Furnishing Your First Apartment for Less!

Where will you be living in 6 months? Will you be at home with your parents, in a dorm room or maybe, you're planning to move to your first apartment. If a new apartment is in your future, you’ll be doing yourself a favor to start thinking now about how you’ll furnish it. Plan ahead to ensure you have everything you need when moving day arrives, while not breaking the bank.

Start out by writing down the items you think you will need to adequately furnish your home. Remember that everything you buy will have to be moved into your apartment and out again when you move out, so limit your furnishings to the necessities and a few light, easy-to-pack decorations.

When you've completed your list, go through and check off the items you already own. Next, figure out how much you have to spend on your furnishings, and then how much you can afford to spend on each item. With this information in hand, you’re ready to start your search!


It is important to keep an open mind when decorating on a budget. There might be things you already own which, with a little modification, might work great in your new apartment. Remember that a little spray paint can make a collection of mismatched picture frames into inexpensive wall art or that a slip cover can make an ugly couch more attractive.


Another great way to find inexpensive furnishings is to check with family and friends for hand-me-downs. Your parents, grandparents or other relatives might have some furniture, kitchenware or other items of interest lying around. By giving their unwanted items to you, they can save on waste removal fees and keep usable items out of the landfill.

Thrift Stores

Whether it's Goodwill, the Salvation Army or a local thrift shop, these stores offer lots of gently used items at affordable prices. As an added bonus, many of these shops are affiliated with charitable organizations, so your money will help serve others in your community.

Yard Sales

The spring and summer months are the ideal time to scour the local paper and street corners for yard sales. Put together a list of your “must haves” and then look for ads that sound promising. By getting an early start (and by early we mean 7 a.m!) you can ensure that the “like new microwave” mentioned in the ad is still there when you arrive. In addition to your local newspaper, check out GarageSales.com and YardSaleSearch.com to find sales in your neighborhood.

Flea Markets

While it can take some time searching through booths, area flea markets are a great place to search for collectibles and cool conversation pieces to furnish your apartment. When you spot a must-have, don’t be afraid to negotiate the price. Check out FleaPortal.com and Collectors.org to find flea markets held across the country.


Craigslist and other online ad boards are great places to score deals on everything from cars to collectibles. Again, take your list and search online for someone nearby who happens to be selling something you would like to buy. You may have to meet the seller one-on-one at their home or yours to complete the transaction, so be safe and make sure a friend or family member is there with you.


Join the FreeCycle network to find items that people are giving away. The nonprofit organization has a network of “gifting” groups. Find groups in or near your city (Iowa has over 60 groups) and watch for items being given away. Keep in mind that items often go fast, so it may be a good idea to sign up for individual real-time emails so you have best chance of snagging a great find for free!

Curb Shopping

Find out if your town or neighboring towns have a city-wide large garbage pick-up scheduled in the near future. By paying attention to pick up dates, you can cruise through town and check the curb for unwanted items that will fit your needs. Remember that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure!

Warehouse Stores

There may be some items that you don’t want to buy used, such as mattresses and bedding. Check out warehouse stores such as Sam’s Club or Costco for potential savings on these items. Don’t have a membership? Check with family and friends before spending money on a membership of your own. Overstock.com is an online warehouse site that has discounted prices on new household items, including bedding.

When furnishing an apartment on a tight budget, it is important to not overspend and to keep in mind that your first apartment (or maybe even your 2nd, 3rd and 4th apartment) may not be as glamorous as the ones you see on Cribz or HGTV. That’s OKAY! Your first few homes should be basic, so you can spend your time and money on more important things, like studying and paying down your student loans. By keeping your debt to a minimum and working hard in school, you can look forward to more fashionable surroundings in your future.

Printed from the Iowa College Student Aid Commission website on May 25, 2018 at 10:59pm.