Millennial Money: Furnish your new place on a budget
Moving season is almost over. But if you’re one of the many people settling into a new home right now, you might feel like the furniture-buying season is just getting started. And that can get expensive.
After paying rent, a security deposit or mortgage down payment — plus all the costs associated with moving — furniture can come as an afterthought, leaving a less-than-ideal budget for the items that make your new place feel like home.
Even with lower-cost items from budget-friendly retailers like Amazon and Target, furnishing an entire space gets costly. And if you want higher-end items, a premium couch or bedroom set alone can run you several thousand dollars.
To save on furniture, try turning to your community and peer-to-peer resale platforms to find quality secondhand pieces, and also spacing out your purchases strategically.
FIRST, SEE WHAT YOU CAN GET FOR FREE
Before you venture into the Ikea maze or go down a rabbit hole of online shopping, see what your local community has to offer. Ask people you know if there’s anything they’re getting rid of.
“Your friends and family may be moving, too,” says Henna Noor, a full-time student at the University of California, Irvine. Noor recently moved into her first apartment with a furniture budget of under $700 and scored a free couch from her girlfriend’s parents. “It might benefit them to get rid of an item without having to pay to move it or try to sell it before they go.”
Don’t be afraid to talk to your neighbors or make a request on social media; the people in your life are likely happy to help you navigate this exciting life change. Many neighborhoods also have “Buy Nothing” Facebook groups you can join to give and receive household items. However, you’ll likely need to find a way to transport the items, possibly by renting or borrowing a truck, or getting a friend to help you.
TRY PEER-TO-PEER PLATFORMS
Peer-to-peer resale platforms like OfferUp, Letgo and Facebook Marketplace feature thousands of secondhand items. You might be able to find some hidden gems sitting within a 5-mile radius of your new place.
“There are limited options at a store like Ikea,” says Miranda Escobar, a marketing manager at a tech startup in New York City , who moved from Manhattan to Brooklyn in April. “A peer marketplace opens you up to different, unexpected furniture styles.”
Escobar’s go-to is Facebook Marketplace, where she searches a single keyword like “dresser” and then refines the results by color, material, price and location. For example, she might search for wood items under $50 within 2 miles of her new address.
However, some locales have more listings than others, and it can be time-consuming to sort through the results. Not all items are priced to sell, either; some sellers are more motivated by making a profit than getting rid of old items.
“It can take hours of digging to find the true steals,” says Noor. Noor checked the OfferUp app daily for a week before her move, keeping an eye out for fresh listings from users who needed to get rid of items quickly.
If you’re shopping at peer-to-peer marketplaces, garage sales or estate sales, take the opportunity to bargain. Note that the seller is often trying to get rid of the item, but also try to offer a price within a reasonable range — lowballing may not get you a response.
“I always compare with similar items on the market,” Escobar says. If it’s a name-brand or vintage piece, look up what it would cost to buy new or what other resellers are listing it for. Knowing the ballpark value of the item you want can help you negotiate more confidently with a seller and steer clear of listings with unreasonable prices.
SPACE OUT EXPENSES
“Of course, you want to get your new place feeling like home immediately,” Escobar says. “But it’s better to be patient and wait for pieces at the right prices that really fit the space.”
Waiting on the lower-priority items can ensure you’re ready to snag pieces at rock-bottom prices from users who are up against moving deadlines; they’re likely to take the best offer available.
Patience is helpful when shopping retail, too: Out-of-season furniture is discounted in winter and summer to make room for new items arriving in the spring and fall, and most stores offer significant discounts around holidays like Black Friday and Labor Day. At thrift stores, furniture stock can change regularly, and waiting for the right deal on a secondhand piece could save you more than buying it new.
If you need something immediately, like a table for example, try finding an inexpensive placeholder piece to use for now, such as a low-cost folding table. You can always upgrade later when you have the funds.