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Sprucing up your place on a student budget

At times students have to prioritize: eating in, buying used, bussing to campus. At times we have to simply go without: without vacations, without a car, without your favourite sparkling wine.

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By Nadine Moedt (The Cascade) – Email

Print Edition: November 19, 2014

Decorating on a budget can be enjoyable and rewarding.   (Image:  staticflickr.com)

Decorating on a budget can be enjoyable and rewarding. (Image: staticflickr.com)

At times students have to prioritize: eating in, buying used, bussing to campus. At times we have to simply go without: without vacations, without a car, without your favourite sparkling wine. But the sacrifice shouldn’t have to extend to one’s living space. Our living space is important; it can be our safe place, a place to relax, study, or to do what makes us happy. A place that reflects oneself.

So, while on a student budget we may have to pass on the original art and woven area rug, it shouldn’t mean we have to sleep on an air mattress or eat over the sink.

However, search “student apartment” and you’ll find a Pinterest frenzy of crafty kitsch. Framed wrapping paper? DIY lentil candle holders? Pinterest seems to be exclusively for those who don’t mind the cutesy and have a green thumb for crafts.

My suggestion for the student decorator is to keep it minimalist. Furnishing your apartment can be done almost entirely second-hand; check out the local thrift shops (Value Village is one of the more expensive options here, stick with MCC), and keep an eye on the weekend garage sale flyers in the Abbotsford News. Multiple home and estate sales will often advertise the presence of furniture; make sure to arrive early with cash for the best selection. If you need to furnish quickly, Ikea is a budget friendly option; however, its products are of poor quality and will chip easily.

The only piece of furniture not to buy used is your mattress; you can find a cheap one at warehouse-style outlets online, or, if you prefer to test the mattress out before buying, at Ikea, Wal-Mart or Overstock Mattress Clearance in Surrey. When buying used bed frames, make sure you research how to find bed bugs. Various online resources can guide you through the steps, from what they look like to where they live in bed frames. If you don’t want to chance it, try to negotiate a deal with your mattress supplier; often they will give you a discount if you purchase a frame.

Buying used means you can’t necessarily match your furniture. However, if you don’t mind putting in a bit of effort, consider buying unpainted pieces and staining them together for a more complementary look.

Look no further for decorations than your growing collection of textbooks. Throw up some bookshelves for that oh-so-classy library you started when you enrolled at UFV.

Plants are another inexpensive way to brighten your apartment. Visit a nursery — there are several good ones on the Fraser Highway; Cannor Nursery in Abbotsford is good, though a little more pricey — and find some friends. You can find a decent selection of beautifully painted clay pots at garage sales and in thrift shops (these are often marked up at the nursery, so avoid purchasing them there). A large potted jade or Norfolk pine can provide beautiful decoration on a balcony or indoors.

For the artistically inclined, try buying your own canvases and channeling your inner van Gogh; Michael’s will often have buy-one-get-one 50 per cent off sales on their blank canvasses. You can also find student art at the year-end visual arts silent auction for relatively cheap.

When starting out on your own, remember that your living space should be considered an investment. Buy furniture that will last and won’t fade with any particular fad. While various online resources can guide your DIY projects and point you in the direction of budget decor, remember to stay true to your preferences. If you aren’t into mason jars, don’t decorate with mason jars.

A budget may limit some of your purchases, but it certainly doesn’t limit your options. Research and a willingness to put some time into your living space will pay off with a unique space to call home.

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