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Decorating Your Off-Campus Apartment for (almost) Free

Decorating Your Off-Campus Apartment for (almost) Free

Who needs furniture anyway?

Most off-campus apartments in Tallahassee come furnished, if you’re choosing to live at a student complex. A student complex is often the most popular choice for students seeking their first venture away from their dorms at FSU, but other students may choose a different route, such as renting with a private landlord or at a non-student off-campus apartment. If you’re like me and spent three years in a student complex before moving somewhere else, you likely own bedsheets and maybe one chair. Fret not over the panic of how you’re going to furnish this place with your student money, I’ve figured it out. 

July 31st is Christmas now

Any FSU student will tell you that the most common date to move out of an off-campus apartment in Tallahassee is July 31st. Generally, move-out sales and such start happening around May, but July 31st is when everyone has 24 hours to get their stuff and go, and not everyone takes everything with them. I moved into my current apartment on July 1st, and I only spent money on getting a mattress, bedframe, and desk while I waited for the move out sales. Oh, I also got my dog fancy dog bowls, he deserved the upgrade.

Take a scenic drive through some of the more popular student complexes and you’ll find hoards of treasures discarded for others. I am not kidding, I found a brand new 64 inch TV in it’s box right next to a dumpster. I am watching Once Upon a Time on it right now. It doesn’t have a remote, but the remote of my streaming device solves that problem for me. Whoever left this TV by that dumpster, thank you <3. 

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Other items I got from shopping the curb around off-campus student apartments include: a second desk, a bookshelf, 3 chairs, a lava lamp, paintings, Christmas lights, and a coffee table. 

Macklemore thrift-shopping

Never underestimate the importance of move-out sales

Whatever you can’t get off the curb outside, there’s someone selling it for cheap on Facebook Marketplace. I don’t really use apps dedicated to this because it’s a hassle downloading an app to make an account just to browse (I’m lazy). It’s a quick way to furnish your off-campus apartment with gently used items, and it’s how I got a full kitchen set for under $20 (as in pots, pans, a rice cooker, cups, bowls, etc). I also got an airfryer for the same price–it’s teal! It’s a no-brainer that buying secondhand is cheaper, but student move-out sales are another level of savings. 

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A man saying

Help your friends move out 

Not only should you offer to help your friends pack and move out because you’re a nice person and a good friend, you should offer to help so you can get first dibs on everything they don’t want. The first time I moved-out was at the beginning of the COVID-19 Pandemic. I was moving to my hometown, but some of my friends were moving within town. The combined effort between my friends and I led to me being able to move much faster, and they got things like a microwave, mini-fridge, wicker balcony furniture, etc. By contrast, if you pop up to someone’s move-out sale and it’s the last day before they leave, chances are they’ll let you have everything. I went to one such sale in search of a $5 fish tank and came back with a George Foreman grill and baking supplies. Many heart shaped cookies were made that weekend. 

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A woman saying "I'm moving out of the loft."
This is good news, what it really means is “I’m getting rid of a lot of stuff.”

Watch out for surprise expenses

Sometimes when you’re doing everything to save money, you can scam yourself into spending more. Be wary about futons and couches. You’re most likely going to start out looking for a nice couch. Then, you’ll find one. Then, you’ll realize how heavy couches are and that your new apartment complex has no elevators and how the heck are you supposed to get this fully built couch upstairs? Once you face this, you’ll search for futons. They’re more lightweight, You’ll buy one brand new because you realize it’ll be easier for you to transport it in a box than after it’s been assembled because your Honda Civic isn’t going to cut it. Then it’s a battle to build this futon you bought for $100 at Walmart, you and your futon building partner are mad at each other, and in the end the futon was $150 because you had to get food delivered to keep you from throwing this futon out of the window. And now you’re wondering if you should’ve just bought someone else’s futon for $70, and rented a uphaul truck for $20, and (maybe) saved the money you spent on the comfort of Chinese food.

Ross and Rachel from Friends failing to carry a heavy couch up the stiars.
This moment should never be experienced, and yet there’s no way to avoid it.

Do NOT finance brand new furniture

You’re a college student, why the heck would you consider financing brand new furniture? “I get everything delivered all at once for a low monthly rate,” what are you, State Farm? While this isn’t an option people usually look at when trying to save money, you might be tricked into it by a smooth salesperson who isn’t going to tell you what interest is because they’re hoping your desire for a Pinterest perfect apartment will take over. Don’t! It’s incredibly rare to find an off-campus apartment that looks like it belongs on Pinterest anyway. College students are known for decorating with empty bottles of alcohol and tapestries they found on Amazon; no one is really expecting you to have an apartment worth thousands in décor because it’s trendy.

I remember thinking my first apartment would look so cute, that I’d have a big fluffy rug and all the throw pillows in the world. I learned very quickly that rugs and throw pillows are stupidly expensive, and instead I just got a giant tapestry and called it a day. Don’t finance your furniture for your first off-campus apartment. Save that money for the utility bill, it’s coming for you. 

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