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New house, tight budget: How to make it work.

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Tony Avelar/The Christian Science Monitor/File

(Read caption) Moving into a new house? You don't have to spend a fortune on furnishing the place, Hamm says.

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You’re moving into a house or into a large apartment for the first time. You take all of your stuff there, unpack everything… and you quickly realize how spartan it is. There are lots of things you need… or you at least think you need.

Silverware. Flatware. Tables. Furniture. Minor appliances. The list starts small and quickly gets big.

How are you going to get all of this stuff without breaking the bank?

I’ve been in this very situation at least three different times in my life. Each time, I’ve had this strong urge to acquire stuff that I was sure that I needed.

The first two times, I went on a big buying spree, loading up on all kinds of things.

The third time, when I moved from an apartment into a house with three times the square footage, I gave the transition some very careful thought and, although we had a lot of empty space, we only ended up spending a small fraction of what we had budgeted for our post-move expenses.

Here are some tips for setting up a new house on a tight budget – and you should be on a tight budget every time you move.

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Assess What You Actually Need – Not What You Want
 We all have visions of an apartment or a home that looks like something out of a magazine, but unless you have people who are professional decorators and cleaners handling the specifics for you, it’s not going to happen.

Instead of thinking about purchases for your dream home or dream apartment, start very simply. What do you need? You need something to eat with. You need a place to sit. You need a few basic cooking implements. You need basic bedding and basic bathroom items. That’s about it.

Remember, these items don’t have to be much of anything. In fact, it makes a ton of sense to start as low-rent as possible and to replace the items as you can afford improvements.

Decorate Personally, Not Professionally
 The first thing that often strikes people about a fresh new home or a new apartment are all of the bare walls. There’s a strong temptation to decorate and to fill up all of that white space with something inspiring or beautiful.

It can be really tempting to head to some home decor store and find lots of prints and other things to hang on your walls, but what often makes a house a home is the personal touch.

Start off your decoration with your own photographs. Get some inexpensive picture frames, print off some of the photos that mean the most to you, and use those to fill the white space on your walls.

This way, when you look at the walls, you’re reminded of the great moments and great people in your life. You’ll also have some good conversaton starters if you have guests, and you won’t spend a lot of money on it, either.

Head to Facebook First
 Once you’ve handled decoration, head to Facebook before you start buying things. Make a list of the things you actually need, then drop a Facebook status update that goes something like this:

We just got moved in and unpacked! Thanks for all the help, guys! We are looking for a few odds and ends to finish things up. If you happen to have any extras of these or know where we could get one for a cheap price, PLEASE tell me!

Then, follow it with a list of the essentials you’re looking for.

I’ve had several different friends post updates like this and I’ve been able to help them with stuff from our garage almost every time. I was perfectly happy to see a lamp go to good use or to see our old dinner plates find a nice second home with a friend.

They were certainly happy, too. This took something they needed off of their list without spending a dime.

Head to Goodwill Next
 If there are still items you need on your list, stop at your local Goodwill store and see what’s around. Try to fulfill as many needs as you possibly can at the thrift store level so that you’re not seeking more expensive options.

In our first apartment, we had an incredibly comfortable pair of chairs that came from Goodwill, along with a couch and a table and chair set that came from my grandmother’s old house. Our entire living room and dining room furniture arrangement didn’t cost us a dime.

Goodwill can take care of a surprising amount of what’s left on your list. Remember, though, that you’re buying low end to start with and will upgrade later when you have some extra money, so don’t turn your nose up at perfectly functional items.

Follow those steps and you’ll have a nicely functional household without much expense at all.

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