Just over a year ago, my boyfriend and I moved out of a fully furnished apartment that we absolutely hated. In the weeks leading up to this point, we scoured Rightmove and the windows of local estate agents with the intention of finding somewhere new to live. However, we weren’t the only ones. Every property we enquired about or viewed quickly got snapped up by somebody else, with some coming off the market the same day they went up. Time soon ran out and we had no choice but to hand over our keys, lock away our belongings in a 50 sqft storage room and temporarily moved back in with our respective parents.
Thankfully, we soon managed to secure a lovely apartment, in an ideal location, which came with the added bonus of a private garden. We were over the moon, especially after spending a fortnight apart, as it meant we’d be able to move back in together as a couple. The only downsides were that we were not able to move in straight away, and that other than white goods and a BBQ in the garden, it was completely empty.
Having moved from a furnished apartment to an unfurnished one, we knew we’d have to start completely from scratch. With so much to buy and so little time before our move-in date, we quickly came up with a plan of action. We began by making a list of all the items we’d need, highlighting any that we absolutely could not compromise on and must buy new e.g. our bed frame and mattress. However, there were a lot of other items that we were willing to buy (or obtain) second hand.
Not only did we try to save money because we’re
tight savvy Yorkshire folk, but also because we’re hoping to buy a house soon and weren’t sure what sort of furniture or colour scheme we’d want for when the time comes and therefore did not wish to invest in furniture that we may not end up keeping.
All in all, we managed to furnish our two-bedroom apartment with 2 beds, 2 mattresses, 3 and 2 seater recliner couches, 2 wardrobes, a clothes rail, 2 bedside tables, a chest of drawers, 2 desks, 2 computer chairs, a sideboard, a mirror, and a nest of tables, for just over £1,000.
Here’s a list of how we did it, along with my top tips to help you furnish your own accommodation on a budget:
My name is Rae and I am addicted to eBay. It’s by far one of the most cost-effective ways to furnish a home as you’re literally buying from people who have used the furniture and just want rid of it – ideally without having to take a trip to the tip. I bought an Argos wardrobe and IKEA sideboard secondhand from there and spent £10 in total, not including the minimal cost of petrol to collect the items.
The wardrobe had been used in a child’s bedroom, but as he got older, he needed more storage space and therefore his parents decided to opt for fitted wardrobes instead and put the old one on eBay in case it could be of use to anyone (read: me). Whereas the owners of the sideboard I bought had recently redecorated and decided the finish no longer matched the room. Full price, both items would have cost over £100 each, so I’m very grateful to the sellers and to eBay for facilitating my purchases.
In order to buy furniture on eBay, I’d recommend searching for the type of item you would like e.g. “dining table” and then filtering the item’s location for within 5 or 10 miles. If you find something suitable, you can usually either make an offer on it, or bid against others to win it in an auction. Usually, sellers are willing to respond to any questions you may have if you get in touch with them, and are quick to provide collection details so you can save on the cost of postage. Upon arrival at the address, you are free to inspect the item before you take it home. It may seem daunting, but to make collections safer, eBay recently introduced a QR code that both the seller and buyer scan to mark the item as collected.
Alongside second-hand furniture, some sellers even list new items for affordable prices. We bought a desk and a chest of drawers from one such seller and had no problems assembling either.
Before I buy anything, I always do a quick search on HotUKDeals to see if I can find the item cheaper, or if there is a discount code that I could take advantage of. This tip came in handy when I was looking to furnish the spare room with a bed as someone had posted an Amazon deal whereby a metal double frame with top reviews had been reduced to £60. It was also a blessing when I was shopping for bedside tables at Argos as it mentioned a £5 gift card would be received by anyone spending £40 or above – without this knowledge, I would have bought the items at the same time, but buying them separately meant I could fully take advantage of the offer.
This online community is a great place to request, collect and donate goods. It’s completely free to sign up to, and better yet, all items listed for sale on the website are also complimentary. To find your local group, enter your town or city, and then choose to browse the offer listings or post a request for whatever item you are in the market for.
I recently used the website to find a desk for my spare room after struggling to find one online that would fit in the space I needed it to. It was incredibly simple to find a listing that suited me, get in touch with the person donating it, and collect the item. After giving it a clean and a quick sand, I now have a perfectly good solid hardwood table that I can use as a desk when working from home, or convert to a dining table when we can eventually have guests over for dinner parties.
When browsing social media, I noticed an advert from someone who lived nearby who was giving away a wardrobe. It almost matched the other one I had bought second-hand on eBay, so I messaged the seller for more information. It turned out, they were renovating their house and getting rid of all furniture so I asked if I could be considered. The seller said yes and explained that the item was already outside and had yet to be dismantled, so I made the journey to her address, checked to see if it was suitable for me before taking it apart and squeezing it in the car. My boyfriend was initially worried about this free wardrobe as we struggled with the dismantling process and therefore worried if it was worth it, but it thankfully worked out well in the end.
I’m a member various buy and sell groups, some of which are dedicated purely to giving items away for free to help individuals furnish their homes. Although I haven’t acquired any furniture from these groups to date, I still think they are well worth joining as over the past year, I have collected brand new jewellery and trinket boxes, a sleeping bag and some jerry cans that came in handy on a camping trip.
Gumtree is another website that I have yet to properly utilise, but it’s always worth a check just in case someone local is selling what you’re after!
Many charity shops have specialist branches selling used furniture and electricals for affordable prices, including British Heart Foundation and Oxfam. By buying from these shops, not only will you be supporting great causes, but you’ll also be giving pre-loved furniture a new lease of life at the same time.
Note: Please be sure to call ahead before visiting as some of these charities have closed their furniture warehouses due to COVID-19, as I found out back when I was looking to furnish my spare room come office with a desk.
Friends and Family
They say charity starts at home for a reason so there’s no shame in asking friends and family to help you get started on your furnishing journey. In fact, I’m sure many will be able to help themselves, or know of someone who can.
For instance, when we were looking to buy a second-hand couch, my mum mentioned it to a friend who just so happened to have a brother who was selling his old one for a bargain price. Therefore, we were able to take it off his hands, freeing up his garage and giving us plenty of seating for ourselves and any post lockdown visitors. We were also generously given a clothes rail and a coat rack by a family friend who no longer needed them, purely because we mentioned we were moving from a furnished apartment to an unfurnished one.
On a slightly separate note, we also found a nest of glass tables by the communal bins of our apartment block and made them a welcome addition to our living room. Although we never found out who left them, we definitely consider them to be a friend and would love to thank them one day.
Have you found any second-hand furniture bargains? Or do you have any tips and tricks to help those looking to furnish their home? Leave a comment below to let me know!