As you may know, I just moved into my first apartment 2 weeks ago. Needless to say, it can be an expensive life change… But it doesn’t have to be!
As soon as I found out Jake and I were approved for the apartment, the bills started adding up in my head. Rent every month, groceries, internet, gas, car insurance, phone bills, and of course, furniture and decorations.
For some, furniture and decorations may be the last thing on their minds when it comes to an apartment. Jake is this way. If we have a bed, a TV and maybe a table, he is good to go until we can find some cheap furniture or be able to afford some nice stuff. I, on the other hand, am completely opposite. Furniture and decorations are number one, even before groceries, on my necessity list.
I grew up watching all of the HGTV shows and seeing what you can transform an empty room into. My favourite stores include Jysk, Bed Bath and Beyond and Homesense. So you can only imagine how important decorating my first apartment was to me… and how expensive it could be. But, luckily, I managed to furnish and decorate the apartment inexpensively with a few simple steps.
01/Make Use of Your Connections
The first thing I did before shopping for any furniture or decorations was to put a status on Facebook asking my friends and friends of friends for help in acquiring a certain list of items. You never know who is moving, just moved or want to declutter. And my, oh, my did it work. I got several responses from friends and family of Jake and I and almost had a fully furnished apartment in 3 hours. We received side tables from the family I used to babysit for, dressers from a former supervisor of mine, a visa prepaid card from my amazing manager at the time for some furniture, a patio set, dining room set, lamp and dishes from my Great Aunt who is moving, cutlery from my family, appliances from Jake’s family… All for free. We were beyond grateful.
02/Shop Second Hand
I know this may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but shopping second hand is by far the best way to get great items for cheap. You may have to dig to find the gems, but once you do, you won’t regret it. I visited St. Vincent De Paul’s in Belleville before moving and found great treasures for dirt cheap. I bought a great vacuum for only $25.00, 8 plates for only $0.25 each and a cat carrier for our furry friend for only $10.00. Because the organization is strictly run by volunteers and all of the items are received through donations, the items are priced to sell.
03/Get Thrifty at the Dollar Store
When you think of the Dollar Store, you think of cheaply made products that won’t last longer than a week. This was exactly how I felt before exploring in the store for apartment essentials. Because the Dollar Store has begun to mark up their prices to $2, $3 and $4 items, the quality has significantly increased and the prices still remain low compared to competitors. For only $50, I was able to equip our apartment with all of our kitchen needs, as well as all of our kitten’s needs.
I will admit, I have always loved Kijiji so this was one of the first places I looked for apartment needs. Similar to posting on Facebook, I was able to find items from people who were moving or decluttering. On Kijiji, however, I can specifically search for certain items that I want. For example, we needed a couch for the apartment but I did not want just a normal couch, I wanted a futon so that when people came to visit us, we could easily set it down into a bed style for guests to stay over, without the weight of a pull out couch. So I went to Kijiji, searched for a futon, and found one just 10 minutes from my house in Belleville. I emailed the seller, asked them to lower the price slightly, and was off to pick it up the next day.
05/What is Old, is New
I have always loved antiques, so without even the intent to be frugal, I knew that the decorations I bought for the apartment would be from antique stores. It just so happens that at antique stores you can find items for extremely cheap and make them into your own decorations. I was able to find a small ladder for my succulent plants, a basket for my dining table centrepiece, a table for small items, a fruit bowl and a throw blanket at these antique stores for much cheaper than if I were to buy them from regular retail stores. Not only were the items cheaper, but they all have more of a story behind them than brand items, and I will always remember my journey to find them.
06/Make Your Own Decorations
Sometimes, you can go into a big retailer and think certain items are so cute and you have to have them, but then you see the price tag is super unreasonable. Why not make your own decorations that look like the ones sold in the store? It is cheaper and you also gain the bragging rights to say you made those decorations. For the apartment, I made a chalkboard calendar, a cork board message board, a fall centrepiece, a key holder and a picture shelf, all for less than they would have cost in store.
Although furnishing and decorating an apartment may seem daunting at first, it is important to step back and explore all of the cost effective options before making a trip to the big retail stores. By using your connections to find free or cheap items and searching second hand stores, discount stores or antique shops before resorting to the retailers, you can save yourself money while enjoying the journey that much more.
Until next time,