Can I Furnish a One-Bedroom Apartment on $437?

broad city bbb

First of all, you’ll be happy to know that I bought those plane tickets. I didn’t put them on the credit card, though; I paid for them out of my checking account, and I’ll extend the plan to pay back my savings account by another week.

If this sounds convoluted, I’ll recap: I had $2,169.44 in my savings account at the beginning of the month, and took out $1,500 to help me pay the $500 security deposit and the $1,990 required for first and last month’s rent on the one-bedroom apartment I’m going to move into on September 29.

I figured out that, because of cash flow and because I had essentially already made my October rent payment, I could put $1,000 back into my checking account by October 1 in addition to the 10 percent of my income that I transfer into my savings account every Friday. So now I’ll put that $1,000 in my savings account “on or around” October 1, instead.

(It still sounds convoluted.)

At this point, you are probably asking “What about furniture? And a coffeemaker that doesn’t leak all over the place? And kitchen stuff, like spatulas?” Believe me—I am asking myself this question too. Last weekend I spent some time wandering through Bed Bath & Beyond like I was Indiana Jones discovering the Temple of Household Good.

I could very, very easily take that $1,000 out of savings again and spend it on all of the stuff you need when your home has more than one tiny room: a sofa, a chair, a coffee table, a kitchen island with stools… I’ve even thought of the little things, like a bathrobe for the walk between my bathroom and my bedroom. (I will be able to walk between my bathroom and my bedroom. This is a huge deal.)

But the plan that I have made for myself is this: I will only spend $437, or the security deposit check that I’ll get back when I move out of my current apartment, on new furniture and apartment gear. Everything after that has to either A) come from a free source or B) be budgeted for and purchased over the next few months.

When I look at that number, it seems ridiculously small. As a point of comparison: when I moved into my microapartment in 2013, I spent $635.98 on a few really basic furniture items, like the $98 Sleep Master Platform Bed Frame that is technically a metal cot. Of course, by “spent $635.98” I mean “put $635.98 on my credit card and paid it off over time, because I was not earning a lot of extra cash then but I still needed a bed so I thought this was the smart thing to do.”

I still maintain it was the smart thing to do. And now I have convinced myself that the “pay cash on anything you put into your apartment” plan is the smart thing to do.

Can I fill out the basics of a living room and a kitchen on $437? Possibly. Maybe even probably. Get the spatulas and the slow cooker at Value Village, get the sofa off Craigslist, inherit some gear from friends, etc. etc. etc. It feels doable. I’m going to make that $437 stretch a little further by not counting the cost of transportation, the same way I can say “I got all my moving boxes for free” because I’m not counting the Lyft ride I bought to get them back home from my friend’s house.

I’m curious whether I should be thinking about these furniture pieces as “for now” pieces or “investment” pieces, so I’d love your thoughts on that. At what point do I start buying items for the rest of my life, for lack of a better phrase?

I’ve always thought of my living situations as temporary, and even this apartment will probably be temporary in that I don’t see myself living in it past the four or five year mark at most, but the furniture doesn’t have to be. I could take that entire $437 and drop it on a single high-quality piece that’ll last for decades.

And yet I still want money in my savings account more than I want a “nice” or “non-used” sofa. I want a Roth IRA more than I want a bed that isn’t also a metal cot. (I still want that bathrobe, though—and I want a new one.)

So what should I do here? Proceed with the $437 plan? Or re-evaluate my approach to life and furniture?



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