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How to Make Your Apartment Livable On the Cheap(ish)

Do you know what happens when you move across the country and only bring what will fit in a Ford Focus? You have to buy stuff to live. Well, you don’t have to — but I’m a big fan of not sleeping on the floor. As such, we’ve spent a decent chunk of cash on making this place livable. We’ve also learned how to save some money to do so.

1) Floor models are your friend.

Our application for the new apartment was approved the day before move-in, so we needed a mattress quickly. We headed over to a nearby mattress store that sold locally-made quality mattresses. We found the one we wanted at a cost of $519 and asked the salesperson if we could have it delivered the next day. Unfortunately, there were no available queens in stock. Then we were sad.

“However…”, she said, and our ears perked up. There was an upgraded version of this as a floor model that she offered us for $30 more. Within about five seconds of laying on it, we were sold. And that’s how we got an $849 mattress for $549, delivered the next day. And no sales tax in Portland. Score!

A lot of this was being in the right place at the right time, but always pay attention to the possible availability of floor models. You can often get expensive items at deep discounts. Like $300 off a mattress.

2) Google it before you do anything.

Macy’s had a bad ass sale this weekend, with most items 30%+ off. We headed out to purchase our dishware and pots and pans. After finding the perfect on-sale goods, the cashier informed us that by opening a Macy’s credit card we could save an additional 15%. I was conflicted. On the one hand, I didn’t want another hit to my credit after the apartment application. On the other hand, I did want to save the 15% and I had the cash to pay it off immediately. Predicament.

After a bit of thinking, I decided to use my best friend Google to find out if any coupons were available. Lo and behold, I found a 15% off coupon that the salesperson neglected to mention to me. Saved the money, no credit hit, no hassle.

Store credit cards are tempting for sure, especially for people like me who are super gullible and easily persuaded by salespeople. Shameful, I know. But always Google deals first to see if you can save the cash another way.

3) Distinguish between needs and wants.

Believe it or not, you can live without most furniture. It’s NICE to have furniture but it’s not an absolute requirement, especially for singles or young couples without children. That being said, we don’t have any. No bed, no couch, no chair, no desk, no dresser, no table. Like I said, we DO have a mattress. A mattress is a requirement for me. A bed to put it on? Eh, I can wait a bit. We also didn’t buy a comforter set. We bought sheets and we have a blanket we brought from Ohio. That will do for now.

Now this next one might sound weird to you. Remember, we live in a studio and there are only two of us. We have two plates, two bowls, two mugs, two knives, two spoons, and two forks. That’s it. In our itty bitty kitchen, we don’t really have space for dishes to pile up so we decided to avoid having too many dishes. My minimalist self dorks out a bit about this stuff. I really dig having limited dishes to do because dishes are evil.

Moving into a new apartment doesn’t have to be crazy expensive up front. Buy the stuff you NEED — remembering to Google and check out floor model options — and wait on the stuff you just WANT. It’s so important to stay liquid until the regular paychecks are rolling in. A nice couch won’t feed you — unless you eat it. I don’t advise this.

After the paychecks are regular, start saving up the cash to buy the “wants” and make your apartment look like a home. C’mon guys, let’s attempt to exercise control. (That last statement was more for my benefit than yours, delayed gratification sucks.)

[Image from BuzzFeed]

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Erin Thompson

Erin Thompson spent years managing her own blog about budgeting and debt. Because of that, she has great insights not only about managing spending and borrowing but also about running websites profitably. When she's not writing articles for us, she's traveling and looking for new types of wines to try.
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The content on is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not financial advice and we are not certified financial advisors. strives to keep its information accurate and up to date, but it may differ from actual numbers. We may have financial relationships with companies listed on our site. We may receive compensation for the placement of sponsored products or services. We work hard to write authentic and accurate articles.