25 Tips for Buying Furniture on a Budget

By Stacey Leasca · July 14, 2023 · 11 minute read

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25 Tips for Buying Furniture on a Budget

Furniture shopping, whether you’re giving a room a much-needed update or moving into a new space, can be fun. It gives you the chance to daydream, make inspo boards, hunt for great pieces, and personalize your space.

But it can also be an expensive endeavor. However, that doesn’t mean you’re destined to purchase pieces that scream “first apartment furniture.” Just because you’re buying furniture for cheap doesn’t mean it has to look it.

Here are smart hack that will have you feathering your nest for less and even, in some cases, for free.

25 Tips on How to Get Cheap Furniture

Scoring great furnishings on a tight budget takes some planning, and also knowing where to buy affordable furniture. Here are 25 ideas for creating a great space without spending a lot.

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1. Taking Stock of What You Already Have

Before going out to buy new stuff, you may want to do a walk-through of your space and make a list of what you already have. You can label each item “keep,” “donate/sell” or “toss,” so you know exactly what you need.

2. Taking Stock of Mom’s Basement Too

Do you have family members who may be harboring some perfectly good but no-longer-needed furniture? Consider scoping out their basements, attics, and garages for some free treasures.

3. Making a Wishlist

It’s okay to dream a little. In fact, a good way to start furnishing a new home is to go to your favorite furniture store’s site and fill your cart without considering price. You can then cull down your list to essentials, and start looking for those pieces (or something similar) for a cheaper price tag.

4. Renting Furniture

If your furniture budget is super tight, you may want to consider renting furniture from a company like CORT or Feather, rather than buying everything you need. Renting can also be a good option if you’re only going to be in your current home for a short time.

5. Timing Your Purchases Right

Knowing when to make big purchases can help you get some steep furniture discounts. Furniture stores tend to get new inventory at the end of winter and end of summer. To make room for newer items, they will often run good sales in February and August.

When it comes to furnishing your porch or patio, the right time to buy furniture is typically the end of summer and fall, when retailers are trying to clear out any leftover inventory.

6. Checking Out Freecycle

Cheap is great, but free can be even better. Consider going to a reuse/recycle site like Freecycle to see what people in your area may be looking to get rid of. You may want to keep in mind that good items often go fast.

7. Curbing Impulse Buys

It’s easy to fall madly in love with a cool sectional sofa and give in to impulse buying that can leave you with major debt. Before you pull the trigger on a pricey new piece of furniture, you may want to press pause. By giving yourself a week or so to really consider the purchase, you may realize you don’t actually need it. Or you may be able to scout out a cheaper but equally good option.

Recommended: How to Combat Impulsive Spending

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8. Mixing High and Low

Here’s another way to buy furniture cheap: You can often get a high-end look by splurging on one or two classic investment pieces and then going with cheaper, trendier accent pieces and accessories.

9. Putting the Word Out on Social Media

You may want to use social media to let people in your network know that you are on the hunt for furniture. You can even specify what you’re looking for (dining table, a chaise for the yard) and what you’re willing to offer (or barter) in return. You may be surprised at the response you get.

10. Selling Stuff You Don’t Need

To bolster your furniture budget, you may want to sell pieces that no longer work for your space. If you have a lot to get rid of, you might host a yard or garage sale. For just a few items, you can list them on a resale site like Craigslist, OfferUp, or Facebook Marketplace and see how much you can score.

11. Doing a Furniture Image Search

If you see a piece you love but it doesn’t fit your budget, you can download a photo of the item and then go to Google Images. If you click on the “Search By Image” button (the camera icon) and upload the photo, you can search for similar items. You might find the item’s twin at a better price.

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12. Searching Craigslist

Craigslist may be an oldie, but it’s still a goodie when it comes to finding affordable furniture. You can head to the site (which hasn’t changed much over the years), click the furniture tab, and search the possibilities.

13. Thinking Beyond Furniture Stores

Mass market retailers like Target, Walmart, and Home Depot actually have large furniture departments. You may be able to find stylish pieces at good prices, along with free delivery.

14. Searching Amazon Warehouse

How else to buy furniture cheap: Check out Amazon Warehouse , a corner of Amazon’s main site that is dedicated to selling used, pre-owned, and open-box products (often things that were returned unused or close to it). You can click on the furniture tab and either search for your needs or just see what’s available.

15. Hitting the Yard Sales

You can spend a Saturday or Sunday morning driving around town looking for treasures. Or you can check out yard sales listings online, then map out a route that hits the yards or stoops with the most potential.

16. Asking About the Floor Model

If there’s a piece in a store you absolutely love but it’s a bit out of budget, you can always ask the manager if they will sell you the floor model for a discount.

Since it is likely to still be a considerable amount of money even if the price is reduced, remember this when paying: If you buy it on credit, make sure to use the card that will give you the most rewards.

17. Combing Flea Markets

It can take a little time and effort, but you can often find great, affordable treasures at flea markets. Sometimes a little DIY is all it takes to transform something past its prime into the perfect thing for your place.

18. Browsing Antique Stores

In the winter months, you can often get the flea market experience by combing through antique stores or, even better, antique malls that have multiple booths housed indoors.

19. Checking Online Resale Marketplaces

Sites like OfferUp and Facebook Marketplace (where you may have listed items to sell) can also be a great resource for finding what you need. You can even do a search for a specific item you saw in store to see if anyone is offloading that same piece.

20. Thrifting Furniture

Large thrift store chains like Goodwill and Salvation Army typically get lots of donated items every day and can be a great place to find your next book shelf or coffee table. Local thrift shops can be worth checking out too.

21. Checking Out Salvage Stores

One of the most widely known salvage stores, Habitat ReStore , has locations throughout the country and often sells new and used furnishings, as well as appliances, for far less than retail. Bonus: They are helping to divert those goods from the waste stream.

22. Going Cheap on Art and Accessories

Once you’ve made your big item purchases, it’s time to think small (and cheap) with accent pillows, throws, artwork, and other decorative accessories. These items don’t need to cost a lot to add serious personal style to a space. You may fall for a $150 throw pillow but, odds are, you could find a super cute one for a fraction of the cost.

23. Stopping by Estate Sales

You can often find beautiful, high-quality pieces of furniture, as well as artwork, at estate sales for a fraction of what you’d pay at a store. You can find estate sale listings in your area on Craigslist as well as Estatesale.com and Estatesales.net .

24. Haggling Over the Price

No matter where you are shopping for furniture, it can be worth trying to haggle the price down a bit. You can ask a seller if the listed price is as low as they can go, if they will offer a discount for buying multiple items, or if there is any wiggle room on the delivery fee.

25. Checking In With Neighbors

You can use Nextdoor , the neighborhood online hub, to let neighbors know what you are looking for and also scroll through the site’s “For Sale and Free” listings to see what your neighbors are selling or giving away.

💡 Quick Tip: If you’re creating a budget, try the 50/30/20 budget rule. Allocate 50% of your after-tax income to the “needs” of life, like living expenses and debt. Spend 30% on wants, and then save the remaining 20% towards saving for your long-term goals.

What Contributes to High or Low Furniture Prices?

Here are some factors that contribute to whether a piece of furniture has a high or low price:

•   Production: Mass-produced pieces are likely to be less expensive than a piece that is made in smaller batches or handcrafted by an artisan.

•   Supply and demand: An item that is popular is likely to be pricier than something that has fallen out of favor.

•   Materials: A solid wood piece, for example, is probably going to cost more than a similar item made of particleboard.

•   Supply chain: If a manufacturer is using, say, a material that is scarce due to supply chain issues, they may have to pay more to obtain it. Those additional charges could be passed along to the consumer.

•   Source: Depending on trade conditions, labor, shipping, and other factors, there could be a price discrepancy based on whether the item was manufactured in the U.S. or elsewhere.

What to Look Out for in Secondhand Furniture

Secondhand furniture can be a great resource when you are buying furniture on a budget. Btw, you can even shop for used furniture online at sites like AptDeco and Kaiyo.

Here, some buying furniture tips when you’re hunting for preloved treasures:

•   Just say no to used mattresses. They can be a repository of stains, smells, dust mites, bedbugs, and more.

•   Inspect for structural damage. Cracks, duct tape, and evidence of past repairs can spell trouble.

•   Avoid upholstered furniture with an odor. Whether mildew, smoke, or pet smells, these smells can be very hard to eliminate.

•   Be wary of painted pieces that might have lead paint; they would have been made before 1978 when laws were passed banning lead paint. Crackly, “alligator skin” painted surfaces can indicate lead paint. Also, if you rub your hand over the surface and get a chalky residue, it might be lead.

•   Check for signs of mold, which may look like a patch of dirt that won’t rub away. That’s another health issue you don’t want to deal with.

Now, after you’ve read those warnings, also remember that you could get a real deal by buying secondhand. Go ahead and use your imagination. Often, with the addition of a coat of paint and new hardware or a slipcover, you can grab a bargain. Many inexpensive, tired pieces can become treasures when spruced up. Look online for how-to ideas.

The Takeaway

Furnishing a new place can be daunting, especially if you’re shopping on a budget.

But by thinking beyond traditional furniture stores and turning to alternatives like flea markets, resale and salvage shops, estate sales, and online marketplaces, you can often score chic and cheap pieces that won’t fall apart in a year or two.

You can also stretch your furniture budget by mixing higher-end investment pieces with cheaper accent decor and sprucing up secondhand finds.

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How do you buy furniture on a budget?

You can buy furniture on a budget by shopping at estate sales, thrift shops, and antique malls, as well as hunting at your usual retailers for floor models and other sale items. Lastly, see what you might be able to score for free via a neighborhood online community or Freecycle.

Is it cheaper to buy furniture in store or online?

As with many products and services, online may have better deals on furniture than retail stores. Because online retailers don’t need to have a network of brick-and-mortar locations with staff, they may enjoy savings that they can pass along to customers.

Why is furniture getting so expensive?

Furniture may be expensive for a variety of reasons, from supply chain issues and material scarcity to inflation to the cost of labor, especially on handmade pieces.

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