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2019 has officially been a big year of change for me. One, I took one step closer to making my dream a reality by taking my yoga teacher training in June (I’m now teaching three times a week and loving this new element of my life that gets me away from my desk and in front of real people!). Two, I’ve started renting my own flat (hence, an imminent incoming of posts about furnishing my first apartment!).

Big steps.

To catch up anyone new here, I returned home to the UK from a year-long trip through Asia at the beginning of 2018 in, to be frank, a bit of a mess. Heartbroken, suffering a serious case of backpacker-blues, and trying to recover from the worst lower back pain I’ve ever experienced.

I came back to Hertfordshire to stay with my family for what I presumed would be a couple of months to recover (mentally and physically) before deciding where to go next.

Things didn’t really pan out that way though, and I’ve been back home for almost two years (yes, how fast that time has flown is absolutely terrifying) and honestly, having this chance to re-connect with my family after living a minimum of two hours away for the past 8 years has been fantastic. I’m closer to my parents and to my siblings than ever, feel grounded and successful in my career, and happy that I made the best decision for my well-being.

I’m now 27, however, and there comes a time where you start to crave your own space. A bit of a change of pace.

So, I’m renting a flat nearby and living alone for the first time in my life. Unfurnished, which means I’ve spent the past couple of months going from minimal possessions to the owner of a new bed, mattress, sofa, kitchenware, rugs…you get the idea!

Furnishing my flat has actually been a really fun experience. I’ve never had the opportunity to choose home furnishings for my own place before!

Getting an empty apartment to a place where it’s livable can be expensive. During this experience, as a frugal living enthusiast, of course, I’ve been taking note of all the things I’ve learned.

The top 8 things I’ve learned through furnishing my first apartment:

1. Paying more for better quality is worth it

I always say on this blog that frugal living isn’t always about spending less – it’s about spending smarter.

While finding furniture for my flat, I’ve kept the same idea in mind: be thrifty, be frugal, but don’t waste money on the cheapest things available.

I’m planning on living in this flat for a while, and I want to enjoy that experience.

For me, it makes more sense to spend more money now on a good quality piece of furniture that I love, has great reviews, and will last for years, than buying the cheapest thing that is not so great quality, and might last for half the time.

2. Focus on the essentials first, and decor later

Going from no furniture to a fully furnished apartment is a lengthy and potentially expensive process. To make your budget work for you, I’d recommend focusing first on the essentials.

That means the things you really need to be able to live comfortably in your apartment. For example, a bed frame and mattress, a sofa, kitchen essentials, a table and chairs (or, a desk and desk chair if you work from home!), a wardrobe.

Then, as you settle into your apartment, you can focus on the non-essentials that really make a place a home, such as lamps, wall art/paintings, rugs, soft furnishings etc.

3. Don’t be too proud to accept charity from friends and family

I have been blown away by how willing people have been to help me when furnishing my first apartment.

I think it’s because most people remember how overwhelming this process can be (and are only too happy to help someone out and get rid of a piece of furniture that takes up space at the same time!).

I’ve been donated a TV, an armchair, a storage unit, and actually had to turn down other offers from well-meaning friends and family – and that’s all without really asking! Those second-hand items donated to me are in good condition, have saved me money I could then spend on other items, and also help out someone trying to create space/replace items in their own home.

4. Second-hand shopping can result in some real gems

I’ve sourced a number of my items from Facebook Marketplace, though I’ve also been looking on eBay.

For those who haven’t used it before, Facebook Marketplace is where you can buy and sell a huge range of items (from home furnishing to cars). You can filter your results by distance, too, so it’s great for finding items in your local area.

I found a beautiful wooden TV unit that I got for just £40. My dad and I drove to the seller’s house, loaded up the unit, paid, and took it back to the flat. Simple as that – and a huge saving for what I would have paid for the unit from new.

I’ve set up a few alerts on Marketplace for items I’d like but don’t need right now – such as a floor lamp and a dining table (I have a desk right now that works just fine). Often, there are items listed still in their original packaging but for half the retail price or less!

TV unit with TV, house plants, and rug on display.
beautiful second-hand TV unit! (Plus, gifted TV!)

5. Use Honey when shopping online

Honey is a free browser extension that automatically scans for discount codes and applies the best one for you when you’re at the check out page with one click.

It is awesome for making sure you’re getting something for the best price – when online shopping, it’s thanks to Honey that I got up to a 20% discount off my products, and that’s without having to search around countless ad-filled sites to find the codes. You can sign up to start using Honey with my referral link (it’s totally free to use!).

6. Do your research

I think people tend to fall into two categories when shopping: there are the impulse buyers, and there are the people that have a million tabs open, read countless reviews, and still wait a couple of days before making a purchase ‘just to be sure’.

I am definitely the latter category. For big purchases such as a mattress or a sofa, I like to know that I’m spending my money on exactly what I want. So, when I decided I wanted a navy sofa no more than two metres in width for my living room, that meant:

  • About 15 different tabs with all the navy three-seater sofas in my price range (£300 – £700).
  • Reading all the customer reviews to rule out the poor quality, uncomfortable, or unsuitable options
  • Researching any discount codes or upcoming sales for the brands I’d narrowed my choices down to
  • Waiting a few days and then opening up my number one choice again to make sure I actually liked it

Sure, it’s a little intense (and lengthy). For me, it’s worth it though, because I now have a suuuper comfy, quality sofa that looks high-end but was a great price (£570) – and, I feel happy that I found the best option for my budget.

Nothing worse than committing to purchasing something then finding an almost identical item for half the price!

7. Know what to bargain hunt for – and what to splurge on

There are some things that are well worth hunting for the best bargain on. However, there are also some things that are definitely not worth scrimping on.

Case in point: a new mattress.

The average person spends about a third of their life sleeping – so why would you allow yourself to have countless sleepless nights, aches and pains, simply to save a few pennies on a cheap mattress?

A good mattress can literally change your life, leaving you feeling well-rested, refreshed, and more awake throughout the day. If there’s one thing I would say it’s always worth spending a bit more money on, it’s your mattress.

On the other side, I’d say it’s really not worth it to spend a lot of money on things like cutlery and plates etc. A cheap bowl does the exact same job as a luxury, designer one – so unless it’s a really important factor for you, why spend more money on something that makes no real impact on your quality of life?

Eve mattress
my beautiful Eve Sleep mattress!

8. You need fewer things than you think

I found it really hard to reign myself in when I first started furniture shopping. I felt like I needed to kit the whole place kitted out in my first month of moving in.

However, practising self-restraint on my budget has been extremely worthwhile. It’s helped me realise exactly what I need versus the things I thought I need.

A lot of the time, it’s things like cabinets and bookshelves that might make a place look more homely and cosy, but also provide more space and storage for potential clutter.

Your turn – what have you learned from moving apartments? Do you impulse buy, or are you like me and need to read ALL the things before committing to a purchase?

Share your thoughts in the comments or drop me an email!

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