How to Decorate Your First Apartment or Home for Cheap

Showing a sofa, chair, table, lamp, and blank walls as the essentials of what is needed to decorate your first apartment

Nicholas Monu / E+ / Getty Images

 Renting your first apartment or buying your first home is an exciting occasion. But with it comes a lot of costs – like buying furniture for your space. Furnishing an entire apartment can be very expensive, and can be even more difficult if you did not budget for your move, or had a cross-country move.

It can be tempting to purchase furniture using a credit card or a payment plan. But this can take years to pay off and will cost you much more than paying cash for your furniture. Below, some easy ways to save on furniture for your first home or apartment. ​

Start With the Bare Essentials

Start out by buying the things you need immediately, like a bed or kitchen table. Make a list of what furniture you need, and organize that list from top priority to what you could do without for now. Then, move down the list as you purchase items.

The most basic piece of furniture for most people is a bed. This does not mean you need to be a bedroom suite or a headboard. In the beginning, a mattress, box spring, and bed frame may be all that you can afford. That’s OK.

Similarly, you may need a table or a desk in order to work. Although you may be tempted to use a rent-to-own store or payment plan to get your furniture, it is best to save and pay in cash.

Ask for Hand-Me-Downs

You can ask friends and family for furniture if they have any furniture they are no longer using. You can also find cheap furniture in relatively good condition on websites like Craigslist.

However, before you bring any furniture home with you, make sure it is clean and pest free, and the last thing you want in your new place are a few unexpected roommates like bed bugs. Vacuum and shampoo a couch before you bring it home and dust/wipe down any wooden, metal, or plastic items.

If the hand-me-down couch isn’t your style, try buying a couch cover in a neutral fabric. This is less expensive than buying a new couch, and can dramatically improve the appearance of the item. Shelves and other furniture can be painted to make them fit your style, as well.

Borrow From Friends or Family

Another option is to borrow an item until you can purchase your own. For example, you may borrow an old television or microwave until you have the cash to purchase your own.

This is a good temporary fix if you know you can buy something new soon. Generally, smaller items are easier to borrow since they are easier to move and you need to move the item twice.

Buy Used

Buying furniture used is a good way to save money when you are decorating. Craigslist, the classifieds, and yard sales are great places to get good furniture at a much lower price. You can also shop for furniture at thrift stores.

Some of the pieces may need to be refinished, and may take a little work, but may end up being your favorite pieces in the entire house. The key to finding the right piece at the right price is to be patient and wait for the right piece. This is a good option for both accent pieces like side tables, or even bigger pieces like a kitchen table or dresser.

Shop Sales and Bargain

You can save money by shopping sales for furniture or going to discount warehouses to make your purchases. Sometimes you can negotiate discounts on floor models to get a better price. Also, you could wait until Memorial Day, the 4th of July, or Labor Day, when there are usually great sales on furniture.

Waiting for these sales could save you a lot of money, especially if you pay for your purchase with cash. Discount clubs may also get you a better deal on the furniture you want.

Sometimes you can save money by buying an entire set rather than individual pieces, and then selling what you do not want on Craigslist. Other times, it may be cheaper to buy one piece at a time.

Accumulate Furniture Slowly

Once you have your furniture must-haves, you can be patient to accumulate the nice pieces you want. Try including a furniture fund as part of your monthly budget. That way, you can slowly save up enough money to splurge on the pieces you really want.

While you can get some items on the cheap, it’s also important to buy some high-quality pieces that will last, so you get the most for your money. When you purchase furniture, choose pieces that are made of solid wood or other high-quality materials. Also, steer clear of super trendy items that you will tire of in a few seasons. Buy classic pieces that you can update with accents like throw pillows, blankets, and decorative items.

For example, changing out the lamps, throw pillows and pictures in a room, along with a new paint color will give the room an entirely new look without costing you thousands of dollars to replace the furniture. You can also shift furniture from room to room to get the new look you want.