Monday, June 3, 2013

Lesson 2: Making A Hovel Into A Home

Hello again, everyone! Socially awkward first year here! Many apologies for the long absence. I would blame my lack of attentiveness on the rigorous requirements of my tertiary education... but, the more truthful answer would be "I get drunk a lot and forget to do things." Sorry about that.

This is pretty much what every weekend for the last month has looked like for me.
But all apologies aside, welcome to the second lesson from your favorite incapable mess of a uni student- how to inexpensively make your new uni student hovel into a habitable home (by uni students standards anyway, it's still likely no one else in their right mind will want to live there). As always, I learned all these lessons in the most entertaining way possible- by completely fucking up, and then scrambling to fix my many mistakes. Remember, kids, I make the mistakes so you don't have to!

Welcome to Phoebe's life, where everything is made up at the last minute
and the  price of wine doesn't matter!
So, silly pictures and dated pop-culture references aside, here are a few Socially Awkward First Year approved tips to aid you in making your transition into Awesome Independent Student Life a little easier.

Tip #1: Always Remember Your Cutlery

I'll admit it, I'm not the most practical of people, but there's one person who definitely has me beaten when it comes to being stunningly useless in real world situations. This, of course, is my dear mother, and while I love her a lot, I also know that she's really not good at thinking ahead. It's kind of a genetic thing.
We're also both terrible at being dignified during formal occasions.
To her credit, she did try really hard to set me up for moving out, in her own funny little way. At this stage, I'd pretty much thrown most of my personal belongings into boxes, ready to shift them up to Brisbane, so she thought it'd be a nice idea to toddle up to my impromptu moving van (read: my dear friend Erik's car) with a tray of various kitchen items she didn't particularly need any more. Of course, I took these with great jubilation, as if there's anything I love, it's not having to pay to get my own stuff. However, I could have been a little more vigilant with checking exactly what she supplied me with, as I found out later during my first cold and lonely night in my new apartment.

To understand what exactly happened, you have to understand that my Mother and I both have a very special type of brain. You see, we both have incredibly good memories... half of the time. The other half of the time, we forget our own birthdays and lose our sunglasses on our heads. So Mum remembered to supply me with plates, a few cups and even a couple of knives and spoons... 

However, it's really hard to eat cold spaghetti with a knife and a spoon. 

In the words of King Richard III when he came to a banquet half an hour late,
"A fork, a fork! My kingdom for a fork!"
Having said that, don't try and cook for yourself on your first night in a new place. Just get some take-out. Everyone does it, and to be honest, after a long and awful day moving boxes, you are not going to feel like cooking anyway. My moving buddies were lucky enough to swing by Maccas on their way back home, whereas I was grumpily trying to spoon a lukewarm cheesy tomato pasta concoction in my mouth because like a dumbass, I had forgotten both a can-opener and a frying pan as well.

Of course, this was all solved by a trip to Kmart the next day with one of my new neighbors, which brings me to my next point....

Tip #2: Kmart, Kmart, Kmart. 

As a student with little to no money who subsides mostly on a diet of cheap wine and Cup 'O Soups, I really love not having to spend much on household goods. While a lot of people who are older and wealthier than I am will preach about flicking out a little extra dough from their wads of cash to invest in quality goods, I am all about taking the shittiest and cheapest option I can. There is a time for thinking about the future, and that time is when I don't have to sponge off the government to make ends meet. 

Just so you know, I pretty much owe my life to these guys and am pretty sure they own my soul as collateral.

Moving to Brisbane started my love affair with Kmart- a mecca of cheap but okayish-quality goods that have enabled me to live a reasonably comfortable existence without selling my body on the street. In particular, there is a special place in my heart for the Kmart home brand. I remember after the whole debacle with the forks the night I moved in, the first thing I picked up was a sixteen piece cutlery set. It cost me a grand total of three bucks. I was in penniless student heaven.

When my eyes fell upon these, I heard angels singing. It was glorious.
Chuck in a frypan for eight dollars, a  cheap can-opener and a few more useful bits and pieces here and there, and my whole kitchen was ready for action without me having to fork out more than the twenty in my pockets. However, that said, I was lucky enough to move in with someone whose parents pretty much gave them everything a student chef could ever need.... but of course, she didn't technically move in until I'd been there for three weeks on my own. So thank you, homebrand, for making sure I didn't starve to death in my own filth!

Want an easier way of keeping track of what you'll need? I'd highly recommend writing a list of anything you already have and then seeing what's missing. If you have room mates, check out your pooled resources and then you can all work out an affordable way to make sure you have all the basic necessities covered. It'll save time, money and a lot of arguments down the line over who should be fiscally responsible for providing the household with a working vacuum cleaner.

Tip #3: Get Extremely Good At Spotting Bargain Furniture (And By "Bargain", I Mean Pick It Up From the Side of the Road)

This is what I like to call the Holy Grail of free stuff.
Aaaah, Australia. One of my favorite things about this country is that rather than put things into storage or take them to the dump, you Aussies just love putting things you don't want on the side of the road. Sure, the surface reason may be that you just want that ugly 1970s reject of an armchair out of your home, but we all know that deep down, you're just waiting to bestow your rattiest used furniture on the hoards of impoverished uni students looking to sit on something mildly more comfortable than a splintered wooden crate.

When I had a car, I was kind of a bit of a nut for collecting other people's furniture. Many a time I'd be cruising down the long and windy roads of my rural surroundings and quickly pull over to chuck a set of rain-damaged bar stools in the back seat. As I've said before, I am all about not paying for things, and scouting out other peoples' front lawns for their old stuff is a great way to pick up a lot of free stuff.

However, if you're not lucky enough to stumble across the motherload of all nature collections, do not despair. There's always op shops, because hey, no one expects people to pay a hefty price for a chair someone else has died in. Unless they're psychic... and then, really, it's kind of just exploiting someone who finds it morally acceptable to exploit the bereft, so fuck them. 

My mother volunteers in a huge charity shop warehouse and a lucky consequence of this is we can always get our hands on pretty decent furniture for next to nothing. The woman once found me the most comfortable king-sized bed I've ever slept in for under sixty dollars. We used to have a different couch every three months. The point is, there's a surplus of these everyday items in places like Vinnies, so it's more than possible to get everything you need for a very, very low price.

So don't head out to Harvey Normans with a sad sigh and the knowledge that your wallet is about to get a whole lot lighter. Put all your snobbery aside and get ready to delve into the wonderful adventure of collecting second-hand furniture. Trust me, apart from a slightly higher risk of household pests and bloodstains, it's practically as good as getting your stuff brand new. Okay, maybe not, but come on people, we're on a budget here!

Trust me, all blood comes out if you just scrub hard enough!

Tip #4: Don't Be Afraid of Spending Money Where You Have To

Okay. You know how I just said all that shit about saving money by cutting corners practically everywhere? Yeah, just pretend you didn't read that so I can give the following advice without sounding completely hypocritical. Or just acknowledged that like every human being, I can't string more than two sentences together without contradicting myself. Whatever floats your boat.

Here's the sad truth of life: if you don't want things to absolutely suck, you are occasionally going to have to spend money. Probably more money than you would like. That's just the way things go. Some things you can't just buy second hand, and buying them cheaply is just asking for trouble down along the line. The tricky part is discerning what you need to spend your money on and what you can go without, and fucking this up can really take its toll on your finances.

For example, I know I personally spend quite a bit of money on both clothes and make up. To a lot of people, that would seem oddly frivolous. However, it makes perfect sense for a 19 year old girl that goes to uni with a lot of well-equipped, stylish and upper-class young adults. When I go to university or attend university functions, I don't want to feel like shit because everyone else spend several hundred dollars on looking good and I'm standing there in a ratty dress I've had since I was fifteen with my face caked in ten dollar foundation. For me, a large part of my confidence comes from looking good, and that is a pursuit well worth investing a few extra dollars into. Of course, I still can't afford a spray tan, or eyebrow waxing, or a pair of jeans worth more than twenty bucks, but goddamn it, at least I'm making a bit of an effort. And the more presentable I look, the easier it is going to be for me to network and hopefully eventually haul my way up the vicious corporate ladder.

The same goes for household appliances. If you need something like a vacuum cleaner, take the plunge and buy it new, because odds are, you're going to need a functioning one for many years. If you're going to invest in a laptop, it may as well be something fairly decent that won't crap out on you in less than a year's time. Just know your limits and try not to spend more than you can afford. You may not end up with the top of the range, but you'll at least be better off than some poor fucker with an antique vacuum cleaner that spits out more dirt than it sucks up.

Tip #5: Some Useful Links

That just about concludes today's post from Socially Awkward First Year, as I have a lot of exams quickly approaching and probably shouldn't have spent an hour writing this out. However, because I am extremely lazy (or, as my university lecturers like to put it, "I like to encourage independent learning"), here are a few handy links to aid you in setting yourself up without blowing your entire bank balance to smithereens:

Penniless and poverty-stricken,

The Socially Awkward First Year

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