When you’re a college student whose diet consists mainly of Ramen Noodles, having enough money to buy furniture may seem laughable. In addition to price limitations, dorm rooms typically don’t allow for much extra space. Cramming a dresser or a nightstand into an already crowded room seems inconvenient and like a waste of money. If you know what to look and where to look for it, furnishing your dorm or first apartment can not only be doable, but fun!
First of all, you can’t expect to buy all the biggest and best items. Having your heart set on a $2,000 designer bedspread is unrealistic and totally impractical. Before investing in expensive pieces, think about all the possibilities for disaster. If you eat on your dorm bed (or really any bed), you risk spilling food all over your new bedspread. If you buy a fancy lamp, it may get smashed during a party. Because of this, select items that are either very durable or totally disposable, and super inexpensive. A great place to start is a thrift store, or even around the dumpsters at the end of a school year. Most Goodwill stores have a nice selection of furniture for tens of dollars. Many students also throw out furniture that they don’t want at the end of the year and furniture that they cannot transport back home. Keep an eye out around finals time for futons, shelves, etc. Looking through Craigslist postings is another way to find nice pieces for next to nothing.
Next, don’t brush aside items because they’re ugly or you don’t like the color; keep in mind that most pieces can be altered or refurbished in some way. If you find a $50 couch on Craigslist, but think it’s the most unappealing thing you’ve ever seen, try putting a couch cover or sheet over it. Add some cheap throw pillows, and you have a totally new sofa! Most wood items can be painted over. A $15 nightstand from Goodwill with a funky colored coat of paint can suddenly look like a $300 piece. Top it with cute desk lamp or candle and your new purchase can be magazine worthy. Not only can you modify items, but you can also make great decorations with things you already have. Do you have a stack of old magazines lying around? Learn how to make paper cranes, use magazine pages to make a few of them, and make an adorable mobile with some ribbon and twigs from trees. In fact, magazines can be used in all sorts of cute home decorating. If you Google “crafts to do with old magazines,” you can learn to make a bowl, or even trashcan, with your unwanted literature. Before you toss anything out, ask yourself if you could make something else from it.
Once you’ve gotten a nice assortment of objects within your budget, learn to make the most of your space with them. Adding a futon to a dorm can leave you with almost no space if your bed is on the floor. If you look into a loft for your bed, though, you can use the space underneath it for more furniture, whether that is a desk, couch, or other item. If you’re the type who likes to eat at a table, buying a cheap patio set or a card table may be a good purchase for that space. If you have the opposite problem (a large space with not enough furniture), make “faux furniture.” In the center of the room, try setting up a coffee table with cushions on the floor for seating. This is not only a unique look, but costs a good deal less than buying a full sized table and chairs. Tapping into the versatility of most household objects can help you come up with creative solutions for furniture shortages.