How to furnish an apartment on a budget

Photo: Shutterstock; Design: Rebecca Hoskins/Thrillist

Congratulations, you have a new home! But now you don’t have a couch?! Furnishing a new apartment can be daunting, especially with limited funds, but that doesn’t mean you have to watch your favorite shows from the floor. There are countless tips and tricks for finding trendy, low-cost pieces to turn your new place into a fully furnished home. To help you get started, we’ve put together a few ideas that are sure to help you save money, time, and a lot of energy.

Consider how much you are willing to invest

When choosing furniture, there are some items you can get for cheap, while others you’ll need to drop a few extra coins on – so think about what matters most to you. For example, you’ll want to spend more money on a well-designed, quality bed frame (and mattress, of course) compared to a coffee table you can find at any decent thrift store. Also consider whether this is a long-term or short-term purchase: you’re going to want your sofa to last a long time, through the wear and tear of people and pets (if you have any!), so it’s makes sense to spend more on that rather than decor that can easily be changed.

Don’t overload the space

Knowing how much space you need to use can save you a lot of time and money. Plan what makes sense in your space by measuring the rooms. This will come in handy when you go out to buy coins; bring a tape measure if you must! There’s nothing worse than bringing home a sofa that’s too big for the space you plan to keep it in. On the other hand, you don’t want to clutter up your space either. Be careful not to overbuy – minimalism is very much in the air right now, so use your square footage wisely.


Photo: Shutterstock

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Start by getting your essentials

When working on a budget, you’ll always want to get the necessities first and then move on to the more decorative or novelty pieces you can wait to get your hands on. Think about the furniture you will use the most for each room and make a list. For example, you’ll definitely need a bed frame, chest of drawers, or something equivalent (this is where knowing how much space you have available will come in handy), and maybe a nightstand. Do you need a library? Potentially, but your books and knick-knacks will live just fine on your dresser or in a moving box until you’ve saved up a little more money.

Recycle from your local community

Antiques may seem expensive, but sometimes these stores (and other thrifty stores) offer trendy and cheap finds. If you’re comfortable haggling a bit with store owners, you can lower the price to what you can afford, especially if you have the cash. You can also use garage sales and flea markets; a little research through local news sites or community groups can help you find these hidden gems. Speaking of research, don’t forget to use online marketplaces and social media trading pages to find people who are actively trying to get rid of their stuff. There are also plenty of savings-based apps with great finds – even more so if you’re willing to search a bit outside your own neighborhood.

Inform your loved ones that you are looking for furniture

You never know what people are trying to get rid of if you don’t ask. Letting those around you know you’re looking to furnish your new home opens the door to more potential sellers, or even people looking to free up some of their own space. Talk to friends, family, and co-workers so they can also keep an eye on the essentials needed to spruce up your place, or browse through their own donation piles for second-hand treats. Also talk to your neighbors from where you’re going (if you’re comfortable) – you never know what someone is up to parting with, maybe even as a housewarming gift.

Photo: Shutterstock; Design: Rebecca Hoskins/Thrillist

Try Trash Diving for Quality Parts

There are some things you can’t hit until you try – and dumpster diving should be somewhere on that list. People throw away quality furniture all the time when they move or redecorate. In New York and other major cities, there are dedicated social media pages for people to spot furniture on the street to take away, and many communities hold “bulk” litter days where people are encouraged carry furniture and other bulky items to the curb. This “treasure hunt” tactic can also be used on college campuses or in off-campus housing. When students return home or graduate, it’s not uncommon for them to throw away everything they’ve accumulated over the years. Your next office could be just around the corner.

Shop big box stores during major sales

Don’t miss these big sales when they hit your local stores. Many retailers who sell furniture work on a semi-annual schedule – they tend to shift their merchandise for the spring and fall seasons. When shopping for indoor furniture, it is best to buy at the end of winter (January and February) and at the end of summer (August and September). This way you can grab the stock before the stores move on to new styles for the following season. Be sure to sign up for your store’s email promotions and watch for those sporadic sales – savings are often a matter of timing. Plus, you’re moving, so be sure to register your new address with the post office so you’ll receive a bunch of “Welcome Home” coupons in the mail; they send out a plethora of great offers for movers from various furniture stores.

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