No one ever said shopping on a budget would be easy, especially when you're on the hunt for pricey items like furniture. Couches are costly, tables come with a hefty price tag, and beds are a real investment. To put it bluntly, all of the stuff you need to furnish a home is expensive.
But there is a way to get around this minor hurdle. Instead of taking out a loan to furnish your college digs with overpriced pieces from Ethan Allen, think secondhand. Cutting down on the cost of big-ticket items is as simple as learning to frequent antique malls, nonprofit stores, and even the occasional yard sale. You'll be amazed at the treasures you can find buried beneath racks of ratty, moth-eaten coats and dusty old coffee mugs.
Antique malls have a bad rap for being home to lots of overpriced junk, but don't let that fool you. With a lot of patience and a little luck, antique malls can also offer some real steals. A personal favorite is the Hungryneck Antique Mall (401 Johnnie Dodds Blvd. 843-849-1744) in Mt. Pleasant. The place is deceptively massive. Once you get past all of the weird yard gnomes and other bizarre outdoor décor, you'll enter a maze of vendor stalls and old things. While many of the items are still steeply priced, don't be discouraged. I once found the perfect bedside table here for $25. Just be patient. Wonderful things with amazing prices are sure to unveil themselves eventually (though it may take several visits).
If you're looking for a less time-consuming round of furniture shopping with more immediate gratification, try the Habitat for Humanity ReStore. This is the place to find gently used appliances, fixtures, furniture, and more. Habitat has ReStore locations downtown, on Johns Island, and in Mt. Pleasant, so it's a convenient stop wherever you may be. The deals are unbelievable. Need a kitchen table and matching chairs? Pick one up here for around $100. Looking to complete your living area with a comfy couch? The ReStore has them for less than $200. If you're brave, they even have great deals on mattresses. Also, make sure to keep an eye out for vital small appliances like coffee makers at the ReStore.
For a similar nonprofit storefront, visit one of the Goodwill stores in the area. There are locations in North Charleston, Mt. Pleasant, James Island, West Ashley, and Goose Creek. Goodwill is a good place to find furnishings like end tables, chairs, and maybe even a headboard for your bed (they really are essential). It's also a great place to find smaller accessories that are perfect for sprucing up your space. Look for lamps, picture frames, and random kitschy knickknacks. Don't overlook the power of seemingly insignificant items — they can really help to make your place feel like home.
On a side note, don't forget to take advantage of the hundreds of yard sales that take place around town every week. Never underestimate the worth of things people are dying to get rid of. Also, spend some time driving around neighborhoods near trash pick-up times. Who knows what you may find tossed out on the road and headed for the dump. After all, one man's trash is another man's treasure — especially the broke college man.