Moving to a new home can be expensive.
If you’re renting a home or apartment in an expensive market like Boston, New York, or San Francisco, you might need to provide as much as four months’ worth of rent before you move in. And if you’re buying a home, you’ll have to factor in things like closing costs and realtor fees.
Furnishing your home adds more cost to the process. When I moved out of the college dorms and into my own apartment, I ordered all my furniture from Amazon and had it delivered to my door.
It was amazingly convenient, but it cost me almost a month’s rent. I could have saved a lot if I had gotten a bit more creative and sought out some free furniture.
The Best Places for Finding Free Furniture
Saving money with free furniture is like finding free money. And who doesn’t love that? There are lots of ways to furnish your home for free, whether through finding discarded furniture or repurposing what you already own.
Craigslist is one of the most popular ways to find furniture online. Anyone can post an ad selling used furniture. Typically, you’ll find ads from people moving or cleaning out their homes, and the prices are reasonable. Sometimes, you’ll even find offers for free furniture.
If you’re going to take advantage of Craigslist to get free furniture, be prepared to do the heavy lifting yourself. You’ll probably have to pick up the items and load them into your car. Make sure you have access to a vehicle large enough to hold them all before responding to the ad.
Finally, follow basic internet safety rules. Go with a friend. If you can’t, let someone know where you’re going and make plans to check in with them at a specific time after picking up the furniture. Always try to meet during the day, in public if possible. If something about the post or the poster seems off, listen to your gut.
Related: How to Sell on Craigslist (And 6 Tips for Success)
2. Facebook Marketplace
Facebook operates a marketplace for its users that functions very similarly to Craigslist. Users advertise things they’re selling or giving away, and many people share posts offering free furniture before they move or redecorate.
As with Craigslist, be prepared to pick up anything you see that appeals to you. Also, be sure to follow good internet safety practices.
Freecycle.org is a website designed for people looking to give away their old things to make sure that they don’t go to waste.
You can search the Freecycle site to find a group near you. If you have one, select it on the site and you’ll see listings from people looking to get rid of everything from cleaning supplies to old clothes to furniture.
If you don’t see what you’re looking for, you can create a post detailing the items you want. Freecyclers who have those things can respond to your post and from there, you can make the necessary arrangements to pick them up.
Related: 27 Best Selling Apps to Sell Stuff Online (and Locally)
4. Furniture banks
Many areas have charities that operate furniture banks. These programs accept donations of used furniture in good condition. Many will also take cash donations and use those to buy needed furniture and supplies.
If you’re in a difficult situation, a local furniture bank may be able to assist you with getting the things you need for your home.
In many areas, you’ll also find charities that provide cribs and beds for children. For example, the A Bed for Every Child Initiative in Massachusetts provides beds to children in low-income families.
5. Ask friends and family
If you need furniture, let people know. Your friends and family might have some they don’t need or they’re looking to get rid of. If you can pick up the furniture, it will save them the hassle of having to throw it out or call someone to haul it away, making it a win-win for both of you.
Social media and cell phones make it easy to let a lot of people know when you’re on the hunt for furniture. Post on your Facebook, Twitter, or other social media platforms, and text or email your friends. As long as you aren’t overbearing or demanding with your requests, few people will mind letting you know if they have furniture that you’re welcome to take.
6. Dumpster diving
Or checking your neighbor’s trash.
As the saying goes, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Don’t be afraid to take furniture that other people are throwing out, as long as it looks like something that you could use in your home.
Different jurisdictions have different laws about taking other people’s garbage, so look into your area’s regulations before you go dumpster diving. Generally speaking, if a neighbor has dragged an old couch or table to the curb, it’s fair game. Still, you might want to ask before you take it. Be friendly and let your neighbor know what you’re up to.
Safety is important when trying to claim furniture that has been thrown away. There could be a very good reason that the furniture is being discarded. Before you bring it into your home make sure that whatever you’re taking is free from bed bugs, insects, or animals.
If it’s something with moving parts, like a recliner, make sure that it’s functional, or at a minimum, doesn’t feel unsafe. Also check the furniture for stains, odd smells, or anything else that could explain why it’s being thrown out.
7. Local “buy nothing” groups
The Buy Nothing Project is a network of local community groups built around the idea of freely sharing with their neighbors. People who have things they want to get rid of will post them on their local Buy Nothing group and other members are free to claim them. Those who are looking for things can also post their requests.
Unlike other marketplaces where people barter, trade, or ask for money, the Buy Nothing project requires that everything is given away for free. The idea is the members will take what they need and give away what they can so that all can benefit.
If you use a Buy Nothing group to get furniture and want to pay it forward, you can gift things that you no longer need. Buy Nothing groups also allow gifts of talent or time, giving you many ways that you can help others in your community.
8. Yard sales
Yard sales are a great way to get cheap or free furniture.
If you see a piece of furniture out for sale, check the price and ask the seller if they’re willing to negotiate. If they are, you can wind up with a good deal.
Heading to a yard sale later in the day, closer to its ending time, might mean you’ll find even better deals on furniture, especially if it’s large or bulky. If no one else seems interested, offer to take it off the seller’s hands for free. If they just want to get rid of it, you might get lucky.
Remember that you’re at a yard sale, which implies that the seller wants to be paid for their items. Don’t be angry if the seller refuses your offer. Simply thank them for their time and move on.
9. College campuses on move-out day
If you live in a college town, move out day is the perfect time to find free furniture. Typically, the sidewalks are covered with discarded furniture that was too much of a hassle for the students to bring with them. This is a great opportunity to find a free couch, dresser, or some chairs. And, a lot of the time, the furniture is almost brand new.
Take a drive around the areas with a heavy student population to scope out the furniture that’s been left on the curb. If you see something you like, pull over and toss it in the back of your car. Just make sure that the furniture is being discarded and isn’t waiting on the curb to be packed into a moving truck. You don’t want to accidentally steal something that you thought was trash.
As with any furniture that is destined for the garbage dump, check that it’s still in good condition before you bring it home. That means inspecting it for bed bugs and other animals, stains, odd smells, functionality, and safety.
Nextdoor is a social networking website designed to help people communicate with the people in their neighborhoods. It can be a good site to get in touch with the local community, learn about events nearby, and of course, barter, trade, give, or get goods and services.
Like other online communities, people will post things that they’re trying to sell or give away for free. If someone posts about free furniture they’re getting rid of, let them know that you want to pick it up.
Since Nextdoor focuses on neighborhoods, you won’t have to travel far.
11. Upcycle your own furniture
One of the best sources of free furniture is the furniture you already own. All it takes is some creativity and a bit of elbow grease to turn your furniture into something new that you can use.
Do you have a new TV and an old bookcase? Break down the bookcase and turn it into a TV stand. Take some wooden crates and turn them into a storage solution. Add some table legs to a shipping pallet to make a patio table.
There are tons of resources online about how to upcycle furniture large and small. Websites like Upcycle That or Hipcycle are great sources of inspiration and how-to articles that can get you on the right path.
12. Thrift stores
Thrift stores are great places to pick up some furniture on the cheap. Stores accept donations or purchase old furniture and then put it up for sale.
Many charities will provide vouchers that can be used to purchase furniture at different retailers, including thrift stores. If you qualify for programs like this one in Great Falls, Montana, you might be able to get furniture that you need for free.
One perk of getting furniture from a thrift store is that the store has done a lot of the hard work for you. Generally, the furniture you find will be in usable condition and you won’t have to worry as much about bedbugs, stains, or strange smells. However, do your due diligence before choosing your furniture. If you select something that you later find out is faulty, you might not be able to return or exchange it.
13. Ask the previous tenant, homeowner, or landlord
Before you move in, reach out to the previous occupant of the home, or the landlord if you’re renting. You might be able to get a good deal by purchasing furniture from the people who are moving out. In some cases, they might be willing to give it away for free to avoid the hassle of packing and moving it.
The worst that can happen is that they’ll say no, so it doesn’t hurt to ask.
Exercise Caution and Meet in Public
The reality of free furniture is that the person giving it away is doing so for a reason. Don’t go into the process expecting to get an eight-piece matching set in perfect condition. You might find a 40-year-old sofa that doesn’t fit with the rest of your room décor at all, a dinged-up dining table, or a couch that smells like stale cigarettes.
Whatever quirks the furniture has, it’s up to you to decide if it belongs in your home. If the furniture is in usable condition and doesn’t seem to be a safety hazard, you’re probably fine to take it.
When browsing internet listings, you can save a lot of time by learning to read between the lines. Use a discerning eye when looking at the pictures the poster provides. Do your best to decide whether there’s a chance you’ll want the furniture before you drive all the way to see it in person.
And don’t forget about your personal safety. Even if you find the perfect piece of furniture from someone who seems legit, follow common-sense precautions. Take a friend with you to look at or pick up the furniture, or let someone know where and when you’re going. Make in-person transactions during the day and in public whenever possible.
Free furniture isn’t worth compromising your well-being.