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College dormGoing from a dorm room to your first apartment is a milestone. For many people, it represents their first real independence. It’s an opportunity to show that you can stand on your own and support yourself.

However, a big move like that also represents a challenge. Most dorm rooms are very small and require little in the way of furnishings. How can you make the move from a dorm to an unfurnished apartment without breaking the bank? All it takes is a bit of creativity and ingenuity – and these tips.

Start with the Basics

This first tip might seem like an obvious one, but it’s not uncommon for people just starting out to make the mistake of thinking they need to buy everything at once. Pause for a moment and think about what you really need to be comfortable. A bed is a must, and you also need a sofa and some kind of table and chairs. If your apartment comes with a breakfast bar and barstools, you may be able to wait on the table. Take care of your immediate needs first and then worry about the rest.

Ask Family and Friends

Before you spend money on new furniture, put the word out to your family and friends to let them know that you need furniture. Unless you ask, you’ll never know if someone is in the market for a new dining room table and ready to let theirs go for a song.

Keep an Open Mind

Car loaded for college move inWhat do you do if somebody offers you a sofa that you don’t like? If it’s solid and you like the shape of it, don’t turn it down because you dislike the upholstery. You can always use a slipcover and reupholster it when you have the time and money to do so. A well-made piece of furniture can last a lifetime if you treat it properly. Try to see the potential in used furniture and remember that you have the ability to refinish or repaint it in due time.

Go for Quality

Not every piece of furniture you buy needs to be expensive, but this is a situation where you don’t want to be penny wise and pound foolish. A good mattress should last you ten years. If you go for a cheap one – or a futon instead of a bed – you may end up paying more in the long run.

The same is true of sofas. If you have to shell out money for one, pick one that’s well made. You’re going to be sitting on it a lot and it’s best to pick one that’s sturdily constructed and comfortable.

Go Thrifting and Antiquing

People who haven’t spent a lot of time in antique stores sometimes make the mistake of thinking that antique equals expensive. However, that is very often not the case. Many antique stores sell items on consignment. You won’t find IKEA furniture there, but you can often find very nice pieces at bargain prices. Instead of settling for cookie cutter furniture from a chain store, find a few antique stores in your area and check them out. You might be surprised at what you find.

Thrift stores have many of the same advantages as antique stores. If you don’t mind buying used items, you can get everything you need for your kitchen for just a few dollars.

Do-It-Yourself Décor

Basic furniture might not make your new apartment feel like home, but some unique artwork and decorative touches will. Even if you have a small budget, you don’t need to resign yourself to using the same art prints you had on your dorm room walls. Instead, why not let your creative side show and make something? Try doing a collage of things you love and framing it, or take a free art class and hang your creations on the wall.

When it comes to furnishing your first apartment after college, the key is to be patient and creative. Don’t feel like you have to fully furnish your apartment overnight. Make a checklist and focus on your immediate needs, and then have fun finding the rest. In the end, you’ll have a unique space that feels like home.

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