How to Furnish a New Apartment on a Limited Budget

Give your place style points for the low.

Photo: Shutterstock; Design: Rebecca Hoskins/Thrillist
Photo: courtesy of Shutterstock; Design: Rebecca Hoskins/Thrillist

Congratulations, you got a new place! 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 need to binge watch your favorite shows from the floor. There are countless tips and tricks for finding trendy, low-cost pieces to turn your new spot into a fully furnished home. To get you started, we rounded up a few ideas that’ll surely help you save money, time, and a whole lot of energy.

Consider how much you’re willing to invest

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

Don’t overcrowd the space

Knowing how much space you have to utilize can save you a lot of time and money. Plan out what makes sense in your space by measuring the rooms. This will be helpful when you go out shopping for pieces; bring a measuring tape if you have to! There’s nothing worse than bringing home a sofa too big for the area you were planning to keep it in. On the flip side, you also don’t want to clutter your space. Be mindful to not overbuy — minimalism is very in right now so use your square footage wisely.

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Photo: Shutterstock

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Start by sourcing your essentials

When working within a limited budget, you’ll always want to get the necessities first and then work your way towards the more decorative or novelty pieces you can wait to get your hands on. Think about the furniture you'll use most for each room and make a list. For instance, you’ll definitely need a bed frame, a dresser or something equivalent (here’s where knowing how much space you have will come in handy), and maybe one nightstand. Do you need a bookshelf? Potentially, but your books and knick-knacks will be just fine living on your dresser or in a moving box until you’ve saved a little more cash.

Upcycle from your local community

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

Inform people close to you that you’re looking for furniture

You never know what people are looking to get rid of if you don’t ask. Letting those around you know you’re looking to furnish your new place opens the door for more potential sellers, or even people looking to free up some of their own space. Talk to friends, family, and coworkers so they can also keep a lookout for essentials needed to spruce up your spot, or go through their own donation piles for secondhand goodies. Also, talk to your neighbors from the place you’re leaving (if you’re comfortable) — you never know what someone’s willing to part with, maybe even as a housewarming gift.

Photo: Shutterstock; Design: Rebecca Hoskins/Thrillist

Try dumpster diving for quality pieces

There are some things you can’t knock until you try — and dumpster diving should be somewhere on that list. People throw out quality furniture all the time when they’re moving or redecorating. In New York City and other major cities, there are social media pages dedicated to people spotting furniture on the street for the taking, and many communities have “bulk” trash days where people are encouraged to haul furniture and other large items to the curb. This “treasure hunt” tactic can also be employed at college campuses or off-campus housing, too. When the students head back home or graduate, it’s not uncommon for them to toss everything they’ve accumulated over the years. Your next desk could be a curb away.

Shop big box stores during major sales

Don’t miss out on those big sales when they hit your local stores. A lot of retailers that sell furniture work on a biannual schedule — they tend to shift their merchandise for the spring and fall seasons. When shopping for indoor furniture, it’s best to buy at the end of winter (January and February) and the end of the summer (August and September). This way, you can catch the stock before the stores move on to the new styles for the following season. Make sure to sign up for your store’s email promotions and look out for those sporadic sales — savings is often all about timing. Plus, you’re moving, so make sure to register your new address with the post office so you get a bunch of “Welcome Home” coupons in the mail; they send a plethora of sweet deals for movers from a variety of furniture stores.