• Lisa Loesel

How to Furnish Your Short-Term Rental on a Budget - Expert Tips

I just bought a new triplex in Brewer’s Hill (a Milwaukee neighborhood for those who aren’t local). We’re in the process of turning the three units into short-term rentals. I’ve set up quite a few short-term rentals before, but as I work my way through doing it this time, I realize just how many decisions are involved in setting up a property.



It’s literally thousands of decisions.


It’s not just which brand. It’s the material, it’s the color scheme, will it go with everything else, will it hold up with lots of use, and will it be safe? Every single thing you purchase from pillows to decor comes with a bunch of decisions to make and it can be overwhelming.


I think one of the first questions you might ask, and it may be the most important, is what do I spend my money on?


I’m very specific about when I will spend money to buy quality products and which products I opt for bargain buys. Here’s a quick list that comes from many years of experience:


Decor - save


Almost all of my decor, from wall hangings, to candles, to faux plants, to little nick nacks come from a secondhand store (Goodwill or similar). I frequent one of these stores one to two times per week. It doesn’t take me long. I hit up the areas that I know have stuff I’m looking for and do a 10 to 15 minute sweep of the store. I almost always fill a bag or two and find some really great sizable wall art.


My rule of thumb is I never spend more than $20 on any one piece of wall art, even the really big stuff. Most of it is just $6.99 up to $14.99. This allows me to buy decor for an entire property for about $300.


Nightstands and end tables - splurge


These items I will spend a bit of money on, and when I say a bit I mean no more than $125 per item. I love HomeGoods for these types of products because they are often made with real wood or real brass and the best part is they come already assembled. Just about anything I have ever bought online is crappy MDF (not real wood) and I have to spend my precious time putting it together. Not worth it.


Plus, poorly made products will show water stains and get chipped corners much faster than quality furniture. I also think guests tend to notice these items more, so buying quality products where it counts gives the impression of quality throughout.


Mattresses - save


I typically purchase these from the clearance section of my favorite large furniture store. I’ve also used the online memory foam compressed beds. I never pay more than $400 per mattress and that’s usually for a king. Queens, I typically get for $300 and my twin beds for $150 apiece. They are all quite comfortable.


The reason I don’t spend a lot of money on mattresses is because everybody is looking for something different. You could spend $1500 on a high-quality Tempur-Pedic mattress and your next guest prefers something more firm. If necessary, I provide a memory foam topper. I have never heard a complaint about any mattress I have supplied, typically only compliments.


Pillows and sheets - splurge


I do spend money on pillows and sheets; these are the things that make a difference. Buy cotton sheets only. Any other material gets hot and for a lot of people it’s just simply uncomfortable. If you don’t spend a little extra on pillows, they go flat uncomfortably quick, even the ones that say “no flat” in the title. Those are just fluffy lies!


Dishes - splurge


Spend the money. I always buy the Corelle brand. Anything else I’ve tried chips and/or cracks. If you buy the round instead of square Corelle plates, they are very reasonably priced. I always buy an extra set as back up to have on hand just in case.


Drinking glasses - save


Glasses are something I do not spend money on. Here’s a tip: I buy a ton of the stemless wine glasses because they work as wine glasses as well as drinking glasses. I found that multiple different sizes and types of glasses just isn’t necessary. I buy several sets at Walmart for $20 a set.




There are definitely plenty of options for furnishing a short-term rental on budget! What tips do you have to save a little money on furnishings? Leave a comment and let me know!


P.S. check out my Airbnb listing if you’re interested. I just got a $7,000+ booking for 21 days!