Decorating Your First Apartment: Budget Hacks for the First Timer

You’ve done it! You’re finally in your own place (or maybe shared with a roommate or two) and it’s time to start decorating your first apartment. While the freedom of having your own place is exciting, figuring out how to make it feel like home can be overwhelming. Luckily, you don’t need a huge budget to make your space feel both familiar and personalized. Here are a few things you can do to make your first apartment exactly what you always hoped it would be.

Furniture and essential hacks

Let’s be honest, furniture is expensive. Before you buy anything there are a few things to think about, starting with what you actually need and what would be nice to have. Sure a big comfy couch would be amazing, but is it going to cost you almost as much as you’re paying in rent each month? If so, consider looking at stores like Target or Ikea that have nice furniture at reasonable prices and only require “some assembly”. Stores like this are also the perfect place for well-priced essentials like plates, glasses, silverware.

Another great resource for furniture is Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist or garage sales. There are a couple things you should do before spending any money on pieces from these places though:

  1. Do you have a way to move it? (Find a friend with a truck and offer to buy them pizza if they help!)
  2. Will it fit through your door (Your friend with the truck isn’t going to happy if he walks a couch up a few flights of stairs and you can’t get it inside your apartment)
  3. Take your time looking at it for any damage (you might be able to negotiate the price down)
  4. Consider the cleanliness of the house you’re buying it from (nothing’s worse than getting a bug infestation from a Craigslist purchase!)
  5. NEVER buy a used mattress (Trust us, if you splurge on anything, it should be your mattress.)

One more VERY important thing: don’t go check out anything alone! Always bring a friend, a parent or sibling with you. Safety first!

Finally, if you live near relatives, raid their basements, attics and garages for anything that they don’t use anymore. Trust us, you’ll find more than you think and won’t have to pay a dime!

Painting Hacks

We all know that we aren’t going to stay in our first apartment forever. Maybe you can’t even see yourself there for more than a year. But that shouldn’t stop you from putting in the effort to make it feel like it’s your space. Painting is one of the easiest ways to do this and TemPaint makes it even easier to make sure you get your rent deposit back because it’s designed to be removable. But unlike the wall decals you might’ve had in college, it looks more permanent and adult. It comes in tons of different styles and colors, which means you’ll be able to find something that is uniquely you. And if you’re stressed about choosing the right color, there’s a sample pack you can test out.

Decor hacks

Simple is better when you’re decorating your first place for many reasons. Your style could change, you could have other roommates that you need to mix and match with, and you’ll be moving at some point. Only buy what you need and stick to clean neutral designs for things going in common areas. Your room is where you can really have fun and make it exactly what you want. This is also another great opportunity to take advantage of hand-me-downs or repurpose things (think the mason jar trend). There are tons of videos out there that will show you how to DIY on a budget too.


Organization hacks

There are so many budget friendly ways to keep small spaces organized. Furniture that doubles as storage, repurposing shoe boxes for old cards/papers you want to hold onto, corkboard on the inside of kitchen cabinet to hold measuring cups, the list goes on and on. Jump on Pinterest or YouTube and you’ll find an endless wealth of knowledge for things you can do that won’t cost you a fortune.

Organization doesn’t just apply to when you’re living in your apartment either. Be organized in your move by labeling boxes (duh!) and having conversations with roommates before move-in day about who’s going to bring what (there’s no need for multiple toasters but no pots and pans!).


Moving day hacks

It’s a stressful, busy day. Here are a few things you can do to make things go as smoothly as possible:

  1. Buy toilet paper. You’re going to have to use the bathroom sooner than you think.
  2. Pack cleaning supplies (including LOTS of trash bags) last so they are easily accessible
  3. Do a walk through before moving anything in and take pictures of anything that seems off (do this with a landlord if possible)
  4. Recruit friends and family to help
  5. If you bought anything new, have the store deliver/set it up on the same day
  6. Have tools ready to hang photos/fix anything that might get damaged in the move
  7. Set up your utilities and internet before moving in so everything is ready to go when you’re finally ready to relax and watch Netflix after a long day

Remember that this is only the first of many places you’ll live. It’s not going to be your dream home, but it can be a start. It’s the perfect place to start experimenting with your style to see what you love and hate. Finally, it’s okay to treat yourself to a few nice things — just don’t go into debt over them!

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