Cheap ways to furnish your first place
Setting up your own apartment? Here's how to do it without a big hit to your bank account.
Sonya Ann, who blogs at A Mom, Money and More, is helping her college-age daughter collect items for her first apartment. Thus far they've gotten cookware, dishes, loads of cleaning supplies, flatware, a couple of lamps, a comfortable chair and a garbage can.
Total expenditure: less than $165.
How'd they get all that so cheaply?
Simple: They got some of it for free, and they paid less than retail for the rest of it.
"With a little ingenuity, time and creativity, you could furnish an apartment for $200," the blogger says.
She posted a list of basic apartment needs, which recent grads and others will find helpful.
Use that list and the following tactics to make your place look the way you want, but on a budget.
If it's free, it's for thee
Start by shopping in other people's houses. Get Grandma’s former kitchen table out of the garage. Your godmother's old easy chair will take on new life with a simple homemade slipcover.
"Most people are more than happy to de-junk for a good cause," Sonya Ann says. Put the word out among relatives, friends and co-workers. Somebody, somewhere has a frying pan or a set of sheets that's not being used. (Post continues after video.)
Or shop at "curb mart," choosing furniture people leave on sidewalks or street corners. Given the recent surge in bedbug infestations, inspect upholstered furniture carefully.
If you go to yard sales, look for the "free" box. Yes, it's where Happy Meal toys go to die. But I've also found things like food storage containers, a small saucepan and a cast-iron skillet.
Speaking of yard sales: Sonya Ann bought Anna a potato masher, clothes-drying rack and bagless vacuum cleaner for $3.50. Yes, a full-sized vacuum. Summer is prime yard/rummage sale season, so start shopping.
Anna spent just under $46 at two thrift stores. Your mileage may vary, since some stores are great and others are disappointing. Two tips: Ask about sales and be clear on the return policy.
About $75 went for cleaning supplies and housewares at a dollar store. Sonya Ann acknowledges that some of those items would have been cheaper at yard sales, but "it was nice just to pick up matching things."
Another hit-and-miss proposition: bargain websites such as Dealnews and My Bargain Buddy, which offer linens, housewares and furniture along with electronics and fashions.
What does an apartment need?
Sonya Ann's list should be amended to suit your personality. For example, some people will never use kitchen shears or a rolling pin. I do suggest some kind of list, though. Otherwise your first casserole might finish baking just as you realize you have no oven mitts.
If you've never lived on your own you'll be surprised how many things are needed to set up housekeeping. This is especially true of anyone raised by helicopter parents who made sure their kids' feet never touched the ground.
Andrea from So Over Debt recently wrote about a former co-worker who called the landlord to replace the light bulb in the fridge. The man was shocked when his colleagues laughed at the story.
"You mean I'm supposed to know how to do stuff like that?" he asked. "Doesn't that defeat the purpose of renting?"
For some young grads, living independently will be a series of discoveries. One of the first (and best) is how satisfying it feels to set up your own place, even if you have to share it with multiple roommates. You get to choose the color of those oven mitts, and to put up the posters or prints of your choosing. Before you move in, though, I'd suggest you learn to change a light bulb.
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Donna Freedman's Frugal Nation blog is for readers who want to live cheaply -- whether due to necessity or a lifestyle choice. It explores living sustainably and making life more meaningful at the same time.
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