Signing the lease for your first apartment can be exciting — and expensive. In fact, Americans spent a collective $485.6 billion on rent in 2017. And while most people know they shouldn’t spend more than 30 percent of their gross income on housing, that percentage is difficult to stick to when American wages haven’t kept up with the cost of living. More Americans are renting now than at any point since 1965, possibly because they aren’t yet financially stable enough to become homeowners.
But the truth is that you have to learn to walk before you can run. A first apartment is considered to be an adult milestone, indicating newfound freedom and independence. It’s a great chance to learn responsibility and other life skills. Plus, it provides you with an opportunity to discover your personal aesthetic and decorate your space in a way that brings you joy.
Although Americans are now spending more on their homes than they are on their wardrobes, that doesn’t mean you have to spend an arm and a leg in order to furnish your new place properly. You can easily make your home look luxurious and unique without going over your budget. From wall art and plants to furniture and other decor, here’s how to save money without sacrificing on style.
Slowly add multifunctional furniture
Furniture is a huge expenditure for most people. In 2017, US spending on furniture amounted to $515.46 per consumer unit. But if this is your first place, you might have to spend more to ensure you have everything you need. After all, you probably won’t want to skip having a bed, a sofa, or a desk. Since most apartment dwellers are rather short on space, one of the best ways to save some money is to invest in pieces that pull double duty. A coffee table that folds up into an elevated desk or a couch that converts into a futon can help you stretch your dollar a bit further. Alternatively, an ottoman or bench with built-in storage space or a bed with shelving attached can allow you to find more room for all of the items you’ve accumulated without having to waste money on unattractive storage totes or a separate self-storage unit.
There are more affordable and attractive options for this kind of furniture, which can make it a whole lot easier to curb your desire to overspend. However, you shouldn’t feel pressured to buy all of these pieces right away. Invest in the basics first, assess your needs, and save up for some other items that can add both function and aesthetic appeal to your new home. This can give you something to work towards financially, rather than feeling an economic burden from the start. The average household with credit card debt has approximately $6,929 in revolving balances, but starting out slowly will allow you to buy the pieces you need and pay them off before adding more.
Find some second-hand treasures
You may have new digs, but that doesn’t mean older pieces can’t come along. It may be tempting to buy a bunch of new decor items online, as it’s one of the most convenient ways to shop. But you may also have to deal with shipping costs, delays, possible damage, and questionable quality. Ordering online can be a bit of a gamble, which isn’t exactly the ideal approach when you’re trying to keep costs down. In addition, you might be more tempted to spend more than you should when the transaction can be completed with one click.
Instead, why not try your luck at finding some second-hand pieces in your local community? Check out thrift shops, antique stores, or garage sales for some unique pieces that can add character and charm to your home. It’s important to examine these pieces carefully for any flaws, of course. If you’re worried about cleanliness, stick to items you can easily sterilize. You may also want to consider visiting some locally owned furniture stores, rather than popular big box stores, to see if you might be able to score a deal. There are even apps and social media groups that offer low prices on new or slightly used items. While it might take you a bit longer to find what you’re looking for, you can have a bit of an adventure and pay a lot less than you would for reproduction items that don’t have the same sense of history.
Buy smaller furnishings at pivotal times
Although sofas, easy chairs, beds, armoires, and other pieces may be important, you’ll need more than those bare necessities to make your first apartment look truly stylish. Whether you’re a natural minimalist or love lots of knick-knacks, you’ll need some other items for visual interest. Bare walls and empty shelves can look sterile and depressing, which is really the last thing you want when you’re living on your own for the first time. You don’t need to go overboard and buy unnecessary accoutrements, but picking out some key items with which to decorate can make your apartment really feel like home.
You won’t need to spend a lot of money here, either. Old books, candles, and small potted plants will bring your shelves to life, while rolled canvas prints and framed photographs can make your apartment walls look both beautiful and add a personal touch. Although it’s a good idea to add to your collection over time, there is another way to save money on items like these: know when to shop. Sales typically occur after major holidays and during the middle of summer, when retailers want to get rid of old stock to make way for new. Keep a sharp eye out for discounts and blow-outs so you won’t have buyer’s remorse.
Remember that you don’t need to go for broke to decorate a home that impresses your loved ones. With these tips in mind, your first apartment will look like a million bucks without actually having to spend it.