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Furnishing Your Apartment or Room on a Grad Student Budget

This is Part 3 of a series for graduate students who will begin their studies at U-M this fall. See Part 1: Navigating the Ann Arbor Housing Market and Part 2: How I Moved to Ann Arbor.

Amy wrote an excellent post describing her moving process. Now that you've made it to Ann Arbor, it's time to go furniture-shopping!" If you, like me, are on a budget and/or don’t have a car, here are some tips on furnishing your new place.

First of all, there are some furnished rooms and apartments available. If you only intend to stay in Ann Arbor for a limited time, this might be a good option to look into.

Secondly, it’s quite possible the person living in the place before you won’t want to move out all of their furniture. Sometimes you luck out and they offer it to you for free, sometimes you can buy it for a very reasonable price. Ask your colleagues as well: some of them might be looking to get rid of some of their furniture, or to have someone borrow their furniture while they are abroad doing research.

If you need to get your own furniture, here are a few options:

Get it used. Ann Arbor is a treasure trove for thrift shops and used furniture because so many people move in and out. I was able to find all of my furniture from thrift shops for ridiculously low prices. (My desk cost $5!) You can use Craigslist, or you can go to the Salvation Army, Parent-Teacher Organization’s thrift store, or Kiwanis. You can either rent a U-Haul and pick it up yourself, or pay extra for a home delivery. If you are truly an intrepid scavenger, Craigslist’s “free” section lists things, including furniture, sometimes with “curb alert,” which means people have left things outside their house for pick-up. Sometimes you will find great, usable things; a lot of it will be junk or falling apart.

Order it online. If you don’t have a car, getting to furniture stores can be a drag. Luckily, there are a lot of online stores, and some deliver for free or for a modest fee.

Buy it from a store. Local specialist furniture stores tend to be pricey, but major chains like Target, Ikea, or Walmart all sell inexpensive furniture, although the quality and ethics of production vary.