How to Furnish Your Apartment on a Budget

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So, you’ve got a new place! Congratulations. It’s time to furnish and settle in. If you’re anything like most millennials living in North America or abroad, you’re probably not settling down permanently. Or, if you are, perhaps you might not have an endless wallet to decorate. Either way don’t fret – we’ve got your back. And if you do have endless funds, you can probably skip this one… but read the DIY section because everyone could use a little creativity in their lives.

First, you need to make a wish-list of the things you need. It’s a good idea to list these things in order of importance (which also usually coincides with size), so you can make your way down the list – and eventually get to the bottom over time. But first, make sure you have a rough estimate of your budget. Take some time to look around on Pinterest and DIY blogs for shelving, storage and lighting ideas. There are SO many cool options that will give you ideas about what you want to shop for. Take for example, a ladder shelf; instead of buying a shelving unit (which can be fairly pricey), buy an old step ladder and turn it into a shelf – like these. If you’re stuck, search by room (DIY Bedroom, DIY Bathroom, etc.) and channel your inner creativity.

Here are some of my favourite DIY ideas to give you a starting point:

28 DIYs for Your First Apartment (especially the wood crate night stand)

18 Whimsical Ways to Decorate with String Lights

25 Awesomely Creative Ways to use a Bar Cart

DIY Copper Shoe Rack

10 Stunning Ikea Hacks from the Pros

And also take a look at DesignSponge, Grace Bonney is a pro.


Now that you have an idea about what you need for your place, here’s a list of ways you can start making your apartment feel like home on a shoestring budget:

  1. Let’s start off with family and friends. Don’t be shy, ask around. Let your family and friends know you’re moving (or just moved) and ask if they have anything lying around that they’ve been wanting to get rid of. You’d be surprised at how many of the smaller essentials you might wind up with.
  1. Check out Craigslist’s Free section (under the For Sale section). There’s a ton of larger furniture on this that people aren’t able to get rid of on time for their moving date, or just can’t figure out how to move. For example, in my apartment I have a bookshelf, a leather couch, and a night stand in near to perfect condition that were all found in the free section. All you have to do is be able to pick them up. If you don’t have a car – ask a friend and buy them a beer afterward!
  1. I’d also take a look at the For Sale section on Craigslist – you can find really great deals, especially for the DIY projects you might have been inspired by from Pinterest! Like the ladder shelf I was talking about before. It would probably cost you around $15! Remember, creativity is key when you want to furnish on a budget.
  1. On your day off, go on an adventure! Drive around your city’s residential areas, you never know who might be holding a garage sale, especially in the summer! In my neighbourhood there are at least 3 going on during the weekend, it’s great. If you live in a residential area – go for a walk around the block! And if you’re feeling extra adventurous, take a stroll through an alley or two. Sometimes people just give up on trying to sell or give away their furniture and it ends up behind (or in front of) a dumpster.
  1. Do some research and find some second hand stores that sell furniture in your city. Value Village is always a great choice (especially for glassware, there is no shortage of funky vintage plates and cups), Salvation Army is another a good one, and I can assure you that there are some hidden gems in your city – it just takes a little researching and exploring.
  1. Estate Sales are another option. If the idea of owning a deceased persons’ belongings freaks you out – don’t worry, estate sales also include items from people who are still kicking around, they just have to get rid of the bulk of their belongings (for other reasons). These sales are usually held at the previous owner’s home – you can find them by searching for estate sales in your city on Google.
  1. Look around on Etsy! There are so many cool craftspeople out there that have killer designs at really affordable prices. Some might even be local – which is a bonus, supporting local artisans keeps your city’s culture alive and you probably won’t have to spend any money on shipping!
  1. On that note, check out some craft fairs, flea markets and outdoor markets! Even if you don’t find any cool furniture, you might be inspired by being surrounded by other creative and resourceful people. Talk to the local vendors, they could have a whole network of people who could help you out on your search.
  1. Big Box Stores are also a good place to look. Find places with liquidation sales, or make your way over to Ikea. I’ve left this one last because, personally, I find it hard to stay under budget at stores like these. Especially Ikea. I’m not sure if it’s the way the store is set up – but I usually end up with way more than I need. BUT I do love taking trips here and there for storage solutions. Ikea has really inexpensive boxes, shelving units (for the most part) and clothing racks. Clothing racks are a great addition to your home if it doesn’t have enough closet space – and they’re usually budget friendly! If you have pretty clothes, your clothing rack can double as a decorative piece (try textures and colors for a more bohemian and laid back feel, or cool tones and silk fabrics for a modern aesthetic).

These are just a few ways to get started on furnishing within your budget. Remember, it doesn’t have to happen all at once. If you feel overwhelmed, go room by room. Just make sure you have something to sleep on and somewhere to eat! Or start with the big furniture and work your way down to the smaller pieces. Just because you have a budget does not mean you have to compromise on style! Put your personality into it and your new apartment will feel like home sooner than you think.

Once you’ve filled that apartment of yours, you’ll want to protect everything you have. If you’re a new renter, check out our new service – rental insurance with HUB International. Visit for more info!

Good luck!

Emily Stewart

The author Emily Stewart

Emily is the Marketing and Communications Coordinator at RentMoola. She's a reader, skier, and self-proclaimed Beyonce superfan.

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