For graduates moving from the dorm or college living situation to their first adult abode, it's hard to imagine hauling anything into your new space-- especially not the card table you used in the dining room or the couch your inebriated roommate threw up on. Yet at the same time your new paycheck (although much healthier than the one you received from waiting tables part-time) doesn't seem like enough to cover a swanky new living room set. Before you decide your only option is to finance that furniture for the next ten years, consider these budget-friendly ways to outfit your first apartment.
No really, you just might be able to afford a professional designer. Although they may not quite be on the status of Vern Yip, they certainly know more than the average Joe about squeezing the style and personality out of any size budget. At StylishDesignServices.com you browse profiles of professional interior designers all over the country, choosing the one that best matches your personal tastes. Provide them with information about your space and budget and for $395 they'll create a custom plan for your first apartment. If you decide to spend more than $2,000 in their online store then that initial fee is waived. "Using our unique e-design process, we create fantastic customized room designs for a fraction of the cost of an in-home interior designer," says owner Annabelle Petriella.
Track Flash Sales
Moving to San Francisco straight out of college was not easy on Lauren Mungo's bank account, but the thought of reverting to dorm room decor was heartbreaking. "I wanted my first apartment to reflect my own personal style," she says. "After quite a bit of research and exploring, I learned some great tips of the trade. Now, I am proud to say that I finally have an apartment I am proud to show off." One of Lauren's favorite furniture stops turned out to be online flash sales through sites like JossandMain.com, OneKingsLane.com and TheFoundary.com. You can find great designer accessories and furniture at deep discounts, but the inventory is limited and sales are short.
Shop Tag Sales and Yard Sales
Secondhand furniture can have way more personality than something matchy-matchy you'll find at Rooms To Go. Plus it can cost much less. Emily Stevens says a friend pointed her to TagSellIt.com back in January when she was trying to outfit her first apartment. The virtual garage sale website lets you shop estate sales in other communities or find yard sales happening near you. "I was able to purchase a couch and some kitchen wares for under $100 on there," says Emily. "I later went back on and bought a desk lamp with some character for $10."
An IKEA bookshelf or a Target couch may be the way to go if you're trying to save money, but still fill your first apartment with nice, new things. Experts agree that mixing these budget-friendly basics with something more swanky-- like a handmade throw pillow or some upgraded drawer pulls-- can take even flimsy particle board pieces and make them look great. Peruse sites like IkeaHackers.net where IKEA shoppers turn ordinary pieces into custom furniture. You'll get inspiration for creating your own custom pieces.
There's no shame for a fresh graduate to ask family and friends for hand-me-down furniture. Even if it's out of style there's a good chance you could sell it on Craigslist and put the cash towards your new couch fund. Just don't let yourself go in debt for furniture you probably won't like in five or ten years anyway. Have fun and take your time. You only get one shot to decorate your first apartment.