You’ve finally got your first place and can’t wait to decorate it. The only problem is that you need absolutely everything, and you’re on a tight budget.
Another issue many first-time renters face is that their apartments are small, requiring smaller or specially-sized items, which often cost more. Additionally, the size of an average apartment is seven percent less than those in 2009 at around 900 square feet. Studios are even smaller, which is a size many first-time apartment dwellers choose.
There are a number of ways to find furnishings for your apartment for less, though. You just have to get creative. Here are seven things you can try to get started.
1. Ask for Donations
Your family and friends may have had their houses set up for a while. Most people have items they’d love to get rid of as they replace them or declutter. Let everyone know you’re starting from scratch and are willing to take hand-me-downs.
These items may not be things you love, but they will supply you with what you need until you’re able to replace them with newer items. A bonus to taking gently used items is that repurposing is environmentally friendly.
2. Make a List of Must-Haves
Make a list of the things you must have to live comfortably, such as a bed, couch, and table. Some apartments come fully furnished or partially furnished, which cuts down on your costs setting up your first home. If you have a roommate, find out what items they are bringing. If your roommate owns a couch, you don’t need to buy a second one.
At the same time, there are some things you don’t need but might want. These items can wait until you’re better established, or you can buy them one at a time. For example, you probably don’t “need” a coffee table in your living room, but it’s nice to have one. If you’re living with roommates, these may be good items to split between yourselves, allowing you to furnish your living space without shelling out too much individually.
3. Buy Used
If your budget is extremely tight, your best bet is to buy used furniture. Do inspect it carefully to avoid any issues with bugs, but you can find many viable options at thrift stores, estate sales and online through sources such as Facebook Marketplace and the app LetGo.
4. Order From a Big Box Store
If you want something new, the big box stores carry basic furniture. It won’t be the best quality, but it’s a starter piece. For example, Walmart carries couches, chairs, tables, and smaller beds. Shop the clearance section of their website to find the lowest prices and take advantage of free shipping or ship-to-store, which is free.
5. One Year Same as Cash
If your job is pretty stable and you have a bit in savings, look into buying a few key pieces from furniture stores that offer one year same as cash. Buying on credit also helps you build your credit in case you want to buy a house or condo in the future. One year same as cash typically has pretty strict rules about on-time payments (or the interest rate is similar to a credit card). If you want zero interest, you need to figure out how to pay the furniture off before the year is up and never miss a payment deadline.
6. Rent to Own
Rent to own centers carry nearly any type of furniture you might need. You make a weekly payment on the item for a set amount of time and then it’s yours, or you can return it at any time. However, buying furniture this way winds up costing much more than even buying new. Expect to pay up to three times as much as you’d pay to buy the item in a different way.
7. Get It Free
You’d be surprised at how many things people throw out on the curb for people to take. Always ask if it isn’t marked free, of course. You don’t want to inadvertently take something the person wants to keep. However, finding a scratched up table for free gives you the flexibility to make it your own with a little bit of sanding and some paint. Also, check Freecycle and giveaway apps for free items.
Take Your Time
It isn’t a race to fully furnish your apartment the day you move in. As long as you have a place to sit and a place to lay your head at night, other furnishings can wait. Add pieces as you can afford or as you find good deals on them. With a little patience, your new place will have furnishings as unique and interesting as you are.
Holly Welles knows what it’s like to decorate a space with almost nothing, and she’s dead-set on helping others figure design out. She writes more advice on home décor on her own blog, The Estate Update, and gathers more inspiration over on Pinterest.