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Finally Moving Out? Cheap Decorating Ideas for Your First Apartment

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Once upon a time I decorated (furniture included) my entire living room with $330. I was on a spandex tight budget and couldn’t afford to even pull into the parking lot of an Ikea store. Yea, it was that tight.


Despite all of the luxury apartment reveals floating around the internet, you don’t have to spend thousands to get your living space up to your liking.


Here are a few cheap decorating ideas for your first apartment!

DIY old décor back to life

Say it with me girlfriend…spray paint!


Instead of throwing out old décor that no longer suits your taste, DIY it back to life. I only get rid of something if it’s unsalvageable, but most times I can hot glue and paint it to my liking!

cheap decorating ideas

( A picture I redid from a flea market. *Used to be animal print)


You don’t have to be Picasso to refurbish furniture and with the number of tutorials floating around the internet, there’s no project that you won’t be able to pull off.


I like to browse through Pinterest for cheap decorating ideas and use the pictures for inspiration.


Browse through thrift stores & flea markets

When you’re moving out for the first time, especially on a budget, there’s no need to spend your entire paycheck on furniture and décor. Chances are unless you’re making bank, you’ll probably only be able to get a few items anyway.


So why not get more bang for your buck by buying secondhand? You can find quality items on a major discount at flea markets and thrift stores. These places are perfect for grabbing little knick-knacks and space fillers, such as end tables.

(My thrift store find. I painted the legs from grey to orange)


When sifting through the items, remember to search for potential instead of perfection. If it has potential but is not quite what you want, you can always whip out a can of spray paint or whatever you need to add to it.


Also, don’t shy away from garage sales. When people host these sales they’re typically needing the items gone ASAP and will be more willing to negotiate a lower price.


Go shopping in your loved one’s storage room

This is one of the best cheap decorating ideas, and personally my fave. My mom’s storage room and pantry are like Walmart to me! Whatever she doesn’t want I’m happily tossing into the back of my car.


When friends and family no longer use a piece of furniture or décor, chances are it’s going to be placed in the storage room and forgotten. This is your opportunity to go shopping! Offer to take the items off their hands and they’ll more than likely settle for a low amount or give it to you free.


This is a win-win situation because you get furniture and décor and they get freed up space!

Additional posts to help you save money!

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Lay down a rug

Rugs help to fill in space and bring the different items in your apartment together.  Before I added a small rug in my living room it was nothing short of bare and it felt as though everything was too spaced out even though the room was small.

By simply laying down a rug you can add in a pop of color to your décor and some dimension.


Depending on the size you need, rugs can run as low as $20!

Shop local ads/marketplaces

People are posting thousands of unwanted items for sale every single day. Online postings from locals are great for larger items, such as sofas and tables. Buying an end table off of a site like eBay that was super affordable can become a waste if all your savings are eaten up by shipping costs.


Buying from someone local makes for an easier payment transaction and you can get your hands on the items that same day!


When I moved out on my own I purchased the sectional and ottoman you see in the photos for under $200 off Craigslist and it lasted me six whole years!


Sites to check for local listings:


Facebook Marketplace




Plant it up

If you’ve been searching around for cheap decorating ideas there’s a high probability that you kept running across this tip. When in doubt, throw in a plant!


Plants, especially succulents, add life and a pop of color to any room. Not only are they great for filling in spaces but they’ve also been proven to enhance your mental and emotional health. Best of all they’re super cheap ranging from a few bucks to $30.


If you’re someone who can’t keep anything alive, try sticking to those that are low-maintenance or browse flea markets for fake plants.


No lie, I once stuffed two fake plants an old manager of mine threw out after my shift and still have them!


Incorporate multi-purpose items

Apartments are typically smaller than houses so you must maximize the space that you have. Look for items that you can use in multiple ways, such as a bookshelf, which can serve as storage and décor.


I used my old ottoman trunk as a place where I could store my kid’s toys and for extra seating!


Throw in some art!

Since you’re renting, you lose the ability to change every element of your home but that doesn’t mean customization is totally out of the window.


Wall decals are inexpensive and help to give your place a homier feel without the stress of worrying you won’t get your deposit back. The flea market is a goldmine for dirt cheap art pieces that you can spruce up to match your theme.


Pinterest has thousands of free pictures you can print from home and place inside thrifted photo frames. Or, you can take a trip to the craft store and make your art!

(Wooden letters I painted for my daughter’s room)


Dress up your sofa

Throw pillows are a cheap way to make your décor pop and hide any imperfections your sofa may have. They add a different design element to what otherwise may be a “boring” sofa and allow you to tie in different patterns and textures.


To take it up a notch, add in a throw blanket and you’ve got yourself a little razzle-dazzle.


Take your time

This is your FIRST apartment which means it doesn’t have to be perfect. Décor may make you feel better but what’s important is being able to afford to furnish your new place.


There’s no need to rush into getting everything at once. As you get settled and into the swing of paying your bills, then gradually start making your apartment feel like home.


If you’re ready to move out for the first time, be sure to read my post here to make sure you’re financially prepared!

  1. That’s a good idea to try and use items for multiple purposes. I could see how having something that takes up a lot of room, and you don’t use it all that often would be a less good idea for an apartment. I’ll make sure to try and only get things that are used frequently and for multiple purposes if I have to furnish an apartment.

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