I’ll be the first to admit I have champagne taste on a beer bottle budget. That budget may be self-imposed, but even if I was already a millionaire, it wouldn’t change the fact that I love a good deal. That’s where Craigslist comes in.
When I finished grad school, I moved to a new city with only what would fit in the back of my Subaru. That meant I had clothes, pillows, a laundry basket and one piece of art. I’d spent years renting fully furnished apartments, and although I enjoyed the flexibility of being able to pack up and move on a whim (I lived in seven states in seven consecutive years), I was looking forward to getting furniture that was actually my style and making my new apartment feel like a home.
The first option I explored was buying new furniture. I live in a city with an Ikea, but the light wood and minimalist design reminded me too much of my college dorm, and just didn’t feel like my style. I tried a few other furniture stores, but found I’d either have to break the $2,000 all-in budget I’d set for myself, or end up with something poor quality that may or may not have been made of real wood (a deal breaker for me).
The next option was to rent furniture, but the cheapest package I could find cost more than $200 a month, which means I would have spent my entire furniture budget in less than a year.
My third option, and the one I’m so glad I ended up choosing, was to buy second hand furniture off Craigslist. In case you don’t know, Craiglist.org is an online marketplace where you can buy, sell or rent just about anything – vehicles, clothes, furniture, housing. You can also find jobs, services and community events.
I ended up buying items from four different sellers.
Find #1: My Pottery Barn Couch
When I first moved into my apartment, I was sleeping on a camping mattress on the floor. I’d ordered a mattress online, but it took a little while to arrive, so my first priority was finding a couch. This is the Cameron Roll Arm Upholstered sofa from Pottery Barn. The woman I bought it from had owned it for two years and was selling because she was moving in with a roommate who already had furniture.
She said she had barely used it, and it looked almost brand new. It’s currently selling on their website for $1,199, and I paid $450 for it.
Total Savings: $749.
Find #2: My Dining Room Table and Chairs
The seller was originally asking $195 for the set (pictured above), but we settled on $175. They were selling it because they had recently redone their kitchen and said the table didn’t match the new tiles. I like that it has drop leaves, because it means it can fit into a smaller space if necessary. It’s no longer available, so I had to do some detective work on Pinterest. It looks like the chairs sold for $69/each. I couldn’t find the price of the table, but a similar one cost $280, so let’s estimate the original price of the set at $556.
Total savings: $381
Find #3: My Four Hands Concrete Coffee Table
This is the Four Hands Maximus coffee table. It’s unique on this list because it’s the only thing I bought that wasn’t used. The couple who were selling it own a small, local furnishing business. They were closing up the store and moving the business online, so I got this table for a song. It still had the price tag on it – $387.50, and I paid $75!
Total savings: $312.50
Find #4: My Four Piece Bedroom Set
I got my bedroom set from a couple who were having a baby and were redoing their bedroom so that it had more storage. The photo is of the dresser, but I also got a bed with a headboard and two nightstands. I paid $765 for the set. This is another one that isn’t available anymore, and I couldn’t find the original price, but a similar set is currently selling for $1,699.
Total savings: $934
In all, I spent $1,465 and saved $2,376.
I’m sure I could have spent less if I’d wanted to, but champagne taste, remember? I wanted everything to be hard wood, in mint condition, and my style.
The dining room table, chairs and coffee table fit in my car, so I didn’t need movers for that. I did need a friend’s help getting the coffee table into my apartment – if you have any doubt, I can assure you that concrete tables are HEAVY.
I had to hire movers for the bedroom set and couch, but the sellers lived near one another, so we got them both in one trip, which saved on moving costs.
I bought a new mattress and box spring, because I didn’t like the idea of sleeping on a used one, but otherwise the idea of pre-owned furniture didn’t bother me. If it’s a concern for you, you could always pay to have couches and other upholstered items steam cleaned before you used them, and you’d probably still save a good deal of money over purchasing new.
A Word of Caution:
Although my experiences on Craigslist have all been really positive, it does require you to interact with strangers, so always use your best judgement and don’t go into situations where you’re uncomfortable. Also, never give anyone any kind of payment in advance – there are a ton of scams out there. I typically begin by interacting through email and don’t give out my phone number unless absolutely necessary. I also only meet with sellers during the day, and let somewhere know where I’ll be in advance. It’s a good idea to meet in a public place, and bring a friend along if you can.
Have you ever used Craigslist? What’s the best deal you’ve found?