How To Set Up A New Home When You're On A Tight Budget

How to Set Up a New Home When You're on a Tight Budget

You're moving into a house or a large apartment for the first time. You take all of your stuff there, unpack everything… and you quickly realise how spartan it is. There are lots of things you need — or you at least think you need. Silverware. Flatware. Tables. Furniture. Minor appliances. The list starts small and quickly gets big. How are you going to get all of this stuff without breaking the bank?

Image remixed from Katsiaryana Pleshakova (Shutterstock).

I've been in this very situation at least three different times in my life. Each time, I've had this strong urge to acquire stuff that I was sure that I needed. The first two times, I went on a big buying spree, loading up on all kinds of things. The third time, when I moved from an apartment into a house with three times the square footage, I gave the transition some very careful thought and, although we had a lot of empty space, we only ended up spending a small fraction of what we had budgeted for our post-move expenses.

Here are some tips for setting up a new house on a tight budget (and you should be on a tight budget every time you move).

Assess What You Actually Need, Not What You Want

We all have visions of an apartment or a home that looks like something out of a magazine, but unless you have people who are professional decorators and cleaners handling the specifics for you, it's not going to happen.

Instead of thinking about purchases for your dream home or dream apartment, start very simply. What do you need? You need something to eat with. You need a place to sit. You need a few basic cooking implements. You need basic bedding and basic bathroom items. That's about it. Remember, these items don't have to be much of anything. In fact, it makes a lot of sense to start as low-rent as possible and to replace the items as you can afford improvements.

Decorate Personally, Not Professionally

The first thing that often strikes people about a fresh new home or a new apartment are all of the bare walls. There's a strong temptation to decorate and to fill up all of that white space with something inspiring or beautiful. It can be really tempting to head to some home decor store and find lots of prints and other things to hang on your walls, but what often makes a house a home is the personal touch.

Start off your decoration with your own photographs. Get some inexpensive picture frames, print off some of the photos that mean the most to you, and use those to fill the white space on your walls. This way, when you look at the walls, you're reminded of the great moments and great people in your life. You'll also have some good conversation starters if you have guests, and you won't spend a lot of money on it, either.

Head To Facebook First

Once you've handled decoration, head to Facebook before you start buying things. Make a list of the things you actually need, then drop a Facebook status update that goes something like this:

We just got moved in and unpacked! Thanks for all the help, guys! We are looking for a few odds and ends to finish things up. If you happen to have any extras of these or know where we could get one for a cheap price, PLEASE tell me!

Then, follow it with a list of the essentials you're looking for.

I've had several different friends post updates like this and I've been able to help them with stuff from our garage almost every time. I was perfectly happy to see a lamp go to good use or to see our old dinner plates find a nice second home with a friend. They were certainly happy, too. This took something they needed off of their list without spending a dime.

Head To Charity Shops Next

If there are still items you need on your list, stop at your local charity store and see what's around. Try to fulfil as many needs as you possibly can at the thrift store level so that you're not seeking more expensive options.

In our first apartment, we had an incredibly comfortable pair of chairs that came from Goodwill, along with a couch and a table and chair set that came from my grandmother's old house. Our entire living room and dining room furniture arrangement didn't cost us anything.

Setting Up a New House on a Tight Budget [The Simple Dollar]

Trent Hamm is a personal finance writer at After pulling himself out of his own financial crisis, he founded the site in late 2006 to help others through financially difficult situations; today the site has become a finance, insurance, and retirement resource. Contact Trent at trent AT the simple dollar DOT com; please send site inquiries to inquiries AT the simple dollar DOT com.


    Verge Collection. Always hit up verge collection first if you're on a budget.

    Depending on the area, you could outfit an entire house in a weekend with surprisingly nice stuff (including appliances, utensils, and artwork). Just hire a trailer and go hunting.

    Reference guide for those in Perth:

    Also known as Hard Rubbish collection in Vic. Some councils have specified areas each month, so you just have to find which area it currently is. Ours has an on demand service so you have to drive around a bit more to find people who've put theirs out

      though be careful you don't get nicked by the police for "theft". As I understand, picking up hard rubbish is something of a grey area in that people have been arrested in the past but it may or may not be illegal (depending on interpretation of the law and which council is involved)

        Oh yeah good point, I've heard that too. I think the reasoning is partly that the contractors who pick up the hard rubbish have first dibs on any useful scrap and sale able metals etc, as part of the contract, but theft is pretty strong for what's really just 'urban recycling' :)

    I've only got one thing to say about this topic, and that's to buy within your means! You don't want to be moving into a luxurious new home that's going to eat up every single last penny that you're bringing home. It's just not worth it!

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