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Opinion: How much should you actually budget for home furniture?

A young couple moving a chair next to moving boxes

If you follow any influencers on Instagram, you’ve probably noticed that they all have beautiful homes that are filled with custom kitchens, neutral tones, accent furniture and pops of colour that match each season. You’ve probably also noticed that you’ve soon after become obsessed with matching their lifestyles. It’s hard to avoid photos of beautifully decorated homes without wondering whether or not you can do the same in your dream home or current property. The only problem? It’s more expensive than you can even imagine and the question remains of how much should you budget for home furniture?

In fact, in the last three months of 2015, Canadians spent $4.49 billion in home furnishing stores. Yeah — you read that right. In just three months. Typically, after buying your first home, you try to furnish it to the best of your ability, considering what you just spent on a down payment and closing costs. Once you finish that, you’re tempted to continually update, decorate and redecorate the home to suit seasonal styles and ideas of what looks and feels like home. However, not everyone is interested in spending an entire paycheque on a couch or an entire mortgage payment on a coffee table. “A comfortable and functional home does not need to consist of expensive furniture,” says Vancouver-based Form Collective partners Josephina Serra and Lauren Webb.

What makes furniture so expensive?

Furniture finishing color samples at a home improvement store

When it comes to the reasoning behind why furniture is so expensive, it seems that materials and construction are the main culprits. According to HGTV, couches are priced based on the type of materials such as fibreboard, which could be made from recycled wood fibres, plywood or hardwood. They also noted that couch cushions, area rugs and curtains are priced based on the fabrics used to make those pieces. Similar to clothes, you get what you pay for when it comes to quality-made products.

“There are actually more options for inexpensive furniture now than ever, but the pieces we are all falling in love with just so happen to be the more premium-priced pieces,” said Serra. IKEA, Wayfair and Structube seem to be top choices for affordable home furnishings and tend to win out due to the convenience of online shopping and door-to-door delivery.

However, shipping large products is never a cheap process. Not only does the material cost play a part in overall cost, but anything that is designed and built overseas will also increase the price. “There is a huge range in furniture from really inexpensive to super high end,” said Webb. But she and her partner continually encourage people to invest in larger pieces that will be used frequently. “If your daily routine consists of coming home from work and sitting on the sofa watching TV, then we recommend selecting a sofa that is comfortable and decent quality.”

How much should you actually budget for furniture for your first home?

Yellow and black furniture for sale in an Ikea showroom.

Rather than go all out and buy everything you need and want at once, it’s always a good idea to consider tackling the most important purchases first. Therefore, designers often recommend that buyers take their time when purchasing furniture. Kim van der Enden of AK Design and Development in Calgary, Alberta, says that most first-time homebuyers tend to want it all now and to complete the interior as fast as they can. As exciting as it can be to make your new home perfect, it’s best to move in and live in the home first. “You’ll have a better feeling for the space and see things with a different eye,” says van der Enden. “You make better choices after living there for a few weeks.”

Statistics Canada found that Canadians spend an average of $935 on furniture each year. If you live in your home for 10 years, that’s nearly $10,000 over time. In reality, it’s unlikely that every single year, you’re spending $935 furnishing your home. However, what this does prove is that we spend quite a lot of years in comparison to others — especially when you buy your first home or move into a new place.

How can you save money to better afford the things you love?

Woman fixing broken chair restoring furniture

After speaking with Form Collective and AK Design and Development, it seemed the same few rules and tips were in place to keep a furniture budget in check. These six ways to save topped my list of key ways to save money on furnishing your first, current or future home:

  1. Research blogs and Pinterest for DIY hacks
  2. Don’t be afraid to buy used or local — consider garage sales, Kijiji, Etsy and Craigslist
  3. Start with larger pieces first and then buy smaller pieces and accent furniture
  4. Measure twice and order once to avoid costly mistakes
  5. List all of the items you want and then create a budget to find your end goal
  6. Once you have the “can’t-live-without” pieces, focus on finishing one room at a time

Another option for anyone who is looking to affordably furnish their home is to seek the advice of a professional. Consider using an online interior design company like Decorist to explain where you can find the perfect furniture without breaking the bank.

Why have I suddenly fallen victim to the interior design obsession

The more that I fall in love with interior design, the more I find myself browsing online sites and window shopping at furniture stores. It’s as if the realization that I may soon become a homeowner has made me realize that I truly do want to splurge on some decorative pieces that others would scoff at. However, it’s come to my attention that it’s best to only splurge on the items that you will get the most use out of.

As van der Enden explained, “the interior furnishings and design have to match the bones of the home” to make your magazine pictures come to fruition and maximize your budget for home furniture. “You will never accomplish a look that you see online from an influencer or in a magazine if your home isn’t in the same style or era.” And if that isn’t advice directed right towards my Instagram, Pinterest and design blog-loving heart, I’m not sure what is. You don’t need to spend it all to have it all when it comes to home design and furniture. Sometimes it pays to be practical and to stick to that handwritten budget, says the girl with the personal finance blog.

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Alyssa Davies

Alyssa is an award-winning personal finance blogger and founder of She writes about being a mom, overcoming personal debts, and how to get away with affording your ridiculously expensive latte habit. A new homeowner, Alyssa brings her real-life knowledge of the Canadian real estate market and smart money matters to this growing brand.