Its the moment you have been waiting for since you have arrived in the wasteland that is Grand Rapids: you are now a junior and are permitted to live off-campus! So now you’ve moved in and your apartment/house is completely bare and you are sleeping on the floor and cooking in the microwave because you have no furniture and the gas will not be on until next week, what to do?
If you know where to look, you can outfit your entire residence cheaply, comfortably and tastefully in the style of “dirt poor college student” in a matter of days (depending on how large your vehicle is).
Beds: The Salvation Army and other thrift stores carry many quality used mattresses and frames, the only problem is that they are only 1/2 the price of a new mattress, running you $60-100. The free solution to this dilemma is to track when the cleaning crew will be going through each dorm or apartment building during the summer, as they will be regularly throwing out old mattresses that are generally in pretty decent condition (only a few stains, the lining tearing, etc). This will last you until you can find another option, or until you make enough money to buy one.
Desks: If you cannot get to Calvin’s beginning of summer sale to buy a Calvin desk dirt cheap and don’t have an older relative to give you theirs then you may think you are out of luck, but fear not. Again, you have to know where to look. Find out about any small-scale construction projects that are taking place on campus during the summer (big ones, like the new Fieldhouse complex will have fencing and guards) and scope them out for cinder blocks and lumber. Warning: If you are caught absconding with any building materials tell Campus Safety that you were taking them for a prank, they will eat it up and let you go with only a warning.
Appliances: Garage sales can be great but also put a strain on the pocketbook after a while. If you are at a sale and see something you want but the price is a bit steep, wait and go back late afternoon on the last day of the sale, if the item is still there the seller may be willing to drastically reduce the price. If not, many people will throw out anything they do not sell on the next trash day. It may be well worth the gas money to cruise around neighborhoods on trash day and to dumpster dive. It also helps to have a friend who could help you repair or modify broken appliances if you are not skilled in that area (hi, liberal arts majors!), such as converting a gas grill that has a leaky tank into a charcoal grill.
Food: This one is easy-peasy if you know how to manipulate relatives. If your parents are in town or visiting soon, go without a lot of food for a few days and make sure to look like hell the day you see them (it helps to not sleep the night before). They will then proceed to take you to the store and buy you tons of canned goods. Or, my preferred option, you can merely find yourself a boy who will cook for you.