So you have a new home to fill: Where should you shop?

Moving into a new home can be daunting, especially if you’re also on the market for new furniture for that new home. The good news is that there are plenty of options for saving money, and those options just keep getting better.

guest bedroom/home office
We found this futon at Walmart. Its black faux leather is just the right look for extra seating in a home office. Plus, it lets the room double as a guest bedroom.
  • Ask around. Most people have stuff they don’t use. From surplus silverware and china to old dining sets, if you ask enough friends and relatives, you can cobble together almost an entire household. If you have a trustworthy source, you could go so far as to get a mattress for super cheap. (Maybe even for free!) Though you shouldn’t accept upholstery without first giving it a thorough inspection. After all, your Aunt Marge might have an old sofa that she’ll give you if you’ll just come pick it up, but you might show up for it and realize it smells worse than her ash tray.
  • Go thrifting first. Spend a weekend visiting garage and estate sales, check your local Goodwill, visit flea markets. Any place that sells used items is going to have at least some of what you need for cheaper than if you were to buy it new. But thrift smart. Haggle for a lower price when possible, and don’t buy anything that’s so worn out that it’ll cost more to fix it than to buy the same thing new.

    home office/guest bedroom
    This desk is from IKEA, and the chair–believe it or not–is from Costco!
  • Buy new upholstery. Yes, coffee tables and shelving units are easy to find on the cheap and easy to fix up if they’re a little worn, but couches are a different story. Just like you should always buy mattresses and box-springs new, it’s safer to buy upholstery new. If you’re buying a ratty old thing with plans of re-upholstering, forget it. Unless you know how to do it yourself or know someone who’ll do it for cheap or even free, re-upholstering won’t save you money. Besides, old upholstery is dusty, musty, hard to clean, and possibly full of bedbugs. Safer to buy new for sure.
  • Comparison shop. Where you find the cheapest version of what you’re looking for will depend on what it is you need. Walmart’s furniture selection has gotten trendier over the years, but they still don’t have much beyond futons. Places like Target and Bed Bath & Beyond regularly have sales, but you might have to wade past stuff aimed at college kids to find the classier items. Check TJ Maxx, Marshalls, and HomeGoods for smaller pieces like accent chairs and storage benches as well as decor to tie a room together. Amazon, Overstock.com, and Wayfair have competitive prices, but stick to free shipping to really keep that price low. IKEA is still an excellent place to get everything you need, especially if you browse their as-is section as well as the store itself.

Excellent tips for using baking soda

Dogs welcome at Alvern Gardens Apartments
Stinky pet? Try baking soda!

We’re all about the amazing fizzing cleaning powers of baking soda mixed with vinegar, but there are more uses for baking soda than we could have imagined! Check out this article for some truly excellent tips. Our personal favorite is the pet odor control method of sprinkling your furry friend with baking soda, letting it sit for 15 minutes, then brushing them clean. You’ll need a well-behaved pet to pull it off, but we bet it works miracles.

Cleaning tips galore!

We’ve been scouring the web for the best tips on keeping a home spic and span. Here’s some of the best advice we’ve found:

  • A list of things that should be cleaned but are often overlooked. This slideshow reminds us of our previous post on cleaning mattresses and oft-overlooked spots in the kitchen. It adds a few key places, like the toothbrush cup and some very specific spots in the fridge. We’d just like to add, that once or twice a year, you should pull your fridge away from the wall and vacuum up all the debris that’s collected behind it. While you’re at it, your fridge’s filter should be cleaned regularly as well.
  • The best way to clean a microwave. This method is super easy, no scrubbing required, and it leaves your microwave sparkling and smelling fresh. Plus, this article offers some of the best step-by-step instructions we’ve found for this cleaning method.
  • These 20 home-cleaning hacks are pure gold. Some of them are similar to what we’ve shared before, but great advice never gets old.
  • Prepping for visitors involves more than just vacuuming (though vacuuming is key). We enjoy this list’s advice to put out fresh flowers to impress guests. And why wait for guests to de-clutter? A tidy, organized home is a happy, stress free home.

Link roundup: tips for a cleaner home

There are the routine things that always get done in a home, like vacuuming and cleaning the bathroom. And then there are the things that slip through the cracks. After spending sometime online, we’ve realized we could be doing more to keep our homes spic and span.

home cleaning
Your mattress and some places in your kitchen could probably use some sprucing up. Thank goodness for these quick, easy cleaning tips!

We came across this excellent article on how to clean your mattress, and it seems simple enough. We already have the vacuum and the baking soda in the house, so next time we’re heading to the store, we’re picking up some essential oils and trying this process ourselves.

Another place that might need a little extra attention? The kitchen. Places like produce bowls, knife racks, and drying racks are seldom-cleaned breeding grounds for mold and bacteria, so it’s time we paid attention to them and give them the TLC they need.

But how are we going to manage adding all these items to our already long list of things to clean? With some homemade wipes, of course! Since we’re all about environmentally friendly homemade cleaners these days, we can’t wait to try this kind.

Tips for beating the heat on the cheap

It’s been a bit stifling recently, and air conditioning is probably causing a spike in everyone’s bills. So we thought we’d share some tips for staying cool while saving money. (See our previous post on saving on air conditioning for additional tips and tricks.)

pool
Swimming is one of the best forms of exercise, and it’s a great way to stay cool on a hot day. (Residents of Alvern Gardens Apartments can enjoy their summer poolside for a $10 season pass.)
  • Use your ac wisely by turning it off while you’re not home, adjusting the temperature at night, and using any energy saving mode your unit might have. For example, here at the Alvern Gardens leasing office, we set our ac to “energy saver mode” where it shuts off as soon as the desired indoor temp is reached, and then it turns back on if it gets too warm.
  • Circulate air with ceiling and floor fans to spread the ac’s magic throughout your home.
  • Close doors to closets and unused rooms to make the work easier on your ac. The smaller you can make the space, the faster it will cool off, and the more energy you save.
  • Open your windows at night to let cooler air in, then close them in the morning before temperatures start to rise to trap that nice cool night air inside. If you have a box or window fan, run it in your open window at night to suck even more cool air in.
  • Close your curtains and blinds to block out added heat from direct sunlight. This works especially well if you have insulated energy saving curtains.
  • Avoid cooking when you can, and definitely don’t bake. There are plenty of no cook/no bake meals and desserts out there, so there’s no need to add to the heat in your home by using the stove. What a great excuse to add some new recipes to your repertoire!
  • Hang out in cooler places like the basement or under the shade of a tree. Better still, spend a day lake- or pool-side.

Pro tip: The best way to spot clean your carpet

Spilled drink? No problem! The contractor who cleans the carpets here at Alvern Gardens just offered us the insider’s secret to cleaning your carpet: Dawn dish soap.

If you have a small stain from a food spill, there’s nothing better than the same soap you use for cleaning food off your dishes. Just remember it’s all about technique:

natural cleaning
Just like tried and tru baking soda and vinegar, Dawn dish soap is an excellent gentle but powerful cleaner that’s safet o use around pets. Image attribution: By katerha (http://www.flickr.com/photos/katerha/5703151566/) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
  1. Take a paper towel or a plain white towel or cleaning rag (nothing colorful, you don’t want the dye to transfer to your carpet) and dampen it with cold water.
  2. Put a couple drops of Dawn dish soap on it and lather it up a bit with your fingers.
  3. Gently press (don’t scrub) the towel onto the stain. Keep dabbing to lift it out of the carpet fibers. Again, gently dab, don’t rub or scrub, as that only pushes the mess deeper into the carpet.

And there you have it: a clean carpet is as easy as 1, 2, 3! Now, if you have a big mess on your hands, it’s time to rent a machine or call in a professional.

Here are a couple bonus pro tips:

  • Never use bleach to clean a carpet: you’ll end up with a bleach stain!
  • A dye stain will never lift out without ruining the color of the carpet, so always use a drop cloth when painting or take your DIY project outside or to the garage.

Remember: keeping your home spic and span while you’re renting it is good for your security deposit.

More natural cleaning tips

We’ve been scouring Pinterest for our favorite natural cleaning tips, and it’s time to share our findings.

  • Because Alvern Gardens Apartments feature stainless steel kitchen sinks, we were especially excited about this cleaning regiment, though we’re not so sure about that last step of buffing with olive oil. Why waste delicious (expensive) olive oil like that? The tip of using a citrus fruit peel before tossing it is, however, genius.
  • We’re especially excited to try the toaster and pan cleaning tips on this list.
  • Dirty blender? Hair in your drain? Grimy grout? Dusty air vents? Dirty vacuum filter? Carpet stains? Nasty oven? Scratched ceramic? Nail polish spill? You name the job, this list will help you tackle it.
  • Finally, here’s an excellent infographic that shows you how to make your own natural cleaners for every room in the house.

So why use all natural cleaners instead of the store bought stuff? First of all, it’s better for you, your family, and your pets as well as the environment to use natural products instead of harsh chemicals. Second, it’s gentler on the items you’re cleaning. If you have an acrylic tub, for example, some cleaners are so powerful that they eat away at the tub itself and do more harm than good. Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, making your own cleaning products can save you money.