Skip to Content

Buying new furniture is not a 100% time-saver.

I’m currently spending a lot of time rehabbing furniture. So, here’s a rerun of a post that’s a timely reminder for me!

Sonia’s been using an old glass-topped desk since she moved into this bedroom.

The desk came from freecycle originally (you can see it in this tour of our office), and when Mr. FG got a standing desk for the office, his old desk got handed down.

It’s definitely seen better days at this point, and it doesn’t match the rest of Sonia’s room decor in the slightest.

I’ve already got a lot of painting projects on my plate, so we decided to just buy Sonia a new desk to go with her Craiglist bookshelf, huge freebie bookshelf, Goodwill dresser, and repainted bed from 2003.

painted white Bassett dresser with cup pulls

(This is the desk we bought.)

Originally, this new purchase seemed like the fastest, easiest option to me.

And I do still think that’s probably true.

But after spending several hours putting the desk together yesterday, I realized that buying new furniture doesn’t offer time savings of 100%.

Sonia's new white desk

I’ve painted so much used furniture, I’d kind of forgotten about all the time and headache it takes to assemble a new piece!

I had 30+ pieces and 29 pages of instructions to put this thing together.

Plus there was the time required to recycle/throw away the packaging and clean up the styrofoam pellets that had gotten sprinkled all around the house.

Was this still faster than sanding, priming, and painting a second-hand desk?


Sonia's new white desk

Based on how long it took me to do Sonia’s dresser, I bet I could have gotten a desk done with six hours of work, vs. the three hours I spent on the new one.

The brand new desk was definitely faster, but only by 50%, which is less than I expected.

So, painting is not quite as much of an overall time sink as I’d thought, and at the end of it, you’ve got what is usually a better piece of furniture anyway.

Not to mention that the out-of-pocket cost is definitely way lower, especially if you already own a sander and already have a bucket of paint (and I do!)

So, this has given me a bit of fresh motivation to stick with my usual paint-the-old-furniture method. 

Bassett mission dresser painted white

I think we’re mostly set for furniture at this point, except that Zoe could use a nightstand, and I think I’m going to peruse Facebook Marketplace for it. 😉

Update: I did find her a nightstand; an Ethan Allen for $25, and of course I painted it.

Update the second: And then I sold it. I also sold the original pull for $12 on eBay!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


Sunday 29th of May 2022

Funnily enough, I prefer the look of old wood, and thus for me, painting wooden pieces is not something I've ever invested time into. Our thrifted furniture is truly money and time saving. Sometimes I have to add a clear coat to a wood piece, but that's it.


Tuesday 31st of May 2022

Yes, if something is stained wood and in good condition, that's the easiest route to go.

Usually I'm snagging free items that are damaged in some way, so they require some work to look good again.


Thursday 23rd of July 2020

My friends bought a motorhome that was about eight years old, renovated the interior with some white paint and new furniture, and lived in it for a year. The only rent they paid was space in RV parks when they traveled. Not only was it frugal, when they sold the RV they made a profit because of how nice it looked.

Profesora H-B

Tuesday 13th of August 2019

I LOVE LOVE LOVE that desk!

I completely agree with you about new furniture being a time suck a lot of the time. I remember when I first moved to a place on my own. I needed quite a bit of furniture, all of which I ended up assembling myself with the enclosed tools. I couldn't make a fist without gritting my teeth for a week after putting it all together. It was a problem since I had moved to start graduate school! I think it would have been smarter for me to look for pre-owned options.


Tuesday 13th of August 2019

There are so many factors to consider when purchasing new or used furniture. To me, the key is 1/Style and 2/Size. (Price is in there too of course but is irrelevant if you can't find something you like that fits in the space you have, which is an issue.) And availability.

It's really apples and oranges in my mind to compare a used purchase that might need refurbishing versus a new piece to put together. (FYI: It may not be frugal but if someone is not good at putting things together; if they don't like doing it; if they don't have the time (or conversely, they can make more in three hours than they loose by spending time assembling stuff), then there are tons of individuals and services with reasonable fees to assemble stuff.

I've put tons of stuff together and ironically, it was not the items with the most pieces that were the most difficult but rather those with weird construction process and hard to understand instructions (poor English) and/or no pix or inaccurate. (The latter happens a lot.)

Luck is also a factor. Finding used furniture and getting it delivered is a big issue in the major city I live in. You can find affordable and stylish stuff at craigslist (but again, luck and timing) and one of our local neighborhood blogs or even Facebook market. But the cost of getting it delivered? Makes it really too costly to purchase used.

Many online furniture sellers have little or no delivery fee and some good sales. So...

It really depends on how you're defining frugal (and here it seems the time spent is an issue). When you have less time, you pretty much "loose" money assembling yourself. If you can pick up your used purchase, then you save time and money.

But again...the real issue is finding something you like and something that fits. I've had to pass on so many nice pieces over the years because they just don't fit the space in our big-city apartment!


Tuesday 13th of August 2019

Yep, I wrote this post mostly thinking of the time involved with either choice. Buying used furniture and then redoing it totally is cheaper in terms of cash outlay.

But I've always thought it was kind of expensive in terms of a time outlay. Assembling this desk yesterday made me realize it's not as huge a difference as I thought!


Tuesday 13th of August 2019

I had a similar situation. I had spent months looking (both new & used) for a console table. When I finally found the right size & style it was a new table from a big box store. I wasn't thrilled by the particle board construction but I was getting tired of looking. I placed my order, waited a week for delivery, spent hours assembling it, and when I turned it over I saw that the top was damaged in the factory. (not only damaged but a sloppy patch had been applied). I liked the table. My stiff old bones had spent 3 hours wrestling it from carton to useable condition. Then I had to go back to the store and complain. The blemish can easily be hidden by the things displayed on the table, and my sore back had no interest in going through the assembly process a second time. They offered me a discount in store merchandise. I was happy with the deal but needed to put intentional consideration into what I'd use the store credit on. I wasn't in the position to go shopping at that time so I had to make yet another trip to pick out my compensation merchandise. The good news is I have a console table I like but I think I will stick with used furniture, or at least fully assembled pieces in the future.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.