Furnishing an entire apartment or house on a budget is a CHALLENGE; in fact, there are seemingly endless TV shows devoted to it. Each creative solution makes these shows downright addictive to watch. It isn’t always easy to pull off.

Like most of us, you probably don’t have a celebrity designer. So how do you do it yourself? 

Bellhop is here to help! This article gives you the information you need to furnish your new place for cheap! You will learn how to budget for furniture, which basic furniture pieces to account for, and where to find affordable pieces of furniture, including some of today’s low-priced furniture stores and secondhand furniture sources. We provide all the information you need to meet any apartment or home budget. 

As you might guess, our local movers spend a lot of time talking to people about furniture. We’ve picked up some great ideas about how to find inexpensive furnishings. We’re sharing what we know in this article; from planning and budgeting tips to strategies for finding great, affordable furniture, plus how to figure out what’s worth buying at what price – even how to maintain stuff once you’ve acquired it. With a little planning, patience and the tips from Bellhop in this article, you’ll end up with a fully-furnished home without draining your bank account.

Let’s start shopping!

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Furnishing a home on a budget

Impulse shopping is never a good idea when you’re sticking to a budget. Before you begin shopping, ask yourself these questions:

  • How long do I plan to live here?
  • Do I want to keep this furniture, or will I leave it behind/try to sell it when I move?
  • Do I have family or friends who might have furniture they want to donate to me? (hint: landlords and property managers may have access to left-behind furniture that they need to get rid of ASAP.)
  • What do I really want? You might want a great dining table and chairs more than a couch if you love to entertain. If you work at home, a good desk and chair may be more important than a chest of drawers for your clothes. Figure out what you matters the most to you, and prioritize these items.

Now you’re ready to make a list of what you need to get, and figure out how much you can afford to pay for each piece, based on your budget. Don’t expect to be able to afford everything all at once. Think about the one thing that would really enhance your life at home, and put it on top of your prioritized list and so on. Then work your way through the list, keeping an eye out for surprise bargains that might pop up. 

Remember to Include Tax and Delivery!

Buying furniture from a store may require sales tax. Account for delivery costs from a furniture provider or for renting a truck and buying tasty pizza for friends who help you move. 

OK, so what furniture do I really need for my first home? 

While we do advise prioritizing the things that you need, here’s a short list of things that many people find essential for a comfortable and functional home.

A Mattress

A good night’s sleep is essential, but a new mattress can be really pricey. On average, a basic twin-sized innerspring mattress might cost around $200 to $400, while a high-end king-sized memory foam mattress could cost $2,000 or more. The good news is that there always seems to be a sale on mattresses, especially around holidays such as Memorial Day, Labor Day, and President’s Day. Look for “end of season” sales in the spring and fall, when dealers want to clear out older models to make room for new inventory. 

You can consider a used mattress if you’re confident it’s not a breeding ground for dust mites, bed bugs, and other allergens. Some companies do professional mattress cleanings and resell used ones at a lower price – this can be an option worth exploring. The cleaning process typically involves steam cleaning or using special chemicals to kill bacteria, viruses, and allergens, and the mattresses are often disinfected and encased in protective covers to help maintain their cleanliness. The cost of a used twin mattress starts at around $150, a top-of-the-line used king can be found for around $1500. Check any used mattress carefully, beyond sanitation concerns it may no longer provide the support and comfort you need, or a warranty if you find you can’t sleep well on it.  

Once you’ve got your mattress, keep it in good shape by using a mattress protector to keep it clean and/or vacuuming it regularly. Rotating your mattress every three to six months can help distribute wear evenly. Using a box spring or supportive platform is also a good way to reduce sagging and extend your mattresses’ life.

Bed Sheets

You’ll need sheets to keep your new bed clean and comfortable. When buying sheets, you have a lot of materials to choose from, including cotton, linen, silk, bamboo and flannel. Best way to choose is to feel some samples and figure out what you like. Linen and silk sheets are pretty pricey ($100-$300+ for a twin) but are great if you get warm when you sleep. Flannel is affordable ($30 to $75 for twin), and will keep you *very* cozy. Cotton is always a popular choice for sheets. Budget cotton sheets can be had for $20 and up, medium-range cotton sheets will run from $50-$100. Fancy sheets can cost hundreds, but seem to last forever and get softer with each wash. Microfiber is a synthetic material that is soft, durable, hypoallergenic and easy to care for, a solid budget-friendly alternative to cotton or silk. You can find microfiber sheets starting at $10 for a twin bed, good quality ones for between $30-$50, and high-end for $50+.. Follow the manufacturer’s directions when washing your sheets.

A Shower Curtain

This seems pretty trivial, but you’d be surprised how many people forget to put a shower curtain on their shopping list. Unless you only take baths, you’ll need one – a shower curtain prevents water damage that can cost more than any items on your list. Basic vinyl shower curtains can cost anywhere from $5 to $20. Fabric shower curtains run from $20 to $100+, and you may want a plastic liner (about $5) behind them to help protect it from water and stains. Wash your fabric curtain every three to six months to remove soap scum, mildew, and bacteria. In theory, you should wipe down your vinyl shower curtain after each use with a damp cloth – we don’t know anyone who does this. Spritzing it every three or so months with a mild soap and water solution and wiping it down may be enough. Avoid using abrasive cleaners, as they can scratch the surface of the vinyl. 

Sofa or Accent Chair

A brand-new sofa may be the goal, but living room furniture is pricey! Budget sofas, typically made with low-quality materials, can cost anywhere from $300 to $800. Mid-range sofas, made with higher quality materials and more durable construction, are usually $800 to $2,000. High-end sofas are $2,000 to $10,000 or more. Yikes.

A used sofa may be the answer. A couch is a pain for an owner to move and throw away. Budget used sofas can cost anywhere from $50 to $200. Mid-range used sofas tend to be priced at $200 to $800. High-end ones go from $800-$2,000+. You can also skip the sofa and go for a comfy chair – a budget quality, new chair can cost anywhere from $50 to $200. A mid-range chair is usually priced from $200 to $800. Used budget and mid-range chairs can be discounted by up to 50%. Watch for sales around the holidays, and in fall/spring especially. 

Keep your couch and/or chairs in good shape by regularly vacuuming them to remove dirt and debris. For spills or stains, clean the affected area as soon as possible with a mild detergent and warm water, then blot it dry. If your couch/chair has removable cushions, rotate them every few months to ensure even wear and prevent permanent indentations

Dining Table / Kitchen Table

You can find basic kitchen tables for as little as $50 to $100. These tables are usually made from laminate or particleboard. Kitchen tables that are made from higher quality materials, such as solid wood or metal, can cost anywhere from $200 to $500. These tables are more durable and are designed for more frequent use. For a high-end kitchen table you can expect to pay upwards of $1,000 or more. 

Used tables are often a great buy, with none of the sanitary worries of used mattresses, couches, etc. Look for gently used kitchen tables at garage sales, thrift stores, or online marketplaces such as Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace. You can also save by buying multipurpose furniture; a kitchen table that also doubles as a work desk, or a dining table with storage underneath.

Lighting: A Floor Lamp and Bedside Table Lamp

If your new place doesn’t have ceiling lights, include lamps in your budget for furniture. Consider a small light next to your bed and a larger floor lamp for your living room and dining room.


Cooking at home will save you lots of money, but that requires kitchenware. Your cooking skills and interest in cooking will guide you in what you need, but here’s a general list of the most essential kitchenware items:

Pots and pans: a small saucepan, a medium saucepan, a large stockpot, and a skillet – or just a medium saucepan and skillet if you’re not really into cooking stuff like homemade soups.

Cutting boards: Wood ($15 to $100) is durable, more hygienic and better for the environment but requires regular care to avoid warping. Plastic ($5 to $30) is more affordable and convenient. Bamboo ($10 to $50) offers the best of both wood and plastic, but like wooden cutting boards need to be oiled regularly to keep them in good condition.

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Knives: You’ll want at least a chef’s knife, a paring knife, and a serrated knife, these are often sold as a set. Leaving aside professional quality knives, which are extremely costly and totally worth it if you enjoy cooking, you can get a very basic set of kitchen knives for $30 to $100+. Don’t expect them to hold an edge as well or feel as comfortable in the hand as more expensive sets. Mid-range knife sets can cost anywhere from $100 to $300. These sets often feature higher-quality steel, better balance, and more comfortable handles. High-end knife sets, which can cost $300 or more, are typically made from premium materials, such as high-carbon stainless steel, and feature precision craftsmanship and attention to detail. Care for them based on the manufacturer’s guidance. 

Baking sheets and roasting pans: you can probably get away with cheap foil ones if you don’t cook often (double them up so they don’t buckle when you pull them out of the oven, and use a layer of aluminum foil so that you can reuse the sheets/pans a few times). Otherwise, check out restaurant supply store for solid, affordable versions – figure on spending $20-30+. 

Other basics: Measuring cups and spoons, a set of mixing bowls, spatula, kitchen spoons and tongs, can opener, colander for draining pasta and other foods, and a basic set of dishes, glasses, cups/mugs and utensils. All of these can be purchased at your local big box store for under $100.

Coffee Table 

A coffee table can work as a dining table or as a place to place snacks and drinks when hanging out with friends. And without it, a home can look pretty sparse. The good news is a coffee table can be unconventional and still get the job done. A basic, functional coffee table costs anywhere from $50 to $100, and you can find something a little more snazzy for $150-$200. 


Leaving your clothing in boxes will get old pretty quickly. Basic dressers are pretty cheap ($100-$200), and nice ones can often be found used for even less. Check that drawers slide out smoothly, or you’ll be annoyed at your dresser within a month of purchasing it. 

A Nightstand (or Two!)

You will want a convenient place to keep your phone, bed light, water, etc. You can find a decent nightstand for $50-$100, or DYI it – a few sturdy boxes piled up bedside may be all you need right now. Toss a tablecloth over the boxes to make it look nice. 

Bed Frame

You can sleep with a mattress on the floor, but getting in and out is uncomfortable while making you look like a squatter, not a renter. Plus, you can increase storage by stashing items under the bed.


You’ll need sheets to keep your bed clean, warm, and comfortable. Mattresses may be soft to lay on, but they can still feel scratchy without soft sheets.

Bedroom curtain

Unless you like the world looking in on you, invest in a bedroom curtain. Cheap curtains will do ($10-$20), or opt for decorative curtains ($30-$50+) to add to your home’s design. Remember that sheer curtains may prevent you from seeing out, but they don’t keep people from seeing in.

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Do Some Prep Work Before You Shop

Now that you have your list of furniture pieces ready, you still have a few steps to do before heading out the door. 

Create a Floorplan with a Few Design Options

Draw a floorplan that includes basic ideas of furniture placement and measurements of each room and locations of wall outlets, doorways, and windows. Keep a few copies so you can sketch 2-3 design options for potential furniture layouts – especially for your couch design. Having a collection of design ideas increases the chances of finding items you need.

Write Down the Size of Every Item

Get deets on items and make sure they all fit in the rooms and through hallways and elevators. 

Where to find the best budget furniture

Shop secondhand: Secondhand furniture and home goods can be a great way to save money. Check online marketplaces like Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, and OfferUp, as well as local consignment shops and thrift stores.

Repurpose items: You can also repurpose items you already have, such as using a bookshelf as a TV stand or using a trunk as a coffee table.

Wait for sales: Furniture stores often have sales around holidays, so keep an eye out for promotions and deals.

DIY: If you’re handy, you can try to build some of the furniture yourself, such as a bookshelf or a coffee table, which can be both budget-friendly and rewarding.

Upcycle: If you, your family, or your friends have furniture they don’t need, find ways to freshen things up by repainting or re-staining them. You can reference YouTube, design shows, Facebook groups, and unlimited websites for the best ways to recycle and refurbish furniture. 

Garage sales, flea markets and yard sales: You save colossal money buying used furniture, and garage sales and yard sales are some of the cheapest sources. Some items can be very good, too. Owners may be desperate to get rid of them for many reasons. As the saying goes, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”

Charity organizations: Check out the Salvation Army, Goodwill, and local charity thrift stores. These organizations receive donations of furniture and do a pretty good job of ensuring each furniture item is in decent shape. Habitat for Humanity stores may have newer, more gently used furniture than other charity shops. 

Shop budget-friendly stores: Ikea, CB2, Big Lots, Ashley Furniture, and discount furniture stores. Ross and Target are also great for furniture and other basic items like kitchenware,  linens, and drapery. Also, try popular online stores like Overstock, Wayfair, AllModern, and eBay.

Furniture rentals and lease-to-own furniture: For a basic living room setup, which might include a sofa, a loveseat, and a coffee table, you can expect to pay anywhere from $150 to $500 or more per month. Renting a bedroom set, which could include a bed, dresser, and nightstand, could cost anywhere from $100 to $400 or more per month. Keep in mind that if you damage furniture rentals, you may be responsible for the value of the piece in addition to your rental amount. You need to decide if renting/leasing makes financial sense for you.

Neighbors: some places, especially college towns, have specific days when people put used furniture out for pickup. Check the city/town website for information on bulk pickup days and cruise the streets late night before to see what’s salvageable.

When You are Ready for the Big Move, Use Bellhop

Bellhop specializes in offering delivery assistance for any level of move. You can order a truck, hire a few extra men if needed, or get full, white-glove delivery. We want to help you make that new home a reality at a budget you can handle. Also, if you’d like, check out this guide for comparing moving company quotes to ensure that we’re the best movers for you!

Contact us to find out more!

Nick Valentino