The Most Affordable Ways to Furnish Your First NYC Apartment

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February 6, 2020
the most affordable ways to furnish you nyc apartment

You rented your first apartment in NYC (CONGRATULATIONS!), but also just paid the first month’s rent and a security deposit. Not so sure you have any money left for furnishing your new place? Don’t worry, we have got you covered.

how to find affordable furniture in NYC

How Much Space Do You Have?

We’ve heard stories from older New Yorkers that back in the glory days of the 1970s and 1980s, young New Yorkers had apartments so big they couldn’t even furnish them. “Luckily” for us, that is no longer a major issue.

Instead, our generation’s question is how much can you physically fit in your cramped room and oddly shaped living room. When you get your first apartment in NYC, your new best friend is a tape measure. It should help you figure out the basic questions: Should you get a queen-sized bed or a full-sized bed? Should you get a murphy bed or an aerobed? But before you actually buy things, make sure you know what you would need in your NYC apartment.

Basic Essentials Checklist:

  • A Bed: One of our team members once had a subletter sleep on an aerobed for two months, it was very suspicious… 
  • A Nightstand: You also need a nightstand to keep your phone on when it’s charging at night for that annoying morning alarm. 
  • A Dresser: For the clothes you cannot fit in your likely way-too-small closet. 
  • A Couch: To sit on when you are sick of sitting on your bed. 
  • A Coffee Table: Don’t forget a coffee table, so you don’t have to hold your drink when sitting on the couch. 
  • Curtains: Never forget that you need to bring your own curtains! Your first night in the apartment is always a bit brighter than you hoped for. 
  • Shower Curtains: You don’t want water everywhere (you probably also want a cleaning mop in case accidents do happen)!
  • A Bathmat: So you won’t slip. 
  • Other Essentials: Frequently you’ll need a toilet paper stand, if a holder didn’t come with the home. You also need a garbage can and a recycling bin, etc.

Beyond the simplest basics, you will also want a bookshelf to prove to others that you are smart, educated and absolutely brilliant. A television, so you don’t have to strain your eyes from streaming on your laptop. A shower caddy so you don’t have to precariously balance all your products on the ledge of your bathtub. 

If it’s your first NYC apartment, you might have to acquire art or posters to hang on the wall (some people might think if you don’t decorate your home you are a serial killer…). Any more ideas we forgot? Share your own list in the comments section.

what to buy for nyc home furniture

How to Find Affordable Furniture in NYC


Affordable furniture in NYC can be hard to come by. We’d always advise using Craigslist to see what is out there. Obviously Craigslist means you are getting used items, so always ask to see pictures before you arrive. Also be aware that affordable furniture in NYC on Craigslist might not always be in a good condition, so be prepared to travel to see an item and then realize you might not even want it. 

With that being said, there are always good deals on Craigslist! One of our team members actually got a virtually new mattress from someone he met through the site for $50! While buying a good second-hand mattress can be tricky (bed bugs!!), he was surprisingly satisfied. The seller was moving away and couldn’t sell all of his furniture, so he invited the buyer (our colleague) to come over the next day and just buy his sofa. Then, they both realized the mattress can be sold as well and the rest is history.

Other Marketplaces

Similarly to Cragislist, you can also use apps like Offer Up and Let Go to find great second-hand furniture. These marketplaces (optimized primarily for smartphones) feature a large database of furniture for sale with photos and descriptions of the products. The goods are displayed based on your exact location, which will save you time and money when picking up a piece you liked.

Friends and Family

People in your network are frequently moving away and have furniture they can’t take with them. By picking it up from them you’re actually doing them a huge favor, since moving stuff in this city is hard and can be expensive.


If you want new items instead of gently used items from strangers on the internet, you have many other options. The first is of course IKEA! People always talk about how hard IKEA furniture is to assemble, but it can actually be fairly easy and intuitive. Especially if you watch one of these mesmerizing IKEA furniture assembling videos

There are currently 2 IKEA locations in NYC, and a third soon to open. The full-sized Brooklyn IKEA is in Red Hook and the IKEA Planning Studio on the Upper East Side. The last one doesn’t have full items for you to take home, but you can browse products and get them delivered. Coming up in summer 2020 IKEA will have another full-size location in Rego Park, Queens.

Local Stores

Affordable furniture for your apartment, not from IKEA is also doable. NYC is full of small local furniture stores in the outer boroughs, some of which offer great deals. You should also consider thrift shops, both local and big names like Goodwill or Salvation Army, which often carry furniture basics as well.

Shop Online

buy the best furniture for your NYC apartment

For affordable mattresses in NYC, check out some of the new online brands like Tuft & Needle or Casper. These are very comfortable, often come with deals/coupons, and can beat the bigger brands’ price by not being in traditional stores. An added benefit is that they will deliver the mattress directly to your new NYC apartment!

If none of those work, you can always buy affordable furniture on Amazon or Wayfair. They both have an unlimited amount of suppliers, many selling very cheap furniture. Make sure you read all the reviews and compare between different offerings to find the best product and deal.

How Do You Move Furniture in NYC?

So you have your first apartment in New York City, you found a great deal on a mattress, or dresser, or couch off of Craigslist. So how do you bring it to your new home?

If it’s just a mattress, you can strap it to the top of any sedan with bungee cords. If you don’t own a car, you can rent one through ZipCar, by the hour. ZipCar also offers vans, trucks and SUVs. If you have a full day of moving ahead of you, we’d advise using one of the traditional car rental services like Enterprise

A pro tip: Throughout the years we have found out that it’s markedly cheaper to rent from outside of the city, like the Newark airport or Long Island, than it is to rent in either Manhattan or Queens. While it’s annoying taking the train to Newark to rent a car, it usually is half to a third of the price of Manhattan car rental services. That’s a huge way to save money for furnishing your first apartment in New York City.

If you have way too much furniture to drive around, you can also rent a U-Haul van or hire “a man with a van.” 

How Many Friends to Bring as a Help for the Move?

Another important part of moving furniture in New York City is that it’s hard to do it alone. We’d suggest three people in total for any move. One can sit in the car in case you live on a street with strict parking rules, and the other two people can carry the stuff in and out.

You’ve furnished your first apartment on a budget, but it still takes effort to bring stuff in. Sometimes you have to carry your couch up as six flights of stairs. Other times, you have to get very creative in narrow hallways.

Need to find your next apartment or house? Check out Localize.City right now.

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