Spruce Up Your Apartment on a Budget

Since starting my first full-time job, all I want to do at the end of the day is relax on my couch and enjoy the peace of my apartment. But when I moved into my own place earlier this year, my surroundings felt anything but serene: The walls were bare and my furniture was a hodgepodge of hand-me-downs from my parents and former roommates. It felt more like my old dorm room than a home. While this didn’t stop me from enjoying frequent dates with my DVR, there was no denying that my place needed some sprucing up.

By spending the past few months on a decorating mission, I managed to turn my small city apartment into an urban oasis—and stayed within my limited budget. If you’re looking to makeover your place without spending a fortune, here are some tricks I learned about decorating on a dime:

Secondhand furniture first

I started by scouring the websites of all the major furniture retailers, but it didn’t take me long to realize there was no way I could spend $100 on one chair when I needed four!

Then I began rummaging around the thrift stores in my area. Behind dozens of ancient artifacts were several hidden gems that just needed a little work. With a good cleaning and some durable spray paint, these pieces fit perfectly into my décor—and provided fun pops of color in my otherwise boring space.

I wouldn’t suggest buying everything for your place at a thrift store, however. Shelving units and dining room sets are often in great shape, but buying a used bed and couch could land you a few unwelcome roommates (yes, I’m talking about bed bugs). If you’re in the market for a couch, start by asking family members and friends if they have any items you can take off their hands—and remember that a good couch cover can do wonders.

Function over form

During one of my many thrift store trips, I fell in love with a must-have vintage side table. I couldn’t get over its adorable flower-print pattern and asymmetrical style. I knew I should stay practical, so I ended up taking a traditional white table home and threw a floral fabric on top of it. It was the perfect compromise and I’ll be able to use that table in many apartments—and decorating schemes—to come. Fabric can be a cheap, easy way to spice up any piece of furniture.

If there’s one thing you choose to splurge on, I’d suggest it to be your bed. I bought a new mattress from a big box retail store and paired it with a slightly used bed frame I found on Craigslist. Now, my only problem is that I don’t want to get out of my comfy bed in the morning! When choosing your bed, or whatever item you decide to splurge on, make sure it’s traditional enough to stay in style for years to come. Remember, if there’s something valuable in your apartment, you’ll definitely want to consider renter’s insurance to ensure it could be replaced in the event of a theft, fire or similar disaster.

DIY décor

During my search for cheap accessories, I would wander around home stores and think, “I could make that for less!” So, that’s exactly what I did. Adding a fresh coat of paint and colorful knobs gave my old bookcases and end tables a total facelift. I also searched through a bunch of decorating blogs and magazines—they give great tips for creating budget-friendly wall hangings, pillows, artwork and whatever else you think will add some life to your place.

Living on a budget doesn’t have to be boring. By figuring out your decorating priorities and staying true to your personal style, you can create an inviting space of your own at a fraction of the cost.