Furnishing an Apartment – The Definitive Guide
I remember being so eager to leave college. Not because I didn’t love the nightlife, the learning, or the
incessant drinking socializing with interesting peers. I was excited because I was finally going to make my first life move from a consumer (of education and booze) to a producer! Instead of constantly spending money, I was going to be providing value and earning it. Man was I stoked.
And then I had the shitty realization that I couldn’t live out of a box. And not only did I have to get an apartment, I wanted to make sure it looked like a human lived there, not a robot. And so began my long arduous journey. And let me tell you, furnishing an apartment for the first time can be a real bitch.
So the theme for today is “Please learn from my mistakes.” I really would hate for any of you to have to go through the same crap I did my first time around. I’ll be taking you from nothing to a pretty decent start. But also keep in mind that I’m not a host on HGTV, I’m not Martha Stewart, and I don’t have a degree in design. This guide will allow you to stay under a decent budget while furnishing an apartment. It might not be Versaille, but I’ll get you close.
Arguably my favorite part of any house/apartment, as I’m a rather avid cook. Let’s rephrase that. I like to apply heat to groceries. Sometimes is turns out edible, sometimes it’s a lab experiment where the result might try to eat you. But I digress…
Let’s call it out for what it is: chances are you didn’t spend a ton of time as a college student cooking and trying new recipes. With the result that you don’t need a brand new set of pots and pans to get done what you need to get done.
Instead of just googling a bunch of shit, I decided to hit the open road today and see what I could find at my local thrift stores. For pot’s, here’s what I found:
This is really all you need. In fact, I would argue that you don’t need the upper right hand corner monstrosity. It was literally big enough to put a child in, though I can’t imagine why you would. Here’s the cost breakdown:
- Top Left – $7.24
- Top Right – $6.99
- Bottom Left – $6.99
- Bottom Right – $4.99
Total for pots – $26.21 Rock and roll. Let’s move on.
This was an awesome find, as everything is going to be matching. Yay!
- Small pan – $1.99
- Medium pan – $2.99
- Large pan $3.99
Total for pans – $8.97. Damn I love of good bargain. Let’s keep rolling through these.
Now what you’ve got to keep in mind is that these are thrift stores, and sometimes weird things come up. I’d like to show you exhibit A, the loon dishes. They were creepy, weird, and had subtle hints of awesome at the same time. Here they are:
Here’s what you were looking at in terms of price.
- 8 big plates – $2.99 each
- 8 small plates – $1.99 each
- 8 bowls -$ 1.99 each
- 4 mugs – $1.99 each
All in all, it’s kind of expensive at $63.72. On the off chance you didn’t want to pay for loony dishes, there were LOTS of other options…
If you think mixing and matching is more your style, then you probably could’ve gotten away with $2 per plate and bowl. Overall, for dishes you’re looking at $50, give or take.
The rest of the kitchen
Those are the big ticket items, but there are some miscellaneous things that every kitchen needs. I also found some cool stuff that could find it’s way into any 20-something’s kitchen.
- 60 oz. Margarita Glass – $6.99
- Keurig – $29.99
- Mugs – $1-2
- Mason Jars – $1.99 each
- Tea Set – $3.99 each
- Strainer – $0.99
- Espresso Marchine – $44.99
- Glasses – $0.99 each
I’m going to assume that you wouldn’t have bought all of this stuff. But let’s say you went with the Keurig, 4 mason jars, the strainer, and 4 glasses. You’d be looking at $42.90.
So to outfit your entire kitchen, you’re looking at spending right around $140, after you head to the dollar store and buy some silverware, a spatula, and a ladle. Go you!
Kitchen Total = $140
This really isn’t tough, because, all the stuff you need you can get from Walmart. And while some of you might be against buying cheaper stuff, keep in mind that you’ll be keeping this stuff in the room where you shit.
Towels, shower curtain, shower curtain rings, garbage can, plunger (for the nights you have Mexican) and a toilet brush is all you really need to function. You might want to add a bathmat, if you’re really fancy. All in all, you should be able to get all of this taken care of for under $100.
- Towels – $30
- Shower curtain – $5-10
- Shower curtain rings – $1-$5
- Garbage can – $10
- Plunger – $10
- Toilet brush – $15
- Bathmat – $15
Bathroom Total = $100, give or take
Next step in furnishing an apartment? Making the living room, well, livable. There are lot’s of big ticket items here that will make this a relatively expensive endeavor, but over the course of just a few hours here are the deals I found.
That red one is for all you out there that are single and ready to mingle. Each one of the couches was $129, and the love seats were $99. That red masterpiece was $79. I know a lot of the hesitation around buying used is that you feel like these couches were gross. I’m not quite a germophobe, but I do like what I have to be clean. I checked for rips, stains, bugs, etc. Didn’t find a thing wrong with these couches.
Couch/Love Seat combo – $228
Next up is the coffee table. Again, these aren’t the coffee tables you’d find at the Taj Mahal, but when it comes down to your first table, you can’t go wrong with these.
The one on the left was $23, the one on the right $30. No scuffs, no marks, no stains, nothing that would tell you that the tables weren’t new.
Coffee table – ~$25
Side tables and lamps
I know there are guys out there that are thinking, “You just bought a table, why do you need side tables?” But for the ladies watching this, I’m guessing you’d like to live somewhere that doesn’t reek of single dude. Here’s what I got:
I know that the Franken-lamp at the bottom left is probably not in line with many peoples taste, but I couldn’t NOT take a photo of it. The end tables here ranged from $13-25, and the lamps were between $10-$20.
- Two End tables – ~$20 each
- Two lamps – ~ $15
Total = $70
Dining room table
Most people won’t have an official dining room in their first apartment, but you’ll more than likely have some space to put a table that seats at least four. That way you can have at least a small, sexy cocktail party. I found the following tables today:
Prices on these went $100, $125, and $100, respectively. Note that they’re not even close to the same table. Remember, just because you’re checking out a thrift store doesn’t mean you have to buy crap. Thrift does not mean shit.
Dining room table – ~$120
TV and TV Stand
Let’s start with the TV stands. If you’re not careful, you can spend a TON of money on these if you go new. Here’s what I found today:
The one on the left was $40, and the one on the right was $30. These did have some wear and tear on them, but that just adds to the character of the room.
Now for the hard part. I didn’t see any TV’s today that I would consider taking home. They were all super bulky and looked like they were straight from the 90’s. The market for TV’s is super saturated and competitive, and there’s really not a huge difference between them under 40 inches. So if I had to buy a TV over again, I’d check Craigslist, Walmart, Best Buy, and Amazon. Whoever offers you the best price, take it!
- TV Stand ~ $35
- TV ~$300 (new)
But wait! There’s a HUGE part of cost savings that I left out! In talking to one of the associates of the Salvation Army, she told me that my particular store is having a 40% off sale tomorrow! Which means a good number of items I could get for almost half price! Let’s run the math real quick:
$228 + $25 + $70 + $120 = 443 with a 40% discount = $265.80 + $300 (TV) = $565.80
When you’re furnishing an apartment, and you tell someone that you got a coffee table, end table, lamps, couch, love seat, TV and TV stand for under $600, you will be the coolest person in the room. I promise!
Living Room Total = $565.80
All right, now we’re talking about the room where all the magic happens: the bedroom! Now, a lot of you might look down on me for what I’m about to say. But this is “thecodetoriches.com”, not “payoutheasstosupportlocalbusinesses.com”. You can furnish an entire bedroom from Walmart.com.
I know, I know… “But Paul, they’re such an evil corporation.” And that might be true. But my job is to make sure you have money to live a rich life, not to feel bad about not supporting a local shop. In the end, you have to do what makes sense for your wallet.
If you really want to splurge, then I say get a queen. If you’re really looking to cut down on costs, you’ll be able to get away with a twin. You just won’t be having too many people keeping you warm at night. But that’s ok, you’d just get them an Uber home so you wouldn’t have to make them breakfast. Walmart.com has some killer options, especially in the memory foam department. Why would I suggest memory foam?
- It’s dirt cheap. When I was first looking at mattresses the girlfriend and I were looking at least $1,000 for something decent. The memory foam mattresses that we bought through walmart.com were $300 (queen) and $350 (king). I felt like such a boss saving over $600.
- They’re comfortable for everyone. I honestly don’t understand how memory foam does it. But I’m the kind of guy that wants to sleep on something rock hard. My girlfriend is all about a mattress “feeling like a cloud”. And we both get what we want out of the memory foam mattresses. Our bed’s are so damn comfortable, it’s gotta be magic.
- They don’t age. We’ve had our queen mattress for over two years, and it’s still just as comfortable as it was the day we bought it. AND we moved it halfway across the country (1,300 miles). It’s proving to be an awesome investment.
Total = $350
Another $70 on Walmart.com means you don’t have to leave your bed on the ground. Completely worth it, as it elevates the bed AND provides you extra storage space that you might need. After all, this is your first place, it’s bound to not be huge. And it’s not like you’re purchasing a giant wooden frame that takes an expert from HGTV to put together. This is something a drunk high school dropout with one hand could do in 5 minutes.
Total = $70
Sorry kiddo, but you don’t need something super fancy as a nightstand. The one’s I bought two years ago out of college are still working perfectly. And again, that’s after moving them 1,300 miles. At $60 a pop, you really can’t do any better for new nightstands.
Total (2) = $120
This one I say use a bit of common sense. Chances are you had a dresser growing up, and at least one parent who would love for you to take some of the shit out of their house. If you can take your old dresser for free, use it for a year or two. If not, I’d definitely check out a thrift store. After all, it’s not like you’re using an old toothbrush. It’s a dresser; it’s probably not gross at all. And finally, if none of that suits you, I’d head over to walmart.com, and $60 later you’ll have a brand new dresser.
Total = $60
Bedroom total = $600
I’ll put down how I outfitted my office just in case you’re first apartment is a 2-bedroom (mine was.) Overall, it doesn’t take much to make an office look pretty official.
I threw caution to the wind when it came to a desk. Here’s the thing about desks: they can be expensive, they’re almost always heavy, they’re fragile, and that makes them a bitch to move around. I went with a $50 white plastic table from Sam’s Club, and could not be happier. I’ve got enough room to spread out all my tech shit, and if/when I need to move it, I can with ease. Also, there’s more than enough room underneath to hide away some printer paper, wires, modem, etc.
Total = $50
I would first say don’t buy a used printer unless you know the quality. Printers can be downright bitchy, and randomly decide one day that they’re not going to work. If I had the chance, I’d buy a new printer. The caveat is since you’re probably not living alone, have roommates/SO’s contribute. It cuts all the costs in half, and what the hell do you care if you’re sharing the printer. It’s not like you’re sharing a sandwich. I’ve got the HP Officejet Pro 8610. I’ve had it for 6 months, and never had an issue with it.
Total = $175
Office Total = $225
Of course, furnishing an apartment wouldn’t be complete without some mention of decorations. Now, if it were up to me, I’d be sitting in a lawn chair and watching TV on my iPad…
But seeing as I don’t live alone, and living like that would be utterly depressing, I guess we should talk about decorating. BUT ONLY A LITTLE BIT!
Paintings – If you haven’t gone to “Painting with a Twist” or some equivalent, I highly advise you do so! It’s definitely a throwback to making shitty art projects when you were in kindergarten, and the teacher coming over and making you feel like an absolute baller by saying, “Great Job!” No shit great job, I fucking majored in finger painting.
Seriously, it’s a great time to hang out with friends, feel like you actually can do art (they make the directions super simple for people like me) and at the end of it, you have something to put up in your apartment! Voila!
Total = $30
Local thrift stores – I could have spent a week taking pictures of all the nick-nacks and things that you could put on a wall or on a mantle. If you spent $50, you could have little statues, paintings, and decorations for days.
Total = $50
Family photos – Depending on what your relationship is with your family, you may or may not be keen on doing this. But it really helps to give your apartment a sense of familiarity if you have a bunch of people’s faces up everywhere. The photo’s of your family should be easy enough to come by, and frames are relatively cheap.
Total = $20
Decorating total = $100
Furnishing an Apartment-The Wrap Up
So, now that I’ve run around Colorado Springs and genuinely scared some of the store associates at these thrift stores, how much did our total come to?…
$140 + $100 + $565.80 + $600 + $225 + $100 = $1,730.80.
Let’s call it an even $1,800. Which at first sight, might seem like quite a bit of dough. But when you consider that there are couches that cost over twice that amount, you’ve actually gotten away with a great overall deal.
So what have we learned today?
- Used does not have to mean crappy. Just because someone owned something previously does not automatically take it’s status from “new” to “garbage”.
- You have to shop around. I only visited two stores today, but was able to find some pretty awesome deals (40% off at Salvation Army, woot woot!) But amazing deals are not just going to show up at your doorstep; you have to get out there and find them.
- New doesn’t always have to mean expensive. There are some awesome companies out there that make a great product (I’m thinking of my bed as I write this). And their price tags really don’t break the bank.
- Take free stuff when you can! Lot’s of you have parents that would love to clear out their garage or their houses. Take a couch, cutlery set, mugs, whatever, as often as you can.
What are some cost-savings tips that you have used to shed some dollars while furnishing an apartment? What’s the best deal you’ve ever gotten on furniture? Let me know below!
Keep trying to crack the code,