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Wait! Before you jump into the cost of furnishing your apartment, have you considered all the other costs of getting an apartment? Security deposits, utilities, application fees? If you’re not totally sure about those expenses yet (or how to get your rental application approved), you might want to check out our post on How to Save for an Apartment first.
Already know exactly how you’re going to cover those expenses and land that apartment? Then congratulations! You’re getting your own apartment!!!
No more living with mom or dad. No more cramped dorm room. Just think of all the fun you’ll have decorating! And of all the lovely parties you’ll host! But first, you need to furnish that apartment. And just how much do you think it will cost to furnish an apartment from scratch?
If you’re anything like 18-year-old me, you’re thinking, sofa, TV, mattress, easy! Shouldn’t be more than, like, $600 to furnish an apartment. And if I just take my parents’ old sofa, my costs slide down to $400!
OMG, I was wrong. So, so wrong.
First of all, you probably have too many clothes for a tiny closet, so you’ll need a dresser. Then your TV is too low sitting on the floor, so you’ll need a TV stand or wall-mount system. And turns out, you can’t sleep without a bed frame (spiders are more likely to get you if the mattress is on the floor).
Thankfully, now in my (early!) 30’s, I know better.
Many of you know J and I recently moved to Germany. Side note: if you’re curious about international moving costs, check out this post: How Much Does It Cost to Move Abroad?
Shipping our furniture would have been around $14,000 😐 So we decided to start from scratch. But again, this time I know better! I’m older, I’m wiser, and I have nearly 15 years’ experience pricing IKEA furniture (which, btw costs about the same in Europe as the US, so my numbers should be helpful to you if you’re going the IKEA route).
Armed with all this knowledge and experience, I sat down to make a realistic, furnish-an-apartment-from-scratch budget like a grown-up.
Here is my budget to furnish an apartment from scratch for your viewing pleasure:
Looks reasonable, right? We don’t want to spend a ton, but we want to have all the basics covered.
You might notice I don’t have a dining room table and chairs in my budget. Yeah, we usually just do dinner on the couch with a movie. And we usually go out with friends instead of having people over. So we don’t honestly need dining furniture. Please don’t judge us 😉
Ok, so we’ve got my well-planned furniture budget of $1,985. Let’s see how I did…
Actual Furniture Costs
Here are the actual costs of my furniture. See all that red? That’s where I went over budget.
That’s right. My “reasonable” budget underestimated the cost to furnish an apartment by over 55%!
How was I so wrong?!
Well, for starters, I brilliantly forgot to convert Dollars to Euros in my budget *kicking myself*. And I also forgot to add sales tax to my budget amounts. Rookie mistake! Some good news: sales tax in Europe is included in the sticker price, so these numbers include tax.
I seriously underestimated the cost of a TV. I thought $300 was reasonable for decent TV, but “decent” meant something entirely different to my husband. Crazy as it seems, the TV is important for his work in video game design, so we had to go over budget there.
Then of course, I completely forgot to budget for the five items at the end of the list.
Finding Ways to Pay for All This
$3,000 to furnish an apartment is a ton of money, especially for anyone who’s just getting their adult life started. But it’s certainly not impossible to come up with. You have a few options: cut other expenses so you have more to spend on the apartment, earn extra money, and save more than I did on the furniture.
Cut Other Expenses
Do you know how much money you spend every month on things like groceries, entertainment, and gas? The best way to find expenses you can cut without feeling any pinch is to add up your monthly expenses in each category.
We even have a fancy Budget Calculator for Budget-Haters to help you! Just enter your name and email below to have it delivered to your inbox.
If you need some specific ideas, check out our 35 ways to start saving money this month.
Earn Extra Money
You could start a side hustle to earn an extra $500/mo. Or try some of our 20+ weird ways to make money in your spare time. Just need a little extra asap? Try our list of ways to make $100 this weekend.
Save on Furniture
I thought I was being a good frugal spender, getting all the furniture at IKEA. It really is a great option for inexpensive pieces. But I could have done more to save cash. Here are some tip for saving on furniture:
- Borrow your mom and dad’s (and grandma and grandpa and aunts and uncles’) old furniture.
- Check Amazon.com. We don’t usually think of Amazon for furniture, but they’ve got great deals. It’s like IKEA, but with reliable delivery 😉
- Check Craig’s List, yard sales, and flea markets for good deals. You can always refinish or re-purpose out-dated furniture to give it new life.
- Do without! You don’t have to get something just because it’s expected. We decided not to get a dining set because we’d hardly use it. Don’t blow money on stuff you won’t routinely use.
Costs of All-Things-Not-Furniture
But we’re not done yet…there’s another HUGE problem with my budget…
Furnishing is more than just furniture.
You need dishes. And cooking stuff (I mean, you can’t afford to furnish your apartment, let alone eat dinner out every night, so you better get a skillet and a baking sheet!). And a trash bin. And sheets. Why are sheets so friggin expensive?! And a vacuum. And a microwave.
So next up, we’ll cover how much it costs to buy all the not-furniture furnishings for your new apartment. And you can see how much my budgeting skills improved (or didn’t) from this experience.
Feel Like Sharing?
We’d love to get your thoughts on this budget and these costs. Have you had a similar experience with furniture budgeting?