This is a sponsored post, but all opinions remain my own.
As you will know if you’re a regular reader, in April we relocated from Montreal to Calgary, and in July we moved into our new place. It’s our first “house,” insofar as a house tends to imply more square footage and multiple levels. Technically, it’s a townhouse, since our unit is one of four in the building. Each unit occupies one-fourth of the space, and each has three floors. Going from our 800-square-foot, one-floor Montreal apartment to a 1600-square-foot, three-floor townhouse has been almost as big of a change for us as swapping separatists and poutine for cowboys and Vietnamese subs (call me crazy, but they seem to be the most ubiquitous food in Calgary).
With a bigger space inevitably comes bigger expenses, not the least of which is filling the space with appropriate furniture. At the same time, we want to avoid overcrowding, since we truly hope to raise our two children in this house and that means we don’t want to start feeling cramped in just a few years! And kids have a way of making even the largest spaces feel cramped:
The Three Bs of “Up-sizing” on a Budget
Biding Your Time
Prioritize which furnishings you need right away versus the ones you just want. Borrow or make do with pieces temporarily.
When we moved into our condo as a newly-engaged couple, we went crazy on our credit card. We were so excited to own a place of our own, and so excited to fill it with furniture of our choosing. My husband moved in first while I was finishing the school year back in BC, and he waited for me to arrive before he started shopping. (Humorous anecdote: he was working the night shift and didn’t know what to do for curtains, since we didn’t have a bed any way, he slept during the day in his sleeping bag in our bedroom closet so it would be dark.)
This time, we were very determined to arrive in our new domicile with more patience and a much more pragmatic approach to furniture buying. Ideally, we wanted to live in the space with what little we brought from Montreal so we could make better decisions about what we needed. For example, in our first apartment, we chose an expensive table that was simply way too big for our space, and overall, way more furniture than we needed or had room for.
Our place in Montreal is still on the market, so we’re in a very tight financial spot right now, which is even more motivation for taking our purchases slow and sticking to a budget. We essentially agreed upon which items we would need (rather than want), and prioritized them per pay cheque. Priority one was a bed for Cub and chairs for our kitchen table, and as the lowest priority in terms of need, a television.
To keep costs as low as possible, we even opted to borrow items. Cub’s awesome babysitter had four kitchen chairs kicking around that she lent us, so that meant we wouldn’t have to rack up more charges on the Mastercard so that we could eat sitting down.
The Rubbermaid bins we used for packing have also served (and are still serving) as bedside tables for all of us.
The lack of television has proved surprisingly inconsequential, especially considering we didn’t have cable in Montreal, any way. We have hooked up Apple TV to the computer screen, so we can still watch our favourite shows and movies. Now the debate is whether or not we want to buy a television at all! (An added benefit of biding your time: realizing you really don’t need or want certain items.)
Buy your furniture second hand. Create alerts on Kijiji so you know when items you want are listed near you.
We couldn’t really shop second-hand when we bought our condo because we didn’t have a vehicle. We were limited to buying items that could be delivered or carried. (Another anecdote: my husband brought a massive TV stand—another poor furnishing choice—home from IKEA on the bus and subway, carrying it from the subway station to our apartment balanced on his head.)
With a vehicle, the possibility of Kijiji bargain hunting is real… and it’s spectacular (Seinfeld, anyone?). My Dad is currently visiting us from BC and he’s been helping me get our space more organized, including finding some second-hand furniture. We found IKEA chairs to match our kitchen table and replace those we’d borrowed, an IKEA Kallax unit for our main floor powder room and a great shelf/coat rack for our entrance.
(And hey, all the items are already put together, so that’s a bonus!) Bargaining fits well with biding your time: if you’re shopping second-hand, you might not find exactly what you need right away. Set up some Kijiji alerts for what you’re looking for so you don’t miss out!
Finding the Best Use of Space
More space doesn’t mean you need more stuff. Avoid clutter by optimizing your storage space.
It can be hard to avoid going totally crazy with STUFF when you’re used to a tiny space and suddenly find yourself with an empty basement. I keep having to remind myself that “We’ve got the room for it!” isn’t a reason to buy something. In Montreal, we had so little space that many of our excess belongings had to be housed at our in-laws’ house once we had our first child. If it was being stowed in a Rubbermaid bin, chances are it was in Grand-maman’s attic. Once we bought a car (because of the kid), we had no room for our bicycles in garage. That giant kitchen table had to be given away to make room for the computer desk once my husband’s office became Cub’s bedroom. We don’t want to make the same mistakes in our new place. We’re favouring items that take up less space, even though we have more of it. So far, Little Miss Cub’s bassinet/playpen, bouncer and baby bath all fold up flat. And in terms of maximizing storage now that we’re not borrowing a corner of someone else’s massive attic, we’ve realized we need to look UP! That’s where the underused storage space is hiding. Check out the pulleys my Dad installed for our bicycles:
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How did you avoid going overboard and stick to your budget when you went from an apartment to a house?