When you move into an apartment you have the fun, but often expensive, task of furnishing your new digs. You might already own some items, but decorating the entire space means filling in the gaps. Finding cheap secondhand furniture that fits each room can help save time and money during the process.
By bringing home used necessary furnishings, you can often get a piece that's nicer and cheaper than what you could afford brand new.
Of course, not everything holds up to a second owner, and cheap furniture isn't always better. Here's a guide to help sort out which essential home items you can buy secondhand and which you should purchase new.
When planning out your budget for furnishing an apartment, start with what you can buy used first. The savings you'll accrue can then go toward getting the new stuff on your list.
When you visit garage sales or consignment shops, you'll see furniture worn to varying degrees. Some pieces will be in surprisingly good condition, but others will have gotten too much love to bring home. Certain materials also age better than others, so when shopping for used pieces, focus on those made from:
Laminate and veneer furniture is often overlooked as being too cheap to have a second life, but Ronique Gibson from Fresh Home disagrees. “Laminate furniture can take more abuse and daily wear and tear than wood," she says. It can also be glued back together if it starts to come apart.
Furniture made from hardwoods like pine can withstand weight and pressure for long periods of time, making them a durable piece for years to come. Metal furniture may not look perfect when it's for resale, but it does pop once refurbished. Removing any rust and putting a new coat of paint on will make the piece shine like new.
The overall bonus with used furniture is you can afford to buy higher-quality pieces, giving your apartment a more luxurious feel.
While your apartment should come with the biggies like the oven and stove, smaller appliances may be up to you. If you need a toaster or microwave for your apartment, look for used versions.
New appliances can cost a lot, and most used options work as well as new ones. Check out sites with local sales like Letgo or Craigslist for easy access to used appliances. You might not end up with the stainless steel version you really wanted, but the money saved is worth the compromise.
Don't forget to test any appliance out before you buy it. You want confirmation it works first.
You may not always find the trendiest pieces when shopping used art, but with a careful eye, you'll find what you like at a much more affordable price. What's more, even a simple print looks amazing in the right frame. It's a good rule of thumb to always rummage through used art piles — there could be a hidden gem waiting for you.
When shopping for secondhand art, it's also important to focus on the print itself. If you love the poster but hate the frame, that's easy to change. It's also a good idea to remember that wall art is more than just framed posters. A secondhand tapestry, once washed, looks great on the wall as a statement piece. Even pottery can transform a wall with the help of a few shelves.
While you're out looking for stuff for your walls, don't forget to accessorize your shelves, too. Cute knick-knacks are almost always better secondhand. There's less chance of seeing the same item in someone else's house. Some stuff even looks better once they're worn around the edges, such as older books.
Things like hammers and drills don't really fit into the cheap secondhand furniture category, but they're necessary items to complete any apartment decorating. Moving into an apartment without a full toolbox puts you at a disadvantage when it comes time to assemble furniture or hang stuff on the walls. For these reasons, every renter needs tools, but you don't have to buy them new. In fact, buying tools new gets expensive fast.
According to Life Hacker, a basic toolbox should include:
They also suggest an electric drill, but you'll probably need that so infrequently in an apartment, you can borrow one if necessary. Used tools and older models are still perfectly good, even when a little worn. You may even find a complete toolbox at a garage sale or online and save yourself the trouble of hunting down each piece.
With all your cheap secondhand furniture in tow, you'll now have a realistic budget for the new stuff. This is the fun part of furnishing your apartment since buying new gives you access to more variety than what's often available used.
As you're finding used furniture made of hard materials, shy away from used fabric pieces. “Fabric is almost guaranteed to be a hygienic nightmare," writes Kamron Sanders of HGTV. “There will almost always be stains, pet hair and new smells every time you sit down."
These blemishes can be hard to see, as well. You don't want to get home and realize the microsuede couch you bought used has a giant stain when you flip over the cushion. For quality control and sanitary reasons, splurge on a new sofa.
You should buy rugs and pillows new for these same reasons. Even decorative pillows, because they're fabric, can have stains and not be as clean as you think. They're also harder to wash. To play it safe, any fabric item for your home should be something bought new.
Sheets, pillowcases, comforters and mattresses all go into the buy new category. Mattresses tend to sag and develop craters from years of use, especially if the previous owners didn't rotate theirs. They also usually end up with stains from body sweat that are unsightly no matter that you're covering it up with a sheet. Mattresses can also attract bed bugs. The truth is, you'll be more comfortable with a new mattress, so stay away from secondhand stores.
All the actual bedding that goes on your mattress should be new, as well. You have no way of knowing where used bedding has been, and sometimes no amount of washing helps. Bedding lasts a long time, so spend $100 on a nice sheet set or go for a complete bed-in-a-bag for additional savings. Enjoy a totally new bed in your new apartment.
It's one thing to get a set of cookware from your parents or a relative when moving into a new place but another to get it used. Buying new is best if you don't know who owned the items before. Poor care can ruin kitchen tools, making them unsafe for food preparation.
Nonstick cookware can scratch. Bacteria can fester on used cutting boards. Worn kitchen tools can break after just one use. Invest in quality, new cookware to outfit your kitchen with items that will serve you for years to come.
Toasters and microwaves do fine when bought used, but that's not the case for appliances across the board. Vacuums and blenders are the best new. Vacuums lose suction power over time, and because you'll use your vacuum often, you don't want to struggle to get your floor clean.
The blade on used blenders can dull, making smoothie prep a real pain. In both cases, opt for new. These items are often on sale, so keep an eye out to save some money.
When it comes to furnishing your apartment, a combination of used, new and on-sale items will help make apartment decorating more affordable all around. The important thing is knowing what's safe to buy secondhand and what you should splurge on new. Making the right choices will help ensure your furniture and appliances will last a good, long time.