How to Pick Furniture for an Off-Campus College Apartment

College friends relaxing in new apartment

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Furnishing a first off-campus apartment is an exciting experience. There is a sense of freedom that comes from having a place of your own.

Money can often be tight, but you want something that looks nice and you need it to be functional as well. If you have the place to yourself, you will furnish it differently than if you plan to share with roommates. And whichever route you end up taking, it is always best to clear with your landlord whether you can change the paint or hang pictures or mirrors on the wall.

Sharing an Apartment

Sharing an apartment with others could turn out to be an affordable arrangement in many different ways. You share the rent, utilities, and other expenses, such as for furniture.

When you planning on getting your apartment with others it might be a good idea to compare notes to see if any roommates already own furniture or have furnishings that they can bring. Do this before you buy any new furniture.

If you aim to keep your place looking attractive, then decide on colors or furnishing pieces that are mutually acceptable, especially in common areas.

While sharing the cost of different furniture pieces may sound attractive at first, remember that, eventually, you or your roommates will move out. When that happens, it might be hard to decide who gets to keep what, or how to split one piece of furniture between two people. For this reason, it is better to each buy separate pieces instead of sharing the cost of one.

Your Own Studio Apartment

You might decide that you prefer to live alone and be fortunate enough to find an affordable studio apartment. Sometimes these apartments might be already furnished, but if not, take a look at some options:

  • Your old furniture: Furnish your apartment with some of the furniture you might be bringing from your old dorm room or your room at home.
  • Double duty furniture: Use furniture that does double duty, like a futon which can double as a bed at night and be a couch for lounging during the day. Consider a table that doubles as a desk or dining table.
  • Collapsible furniture: Keep folding chairs and sleeping bags or inflatable mattresses for when you decide to have friends over.
  • Organization bins: Shelves, under-bed storage, or closet organizers may help you organize better because clutter can ruin any small space.

Where to Find Affordable Furniture

You may not have to buy all your furniture. Maybe your parents are planning on parting with an old couch. Ask your grandparents or other relatives if they want to part with any furnishings.

There might be treasures in the garage or basement at home that are not being used. Ask for these if you can arrange transport for them.

Look online. The classified section of your local newspaper, online swaps, or Craigslist might free furniture listed that you could possibly use. Somebody's castoffs could find new life in your apartment.

Take a walk in your neighborhood on garbage day or go dumpster diving. Sometimes people leave perfectly usable furniture sitting on the curbside when they are getting ready to move. Do not take anything that is too damaged or dilapidated, unless you are good with your hands and have the time and tools to fix it. Certain used furnishings like mattresses and smelly, worn couches are best avoided.

Shop at local garage sales or yard sales. You can always haggle for the price you are willing to pay. Show up early or go very late, both times are best for finding bargains. Shop at local thrift stores, you never know what treasures await you.

Best Pieces of Furniture for Your Money

Choose furniture that is functional and can be used for many different purposes. Look for smaller scaled furniture if possible.

  • Sleeper couches and futons: Excellent for first apartments.
  • Ottomans: These can be used as storage, a coffee table, and to stretch your legs.
  • Folding or stacking chairs: Great for when guests come over. IKEA has some very affordable ones
  • Storage bins, baskets, and cubes: Good for organizing your items instead of cluttering your place. Target and IKEA often have sales on these items.
  • Indoor/outdoor rugs: Consider these because they are pretty stain resistant and can be cleaned up easily. They are great for covering up ugly apartment carpeting or damaged floors.
  • Outdoor furniture: This is often less expensive than indoor furniture, you might be able to find attractive and comfortable pieces that serve the same purpose for less.