Frugal furnishings

Or how we furnished our flat for less than $50.

As we have mentioned in this blog previously, when I first arrived back in Norway (Mr. E. was still finishing his exams and joined us a few weeks later), I lived with a very generous friend and her equal generous partner (thank you!). These were two amazing months of long talks, crafts, clearing some garden space in their freshly bought house and enjoying good food in great company.

It was also the time to look around online for free furniture different people no longer wanted. For this we utilised Finn, the Norwegian equivalent to Gumtree in the UK or Craigslist in the US. Other countries have their alternatives as well, I am sure, but I am not aware of them.

Thus armed with one of the most important frugal advantages; time, we set to work. 

Social capital

The importance of this is not lost to me. While living in London, I knew next to no one. It follows that I had pretty much no social capital there either. Back in a city I had lived previously, with friends I enjoy spending time with, social capital was suddenly something that kept giving me opportunities east and west.

For instance, when a friend of a friend was moving across the country, we got first choice in looking over the stuff they were giving away, before putting it on Finn. Less work for them, more stuff for us. The amazing people we lived with also had an amazing spacious garage, so it was easy to shovel everything in there until we found a flat and said flat was ready to move in.

Another generous help to our frugal furnishings were our friends (again) possession of a sensible car. A large, sturdy Volvo with more space in the back than many of the people we picked up furniture from had thought possible. Their friend also has a trailer, which we frequently and freely borrowed whenever picking up furniture that was too big, even for the Volvo. Having no car myself, I cannot even imagine how we would have done this without their help. Renting a vehicle, probably. Yikes.

So, over these two months until our flat’s moving in date, we kept picking up large pieces of furniture for free. All of it in good shape, and all of it for free. Even a barely used mattress that fit the frame our landlords had provided perfectly! The best find is probably this amazing kitchen counter that Mr. E. noticed and we picked up one weekend our friends were away (but left their car).

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Our amazing counter, adding valuable work space!

I freaking love that thing. Our kitchen became instantly more servicable with it, and all the storage and counter space it provides.

All the time in the world

Thus, we kept rolling around town, picking up free things as we went. It was spring, so we had no competition from students, on the contrary.

While we paid for the gas on the Volvo, I cannot stress enough how the biggest gift our friends gave us was time. With a roof over my head, I did not have to grab the first flat that would have me, regardless of price or condition. We could shop around for a flat in our price range, check the quality, and in our area of choice. Similarly, since we had a place to sleep at night, we did not have to rush over to Ikea to buy everything at once.

Thanks to friendship and social capital, we saved literally thousands of dollars.

Family heirlooms

While neither of our families are particularly rich, they do have what so many people accumulate after a certain amount of years on this planet: a crazy amount of stuff. Cars were driven, sleeping couches erected, and grandmothers on either side were more than happy to gift us with a bit of “starting up” kit. The fact that they uncluttered with a clear conscience at the same time was not lost on anyone.

While we brought with us some kitchen equipment, this really helped us in the dinnerware department. Our flat in London came with porcelain, thus I gave away what I had when we moved. Now we have a smattering mismatch of cups, glasses and plates big and small. More than enough to get anyone started. My grandmother even wrapped the china she sent in kitchen towels! Our stock more than doubled after that.

Self-made fun

While we picked up most of the large pieces before moving in, there were a few bits and bobs we did not find or did not prioritise. For that, we wrote a list and kept scouring Finn. After moving in, we no longer had easy access to a vehicle, so we restricted our search to the reasonably local neighbourhood.

Being able bodied, we viewed certain things as a fun challenge. Two dining chairs 40 minutes walk away? Load your best hiking bag and lets go get them!

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Me back from fetching two chairs on my own two feet.

In that same nerve, Mr. E. picked up lamps and curriculum books galore.

The aftermath

I admit it, lately we have gotten lazy. Our flat is comfortably furnished, and there is only a couple of things we’d like to make it even better. The highest on our list is probably a standing freezer we can put in the pantry for frozen dinners, and I would like an ottoman for when we have guests. Other than that, we’re pretty set!

Price tag:

  • Furniture: $15 (there were two nightstands we actually spent money on used)
  • Driving: $35
  • China: $0
  • A place to sleep while we found our flat: Occasional catsitting

Have you solved a normally pricey endeavour in a frugal way recently? Tell us all about it!

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