Our guest blogger Elyse is an NYU student who just recently managed to free herself from the college dormitory system.
Once I signed my lease, I revelled in the idea of finally having my very own space to live in, free of parents or nosy RA’s who just “wanted to be my friend.” But the novelty quickly wore off, and I suddenly realized how empty my apartment was.
The idea of furnishing an apartment is a very daunting one when all you’ve managed to save in the past couple of months is 200 dollars and a handful of savings bonds you would much rather reserve for the inevitable dirt-broke post-college year (or two). Luckily, it’s possible to get everything you need on the cheap when you know where to look.
Flea Markets and Thrift Stores: A classic, yes, but you need to make sure you go to the right flea markets and thrift stores. In New York City, the Greenflea or the WilliamsburgFlea Market are not the best choices if you’re trying to savemoney. At the Brooklyn Flea in Fort Greene, on the other hand, my roommate found a very nice mirror to hang in her room for a mere 10 dollars. When if comes to thrift stores, steer clear of places that call themselves “vintage.” You’d be better off going to Kmart if you want to save money. Stick to Salvation Army or try thrift stores in the outer boroughs. Suburban areas will easily provide you with the best options. Consider a day-trip, or if you’re moving to a city for the first time, get as much as you can before you leave. I went to the local flea market at home and got an end table and two lamps (all very high quality) for 45 dollars total. And the Amvets at home had gorgeous, floor-length curtains for 3 dollars. 3 dollars!
Friends and Family: Keep an ear out for any news of friends, friends-of-friends, distant relatives or even passing acquaintances that are moving. I got my brother’s old bookshelf and dresser because he went to grad school in England. When my mom moved, my cousin got her entire living room set. A friend of mine a got a free couch from another friend who, for one reason or another, didn’t need it anymore. One note on getting furniture from friends and family, I consider this the ONLY acceptable way to get free mattresses or upholstered furniture. At least in this situation you know where the furniture has been, so that weird stain is just from the time your friend spilled red nail polish on the couch cushion. Plus, bed bugs. Don’t mess around when it comes to them.
The Street: Lots of great things can come off the street. Just be careful. I stick to items I can thoroughly clean, preferably with bleach. It’s also best to look around the 1st of the month. You’ll be surprised to see how many people just don’t feel like dealing with furniture they don’t want anymore and toss it on the curb. We nabbed ourselves a nifty leather ottoman the day we moved in.
Free Craigslist:Ah yes, Craigslist, the Mecca of thrifty shopping. It’s wonderful, but it’s also a lot of hard work. You need to act quickly, usually impulsively, in order to beat the millions of other people also trying to score the free 27-inch TV—which usually gets nabbed within minutes. You have to travel all over the city, because most items come with the “you pick it up” requirement. And you have to endure quite a few stares on the subway when you wheel a full-sized desk onto the train. But it’s free, all 100% no-strings-attached free! And I developed some fabulous arm muscles carrying all the free furniture up five flights of stairs.