How To Furnish Your Apartment On A Budget

Moving into a new apartment comes with more things to consider than just what the monthly rent payment will be each month.  You are going to need to fill your apartment, at least partially, with things you will need for everyday living.  Things like beds, mattresses, tables, and chairs are going to be first on the list of things you will need the day you move in.  

So many times though, moving into a new apartment can put undue strain on a budget, and that’s before Move-In Costs.  In this article, I am going to go over what you are going to need on Day 1 when you move into your apartment, those things which you can maybe do without, and how to get those things you need for a steal!

What Furniture Do I Need For My First Apartment?

The first thing you need to realize is that there are some things that you NEED when you move into a new apartment and other things that you can pick up along the way, as you develop a need for them.  

Items you NEED when you move in would be things like Kitchenware, pots and pans and silverware, cleaning supplies, paper towels, soap, bed frame, mattress, sheets and comforter, pillow, bathroom towels and supplies, and either a small table and chairs or a sofa. 

Now, some of those things on the list POSSIBLY could be eliminated in a pinch.  I’ve seen people live for years on a mattress on the floor with no box frame at all.  If you HAVE to do this, you are going to survive, it just depends on what your funds’ situation looks like and what is a priority for you.  

The simple things you may forget about are the little things, the dish towels, the rags, the curtains, the lamps, that you aren’t thinking about right now, that are going to add hundreds, if not thousands of dollars to get all of these things for your apartment.   Most people are not going to think of all these expenses and can put themselves in a tough position either financially if they buy everything possible to furnish their apartment, or by not having some of those items on the list when they really need them.  

WHAT YOU NEED TO DO: Make a list of all the things you NEED for your apartment.  Then make another list of everything you WANT for your apartment.  Make sure you have enough money to get the absolute necessities, then prioritize those other furnishings by how badly you think you need them.  

Remember, you don’t have to get everything on your Want List right away.  There are more costs associated with moving into a new apartment than the security deposit and making the first month’s rent.  All of these things are going to add up and add up quickly.  Get those things as you need them and as your finances allow for.  

How Do You Furnish A New Apartment On A Budget?

Most everyone knows about the big online retailers like Wayfair and Amazon that can ship you anything and everything you need.  On top of that, you have places like Target, where people are renowned for walking out with more than they expected when they went in.  The trick is, being able to get what you need without breaking the bank.   

Things like Craig’s List and Facebook Marketplace have opened up the world of used virtually anything and can help you get pieces for your apartment for MUCH less than you are going to pay to go through a place like Wayfair or Amazon, however reasonable they might appear.  

BEWARE – There are some things you ABSOLUTELY DON’T WANT TO GET USED.   Specifically, Bedding.  This is the LAST thing you want to get that someone else has been sleeping on.  This is the quickest way to bring pests from one place to another.  In the same way, be VERY cautious about buying any fabric or leather couches from someone who is just getting rid of one.  They can be infested with bed bugs, lice, or other pests, and trying to save money here is only going to end up costing you BIG in the long run, not to mention be unhealthy in the meantime. 

When you are buying furniture used, make sure you sanitize whatever you are picking up to make sure that you aren’t bringing into your new place whatever might have been crawling around someone else’s.  

How Can I Furnish An Apartment With No Money?

Asking friends or family for furnishings they are no longer using is a good way to fill up your apartment fast for very little money.  

This can be one of the best ways to furnish your apartment fast and cheap.  But no matter how much one of your buddy’s friends wants to get rid of that bed in their guest room, you MUST sanitize it and make sure that you are bringing a piece of furniture into your apartment that isn’t going to be a future hazard to you or anyone else.  

Outside of that caveat though, family and friends are a great resource to tap when it comes to furnishings, especially if you don’t mind if they have been used.  Virtually EVERYONE either has something they are willing to part with or know someone who is wanting to get rid of such and such from their home.   

Besides friends and family, again going to resources like Craig’s List or Facebook Marketplace will instantly put you in touch with people who are willing to part with something you need at a great price.   

Even if you have close to zero money to spend on these things, letting your family and friends know that you are looking for something on one of these sites can entice them to buy it for you at some point.  That’s what friends and family are for.  

Finally though, if you are really thinking about trying to furnish your apartment with almost no money at all, you probably should rethink if you have the funds necessary to rent your apartment in the first place.  If money is that tight, it is only going to get tighter as you move out on your own and handle all the expenses of life.   

Think about it like cars.  If you have enough money to buy the car, but don’t have enough to pay for gas, then don’t buy the car. 

How Much Should You Spend On Apartment Furniture?

If you are trying to move in with a strict budget, you should be able to furnish a 1 Bedroom apartment almost completely for around $1,000.  

This doesn’t mean that $1,000 will cover every little thing you want or even need, but it is going to go far enough that your apartment will be functional. 

Think around $200 for a cheap mattress, another $100 for a frame, and box spring.  Then pick up a used, but clean, couch for another $150-200, a kitchen or dining room table for another $100-150, and we are up to $600.   

Now, add in towels for the bathrooms and kitchen, which will be another $50 or so.  Another $50 for cleaning supplies for the kitchen and bathroom and we are up to $700.  

Add in silverware and plates for the kitchen, shower curtains, and toilet paper for the bathroom and you are looking at another $100.  Now, we are up to $800.  

That leaves you $200 for whatever is left on your list, and I am sure whatever is still left on your list, they are going to cost more than $200.   But the original $1,000 is going to cover MOST of the essentials that you are going to need for moving into your apartment for the first time.  

Apartment School will be coming out with their list of essentials you need for your apartment, creating the comprehensive lists for each section of your apartment, what is needed for them, and what things are optional.  Come back to Apartment.School to check for the list. 

Furnishing your apartment on a budget doesn’t have to be a drag.  Instead, make it fun by finding great deals from local places that sell used.  Or watch Amazon or Wayfair for great sales.  Also, don’t be afraid to ask your friends and family if you are looking for a particular piece of furniture or bedding.  Chances are, they have one or know someone who does.   A little bit of creativity can go a long way in turning those bare walls and floor into a great, relaxing home environment.

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John Boettcher

Co-Founder of Apartment School and a previous renter turned owner of many multi-family properties across the United States, with many years of experience in all aspects of the apartment, real estate, and investing world.

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