Having a blank slate to decorate can feel overwhelming. If you're starting from scratch or just have a few things, all you may see are dollar signs as you think about what you need to buy.
SmartMove reports 54 percent of all apartments turn over every year, which means a lot of tenants are on the move. Maybe you came from a place where most of the stuff belonged to your roommates (or your parents) or maybe you moved far enough away not to bring anything with you. Regardless of your situation, it's best to furnish on a budget.
Here are six ways to find deals where you can stretch those precious dollars even further.
Before shopping even begins, it's important to know what you need. “When you're living in an apartment or condo," says Beth Luberecki, writing for The Washington Post, “it can be tough to figure out when to invest in a piece of furniture and when you can get away with something cheaper." Having a wishlist of everything you want for your place can help you rank needs as well as earmark items where you could save a little money.
Designers at ML Interiors Group suggest you go online to your favorite furniture store and make a wishlist where price doesn't matter. Look at Crate and Barrel, Restoration Hardware or Pottery Barn. Put anything you'd want for your apartment into your cart before looking at the price tags.
After recovering from sticker shock once you're done, take note of the items you've selected. Would it all fit in your apartment? Make some cuts. The decorative pieces you like, can you find them or make them yourself? Move them to a separate list. What's left is what you really need and it's time to hunt for a good deal.
There's nothing wrong with grabbing that extra couch from your parents' house and adding some new throw pillows to scratch a high-cost item off your list. The cheapest way to get furniture is for free, and items from a reliable source, like your friends or family, can feel like new. You already know the furniture received proper care, and it saves you a trip to a furniture store.
Your place of business may also glean furniture at some point, freeing up office chairs or waiting room furniture for you take home. If you know a remodel is coming, check with your office manager to see if these items are up for grabs or if you can buy them for cheap.
One precaution when it comes to free furniture: Stay away from anything left on the side of the road. While it may be a common practice in some communities to set out unwanted furniture around moving days, you have no way to guarantee the state of the furniture.
What can look clean and in solid condition on the corner can bring unwanted issues into your home. Bed bugs are reported over three times more in urban areas. They're typically found in couches and bed frames, common items left out for “free" collection. The last thing you want to do is bring bed bugs into your new apartment.
While there are differences between estate sales and yard/garage sales, the intent is the same. They're all opportunities to buy used items from the previous owner. They can be a great place for unique finds at good deals since the emphasis is usually on selling the item at the best price possible.
Set up in driveways, these sales include unwanted household items and are often a way for a homeowner to purge anything they don't want or need. Furniture isn't found as frequently as smaller items like used books, clothing, kitchen items, toys or sports gear, but hidden gems are out there.
Yard sales offer the potential to round up the smaller items on your home list at a good price. You also often have the ability to negotiate to stay within your budget. If you're buying multiple items, ask for a deal or a reduction in your total cost. It can't hurt and usually produces positive results.
In general, spring is the best time to search out yard and garage sales. Summertime is also a popular season, especially in the morning before temperatures get too high. The second Saturday of August is National Garage Sale Day, so this is a great time to scout out neighborhoods for sales.
The Yard Sale Treasure Map app is a great tool you can use to find yard sales in your area.
More formal than yard sales, estate sales include items from a home where the owner has passed away. A sale can also result from a foreclosure or abandoned property with items left behind.
They're often run by professional companies and feature a more extensive variety of items. You'll most likely find bigger furniture pieces, although they'll be more expensive than what you'd encounter at a garage sale. Still more affordable than buying new, you most likely won't get to negotiate prices here.
Estate sales advertise through local signage, as well as online. The best way to make the most out of an estate sale is to:
Looking for used furniture on the cheap has become easier online. Craigslist isn't the only option anymore when it comes to buying items used. You can join a local Facebook yard sale group and keep an eye on listings, select local pickup on eBay to narrow your search or check out apps like letgo.
Most of these options have goods and furniture for any room of the house, in any style. If you want to narrow your search, apps exist that focus on everything from vintage to high-end furniture. You can also search out items for sale, trade or consignment to find the cheapest option.
Shopping online for local pickup has gotten easier and safer, but it's still smart to take a few precautions when going to pick up an item from someone you don't know.
Taking to the stores to find a good deal on furniture doesn't just mean hitting discount furniture places or a furniture warehouse. These are good options to look for cheap pieces, and they offer a lot of variety, but you can go used for an even better deal.
Consignment stores act as the middleman for people needing to sell items from their home. The store keeps the item until it sells and collects a small fee for making the transaction for you. This allows prices to stay low. You may find furniture in better conditions here since it stays inside while it's for sale rather than out in a driveway.
The caveat for shopping consignment is you shouldn't wait if you find something you like. Either ask the store if they can hold it for you for 24 hours or buy it right there. Items in good condition don't tend to last long, and you want to make sure you get to take the piece home.
In order to grab an item with no delay, make sure to come equipped to shop. Bring a tape measure to confirm spacing and a vehicle large enough to bring full-sized furniture home.
When all else fails, and buying something outright doesn't fit into the budget, consider renting. A lot of people go this route. The rent-to-own process lets you make affordable payments, with no interest, on pieces you plan to own.
The cost of furniture stays cheap since you're paying a fixed monthly rate, for a specified term. When that term is over, you own the furniture. If you run into issues where you can't keep up payments, you can return the furniture without any penalty. While similar to financing, with renting, you don't usually have to have good credit and you don't pay interest.
Not only can shopping smart to furnish your apartment on a budget allow you to get more, it can also prove a sound strategy if you're a frequent mover.
Keeping costs in mind as you shop, as well as your future living plans, can help you make the best decisions for your bottom line when it comes to furnishing your apartment.