Waiting to Upgrade: How an Ugly Couch Made Our Marriage Better

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photo by MR+G on Flickr

This post is part of a series “Romance to Real Life” which focuses on some of the struggles Doug and I faced when we first got married. (Only seven years ago, or is it eight? Seven I think. Or six.)

When we got married we had very little, and it was weird to see our hand-me-down/thrift furnishings mixed with brand new wedding gifts. What was good enough for college didn’t seem so nice anymore.

Doug and I didn’t like each other’s stuff as we tried to combine it all. My old couch was older than me, but it held my memories of sitting on it while watching Family Ties and the Cosby show, feeling sick with chicken pox, and making forts with the cushions. Doug thought it was too small, and it was. We got rid of that one and kept his couch which had been in someone’s garage before he owned it. It was shabby, not shabby-chic. I think we kept it a year before we decided that having no couch at all was better than owning that one; it was dreadful.

Doug’s twenty-year-old washing machine ate a hole in my brand new white sheets the first week.

The really nice thing we had was a soft new mattress and bedding, plus new kitchen stuff that wouldn’t fit into our tiny rental kitchen.

That first year we were married, we paid off all our debt. We went gung-ho about it, not stopping to buy a throw pillow or a lamp, but I did buy $21 worth of curtains. It was a couple of years into our marriage before we added nicer furniture and decorations, and we did so a little at a time. Anyone can buy a room full of matching furniture all at once down to the matching lamps, but I don’t think that would have solved anything for us.

It takes time to develop the lived-in character of a home that feels comfortable and suits both people.

Yes, we put up with an ugly couch, but that was temporary. Paying off debt soon in our marriage had a deep impact, and it set the standard for how we make our decisions.  By waiting we realized something more important…we don’t really want a house full of furniture after all. I’m not sure what we want, exactly. We’re still deciding. But I could care less about granite countertops.

The last thing I want new couples to be saddled with are big monthly payments for new cars and furniture. Don’t limit your options that way, especially if your cash is limited from buying a home. It’s much easier to add extras later if you want them.

Do you have any stories about things you lived with when you were first getting started that seem funny now?
About Rachel

I write about practical tips that will help you simplify at home. Connect with me on Pinterest and Twitter.


  1. When we first got married, we bought our first apartment.

    We had a tiny TV, and we of course wanted a big monster of one, but we needed every spare dollar to put towards our downpayment and closing costs. Well, after about a year, we finally saved enough to get that TV. We were really proud of it when we did. We didn’t use a credit card to do it. Now that same big hulk of a new TV needs a new $400 bulb, but we’re going to make do until it dies and probably go back to watching that original small TV that worked JUST fine, but was smaller.

    We’d rather put that money towards our goal of saving $20K. Great post.

    Ammie @ Domesticallyobsessed.com´s last post…Social Apps That Rhyme With “Jitter”

  2. Though Adam and I are not married yet, we recently moved in together. I absolutely *loathed* his couch… it was one of those old hand-me-downs, and was probably the hot thing in the early 90′s when his parents bought it, but it was hideous. I really wanted a new couch, but I’m trying to eliminate my debt now… before we get married in a couple years. I resisted the urge to go out and charge a new couch, and instead bought a slipcover and sewed some shams for the pillows. It certainly doesn’t look exactly as I would want it, but I sewed shams for the cushions on my couch, too, and now they match :)

    I think prioritizing and making due until both halves of a relationship are financially stable is incredibly important. It’s all about understanding what really matters– do we want to save up for a downpayment on a house? Perhaps for plane tickets for a tropical destination? Or a piece of furniture? No contest.

    Thanks for the post!

    Tara´s last post…Wrap it up!

  3. Yes, we’re living something similar right now: How our horribly crappy car is making us more patient with each other.
    Hopefully it will be a funny story some day ;)

  4. Wow, I SO agree! My husband and I have had pretty much this philosophy, as well. Although, after we were married about five years we bought a cheap couch, which I now regret because it’s still not what we want. I wish we’d have waited another five years and bought something we liked. We have been married seven years, as well, and our house doesn’t look much different than when we got married! The longer it goes, the less important it seems.

  5. I think we are still living that way (married five years) although we’re starting to decorate the way we want. Small steps. Still have a nasty old couch (but a newborn will certainly add some new stains to it in a few months – so we’ll wait a couple more years). Still drive an old car (which we are almost outgrowing, but it works). We did buy a new mattress a couple of years ago though!

    I’m learning to be content with what we have as we are nearly out of debt.

    I’d love to hear if there are others out there who manage two little ones in a small car (and possibly if they travel a lot too). I just can’t seem to be “okay” with that yet…

    • Me! My husband and I just got rid of our 4Runner (which will save us almost 500 bucks a month) and the two kids (in carseats)and I use my little tiny Saturn. Although it’s tiny (and we really have to plan when we do any big grocery shopping (i.e. take the stroller out the trunk to make room), it’s so worth it right now. I get over 30 mpg and that alone is worth it. Also, we drive back and forth from SC to VA at least once a month back and forth, with a dog, so we’re making do. It’s not the most luxurious travel option, but when I think of the things I can do with my family with the money we’re saving, I’m so thankful to have my “little car.”

      Kimberly´s last post…Woe is me

      • I have three kids (4.5 years, 2.5 years and 9 months) and the entire backseat of our Chevy Impala is full of carseats. Totally full! I would love to have a minivan, but we’re working to pay off our house right now, so unless the car dies, its staying.

        We stay home quite a bit, but I just make it work when we are out, or driving to see family. My oldest is in the middle because she can walk and then I don’t have to lift her in, like the other two. The 2.5 y.o. can climb in herself, but still needs help buckling.

        Whenever go on overnight trips, we just pack things into every nook and cranny of the car. Its helpful that our older kids can sleep in beds, so we only need *one* pack and play. :) We do have a double stroller (a sit and stand that all the kids can ride on if need be) that we use quite a bit when we’re out.

        I think half the battle is getting kids out in the right order (so its peaceful for you) and having a calm and patient attitude while you’re out!

        I understand the frustration, because sometimes, you just feel like you need SPACE. But, be thankful for what you have. As my grandmother would have said, “At least you have a car.” :)

        • Okay, Erin, I have a question for you, as we have two cars with narrowish backseat spaces and two carseats already, and we are due with our third this coming spring. Which carseats do you use? We have the money to buy a new used minivan, but to me, if I could make three carseats fit, then buying a different carseat for one of the older boys would be easier (We will have a 3.5 year old, a 1.5 year old, and a newborn).

          Jenni @ Life from the Roof´s last post…Yes- you can eat steak on a frugal budget

          • I have twins and a little Corolla and I plan on driving it till it dies. I love it!!! We have the Combi Coccoro seats which go 5-40 lbs. You can actually fit 3 across in a compact car. There is even room for a (nimble and flexible) adult between them! Like Kimberly said….I have to think ahead when shopping, but you can cram a surprising amount of stuff into all the nooks and crannies. Something to consider for longer trips is a roof carrier…..helps for things like camping when you need more gear!!

    • We have a two-door 1992 Honda Accord right now that I have two carseats in, and we use it mostly for local drives, but occasionally for the 6.5 hr trip down to southern California to see family. It’s not the most comfortable thing in the world for the longer trip, but then again, I think our kids would complain even if they were strapped into carseats for 6.5 hours in a nice minivan too.

      I thought I would hate using a 2-door car for getting my kids in and out, but surprisingly, it’s easier than loading them into the SUV my husband has, because it’s lower to the ground and my 3 year old can get in on his own and climb into the carseat. In general, I think traveling in a car, whatever kind of car it is, with little ones is cumbersome because of carseats. Just can’t throw them in the backseat like our parents used to do in the good old days :). We live in a walkable area close to grocery stores, etc, so I try to walk them in the stroller as much as possible v. doing the carseat thing.

      Jenni @ Life from the Roof´s last post…Yes- you can eat steak on a frugal budget

  6. Such great advice

    My husband and I paid off $40,000. in student loan / my credit card debt in our first two years of marriage. When we went debt free we found that we enjoyed the level that we lived at and kept on saving.

    Frugality at the beginning builds opportunities for greater understanding of our actual needs and abilities. It opens doors to living a different kind of life.

    • I am so interested to know some of the ways you managed to do this! Please share! I am cutting corners and cutting back, but I do not feel like I making much progress.

  7. Aaah couches!!! After se7en years we moved from a furnished rental to our own home – with no furniture!!! My mom in-law moved in after a week and we didn’t own a single chair… we sat on packing boxes!!! We took a month and bought a couch… we never liked it!!! She sat on it and we sat on packing cases… She moved to her own home and we had several kids – or we had several kids and she sought some sanity!!! Anyway twelve years later we could stand it no more and we relegated it to the outdoors (where it is perfect – for collapsing and summering!!!) (http://www.se7en.org.za/2009/12/27/saturday-spot-se7ens-survival-of-the-season-spot) and we finally bought our own fabulous leather couch!!! It took 18 years of marriage to get the couch we liked!!! And it changed our whole family dynamic because finally there is a place for everyone to sit and now we all sit around in our lounge – that we never ever went into before – and read and and chat and watch the odd movie, it’s just lovely!!! Eighteen years!!!

    se7en´s last post…Sunday Snippet- ESV Study Bible GiveAway – Winner…

    • Angie Pearl says:

      We are going on eleven years and still have hand me downs. One thing I have noticed is that taking our time to find antiques will probably be the way to go as most things seem to be made of particleboard now. Also we have young kids so they will ruin nice furniture. We are on our second set of hand me down living room furniture and we just use slip covers which can be washed.
      I do remember a funny story from right after we got married, we moved to Dayton and had to have new mattreses. My husband couldn’t take the little dip in the middle of my old ones. We ended up moving with no mattresses and slept on the floor for a week and a half waiting for the new ones to come in.

  8. Oh, I love this post–especially because I’m in the newlywed stage myself still, with our hand-me-down couch (although we have a nice couch cover that hides the 1950s floral print beneath!). It is very difficult for me at times to see all that my other friends have–the nice house, the perfectly decorated living rooms and pieced-together decor–and not be discontent about it. But I know that we have as much as we need and that we’re called to being wise with our resources, not to impress others! It’s humbling, but I know it’s good for us. Thanks for this reminder and the encouragement!

    carmen @ life blessons´s last post…Homemade Chewy Granola Bar Recipe

  9. That’s funny, we are the opposite! We needed a new couch when we moved in together. 4 dogs, two adults, and a teenager just weren’t fitting on the little sofa.

    Now we have added to our family with two more babies… When I relax on our dark brown leather couch- that the whole family can sit and fit on, I LOVE IT. It wipes clean and doesn’t show messes.

    I searched on craigslist for a while looking before I bought it brand new. We just never found the right one. I almost always buy used off CL- but our couch- brand new… And everytime I use it, I’m so thankful for it.

  10. Such good stuff Rachel. As newlyweds we lived very frugally with much mix matched furniture, household goods and stuff. Damien had just graduated from University and I will still going to school (I was just 20 yrs old). We didn’t pay off all our debts till 9 years later though.

    Lots of funny stories but no time to share them :)

    As far as couches, though I’ve always wanted a beautiful leather couch we still have a futon, a replacement for the one we bought when we got married. It doubles as a guest bed and looks like it will last us many years to come (it’s fairly good quality).

  11. Thanks for being a refreshing voice in blogland. I couldn’t agree more, and reading it in the midst of all the decorating blogs in my reader makes a big impression.

  12. Okay, it is seriously scary how close your posts get to my life.

    Just last night, I was rather emphatically explaining to my husband our dire need for a new couch. Our current couch (and by couch, I mean one-cushion loveseat) was a hand-me-down from my grandmother. I absolutely love it. It is old fashioned and really pretty, and though it desperately needs to be re-upholstered, it was a perfect fit in our first small apartment.

    But now that we live in a bigger space and have a lot more income, I’m getting a little tired of having nowhere to cuddle or relax after a long day.

    Now, you have reminded me that I promised Travis we would only buy a couch after we finished paying our car off. I guess I should thank you. Travis definitely will. But maybe you could make it up to me by sending me a new couch? :)

  13. Stephanie says:

    I agree. Our first year of marriage we paid off my student loan debt, We put up with ugly furniture, and lived in a not so nice area of town. It was worth it. We bought our first house the next year with a payment we could afford because we had been saving for the downpayment. We also had been wisely counseled pre-marriage to live on one income (not both). We knew we wanted kids and would want me to stay home with them. We were used to living on one income when that time came and the transition was easy.

    • Oh yes, I couldn’t agree more. After we paid off the debt we started living off Doug’s income so in a couple of years I stayed home with our new baby.

  14. We, um, took a couch from the alley next to us (it’s like a free city recycling program). After a year, it went back to the alley. While it was a great couch at the time, we now realize we probably shouldn’t take cushiony things from alleys because of Chicago’s bed bug problem… Oh well, live and learn. :-) (We still have our $12 double papasan chair, though. Fantastic yard sale buy.)

  15. Thank you for your post!
    We just bought an apartment, and all our savings went to the down payment and closing fees. We decided to put a bigger down payment to save on interest and loan insurance, but now I am here, looking at the futon I’ve had since my first student rental, and the empty dishwasher hole in the kitchen…
    I’m dreaming of an actual couch (and a dishwasher), but I dread debts, too. I see all my friends credit-buying new furniture when they buy a house or condo, so it’s good to see that at least some other people do wait instead of getting more debts.

  16. Doug's Mom says:

    Funny how couches can teach life lessons. After living in furnished apts. we bought our first couch. We were very proud. It was covered with a thin knobby material that wore out in six months, was bright red, 6 feet long with slate-covered 2 foot end tables attached to the frame. Looked great in that house. We were in the air force, moved six months later and again and again. Watching the struggle to get it in and out (all ten feet of it) and finding a wall to hold it, well….The old carpenter’s addage comes to mind, measure twice, cut once. Think before you spend!

  17. Oh brother…this could be an ongoing post with the stuff we had! I mainly remember our first bed frame was a wooden one that Hubby built. It was sturdy but, it is no surprise we both had terrible back problems in those early years! :)

    Paula@Simply Sandwich´s last post…Ice- Ice Baby!!

  18. Ooh where to start? lol!
    I had gone ahead and bought Craigslist and Ikea furniture for my own apartment before we got married (even though everyone told me not to since I would be married soon, humph!), and it turns out everything in Matt’s apartment belonged to his roommates so it worked out!

    We got a nice new memory foam mattress, but lacking the funds for a bedframe or boxspring we had to sleep on the mattress on the floor for the first few months. When we finally did get a boxspring and bedframe and turned the bed up on the wall to assemble everything, we saw the bottom of the mattress was covered in MOLD!!!

    We lived in Ocean Beach, San Diego at the time where it is perpetually damp from the sea air, and not letting the mattress breathe resulted in some moldy nastiness!

    Three years later we’re still using that second hand boxspring and frame…I’m still waiting for the day we’ll actually have a real bed with a headboard!!!

    Kait Palmer´s last post…Win An Apron!

  19. Ah, yes. We lived very bare bones the first 1 1/2 years of our marriage. The first 7 months we lived in a furnished house free of charge thanks to our generous pastor. Then we bought a fixer upper and determined to do all the work and buy our furnishings without going into debt.

    I think for the first year after we moved in we used a card table and chairs as dining room furniture. We also had no living room furniture for a long time…just used camp chairs. Oh, and our mattress lay directly on the floor for a while and we had our clothing organized in suitcases.

    Some people thought we were weird and it wasn’t all glamorous by any means, but we are so thankful to have a mostly furnished house now, 4 years later, and no debt other than a little bit of house mortgage.

    Oh, and the feeling of knowing you paid for stuff free and clear is incredible. I am convinced it makes you value the stuff you do have even more!

    Lydia´s last post…Free Sample- Stayfree

  20. After 30 years of marriage I have learned not to waste money buying expensive furniture for several reasons: you will inevitably move, the furniture gets banged up and sometimes costs so much to move that it’s better to give it away or sell it and get something else in your new place; kids and pets will bang into it, knock it over, spill stuff on it, throw up on it and it will break your heart; your taste will change as decorating trends change and the sofa you loved will become the sofa you now hate. Get stuff that you like (not love) and can pay for in cash.

    • Karen (Scotland) says:

      I have to say I agree wholeheartedly with this. I love the idea of buying quality and lifelong pieces of furniture but the reality is that life is too destructive! We bought one thing made of actual wood (as opposed to veneer) and my daughter scratched it with scissors within a week. I actually felt my eyes well up slightly before I thought “Get a grip, at least it wasn’t her eyes or gut she scratched.”
      But, yes, I don’t feel our family “deserves” anything expensive. :-)

  21. We made the foolish mistake of buying a bunch of furniture on credit when we were married- 16 years ago. Thankfully, we aren’t still carrying that debt but it took a long time to get rid of it! Some of the pieces we still own and others were worn out long before the bills were paid. Wish I had followed this advice long ago.

  22. Our couch is one of the purchases I most regret in our 5 year marriage. We bought the microsuede chaise on the side, and it fit perfectly in our living room! We put our house on the market 2 months later . . . so now in our home it looks awkward . . . and I found out that the expensive handstitched upholstery was only dry clean-able when the stain-guard wore off the same time our first child began walking. I thought (because I had been “told”) that purchasing a “quality” piece in a neutral color would be the “foundation” for our living room over the years. Now I know the people who live in our room are the foundation!

    Laura´s last post…So- whats happening now

  23. My husband’s old beater car was stolen shortly after we were married. We went over a year before replacing it, and lived with just having one car. Neither of our cars are fancy or very new, but going without one for so long has made me SO GRATEFUL to have two cars that run now. I used to wish I could have a fancy BMW like my older brother, but now I look at our 10 year old Mazda, and am so happy to have it, I don’t care at all that it isn’t fast, doesn’t have navigation, etc… Every time I look out our window and see 2 cars, I smile and thank the Lord for blessing us with everything we need.

  24. My dad had this saying: “A poor man can’t buy cheap things.” My husband and I have been married 34 years and I can’t tell you how many times we’ve said that to each other! Not that you have to break the bank to buy things – but you had better be sure the thing is absolutely what you need/want and will last. We waited over ten years before we bought bedroom furniture for ourselves. We finally found (and could afford) exactly what we wanted and everytime I look at it I am thankful for the patience that old saying taught us.

  25. Denise C. says:

    My husband & I lived together for 4 years before getting married. One time during those 4 years, we lived in separate apartments (needed some time apart, though we saw each other daily.) A friend, of a friend, of a friend through my husband, had some metal “pipe” furniture. Basically you stick the pipes together & get a sofa. It was cheap, ugly as sin, but it worked as a place for me to sit (I had no money to buy a sofa). I also slept on the floor, because I could not afford a bed. Looking back those 6 months living on my own, I built character & have learned to never, ever take anything for granted. :)

  26. Niki Blake says:

    Your story is basically ours. We kept old ugly hand-me-downs when we were first married also….determined to pay off our debt. Besides that, we couldn’t afford anything else…..except food, bills, etc…..the basics. We did go ALL OUT and buy (finance) a 300 dollar daybed that we used as a couch….mauve, light blue pillows (remember?) adorning the back (got them at Wal-mart on sale!) and used a quilt we received as a wedding gift to cover it. We LOVED it and paid it off quickly with no interest. We laugh now that we had to finance it! We thought at times that we wished we had a well-furnished apt. like so many of our friends, but we just couldn’t do it. We would have “bring your own meat” parties when we grilled out with friends. No one cared b/c we were all pretty much in the same boat. Looking back, those were simple times with great memories. I LOVE sharing all these memories with our boys so that they know what is REALLY impt. when beginning their new life, whether that be out of college, just getting married, whatever. :) Thanks for the walk down memory lane! :)

  27. The first six years of our marriage my husband and I rented two semi-furnished houses in England. In a strange twist of fate, my husband’s dear auntie died just a month or so before we were married, so we inherited some of her stuff (lucky for us, but we were sad to have lost her too). My in-laws bought us a nice double bed for a wedding present which we used until we moved back to America (too expensive to ship so we donated it to a worthy cause).

    When we moved back to America (and purchased our first house), we finally bought all new furniture for the first time ever. I’m lucky that my husband’s generous income was able to provide us this opportunity, but I never once minded using second hand things or borrowed items. In fact, I kind of miss those days of innocence living in tight quarters, but always having enough storage space.

    Last year we bought a new Tempurpedic mattress and were able to give our 5 year old mattress to my sister who is quite happy with it, so everyone won there.

    Cindy May´s last post…The Dancing Hares

  28. I could go on and on as this post brought back many memories. But, I’ll just say this, we’ve been married 10 years. The first few years we had our 13in TV on a milk crate that was covered in a tie dye tapestry. We also had a futon that was sitting on bricks. We used foldable purple lawn chairs in the dining room and had one chair from Ikea. We lived like that for a while. Funny…time sure changes things. Now I have too much. A 3 bedroom house filled to the brim with furniture and things. I have learned many lessons, and the biggie is, no matter how much stuff you acquire it’s always the little things that count!

  29. I felt so proud when reading your post – a personal confirmation that we are on the path to a simple and happy life!

    My husband and I have been married for 10 months and just celebrated paying off our last piece of debt. We are lucky in that we probably could afford to buy some of the “wants” in our life, but luckily we both enjoy saving money for something bigger. Our hand-me-down tweed couch with a small hole in the front (which drives my mother in law crazy) is perfectly good for us!

    When we first got married, I finished furnishing our apartment with $90 worth of craigslist furniture – with a $6 can of stain, I dont feel like we need to upgrade for at least a few years. Thanks for your post, it is good to be reminded that what we have is good enough and we are blessed to have it!

  30. Great post. My boyfriend and are not living together, but when I recently moved, I saved up and bought my first new couch ever. But I think I was smart…because I took him shopping with me and he helped me pick it out. Because I hate his. :)

  31. My husband and I day-dream about the couch we’ll buy when are kids are grown and out of the house and our much-loved-but-destructive weimeraner passes on. It’ll have a tufted back with velvety upholstery. Our kids are 4, 1, and one one the way, so until then, we’ve lowered our standards… but some day…

  32. Our story is a variation on the theme. When my then-boyfriend-now-husband and I started dating, my income and standard of living were much much higher than his. I was earning 3x his income and had lots of savings and no debt, whereas he had school loan debt and no savings.

    It would have been easy for me to just spend more money and inflate his lifestyle to meet my own, but we didn’t. Instead, as we built our life together my lifestyle “deflated” and his only slightly inflated. We didn’t go to rock concerts every week like I used to. We didn’t eat out at fancy restaurants on a whim, but saved those outings for special occasions. We didn’t get a bigger apartment when he moved in, but instead stayed in my small one bedroom apartment until we needed more room (hello baby!).

    This has had some huge benefits. We paid off his student loans right away with my savings, so as a couple we’ve always been debt free. We banked his income from day 1 and live off of only mine. When we had a baby he quit work and is a stay-at-home dad, and we’re still saving money every month. In fact, we may be saving more money as a family of 3 with one income than I was when I was single.

    Having a family to support and goals for our long term life together makes it much easier to evaluate spending decisions with a long term lens.

  33. we’ve been married just over a year, but have lived like this as long as we’ve each had apartments. the only pieces of furniture we bought new are some ikea bookshelves and our mattress and boxspring (which were our wedding gift from his parents). everything else is thrifted, craigslisted or curbed (oh, and one piece that i built). we were students when we got married and combined households (undergrad for me, grad for him) and i’m still a student now (med), so although we have a slightly bigger place and he has a cushy “real” job, we still live a student lifestyle. we’ve always valued experiences more than possessions, and keeping that mindset–as well as making a point to have things that meet your needs, so you’re not constantly dissatisfied and replacing them–helps us to do just fine. =)

    katie´s last post…moving on up

  34. Newlywed furniture: lawn chair and butterfly chair

    Married 2 years furniture: hand-me-down futon whose mattress slid to the floor as the night wore on. I HATED that thing, but we were both in school and felt like we shouldn’t live beyond our means.

    Married 7 years furniture: Finally bought our first couch for $450 off Craigslist. I was in heaven.

    Married 9 years furniture: Bigger apartment with a basement tv room, but no couch for that room – we made do by sitting on the floor.

    Married 10 years furniture: I’m 8 months pregnant and sick of sitting on the floor to watch tv. Last month, I insisted on buying a cute $300 couch off Craigslist. Yeah for a comfortable place to lounge!

    Especially as a newlywed, it was like torture to visit my friend’s homes and see their nicely decorated rooms. I would come home and cry and be frustrated at our financial situation. But, I’ve had to learn to accept where I’m at and be happy with my blessings, even if they seem slow to arrive. We are currently snowballing our student loans and next in line is saving for a down payment for a house. We’re making progress.

  35. We bought our first new piece of furniture (a matress) this summer and we’ve been married 11 years! On other hand, we entered marriage completely debt free and stayed that way for five years and now we have a huge (& demanding I might say) mortgage. The biggest thing I’ve learned is that when you are debt free you are very careful with your money. When you owe, owe, owe, very sadly it becomes easy to spend money you don’t have. What’s another little debt added to the huge one, etc. etc. Oh dear….

  36. We have the same Cargo loveseat and chair as we did since 1999. It went through a flood and two moves and we still have them. Because I am cheap beyond words, I will not look at another piece of furniture for the next 20 years. It is still wonderful to sit on and look at. I have made covers for the seats to prevent spills and cat hair from getting into the cushions and think about how much money we have saved by not buying furniture on a whim. The dining table went throuhg the same flood; we restored the furniture since it is wood and still use it. A penny saved is dollars earned.

  37. Alexandria says:

    I’ve never understood why “buying a home” was “so expensive to furnish.”

    We’ve been in our current home (twice as big as our last), for about 9 years. Over the years we have slowly added furniture and drapes. Many rooms sat empty for many years, and would have for many more if not for all the freebies and hand-me-downs. Last year was triumphant when I finally found the perfect curtains for the room with the high ceilings. What was before going to have to be a custom purchase, became standard size during the boom (I suppose). I like how it didn’t happen all at once – our home becoming a HOME.

    When we bought our first home, we eventually bought a couch, coffee table, and a nice TV – not all at once (a bedroom set was gifted to us, and we had a hodge podge of other items from our single days). In this home we were given an old formal dining set. Over the years we bought furniture for the kids (as they arrived), a living room couch and some theater seating. The kids also have some of our old furniture, of course.

    We have never borrowed for anything but our mortgage. Sometimes I dream of having enough cash to buy some really nice furniture. Most of the time, I really don’t see the point.

    IT’s a matter of priority. At face value many people would think maybe we were depriving oursleves too much. My dh’s dream was a movie theater in the home (which we have) and I love my granite countertops, personally. But these things seem much more useful/functional to us than a new couch or a shiny new dining set.

  38. Sigh. I really want some newer furniture. But it’s days like today, where a friend’s daughter whom I was watching came in and said that she accidentally forgot to leave the non-washable marker in the kitchen, and that my three year old had colored our ottoman. Thankfully, it was the $10 ottoman that I scored at a flea market, and doubly thankfully, it was a light yellow marker that washed off fairly easily. But my goodness, my heart stopped at first because we also had an ottoman in that living room that was a beautiful Pottery Barn purchase off of Craigslist.

    Jenni @ Life from the Roof´s last post…Yes- you can eat steak on a frugal budget

  39. We didn’t have debt when we got married but we were both students and paying as we went and so we didn’t have ANY extra money either. My husband and I were just laughing last night about how we collected our collection of furniture. Our couch a friend found on the side of the road as he ran his garbage route. It was pretty covered in dog hair but I painstakingly cleaned it up and we used it for 10 years or so. Most of our furniture was second hand and given to us by friends. We have just begun to start replacing it after nearly 13 years of marriage but I am not sorry a bit.

    With a little scratch cover, recovering and making slipcovers it has served us well!

    abbi´s last post…Have a Handmade Christmas Carnival coming soon! Please join me

  40. Alexandria says:

    P.S. I was focusing on material thing in my post. After reading other comments, I had to add that the non-material benefits are even greater – more time for our kids, etc. Agreed!

  41. This post reminds me of something I wish I had known when my husband I first married: Wait till you’re settled down to buy real furniture. In the meantime, use the old couch …

    In my experience, newly married couples tend to not stay in the same place for long. So the stuff they buy may match the layout and size of their current home, but it may not fit the layout and size in their next home.

    Plus, the more furniture they have, the more stuff they have to move.

    The nicer the stuff is, the more obligated they feel to have to move it.

    And the bigger furniture they have, the bigger their truck has to be. We had to get a larger truck only because the smaller one would have been to small for our king-sized bed.

    So my advice to newly married couples is to keep it simple!

  42. Such good advice!!!

    We have been married 25 years now, but I still remember our “hand-me-down” furniture. We used it for years!! But, it was worth it!! Now we have what we like and have the money to replace it when we need to! It is always better to wait!!! It teaches such appreciation for the nicer things.

    Our oldest daughter is married now, and they are completely debt free, buying their first house, and have a huge down payment saved up. She called me from a garage sale this morning where she had found two really nice chairs for $10 a piece for their new house. I love it!!!

    I Live in an Antbed´s last post…Audie &amp Marlene

  43. Hallelujah and Amen! Seriously, I wish more younger people would read this blog and follow your advice. I too have followed this path and life is better for it. This year I bought a proper couch for the first time! Yes, friends said I lived like a refugee, but it was worth it… waiting is a good thing!

    angelvalerie´s last post…work flow…

  44. ..I should add, I turned 40 this year!

    angelvalerie´s last post…work flow…

  45. Oh, I love this post. When my ex and I were first married, we didn’t have anything. He was still in school and I was starting my first year of teaching. He bought our kitchen table at an auction – think metal and laminate. A friend’s father gave us 4 chairs that were damaged. They slowly came apart that first year. Our living room couch was a fake wicker sectional that had been in my parents’ basement. He wired it together so visitors wouldn’t fall through. TV with rabbit ears sat on shelves made with lumber and cinder blocks. We bought our bed at an auction for $15 and refinished it.
    Ex now lives in a beautiful home, jokingly referred to as South Fork by some of my friends. I live in a large home myself. They’re both paid for. That early frugality paid off.

  46. We’ve been married 5 years now and we’re still in the process of decorating and furnishing. Am so glad you talked about matchy-matchy furniture because I used to feel so weird combining bits and pieces of items when all my friends were buying coordinated sets. Guess, am not alone:-)

    Prerna´s last post…Being a Writer- What Tough Times Can Teach You A Guest Post on No Job For Mom

  47. I’m glad you wrote about this because it’s definitely something that newly married people need to hear (but for some reason aren’t often told). We got this advice too late and are now trying to get things on track.

  48. I grew up in apartments with boxes for tables and mattresses for couches. I was well loved and cared for but they lack of “things” made me Want. It’s a tough thing. While my spouse and I were doing grad school, we has very little but so much more than I had as a child. The result was my Want for things and my guilt for Wanting. I would compromise, or so I thought, by getting cheaper ( in price and quality) stuff… often that didn’t fit for what I was trying to do. Not merely furniture but also small things. This is a big problem for me by far. I want so much to be good that I often screw up and end up being wasteful. What bugs me even more is that I don’t know how to teach Simplicity for the joy if it to my kids….. where is the equilibrium? How do we balance between my upbringing where everything we owned fit into gutted chevy van until I was 12 and the ideal? Do I give my kids what they want so they don’t Want? Or would that overprivelage them?

  49. I think many of us are right back where we started, only we have kids and college and a mortgage this time. It’s not the cute, “We’re poor, honey, but we still got love!”. We’re back to a crappy couch we can’t replace, repairs on our 20-year-old cars we can’t afford, and enjoying beans ‘n’ wienies, saying, “Mr. Obama, is this my new reality?” In spite of it, we’re happy and grateful, knowing there’s only One Thing really needed, and it can’t be taxed or taken away from us.

  50. This is our 12th year of marriage. When we starting out, we had a small 1 bedroom apt. We got many cash gifts when we married and were able to outfit our apt with all new things. Then, we were called to the mission field and ended up selling all our new things. We spent 8 yrs overseas and came back to the States in 2007. Once again, we paired down to the basics but did ship some furniture back with us. Still, starting over in your mid 30’s is challenging and you can’t just get all new things at once or even all the things you want. We “make due” with having rooms not decorated or as we would like. I struggle at times with wanting our home to look like a page out of Pottery Barn, but that isn’t reasonable financially. As much as I want to get rid of old carpet and decorate the kid’s rooms they way they want them, I sort of like not having so much stuff. I never want to be one of those people who is concerned about their new cabinets, counters, flooring, cars, vacations, and etc… I like simplicity and being unbound to my possessions. You never know when you may have to sell it all and go anyway. Plus, in my experience, I have seen how most of the world really lives and comparatively I have nothing to want. I think most discontent comes from trying to keep up with everyone else. I agree with others in that the early years with kids will ruin all your stuff, so just wait.

    • Us, too, Kim. :) Not overseas, but three big moves. Yes, it’s nice not to have to worry about ‘keeping up with the Jones’s’, because we just can’t! I’ve learned to love simplicity. :)

  51. We bought a new sleeper sofa for our new apartment right away so that my parents could stay with us when they visited. But that was it. Our chairs were folding beach chairs. Our TV rested on the small dresser in which my husband kept his socks. We used an old milk crate as a coffee table.

    Emily from ReadyToWait.com´s last post…The gondola

  52. We have been married for 23 years, and have never owned a new couch. We get people’s hand-me-downs when they upgrade to a new one. I used to really long for a brand-new, never-been-used couch, but it’s not such a big deal anymore. I’d rather travel with that money. :)

    For the first year we were married, we were remodeling a 100-year old house. We only had a microwave, electric skillet and toaster to cook with. We went through the acquiring phase of life, and now I am trying to pare down and live with only what we actually use and need.

  53. Hubby and I have been married 29 years. Married VERY YOUNG (translated-NO MONEY!) Lived with his folks a while. When we got our first rental apartment, hubby worked at a stryofoam cup manufacturer. We could have all the cases of cups we wanted (printing errors). Our couch we got off the side of the road, but our end tables and night stands and coffee table were cardboard boxes of stryo cups! We even found a certain size box that fit in our hallway to serve as a baby gate to the kitchen!
    Those were the days!
    This is my first time here, think I will take a peak around!

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  54. I think there should be a magazine of “real” homes like these. It would be such an encouragement to folks who are getting by and trying not to envy their neighbors for all their beautiful (financed) furniture. There are lots of ways to make a place homey, including building the relationships that hold it together.

  55. Definitely can relate.

    We just finished 5 years of school and moved cross-country with our two kids, my pregnant self, and our sedan packed full of stuff. We couldn’t afford a moving van, so we had to part with our couches (both given to us for free) and most of our stuff. We kept a table and chairs that folded down almost flat, and two IKEA PELLO chairs. And an air mattress.

    We’ve been given a bed, and a desk, and twin mattresses for the boys. But we just make do.

    Some day there will be money (we’re in a PhD program right now), but when there’s not you can’t very well spend it, now can you? I’d like a couch, but for now we’re happy. Although reading books on the floor is getting to me!

    We ended up with a minivan last week, but only serendipitously–and we made money off the trade. It’s a bit easier, there’s more space, but quit kidding yourselves ladies–it doesn’t take any less time to pack three kids into a minivan than it does into a sedan. There are a few advantages, but nothing worth going into debt for!

  56. I liked this! We had hand-me-down furnture for 6 years before slowly replacing many of them. The funny thing is, by then, we had children; so we wanted family-friendly furniture and we had learned not to care if furniture was new or old-rather whether we *liked* it and it was *comfy*. We still have my husband’s old bedroom furiture, which is not what I’d chose, but it is nice, and I don’t mind-since we did get a new mattress and sheets when we got married. :) We have found that what actually works best for us is to buy used furniture and make it our own or to just make our own. Our table, chairs, sofa, armoire, cabinets and children’s dressers are all used. Most of them are solid wood, and we refinished them beautifully! My husband built simple beds for the children, bookshelves and a toy bench. This way, we have higher quality sturdy wood furniture than we can find in most stores, and a gorgeous leather sectional we got for $200 that was so worth the wait!

  57. I love this post because it’s exactly where my husband and I are. After 4 years of marriage, we still have a couch I wouldn’t mind getting rid of. But because we can’t afford a new one, that will have to wait. I’m glad I’m not alone.

  58. Rachel,

    This is so inspiring! I was curious as in how couch made your marriage better! Having money savvy always helps in any relationship, be it marriage, siblings or friends.

    My mom taught me in earn more than you spend, or wise versa! I am learning finally now. :-)

    Zengirl @ Heart and Mind´s last post…Honoring Beautiful People with Beautiful Heart!

  59. Karen (Scotland) says:

    When I bought my first flat, it was up 86 stairs on the fourth floor of an old Glasgow tenement. There was furniture in the flat and I made do with that basic furniture for the six years I lived there.
    When I sold the flat, the furniture remained…
    It was a combination of frugality and a “How the dickens do we get this stuff back down all those stairs?!” train of thought…

  60. I wish I had read these words or similar thoughts 9 years ago when we were starting out in our marriage.

  61. Rachel,

    When we first got married, we also had very little. We had a side job cleaning an office and bought our first vacuum cleaner for that. I cut the top off the box, spray painted the rest white and that was our garbage can for the longest time. Several years, until we moved.

  62. Good discussion. When we were first married, we didn’t have enough furniture for the lounge room, so that was empty and we had an old second hand tv that sat in the bedroom. We watched tv or read sitting on the bed. Before we saved for a proper bed we made do with 2 camper beds! We had many hand-me-down couches before we finally bought one and that was only 10 years ago, we had been married 20 years by then. When we got new things we then appreciated them fully, our queen size bed, a cream,deep cushioned, comfy couch etc. We thought back then that having a family was more important than having new things and have had no regrets. It also taught us how to live simply and we now have our own home and no mortgage either.

  63. What a great post. I’m currently nearing the end of my fifth year of marriage and my husband and I live off even less now that when we started. I am sitting in a tiny apartment in Washington DC surrounded by boxes…and I have been for six months. We have moved so much in the past few years that we’ve decided we’re not unpacking anything or buying anything we don’t need until we’re settled somewhere permanent. Sometimes it gets discouraging…seeing all of our boxes and only having a bed to sit on, but I think it will make it that much better when we finally have somewhere to settle.

  64. At first: Camping chairs and an old dresser as a TV stand for living room furniture. A drawer with a cozy little pad for baby. Now: We have furniture passed to us from relatives who passed away and a hodgepodge of give-away furniture from friends. We are not to proud to turn our nose to free used stuff if we can use it. We feel so grateful for the genorosity of others.

  65. I love this! I’m so glad I started browsing your blog after clicking over from WFMW.
    I will be visiting again. I appreciate you sharing your wisdom.


  66. Hubby & I are moving into our 4th apartment in 4 years of marriage. We started out in a tiny little apartment in a not-so-nice section of town. The linoleum flooring in the bathroom and kitchen was yellowed from cigarette smoke and had a few burn spots, too. Our almost home is definitely an upgrade — it has a dishwasher! And we’re looking to upgrade a little at a time from our hand-me-downs and dumpster dived furniture. Like you, we made a commitment to pay off all our debt in the first year of marriage. Waiting is definitely worth it!

  67. Great post. We had LOTS of hand-me-down, garage sale furniture for a long time. We replaced stuff slowly, frugally, with cash. Just a little at a time. when we first married we were up to our EYEBALLS in student loan, etc, debt.

    People used to HOUND us about having kids. “WHEN WHEN WHEN?” they’d ask. We’d say “we want to pay down debt first.” They’d laugh right in our faces, tell us we’d never do it. We stopped using that answer because we got ridiculed so much, and just said “we will, someday.” It was IRRITATING!

    A few years later, after both of us working extra jobs, earning overtime, NOT buying new stuff, paying down student loans, etc…I got pregnant, quit my full time job, stayed home with the baby. We got used to living on hubby’s salary. After being told we’d “NEVER” be able to do it.

    Some of those same people say they wish THEY had it so “easy.” They say they wish they could stay home with the kids. HA, right, like it was easy. Took a lot of HARD WORK and planning, and putting off having a baby a little longer than I would have liked, but it was so worth it to us.
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