Here are some tips we used to furnish our 2-br apartment - we had $700 and 2 weeks:
1. New Queen-sized Mattress -$250
2. Bedroom - $100
3. Sofa & Love Seat (gray cloth) - $80
4. Armoire - $30
5. TV(42"CRT Sony) + TV Stand + DVD - $75
6. Kitchen set - $75
7. Other furniture - ~100
The site we used to Search Craigslist for furniture and electronics
The site we used to buy a mattress
The site we used to rent truck
Step 1: Create list of things you need
Start with the bedroom, then kitchen and then the living room
Step 2: Check local classified postings
It is important to start looking for furniture and electronics early, so that you have the time to plan the budget and can arrange a pickup before you actually move in.
Some classified sites allow you to Search All Craigslist by ZIP or area and even set up email alerts- so that you receive an email when the item you are looking for is available for the right price.
Step 3: Bedroom
It's not only more hygienic - used mattresses may contain bedbugs !
Check nearby local stores - they will have same mattresses for much less price than big-shot brand name shops.
$250-300 is a decent price for a queen-sized mattress.
Step 4: Rent a truck or van
Compare rates of rental companies in your area. Be aware that rental companies charge you for:
1. Per-day or per-hour use
2. Miles travelled
Check with your car insurance company to see if you need to buy an insurance from the rental company (depends on the truck's size)
Make sure to compare all 3 rates before you sign up for the service. It may be 2 times cheaper with one company than with another.