Furnish Your Apartment – Expensive or Cheap?

A few weeks back I was at my friend’s wedding in Ohio. I was part of the wedding and got to spend a lot of time with one of my closest friends. There are very few things that are better in life than spending quality time with those closest to you. When we were talking about the upcoming changes for the married couple, I heard that they were investing in a nice bedroom set. They were well connected in the furniture business and were able to get a family discount on wholesale prices for a really nice set of matching dressers, but they still spent a good chunk of change.

furnishing an apartment

Thinking about how much they were spending on two dressers, I couldn’t help but think of all of the other things I could buy. I can’t help it – it’s part of who I am. If you remember, the topic is close to my heart because I was able to furnish our first apartment for $600. Then, my friend said something very interesting – they were looking at is an investment. They’d rather get a nice set of furniture now than go the cheap route and have to replace it multiple times over the next few decades. So, which route is better? Furnishing your apartment with quality, expensive furniture or going as cheap as possible via craigslist.

Two Approaches to Furnishing Your Apartment

While I imagine that there is a spectrum of different approaches to furnishing an apartment (in between these two options), it’s an interesting discussion to have. Is it better to invest in quality or go as cheap as possible and use the money elsewhere. While there may not be one right answer, I thought it would be an interesting conversation. Let’s start by examining the pros and cons of buying the high end furniture.

Pros of Buying Expensive, Quality Furniture

  • Less chance of having to replace nice furniture
  • You get nice furniture
  • You don’t spend lots of money on different pieces of furniture, upgrading slowly
  • You can take pride in having nice items
  • A better looking (and maybe more hospitable) home
  • Spend less time shopping for furniture over lifetime

Cons of Buying Expensive, Quality Furniture

  • Spending a lot of money per item
  • A chance of your furniture eventually becoming outdated
  • If something were to happen to them (either in a emergency or moving), the loss would be more devastating
  • If you refuse to buy cheap furniture, it might take a while to furnish your apartment completely

It’s hard to say whether buying expensive furniture has more pros or cons. On the one hand, it would be nice to have, but on the other hand, I can’t help but think of the functionality as the priority. In other words, if a drawer opens and holds clothes (and doesn’t look too ugly), isn’t that all that’s important? Let’s consider the pros and cons of buying cheaper furniture.

Pros of Buying Cheap Furniture

  • Spending a lot less per item
  • Much more options for furniture and easier to have matching furniture
  • Doesn’t matter as much if it breaks or is destroyed

Cons of Buying Cheap Furniture

  • Increased chance of furniture breaking or falling apart
  • May go through several sets of furniture
  • Spend more time shopping for furniture

Again, it seems to be difficult to choose without knowing the person that the furniture is for. If you are going to respect and take care of the furniture, it may be wise to invest in something nice that you don’t have to replace. But, if you are known for breaking things, it may be a smart move to go cheap, knowing that you will have to replace the furniture either way. If you are looking for answers to what I am finding to be an incredibly hard debate, consider these questions to help you decide:

  • Am I going to get sick of one set of furniture?
  • Do I want to buy new furniture every few years?
  • Will this quality furniture be outdated in 30 years?
  • Is it better for me to spend this money on more important things now (like debt, investing, car, etc.)?
  • Can I afford nice furniture?
  • Will I regret not getting quality furnishings?
  • Will it make my apartment more hospitable? Will anyone even care that I have nice furniture?
  • Will it be hard to re-sell if I get this or that?

While the questions could go on and on, the important thing to do is to consider all of your options. The way that you furnish your apartment could influence how you approach all of your financial decisions. If you overlook the importance of weighing all of your options, it could set you on course for ruining your finances. Be sure to consider all of the factors before jumping into something that could affect your finances for decades.


17 Responses to Furnish Your Apartment – Expensive or Cheap?

  1. My experience was that you should just start off with cheap stuff and work your way up to expensive things. When you’re young and moving from apartment to apartment, city to city, your furniture and things are going to get banged around and there really isn’t a lot of advantage to having the best items. Plus you’re usually just starting out and kind of hurting for cash. After my wife and I moved into our house, we started trading up for good, high quality items. One side note is that we also waited just a little bit until the kids got bigger. Toddlers can also cause unexpected damage to your “expensive” items.

    • Corey says:

      That’s true about usually not having money to pay for nice things. My wife and I certainly started out with our financial struggles.

  2. Very good thoughts here, Corey. I think the word “investment” should be reserved for appreciating assets, and it’s hard to imagine furniture appreciating (except antiques? but they wouldn’t be functional, probably). Personally we furnish cheaply right now because 1) we don’t make much money, 2) we have higher priorities, and 3) we are transient and furniture is a burden in moving.

    I think the key question though, is whether or not you can pay cash for new high-quality furniture while still meeting your other financial goals. If it’s important enough for you to have, you’ll be very motivated to save up fast for it. If you aren’t motivated enough to pay cash, then you don’t want it enough and should stick with something cheap for the time being.

    • Corey says:

      I guess investment is used kind of loosely. 😉 I think that’s a great way to look at it Emily. I love me my financial goals and I couldn’t sacrifice them for some nice furniture. It would be a daily reminder of how I failed.

  3. Adam says:

    Great Article! Its tough to find the right strategy when buying furniture. I’ve been trying to find a happy medium between the two strategies. That is, finding affordable, yet durable and not unattractive furniture.

  4. This is a great topic. I am one to spend a little more for quality after getting burnt in the past by trying to save every last cent. I’ve learned to figure out what the midpoint is for certain things. For furniture, there is a price that I will not go above. But if something is good quality, I will spend a little more on it in the hopes that it lasts a little longer. So far, so good!

    • Corey says:

      Yeah, part of me really likes getting the best value for my money. If that means spending more money for something more valuable, i will do it as long as I can afford it.

  5. I’m a strong believer that you can get nice furniture for affordable prices. Just because it’s second hand, doesn’t mean it’s bad quality! People’s tastes change, and so thus, their furniture. They then sell em for cheaper than new prices.
    I always go for quality and price.

  6. It seems that it really depends on their priorities. If they hate buying furniture, and they don’t expect their style to change, it would make sense to buy the better stuff now and stick with it as the move around.

    A third option would be craigslist. You can get really quality, nice stuff for much less :). We’ve gotten some great furniture for cheap there, and it’s lasted well and been very inexpensive!

  7. Michelle says:

    I will never shop at a certain furniture store again after buying a cheap set of sofas. One broke after my 60 lb child jumped onto it. Yes, my child shouldn’t have jumped onto the sofa, but shouldn’t it be able to hold up if a small child does make a bad choice? Now, we save up for quality furniture that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg, though.

  8. I don’t think it’s an investment unless those dressers are going to appreciate in price. :)
    Usually I go for cheap, but we don’t mind paying more for certain items. Our couch was a bit more expensive than usual, but we had certain requirement and I couldn’t find a cheap comfortable one.

    • Corey says:

      hmm. maybe I am using the term too loosely, but if furniture is going to depreciate no matter what, couldn’t I justify labeling it an investment if I know furniture A is going to depreciate slower than furniture B?

  9. I’ve gone the cheap route to furnish my condo. I hate moving and I hate damaging stuff during the move even more. Since I hire day-laborers to help me move, a few items always get broken.

  10. Depending on what you’re buying, sometimes it’s better to buy quality furniture (sofa, bed) and be a bit more frugal on other things, such as a coffee table, accents, etc. But I do get your friend’s point in replacing the furniture every few years. Furniture shopping can be a pain in the butt when it comes to shopping, delivering, and assembling.

  11. I’m with you! I’ve found so many pieces of nice, solid wood furniture at thrift stores and craigslist that just needed a little love. I could never spend a fortune on it, even if I made triple what I make now!

  12. […] in all the other seemingly insignificant items and add them to the value of the so-called big ticket items, and you soon arrive at a higher than expected sum that you would need to go out and buy them […]

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