I've had to furnish two houses from scratch, with very little money each time. I also don't love decorating or furniture shopping, so my innate desire is to buy the first set I see at the first store I find. Since that's a recipe for debt and dissatisfaction, I had to figure out a better way.
Here's what I've learned:
1) Set a monthly budget: Remember, you're furnishing an entire house which is going to take time. Before you step inside a store, click on Pinterest or hit up that website, get an understanding of how much you can spend every month, then immediately move on to the next step...
2) Set a room-by-room plan. Your instinct might be to furnish the entire house at once (mine is), but even if you have the money to do so, after settling into the house certain ideas/needs are going to strike you. While you're getting to know your new home, focus on one room that you really need to furnish, then move on to the next. For me it was my bedroom, but since I couldn't afford to buy everything at once I bought the mattress and box-spring, set it on the floor and began to...
3) Request hand-me-downs. I asked family and friends what they were willing to part with and got more than I bargained for. While I was not accepting my grandmother's tea set from 1957, I did take a few of her pots and pans, along with a dresser and chair from my friend who was moving to California, plus silverware and art pieces from my parents.
4) List your needs: Even with the room plan and hand-me-downs, some things cannot wait. I had to buy basics like dishes and cooking utensils, so I hit up The Goodwill Store for some things, Amazon for others, and Costco and Marshalls for the rest (Craigslist is also great). When it was time for big ticket items, I saved until I had enough, searched on sites like Pinterest and Houzz, then set an alert for when it went on sale.
5) Host a housewarming: Please don't have people over with nowhere to sit or eat! Once you've gotten the living room and kitchen to a functional position, invite friends and family over for an afternoon of food, fun and gifts. If asked what you need, gift cards are preferred.
Over the years, I've learned how much money can be saved with patience and having cash on hand, especially when it comes to your home. For more information on decorating on a dime, check this out http://homefreeusa.org/simone-money-magnet-blog/87.
And so it is.