How to Furnish an Apartment Without Breaking the Bank

Moving is expensive, especially if you need to furnish an apartment. As humans, we tend to prioritize making our new homes cozy and comfortable, but this comes at a cost. By the time all is said and done, your bank account is likely a few thousand dollars lighter and your budget is bogged down by a handful of new 0% interest Affirm loan payments. Maybe there is a new balance on your credit card that you can’t pay in full at the end of the month.

While this is a common approach, it’s not the only option. With planning and patience, you can keep a handle on your budget and make your new space exactly what you want it to be. 

If you couldn’t save for new furniture before your move, you will need to be realistic about how much you can spend in the short term. A great way to reduce your costs is to get what you can for free or cheap. Start with friends or family. Some may have an extra set of furniture sitting unused in their basement. If you have a local Buy Nothing group, scour the listings for what you need. While you can sometimes score bigger ticket items like a bed or couch, you will likely at least be able to snag smaller home goods. If you are looking for a specific item, you can create an “ISO” (in search of) post to ask for it. Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist also offer a treasure trove of free or low-cost items. Don’t forget to negotiate! Sellers sometimes care more about getting an item out of their home than getting the full asking price for it. 

Furnishing your apartment this way is often more time-consuming than picking out furniture online or from a showroom but, in my experience, it pays off. In 2019, my partner and I moved back to the United States after a year abroad. We had sold or given away almost all of our furniture before we left so we had to go through the process of reacquiring everything. We started with Craigslist and managed to get most of our apartment furnished for about $650. This is what we got:

  • Couch: $50 

  • Mattress: $100 

  • Box Spring: Free

  • Bed Frame: $20

  • Bedside Tables: Free

  • Coffee Table: $20

  • Two Chairs: $30

  • TV Stand: $20

  • TV: $350 

  • Moving Truck Rental: $60

Almost three years later, we still have all of this furniture and it works for us. However, if what you can round up for free or cheap doesn’t fit your style, you can work towards replacing it over time as your savings allow.

Start by making a list of the new pieces you want to buy. Now comes the fun part! Do some research (i.e. online window shopping) for items that you like and note down the prices. Try to get multiple options at different price points. 

Next, evaluate your budget to figure out how much per month you can allocate towards furniture. Is it $100? $500? This will help you determine exactly how long it will take to save up for your new favorite items. It will also help you decide whether saving up for a few extra months to buy that $2,000 couch from Pottery Barn is really worth your time and money compared to the $400 sofa from Wayfair that you also like.

Make sure to set up a separate savings account for your furniture buying and an automatic transfer for the monthly amount that you budgeted. As soon as you have enough money in that account to buy your highest priority item, go for it! The feeling of knowing that you bought your couch without adding to your debt or dipping into your emergency fund will make it that much more comfortable.

How to Furnish an Apartment Without Breaking the Bank is written by Kylie Lipinski, A Certified Financial Trainer for

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