverside, with degrees in English and Asian literature. Matthew’s interest in interior design and home improvement stem from his background working in the residential real estate appraisal business for over five years, where he witnessed many of the Do's and Don'ts of home decor.

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