You’ve just bought a home, or you’re planning to in the near future. If you’re on a tight budget, but that doesn’t mean you have to sit on milk crates or sleep on a mattress on the floor. It just means you have to get creative about where to shop for new furniture and home essentials. Here are seven great places to shop if you need to furnish your home, leaving some money in the bank for those mortgage payments.

Auction Bargain

If you think auctions are just for those who have money to burn on museum quality pieces, think again. There are a number of auctions out there that cater to a variety of tastes and budgets – including cash-strapped first home buyers. Do some research beforehand by checking the online preview or catalog to see what might pique your interest.

TIP: If you’re eyeing a large furniture piece, such as a sofa or table, remember that you’ll need access to a large vehicle to deliver it to your home.

Garage Sale Finds

As the old saying goes, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Garage sales are a goldmine for small furnishings and accessories, and sometimes larger pieces too. Keep your spring and summer Saturday morning open, and start your search early in the morning to score the best finds. Garage sales are a great place to test your negotiating skills, and remember: cash is king.

TIP: You don’t necessarily have to furnish your entire place with second- and third-hand finds, but when combined with some new items, these will be a budget saver.

Estate Sale Savings

Just bought your first home? You’ll definitely want to keep your eyes peeled for moving and estate sales, where you’ll find some real bargains on big-ticket items. Check your local paper for advertisements of these sales, and arrive early.

TIP: Wear your haggling hat, and don’t be shy to ask for a discount on the price! Remember that these are used items, and the seller is eager to unload.

Antique Store Score

While the word “antique” might have you thinking Victorian furniture and hefty price tags, don’t worry. Just because you come upon an antique store doesn’t mean everything in there is a collectible. Take your time and browse the collection. You just might find that rare gem you have been looking for, at a price you can afford.

TIP: Check back often. Pieces tend to trickle in, and you never know what you might find from day to day.

Resale Shop Stop

Resale shops offer gently used items at discount prices. Take inventory of the resale stores in your area. These should become regular stops while you’re out and about. As with antique stores, you never know what might land on the showroom floor, so visit frequently.

TIP: Get to know the store staff. Advise them of what you are looking for, and ask them to call you when they come across a great find that could work in your home.

Online Options

With the advent of online retail shops, it seems you never have to leave home to satisfy your shopping cravings. There are many online furniture retailers that offer a range of furniture at affordable prices. Many online retailers even offer free shipping. Read customer reviews to ensure you’re boing business with a reputable company.

TIP: Familiarize yourself with their return policy, in case you need to return or exchange your item.

Floor Model Sell-Off

You’ve got lots of options for finding great furniture at discount prices – but that doesn’t mean you can’t find a steal of a deal at your favourite furniture store. Next time you’re browsing around, ask if they sell off floor models or “sold as is” items at reduced prices. This is a great way to get a brand name at a bargain price.

TIP: A couple of pricey pieces go a long way. Save up and buy that brand-name chair or coffee table you love, and pepper these in with bargain finds for an eclectic, trendy look.

Once you have all the functional “core” essentials, infuse some personality and pops of colour into your first home through artwork and accessories. Be creative and choose pieces that help tell your story and reflect your unique character.

It can be easy to get caught up in all the excitement of buying your first home, but remember to keep “things” in perspective – literally. Furniture doesn’t have to be brand new or brand name to do the job. Remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and your first home doesn’t have to be fully furnished right off the bat, either. Take your time, be selective and surround yourself with things you really love. You’re sure to make your place a feel like “home” in no time.

This article was originally published by Toronto Home Shows.