So you’ve rented your first apartment as a full-grown adult person. It’s affordable, it’s somewhat small and it’s yours — well, yours, and your three roommates’.
To give the new abode a personal touch and dash of decorating magic, look for key furniture pieces and splashes of graphics and color that fit your new-grad budget. Follow this step-by-step guide to assemble a home that’s livable and is suitable for your cost of living.
The Basics: Furniture
While self-assembly furnishings from the likes of IKEA, Nebraska Furniture Mart and Target can offer a more affordable option for a brand-new look, most recent grads will find outfitting an entire apartment in new pieces to be financially impossible.
For those with a budget that demands free or near-free furnishings, look to your local paper’s classified section or your area’s Craigslist for business closings or remodeling sales. Hotels occasionally clear the rooms of inventory before a remodel or a sale, offering up queen-size beds, nightstands, desks, chairs, TVs and entertainment centers for zero dollars. Restaurants also clear outdated furniture, and may post ads for free dining room chairs, tables or barware.
Look for these opportunities in the off-season for your city. In college towns, that means the early summer. In resort areas, that means any time of the year that being in a resort town is unpleasant. In larger cities, that means the dead of winter or other non tourist-friendly stretches.
The Gear: Kitchenware
If you’ve made the circuit of local garage sales without turning up any finds in the pots-and-pans department, consider low-cost options for purchasing new or lightly used cooking pieces.
New, brand-name kitchen gear such as pots, pans, serving platters, and gadgets comes cheap at overstock department stores such as TJ Maxx and Marshalls. As long as you don’t have qualms with that coveted electric tea kettle being lime green, you can buy it for next to nothing.
Scan local antique stores for used, but extremely sturdy, pieces. A cast-iron skillet that was well-made decades ago is, if it was cared for, as useful now as ever. Many larger cities are able to support kitchen-specific antique stores that offer options for lightly used cooking hardware.
The Finishing Touches: Decor
Decorations might not make the top of the priority list for those outfitting an apartment on limited dollars, but a few investments in decor early on can ease the transition to full-blown adulthood.
Check local newspaper listings on Wednesday or Thursday for weekend estate sale listings. Unlike a standard garage sale, estate sales typically are curated by an outside company, and are an "everything must go" situation.
Estate sale furniture tends to be priced higher than it’s worth to a younger buyer, but decorations can be packaged at a much lower rate. Many tagged estate sales allow buyers to submit bids — remember that everything has to sell and bid what you can afford to walk away with a deal.