As a student, moving into new accommodation is an adventure, especially if you have decided to share with friends. Now you have the freedom to live independently, how will you create the space you want at a price you can afford? Working to a budget means you have to make some shrewd decisions, however, there are more options available to you than you might think. Here are a few ideas for ways to manage your purchases when it comes to furnishing your new home:
Having a comfortable place to sleep is essential for your health and wellbeing, not to mention your recovery time from student parties. If you are occupying a college dorm room your bed may be provided, however, if you are sharing an apartment with friends you may have to furnish everything from scratch. In that case, the minimalist approach is the most budget-friendly option and if you consider buying a futon instead of a traditional bed, you may find you can save quite a lot of money.
Your local thrift store might provide an opportunity to pick up bits and pieces such as a side table and chair, and maybe a desk lamp. For bedding and soft furnishings such as pillows, you can get quality items at a bargain price from sites like As seen on TV. It may be tempting to buy used scatter cushions and throws, but from a hygiene point of view this is far from ideal, unless you know where they have been.
Many student rooms are provided with cheap blinds, but if you want to dress your windows up a little there are simple and inexpensive ways to do this. Sheer curtains are cheap to buy and easy to hang, and will disguise a rather plain blind beautifully. If you don’t have any window coverings and have not budgeted for adding heavier drapes, just make sure sheer curtains offer you sufficient privacy in the evening when internal lights are on. If not, it’s easy to rig up window panels made from plain fabric that can be removed in daytime.
You can also use a tensile rod to hang sheer curtains if your student accommodation has a no-drill policy. For a romantic touch, hang a few shiny beads along the length of a window or a cheap set of Christmas tree lights for a more dramatic effect.
Given that most students don’t have much money, it’s more than likely you’ll be cooking for yourself, and perhaps for or with others, so if you are in a communal kitchen you will want to have all the basics. If you’re sharing a kitchen, one great benefit is that you and your housemates can select any additional appliances you might need, beyond what may already be provided, and share the cost. This means there is little or no duplication of extra pots and pans, and this in fact encourages the preparation of communal meals, which also keeps food shopping costs low.
If this is your first time fending for yourself in the kitchen, the good news is that there are plenty of no-nonsense cookbooks aimed at students to help you prepare simple, nutritious meals with the minimum of effort. You can choose meals that need only a microwave, as well as those that offer recipes for one plate cooking. Vegetarian options are usually included and some cookbooks promote use of only the simplest kitchen utensils, so it’s not necessary to buy fancy, expensive equipment.
If you’re in college accommodation, check the policy on having your own coffeepot, toaster or small microwave, as sometimes these are deemed a fire hazard and are not permitted in individual student rooms. When it comes to where you eat, that also depends on the type of student accommodation – a dining table may be provided in a shared kitchen or you can always look for a cheap table from the thrift store.
When sharing an apartment with friends you may find that, between you, you have to supply couches, armchairs or other bits and pieces for your communal living area. Again, a thrift store is a good place to start; also consider some of the websites such as Freecycle and even Craigslist, which offer pre-loved furniture at low or no cost.
Remember also that there will be students who have finished college and may be wanting to get rid of furniture they have acquired over the years, so scour the university notice boards and place advertisements detailing what you’re looking for – it’s generally free and you may just get a good bargain right on your doorstep.
Creating your personal space
Once your basic living needs are met, you might want to think about any other touches that will supply a little more home comfort but are affordable. Most students work on laptops or tablets, so if you can find a device that also doubles as a game player, will provide you with music, streams TV and enables you to use free software to make free calls, you are on to a winner.
After all, it makes more sense to bring one device (OK, maybe your smartphone is a must-have) than to bring a music player, TV, games console and a computer. You will use less power, and if utilities are charged as extra, this option is more cost-effective.
Independent living can be great fun if you take a positive approach to the new experiences ahead of you. You are at an exciting stage of life, one that opens up new opportunities for the future. Of course, to avoid financial grief further down the line, you also need to exercise some common sense and to watch your budget. If you try to avoid temptation when it comes to straying from planned expenditure and to live within your means, however limited, your college days should deliver lots of great memories and minimal financial pain.