For the past month, my apartment has been in a state of re-furnishing and re-decorating. When I moved into this apartment last year, I loved that it was fully furnished and that I only had to fill my bedroom. I was living in a state of bliss until my amazing roommate – and all of her furniture – left me for her fiancé (miss you G)!
At present, we’ve successfully re-decorated the bathroom, entry hallway and kitchen. The living room is slowly coming along and I’ll share that story in a future post. Here’s a few of our top tips for furnishing an apartment on a small budget:
1) Embrace Your Social Network. Inspired by our lack of furniture, my roommates and I decided to poke fun at the sad state of our apartment by throwing a “No Furniture Dance Party.” Partially a housewarming for our new roommate, we used the space to our advantage (all we had were six chairs, a few lamps and a mini fridge filled with alcohol in the living room). The party was a raging success and it actually generated a few furniture leads and offers to help lift furniture, though that wasn’t our original intention!
If you live in an apartment building, you can also post a note looking for furniture in the laundry room or by the mail slot. Make sure to be specific about what you’re looking for. That way, if someone’s moving, they may be more likely to give you a heads up.
2) Marshalls and T.J. Maxx are Your New Best Friends. From pots and pans, to cutting boards and knives, you get a lot of bang for your buck at these discount chains. I was able to re-decorate our bathroom for $35, including a gorgeous shower curtain, mat and hand towels. Though hit or miss, hidden gems can also be found in the home decor section, from artwork, mirrors, rugs and even smaller pieces of furniture.
3) Don’t Shun Freebies From Strangers. Especially if you’re on a tight budget, freebies will allow you to save your money for an item that you can’t find at a low cost. I lived in Brookline for four years and every Sunday, typically by early afternoon, tons of people toss away their nice used furniture. Now that I live in a nice area of the Back Bay, our alley has become a similar treasure trove. We’ve had the good karma to spot people getting rid of a fantastic hall and side table.
Quite possibly the best free furniture bonanza is Cleveland Circle in Brookline/Brighton around the time of Boston College’s graduation. I’ve never seen so much decent stuff cast aside that could easily sell on craigslist.
4) Learn the “Market Price” of Used Furniture Before Shopping. To be a savvy shopper, you need to learn the current market value of the furniture items you need. For that reason, Craigslist is a great way to take the temperature of your area. It helped us to decide what we wanted to buy new vs. used. I also found it extremely helpful when evaluating the goods in used furniture stores. In addition to Craigslist, look at Ikea, Target, Pier 1, Jordan’s Furniture and JCPenny. That way, once you know that you’ve found a good deal, you can jump on it.
5) Play the Craigslist Game – and Win. Yes, it is a game! To win, you need three things: cash, an SUV or truck and friends to help you move the item. Speed will also help you win at the Craigslist game. Once you hear back from a seller, make sure you can mobilize your moving team quickly, as antsy sellers’ won’t wait around. In addition, every person on Craigslist that I’ve ever purchased furniture from also screens potential buyers and gives the green light to the most ‘normal’ sounding person. For that reason, it doesn’t hurt to sign your full name on the email inquiry and have a presence on LinkedIn or Facebook. Being able to verify that you’re a real person can ease some people’s fears.