I am in the hunt for my first apartment. I would like any advice on cost efficient or creative decorating ideas as well as buying furniture and any other cost cutters related to apartment living. I am in particular need of living room and dining room furniture. My kitchen will be decorated in ivy but other than that I have no definite plans. Any advice and ideas would be greatly appreciated.
Corynne of St. Louis
Shop at estate sales. The quality of goods and furniture is usually much better than at garage sales. I found a cherry wood sleigh bed (probably a 50s reproduction) in near new condition for which I paid $75. I found a comparable new bed in a local upscale furniture store for $800. Know what you need, don't be afraid to bid on larger pieces and get to know who is running the sale. Many sales are run by outside firms that handle all the pricing and clearing out for the families. After going to several sales, you'll probably find one or two who always seems to run sales that have lots of what you are looking for. They may even mail advance notices to their regular customers. Of course, as with any estate, garage or tag sale shopping, don't buy anything if there isn't anything you need. That's all part of being frugal.
I just moved into my first apartment after finishing undergrad. I moved all the way from Michigan to DC in a tiny U-haul (i.e. I didn't bring a ton). First, I would recommend living in a rather large complex close to where you work with conveniences near by. The savings are threefold, you can buy used items dirt cheap from the many residents moving in/out, the trash bins (if you have the stomach for such things) are gold mines (I found a working VCR), and finally you don't need a car to go everywhere. Where I live, rent alone for a car space is $100/mo. I ride my bike everwhere and save on expensive gym costs too. Invest in renters insurance too, it's worth it. Somebody swiped my bike and had I had renters insurance I would have been covered.
I got the most beautiful dining room furniture for $250, plus about $100 for a U-Haul truck! I have 1930's inlaid wood dining room set which includes a an extendable table, buffet, armchair, 3 side chairs, and a china cabinet. Oh, and I can't forget the Turkish tapestry on the chairs.
I checked out the small local papers (The Gazette, etc.), and called around and ended up building a rapport with an older gentleman who wanted to sell the furniture to someone who would appreciate it. He originally asked for $350, and voluntarily knocked it down to $250 because I was a young newlywed. You wouldn't believe the great deals you can get in those smaller papers! And now-a-days, a lot of the small local papers have their classifieds listed right here on the Web.
Decorating your first apartment can be a lot of fun! I have decorated my apartment on a budget-all it takes is a little creativity and a little time to look for great deals. Go to yard sales, thrift shops, sometimes going-out-of-business sales. Even if you don't find the right colors, you can always cover up a chair or couch with a sheet or large piece of fabric. If you can paint in your apartment, go for it! Use light, bright colors to make dark and small spaces seem larger. Mirrors can be used to brighten up dark corners as well. Lots and lots of paint-for small items found at yard sales and thrift shops. Paint clay pots with bright colors and designs. (Pots can be found at craft stores for pennies!) Paint old picture frames, too. Discount stores are great, dollar stores if you go a lot you can find fun things! Target is my favorite store-check the clearance racks!! And finally, ask everyone you know for unused items that they may have lying around. Remember a little paint or a sheet can be great camoflage if the items are not the right color! Just have a little creativity and some vision to see the potential in everything! And most of all, HAVE FUN!
Ann in Tucson, AZ.
I assume this person might just be out of college or on their own for the first time. Anyway several years ago two recent college grads put a little ad in our local surburban newspaper. It was written very sincerely and basically related that they had just graduated, they had their first jobs and if anyone had some furniture they wanted to get rid of they would come and haul it away and be very grateful. They promised not to sell it but later on pass it on to other kids getting their first apartments. Since people tend to not live in the same city as their kids - the cost of shipping furniture across the country is not financially feasible but you can all help someone else young people.
They then published a thank you ad in the next week's paper and told about all the wonderful stuff they got and how they were even able to share with others in need when they received mutltiples. The local newspaper then did a story on them the third week and they told how they furnished their apartment and even gave items then to a homeless families foundation. This worked so well for everyone especailly for people with just an item or two who don't want to hold a garage sale-
For my first apartment, I found the best deals at garage sales! At that point, I wasn't concerned about matching or coordinating furniture, I just wanted furniture! Since that what you seem to be interested in (just something to use for now), start watching the paper for garage sales. They pop up around April or May. Look especially for moving sales, since they will be getting rid of furniture that they don't want to move. Then, as you save up, you can replace each piece of furniture as needed with something that is more suited to your tastes and decorating.
Put out the word that you are looking for furniture and if you are willing to hold out for a few months and don't mind mismatched items you could possibly get what you need for free.
Stenciling is an easy and inexpensive decorating touch (just keep it off the walls unless you want to repaint before you move). Pick a central theme (like the ivy) and repeat it anywhere you can. Seat cushions can easily be sewn and stenciled to fit into a theme; so can table cloths, napkins, decorative boxes, rugs, etc.
All the rooms in decorator magazines have at least one vase of fresh flowers. Since keeping fresh flowers in the house is expensive, try silk arrangements, topiaries or wreaths. If fake flowers don't cut it with you, then try easy to grow indoor plants like Spider Plants, Pothos or African Violets (you shouldn't have to buy these plants, ask around and get cuttings to start your own).
Make any wall or corner a focal point by arranging a collection of things you adore in groupings. A grouping of photos on a wall or table looks more charming than having them scattered around the house. Do the same with any collection you have (plates, vases, even books).
Keep an eye out at thrift stores and garage sales for ugly pictures in great frames. Replace the picture with one of your own and you have just saved yourself a hundred bucks.
Lastly, to save the walls from nail holes and future repairs look for Adhesive Wall Savers at your local builder supply store (in the picture hanging section). These are pieces of (some sort of) fabric with hide glue on one side and a hook attached to the bottom. Simply activate the glue, stick to the wall, let dry and you can now hang any picture up to 10 lbs. without marring the walls with nails.
I have had great luck furnishing apartments for little or no cost just by telling people what I need. I ask if they have any stuff they are not using ( do you know of anybody who doesn't?!) and tell them I will move it myself. So far in my 13 year marriage alone, we have received 4 couches, two dining room sets, two bedroom sets, an upright grand piano, and a ton of dishes. All items were in good, usable condition. I also helped my sister set up her new apartment just by asking my friends for anything extra they had around the house. She ended up with a couch, chair, brass bed, dresser, desk, table and chairs, TV, an old stereo system, dishes, a microwave and coffee maker. The eclectic look is in vogue right now, so non-matching furniture is perfect for that look. And the stories you will have to tell are worth all the sweat of moving the stuff yourself. Remember one man's trash is another man's TREASURE!
Carole N. from MA
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