Furnishing Your Apartment on a College Student’s Budget
After a few years in the dorms, you and your friends are thrilled to be moving into your very own college apartment. You have grand plans for decorating the space to highlight each of your eclectic styles and make it feel like a relaxing sanctuary you can return to after a busy day of classes and meetings on campus.
Unfortunately, your bank account has other ideas. The list of decor you’ve compiled isn’t exactly in line with what you can realistically afford on a college student’s budget. You may have to forgo the Himalayan salt lamp for more practical apartment additions like, you know, dishes?
With a little effort (and some flexibility in your wish list) you can find ways to furnish your apartment on a budget.
1. Enlisting the Help of Family and Friends
Before moving day, reach out to family and friends to let them know you are furnishing an apartment on a budget and are happy to take any unwanted items off their hands.
Maybe your parents want to replace their couches and can give you their old ones. See if your grandma can part with some old silverware she doesn’t use.
Ask your older friends who got apartments before you if they have anything to spare to furnish yours. Chances are they’ll be happy to clear some clutter from their lives and send once-loved items off to a new home.
2. Digging Through Treasures at Thrift Stores
Heading to your local thrift shop can be a huge help when you’re furnishing your first apartment on a budget. There are some things you definitely want to buy new (hello, mattress), but you can find a great deal on other, slightly used items at thrift stores.
Thrifting does take some time and energy, but the solid wood coffee table you find for $15 can more than make up for your efforts. Take advantage of local thrift stores, flea markets, garage sales, and estate sales.
Don’t forget to look online on places like eBay or AptDeco . Depending on where you live, you may also be able to find free furniture that people are looking to get rid of through the Freecycle Network .
3. Limiting Buying More Than You Need
It can be easy to make a list of everything you want in an apartment, but that doesn’t mean you should get it all at once. Prioritize the necessities first. This will limit your spending since you won’t buy more than you should. Things like a couch, toiletries, and a bed are all needs. Decor can wait for a little bit.
See what you can bring from home to help alleviate the costs of buying things new. If you have the means to bring your bed, for example, that will save you on purchasing a new set when you move in.
4. Reviewing Your Finances to Include Your New Space
A new apartment means you’ll need to update your budget to reflect the costs associated with your new pad. There’s rent, of course. Don’t forget utilities, internet, and food costs.
If you’re a recent graduate with a new job, you might want to consider refinancing your student loans. If you have a solid credit score and good earning potential, you may qualify for a lower interest rate when you refinance, which could lead to savings in interest over the life of the loan.
When you refinance federal student loans, know you’ll no longer qualify for federal protections and repayment plans. To see how refinancing could impact your student loans payments or terms, take a look at our student loan refinancing calculator.
5. Looking Out for Closing Sales
Furniture stores that are going out of business means big discount on major items. If you never found the perfect dining room table or dressers for the bedroom, now might be the time.
While discounts tend to grow the closer the store gets to closing, be mindful that not all your favorite items will still be there at that time.
Keep tabs on the pieces you want, but don’t be so set on them that you’ll be upset if they’re gone before you can afford them. It’s a good way to get otherwise expensive items on the cheap, but it’s not guaranteed.
6. Checking for Seasonal Sales
As the seasons change, retailers adjust what the keep in stock. If you’re looking for a small bistro set so you can enjoy coffee on your tiny balcony, try looking from August to October , when outdoor furniture is on sale.
You can also typically find furniture on sale in January and July , when stores are looking to clear space on the showroom floor for new designs.
7. Getting Creative
What better way to get exactly what you want than to make it yourself? Whether it’s painting your own artwork to hang on your walls or making a platform bed frame, with the right tools, you can build it yourself, usually at a fraction of the cost.
For the biggest pieces, like a bed frame, table, or chairs, enlist the help of handy friends or family members. Find inspiration online through those who have built their own beds or other furniture to see how it was done before you.
Get the right tools and equipment before you start—you want to avoid running last-minute errands just as you’re getting into the thick of the project.
In addition, restoring old furniture can save you money and time. You may find a piece while thrifting that is good enough but could be better suited for your taste and style. You can freshen up a dresser with a quick coat of paint or reupholster stools to give them new life.
8. Splitting Costs With a Roommate
Affording an apartment on one college student’s budget is hard. You can lower costs by splitting them up. If your apartment has the space, get a roommate.
A roommate means another person contributes to cost of living expenses, including furniture. For instance, one of you buys the couch while the other gets a living room chair and TV stand.
It also helps you both for monthly expenses. You can split the cost of rent, water, electricity, and cable. Going solo for your first apartment is nice, but having a roommate can help you stay on a budget.
Setting Your Apartment (and Budget) Up for Success
Getting a new home and going to a new school can be challenging. But you don’t have to be overwhelmed if you prepare beforehand.
You can create a budget that fits your lifestyle and income to make sure you’re not going overboard. It can be easy to buy things on a whim when you see them, but if it’s not in line with your budget, you’re going to have to skip it (at least for now).
Furnishing an apartment on a budget can be fun even if you’re being frugal. With a little creativity, you can create the cozy apartment of your dreams without going overboard.
SoFi Student Loan Refinance
If you are a federal student loan borrower, you should consider all of your repayment opportunities including the opportunity to refinance your student loan debt at a lower APR or to extend your term to achieve a lower monthly payment. Please note that once you refinance federal student loans you will no longer be eligible for current or future flexible payment options available to federal loan borrowers, including but not limited to income-based repayment plans or extended repayment plans.
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