Furnishing on Budgets from $0 – $500

furnishingYou’ve saved and saved and finally got your own place. Then the sad reality hits.  After you pay your first month’s rent, security deposit and moving costs there is no money left to furnish your place. Are you doomed to sleeping on the floor in an empty apartment?  Our bloggers say no.  They are so creative in stretching their dollars that they have shown how you can furnish your first apartment even if your budget is $0.  And if you can manage to find a little bit more, up to $500, you’ll have plenty of places to get what you need to make your new apartment a comfortable home. 


If you have absolutely no money to spend on furnishing, we’ve found many places where even an empty wallet goes a long way.

Castaways from family, friends, coworkers
–          Check out grandma’s basement; find out who among your co-workers is redecorating or moving; ask your super to let you know when your neighbors throw out furniture. Get the word out as widely as you can that you’ll take anything they don’t need.
Street finds. 
–          Walk or drive around nice neighborhoods the night before garbage pick-up.  You may need to do this with a friend, so you have help hauling your goodies home.
Dumpster diving
–           and garbage drop-off days at the local dump/recycling center, if you live in a rural area.
Craigslist Free
–          You should know that there will be a lot of competition for good stuff on Craigslist Free,  so check out our guest blogger  Kelly M’s tips on how you can be the winner.

Our most frugal bloggers, Elyse and  Alissa  share their tricks for scoring free stuff from these sources.  But, let’s face it, your most important piece of furniture, a bed, will be tough to get free.  You might be able to score an airbed off Craigslist Free, but with bedbug scares picking up discarded mattresses, no matter how perfect they look, is not advisable.  You have to be careful with anything that you cannot fully disinfect before bringing home.  One super cheap, temporary bedding option, suggested by one of our readers, was to buy the thickest king size mattress pad (they can be found on sale for about $20) and fold it over for a twin “mattress”.  Not free, but close to, and a lot better than hard floor.


As your furnishing budget hits the big double and triple digits, many new places become affordable.

Stoop sales and yard sales
–          Great sources for small decorative items and sometimes even smaller pieces of furniture, such as chairs or side tables.
–          Yard sales are often  loaded with dishes and kitchen implements so you can use them to equip your kitchen.
–          Now is a great time to scout for stoop and yard sales, because people use them to get rid of the assorted and sundry that turn up in spring cleaning.
Thrift shops
–          Most cities have a number of thrift shop options, running from national (Salvation Army, Goodwill) to ones kept by local charities (for example, Housing Works in NYC).
–          Alex reviewed some of the best a few months ago.

With stoop sale and thrift shop bargains, adding a few dollars of paint or a fabric remnant, can turn them into a treasures.   Doug recently learned some pro tips from decorators on what you can do with $50-100 to perk up your place.

Online deal sites
–          A relatively new budget furnishing resource.
–          These sites are for a knowledgeable shopper who knows what a comparable item sells in retail stores.
–          Watch out for shipping cost that can make a bargain not so, particularly for lower priced items.
Big Box stores
–          As your budget gets closer to $500, you can start checking out your local Ikea, Target, Walmart and other large chain stores. They may not be affordable all the time, but when they run sales, bargains can be had.

Alissa shared her plan for using her $500 furnishing budget a while back.  If we have missed your favorite super bargain furnishing resources, please share your secrets in the comments.

We’ll be covering next what our bloggers  have done with furnishing budget in the $1,000 and $2,000 range.

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Author My First Apartment
MFA Editors

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Comments (6)

  1. Avatar Char

    I used Furnishr.com to furnish my bedroom. They have designers to create a custom furniture package based on your style and budget. They won’t be within the budget of $500 though. But for the time and stress I saved, I think their service is well worth the money.

  2. Avatar Sabrina

    Just be careful when it comes to beds, couches, that sort of thing. You don’t want to wind up bringing home furniture that may be infested with bedbugs! Better to buy those new outright.

    • MFA Editors MFA Editors

      Thanks Sabrina for your advice. You do need to be careful with any furniture that has places where bedbugs could hide.

  3. Avatar rane

    yes, yes, yes. me and my boyfriend are going to the dump for some furnishings. i never would have thought of that

  4. Avatar Susan

    Another good thing is to look for replicas. I may want a Eames chair but I can’t afford one so I look for replica websites. A good one is Manhattan Home Design. They run some pretty good sales. They are also on pricegrabber.

  5. Avatar Thomas

    I work at target and I can tell you something that isn’t advertised. When you see one of our TVs on clearance, two things happen to it. Every two weeks it goes down in price. And when you buy the floor model, which most clearance TVs are, you get an additional 15% off the clearance price. Save where you can!