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Want to save money? Let go of the need for matching

I was a teenager in the 90s, and while this may be true of other eras as well, I remember there being a LOT of matching sets, particularly when it came to home decor.

Kristen sittin on a bottom bunk.

How 90s is this photo? Well…MY SWEATER HAS DUCKS ON IT.

Like…you’d have curtains, sheets, and a comforter all made from the same flowered fabric.

Kristen sitting on bed with a friend.

Scribbles over my friend’s face because I dunno if she wants to be on a blog!

Kristen standing next to an ironing board.

This was after a redecorating session, but the comforters and curtains still match!

Also, in the 90s, kitchen would have themes, such as an Italian wine theme, and all the decor, including the wallpaper border, had wine bottles on it. 

I suppose matching sets are rather common, though; I mean, you buy sets of dishes and sets of silverware.

You buy 12 of the same placemats, and 6 of the same bath towels. 

linen closet.

You get drinking glasses in sets of 6. 

But if you can let go of the need to match things, a lot of frugal possibilities open up, especially in the free/second-hand markets. 

If things don’t need to match, you are more able to take whatever comes along that’s in your budget. 

Let’s run through some examples! 

I have a rather random collection of drinking glasses here, mostly from the abandoned house. Since I didn’t care if my stuff matched, I was happy to take whatever.

cabinet of drinking glasses.

My silverware collection is similarly mixed-up, because I have some from the Buy Nothing Group and some from the abandoned house.

mismatched silverware.
I know some people’s entire silverware collection is just random Goodwill-acquired pieces.

If you find one you like that’s good quality, you buy it and add it to the collection, and over time, you have an eclectic collection of silverware that you love.

My dishes are a Buy Nothing/Abandoned House combo. 

stack of plates.

My bedroom furniture is a mishmash of hand-me-downs and freebies that are all sort of a similar shade of wood, but nothing actually matches except the bed and the dresser. 

Kristen's bedroom.

My free kitchen chairs don’t match each other, and they are definitely not the type of chairs that would have come with my table when it was new. 

blue chair at a table.

In my living room, I have two floor lamps from my other house, and then I’ve got this free lamp from Facebook Marketplace:


And I’ve also got this one that came in a set of lamps I bought on Facebook Marketplace.

Do the lamps match? Nope. Do I care? Also nope.

One last non-matching example: when I get a sock that sprouts a hole, I generally set the good sock aside and just use it with another sock of the same cut. 

crazy rei socks

A pair of socks I got when I needed a slightly higher order amount to get free shipping


I’m not a next-level sock-darner like my friend Katy of The Nonconsumer Advocate so this is the next best thing.

If you’re patient, you can find cheap things that coordinate

If you are a stickler for matching, it’s going to be nigh onto impossible to use thrift stores and Buy Nothing groups to find things that were meant to go together.

But if you are willing to be patient, it definitely is possible to find cheap/free things that coordinate.

For instance, I have a fair number of white serving dishes that I’ve gotten at thrift stores. They don’t match per se, but they are similar enough that they coordinate, and they look nice on my open shelving.

bowls on a shelf.

My bedroom is another good example of this.

I didn’t snag just any old furniture that came my way, but when I saw something that would work with the wood tones of my free bed and dresser, I picked those up. 

bedroom with two windows.

So, things don’t match, but they sort of coordinate in there.

If you DO want random things to match, paint them!

Lisey’s room (now my spare bedroom) is full of pink and white furniture that does not officially match.

cat jumping off chair.

But since it’s all painted with the same two paint colors, it kinda looks like it goes together. 

Lisey's bed

Sonia’s room has a bunch of furniture that doesn’t go together, but it’s all painted in Cloud White, so it works together nicely. 

chest at foot of bed.

I’ve painted picture frames all with the same paint so that they match, and I’ve done the same with plant pots. 

Paint is amazing for making random stuff into a cohesive collection! 

In summary….

You can save money by:

  • letting go of the need to match
  • settling for coordination in place of matching
  • painting things to make them coordinate/match

What are some other ways that not-matching can save money? 

I’d love to hear examples you can think of! 

P.S. Just in case I need to clarify: I don’t think it’s a good idea to snag everything that’s cheap/free. That leads to clutter! I’m saying that when you DO need an item, a “not everything needs to match” attitude can help you save money. 

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Sue Murphy

Sunday 8th of October 2023

Matching tends to be way over rated.


Friday 6th of October 2023

Here's a small bit of MATCHING serendipity - probably 20 years ago, my sister gave me a 3-qt lidded oval baking dish. Last year I saw in a NextDoor yard sale announcement a picture of a LOT of random kitchen stuff,, and there was a matching 1.5-qt lidded baking dish! Since our household has shrunk some (and should be shrinking some more), that dish is a welcome addition! It looked as if that dish had never been used. I use the larger one all the time! I still can't believe I got the matching dish. And for $2!

Aunt Diane from Streator

Friday 6th of October 2023

I am comforted by my matching kitchenware. I have 27 white, fluted Corelle plates, 8 dessert plates, 8 bowls, 12 large & 12 small Duralex glasses, Wallace flatware for 24 & 12 extra spoons, 36 napkins & 12 matching dish towels. Some thrifted, some purchased. All appreciated. I never need to buy paper plates, cups or napkins for parties. Most of my Revere ware pots & pans are 47 years old (wedding gifts). I do buy new non-stick fry pans every couple years. I use my Mom and Mother-in-law’s Club aluminum roasters. (Probably 70 years old.) It took a long time to assemble my stock. I polish the pans’ copper bottoms every time I use them. They still look great! I love to cook and don’t mind washing the dishes (no dishwasher) because I love my stuff. I’m so thankful.


Thursday 5th of October 2023

One thing I appreciate about “unmatching” is how my eyes are drawn to different details at different times. Patterns, colours, shapes “change” in differing light, context, mood. Nature isn’t meant to be a monoculture of shapes, sizes or hues… why should the manufactured life be a slave to the opposite?

Martha O.

Thursday 5th of October 2023

I love the concept of “coordinating” rather than “ matching.” I have 5 siblings. My parents couldn’t afford what they called the “ luxury” of having household items match. Many kind neighbors and friends gave us hand-me-down clothes as well as household items ( lamps, small carpets, dishes). We were always grateful for whatever we had and never even thought about things having to match. Occasionally though my mom would make throw pillows for a couch or one of our beds. So the pillows matched if she had scraps of fabric that matched in the first place. Years ago when I was working in an office, I was embarrassed to be told by a coworker that I shouldn’t be wearing black shoes with a navy skirt( which is what I was wearing that day). I don’t know if the greater embarrassment was when I revealed that these shoes were the only pair I owned. I didn’t even consider whether they matched my skirt or not. Nowadays, I’m a bit more intentional about putting outfits together. But I’m also more confident to wear what I have even if it’s not “matchy- matchy.” And back to our current home, things are a little coordinated but mostly eclectic. And old but still useful.

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