A Blog by International Students at Leiden University
As promised last week, here is part ‘twee’ of my series on how to save money when moving to Leiden.
In this week’s post I want to talk about how to spend less on the moving-in process once you have found your apartment/room (if you missed part 1 one of this series, click here in order to find tips on how you can find a suitable apartment in Leiden).
Before I get to the main topic, I first want to briefly address an issue that I was completely unaware of when I came here, namely the Dutch definition of ‘unfurnished’. Back home in Austria (or, in fact, any country that I have ever stayed in) this term refers to a standard apartment that comes with all necessary appliances, except basic furniture such as a sofa, bed or wardrobe. You would expect this to be the same here in this well-organised country that is the Netherlands, right? Wrong! The day I passed the threshold of my ‘unfurnished’ apartment in Leiden for the first time I couldn’t believe my own eyes – no light fixtures, lamps, hob, stove, we even had to take the laminate flooring from the former tenant (luckily for free).
This is in no way a criticism of the Dutch renting system, it makes sense that if one tenant has to buy everything (and I mean EVERYTHING) they will want take their possessions with them when they move out of a place; however, the problem is that all international students I spoke to had never been confronted with such a system before and were thus quite surprised when they found out that they had to buy light fixtures before being able to screw in a simple light bulb in their new home. All I want to say here is this: be aware of this regulation and you won’t be disappointed afterwards.
Alright, let’s get to the main topic. How can you save money when furnishing your new apartment in Leiden?
I have great news for you in this regard, there is A LOT of money to be saved if you keep your eyes open and know a few simple websites and places. Firstly, it is a common practise for Leideners to put used furniture that they want to give away out on the pavement, which gives you the opportunity to score amazing, free stuff in mostly great condition. So next time you see that beautiful old desk in a side street, don’t be afraid to pick it up – no one will give you strange looks or ask you what you are doing. If you have lived here for a while you will have mostly likely seen people carrying around sofas on shopping trolleys, wardrobes on bikes, or bed frames through busy shopping streets; in order words, the Dutch are crafty people and don’t shy away from some DIY action.
Once, I remember me and my girlfriend carrying around a large table with four chairs on top through the outskirts of Leiden, when an elderly lady stopped and gave us (and our furniture) a lift home; another time we carried a giant bookshelf on top of both our bikes when someone laughed and said: “you two already look like real Dutch people”. So the moral of the story is that in my experience, people will be very helpful and understanding when you pick up and move around furniture on the streets.
Another great way of finding bargain furniture is marktplaats.nl (the Dutch craigslist, if you want), where many people give away furniture for free or very little money in order not having to deal with the removal. Again, if you don’t mind getting your hands a bit dirty and asking a friend to help you carry something from A to B, you can save tons of money that you would otherwise spend on sterile and impersonal IKEA stuff. We have a very big living room in our apartment which fits two sofas (both free, one from FB, one from Marktplaats), a big wardrobe (€15 from FB), a vintage chest of drawes (found on the street – free), two huge shelves (both free from Marktplaats), a coffee table (free, from the street) and currently our bed (free, made from pallets we found on Rapenburg). So all together we paid €15 for our entire living room furniture, all it took was a few weeks of scouting forums and websites; and the bonus: having carried all this stuff around Leiden, me and Maria are now much better acquainted with the city and even found places we would have never discovered otherwise.
Here are some further sources for cheap and sustainable goods:
– Weggeefwinkel Leiden, a wonderful project which promotes moneyless exchange between people, a place where you can go and bring things you don’t need anymore and in return shop for free goods.
– Kringloop, a non-profit organisation aimed at reducing waste by bringing surplus goods back into circulation.
– the ‘Leiden for Free’ movement on Facebook, which encourages people to declutter their lives and give away things they don’t need anymore so they can be of use to others and make them happy.
All above mentioned tips provide you with a variety of possibilities to save money when moving to Leiden, with the added extra bonus of reducing waste in this beautiful city at the same time (win-win).
Did you find this post helpful? Is there anything else in regards to money saving tips for Leideners that you would like to know more about? Please let me know in the comments below.
Next week I will be writing about how to successfully apply for Dutch housing grants which can potentially save you tons of cash that is better spent on fun activities in and around Leiden, so stay tuned for part 3 of this series.
Until then, enjoy the furniture-carrying,