You’ve scrimped and saved and diligently set aside every last penny to buy your first home and then, in one fell swoop, there goes all the money on the fees and deposit just as you’re about to get to the fun bit.
Here’s an essential step-by-step guide to making your new home your own without overspending.
Measure up meticulously
A laser tape will dull the pain (from around £20 on Amazon).
On a paper plan mark ceiling heights, radiator positions/shapes, windows (including any curtain tracks/poles), recesses, swing of the door, built-in fitments and so on. Make several copies.
Or go with sophisticated online tools (mostly free) for plans and 3D visuals — try SketchUp (sketchup.com), Floorplanner (floorplanner.com) or HomeByMe (home.by.me). DFS, Ikea and Carpetright also do online room planners.
Break down what you have to spend item by item
Stick mostly to your target prices… but be a little flexible. As a first timer you can’t know prices right across the market. And you can’t legislate for bargains unearthed at outlets and sales.
Invest in a sofa and bed, plus a desk, say, and storage and a good rug. Replacements after a couple of years mean spending more in the long run.
Add cheaper accessories from the high street or second-hand shops.
Make a mood board for each room
A starter mood board sets the tone for your room. Add anything that inspires you, from snippets of fabric, to print-outs, postcards, leaves, shells and more. Use paint swatches for colour references.
You can build an “ideabook” on the Houzz site or use Pinterest.
Get expert advice on the cheap
John Lewis, Heal’s, OKA and The Conran Shop all offer free virtual consultations.
An interior designer could maximise space and budget and save you money with trade discounts. Lots listed on Houzz will tackle small jobs.
Online, Topology will redesign a room from £299, or try Homewings or Zoom that Room, which offer brainstorming for half an hour for £35 (zoomthatroom.com; 07807 281956).
Find quality for less
Branded furniture from classy retailers is obviously dearer than in low-price chain stores. But a single piece of cutting-edge design or an authentic modern classic could lift a room, and keep its value.
Some mass-market brands are also starting to care more about quality and longevity. Guarantees at Ikea include 25 years for some kitchens, 10 years for sofa frames and cushions, and 25 years for mattresses and bed bases.
Sainsbury’s Home has high thread count linens and robust cast iron enamelware. Fox & Ivy is Tesco’s posher sister brand, selling chunky stoneware with a robust glaze: £45 for a 12-piece dinner set.
Do it yourself
Be realistic about the work you’re actually equipped to do yourself — if you ruin materials, DIY will no longer be a cost cutter.
Most people can roller-on emulsion (water-based) paints well enough (around five litres for a room but always check coverage).
Emulsion prices vary wildly — from around £19 for 2.5 litres at Dulux to pushing £50 for a designer brand. Wilko has two 2.5 litre cans for £20. Wickes own-brand emulsion is currently cut to £9 and Dulux to £12 (2.5 litres); more reductions are at B&Q.
The “paste-the-wall” type of wallpaper is fairly easy to put up. Hire a pro for such tricky jobs as plastering and ceilings and then finish off yourself.
Hiring someone to sand floorboards will cost around £16 a square metre (floor-sanding-and-sealing.co.uk) then you could do the varnishing.
Get a builder to fit shelves and cupboards in MDF and then do the painting (mybuilder.com has more information on renovation costs).
Many car boots are still going strong and some antique markets are trading outside. Charity shops are cautiously trading again. The British Heart Foundation has second-hand furniture/electrical stores all over London (bhf.org.uk).
Also scour eBay, Gumtree and your local Facebook selling pages.
Re-jig your search terms if nothing is coming up. Buy locally if possible so you can inspect and hopefully collect. Wooden/some metal furniture can be stripped and re-finished (stain, varnish or paint).
Head to the outlets and sales
Luxury brand Andrew Martin is at 29 Deer Park Road, SW19 with furniture, artwork, lighting and accessories plus more online with up to 70 per cent off; andrewmartin.co.uk.
Heal’s outlet is at 124-126 Chiswick High Road, W4 with more bargains on line at heals.com/clearance.
The Conran Shop web outlet, conranshop.co.uk, is best for accessories/gifts.
OKA’s website outlet has silk cushions, ceramics, textiles and furniture at half-price or less; oka.com.
Swoon Editions is the place for ritzy clearance cabinets/velvet chairs; swooneditions.com.
Danish BoConcept regularly sells ex-display furniture at half-price or less with different stock at different branches; boconcept.com.
Vitra, tops for design classics, has a sample sale November 3-27, EC1. Booking essential: vitra.com/saleautumn20.
The Used Kitchen Exchange sells re-purposed and ex-display kitchens; summer clearance now on usedkitchenexchange.co.uk.
B&Q has a sale until November 2 with 20 per cent off wallpapers, three-for-two on Dulux and Farrow & Ball paints, and four-for-three on laminate, tiles, and vinyl flooring; diy.com, plus ongoing clearance.
Wickes is cutting prices on tiles and flooring; wickes.co.uk.
Graham & Brown have low-cost designer wallpaper at B&Q (from £16 a roll); plus reader discount at grahamandbrown.com until 31 October (code ES15)
Lighting at BHS has 20 per cent off until 27 October; bhs.com
Lots of lovely modern furniture by Matthew Hilton, David Irwin et al is in clearance (save up to 60 per cent) on Case Furniture website; casefurniture.com.
At the Futon Company (furniture for small spaces), a sale runs until November 3; futoncompany.co.uk
Black Friday is 27 November with Cyber Monday following on 30 November.
Traditional deals are for electrical, particularly tech (Currys, Dell), or try ao.com for home appliances. There are also toys, jewellery and fashion, and some homewares (try John Lewis, Argos, and Very).
Some brands will be doing daily deals for days, if not weeks, before the main event so be agile with your clicks. Register online and download apps for ongoing alerts.