If you’ve ever visited a furniture store with your parents, you might be a little daunted by the prospect of stamping your personality on your first apartment. The personality should be no problem, of course, but you’re probably lacking the thousands of dollars necessary to buy that beautiful bedroom set you saw the last time you walked by the local furniture dealer.
The good news is that it doesn’t have to cost the earth to furnish your first apartment. Those hefty price tags are reserved for your folks’ generation, and you’ll be relieved to learn that the only reason to spend $500 on an end table is to impress the neighbors at your next cocktail party.
No, you have much simpler needs, and they can be satisfied on a much, much smaller budget. Here’s how…
Raid Your Home
If you’re moving out of your parents’ home into your first college apartment, a great way to save money is to hit them up for spare bits and pieces they’re not using right now. Most people have a garage full of old chairs and tables that are only brought out for the extended family at Thanksgiving, and while they may not be the height of contemporary style, they’ll come in handy at your new place. Just ask nicely and your folks are sure to offer a helping hand.
Go For Flat Pack
In recent years the cost of furnishing an apartment has come down dramatically, and it’s all thanks to the boom in self-assembly flat pack furniture from stores such as IKEA.
Low cost, reasonable quality furniture can be found in countless styles, and while you’ll probably discover that at least a dozen of your friends all chose the exact same Billy bookcase, it’s tough to argue with the price. If you don’t care too much about the individuality of your living space, you could easily furnish your whole apartment for just a few hundred dollars.
Where stores such as IKEA really come into their own, though, is in the accessories. Big items such as beds, tables and chairs may swallow the largest chunk of your budget, but you may be surprised at how much you can spend on small items like table lamps, crockery and cutlery. IKEA and its ilk offer a bewilderingly wide range of trinkets and doodads at prices you wouldn’t believe.
Check the Small Ads
Of course few of us would want to fill an apartment – especially our first apartment – with the same mass produced offerings that can be found in a million homes. Anyone with an ounce of interior design creativity would want something a little unique to set their home apart from every other box on the block.
When you’re on a budget, then, it may be a good idea to head to local garage sales, estate auctions, and thrift stores. You’d be surprised at how many great pieces are available at rock bottom prices, and since most furniture sold at these venues tend to be a little on the ‘mature’ side they’re usually extremely well built and ready for many more years of punishment (whereas flat pack furniture tends to last just a couple of years of heavy use).
Before moving into your new apartment you should scour the small ads for local sales and auctions, and make sure to take a buddy with a vehicle to help you haul your purchases back home.
Scour the Web
Finally, and inevitably, these days you’ll find a lot of what you need online. Not only does the web offer a great way to run price comparisons of various items in the big furniture stores, but it also offers a rich treasure trove of used furniture available for just a handful of dollars (or even free!).
Your first port of call should be eBay, where you’ll find everything from unused flat pack furniture offered at a discount to beautiful antiques that can be snapped up for next to nothing. Try to find sellers in your local area to avoid the high cost of delivery for large items, and be careful to factor in the cost of collection if you choose to buy from someone a little distant from your home.
Beyond eBay there are even a few places online that offer furniture at the low, low price of zero dollars. Both Craigslist and Freecycle often feature listings for free of charge items, the only requirement being that you collect it yourself. With a little patience and a little tenacity it might be possible to furnish your whole apartment without spending a penny!
About the author:
Sani Golriz is a community blogger and active staff writer for CollegeFocus, a website dedicated to helping students deal with the challenges of college, including housing, finance, style, health, relationships, and transferring from a community college to a four-year university.
You can follow CollegeFocus on Twitter at @CollegeFocus101 and Facebook at www.fb.com/collegefocus.