How to Spruce Up Your Apartment on a Budget

Budget-Friendly College Decoration Ideas

The ‘broke college student’ stereotype didn’t just spring up by chance. College is expensive, even with scholarships, help from your parents, or a job. Making a college apartment or bedroom that feels like your home – even if it’s temporary – is a must. Consider it an investment in your own comfort, so you can focus on your studies and enjoy living on your own or with roommates.

Keep college costs down by figuring out how to furnish an apartment for cheap or personalize your dorm room for very little money. Learning ways to decorate your apartment on a budget now will definitely come in handy later. Saving money is a life skill you’ll be happy you learned. With a little ingenuity, careful shopping, and personal design flair, nobody will ever guess you did it all on a strict budget. 

Not sure what your style is yet? Make a few cool apartment bedroom ideas or college apartment room idea boards arranged by style or color on Pinterest, and get busy pinning all the different items and looks you love. From there, you can figure out whether your personal style tends towards rustic/boho, modern, retro, contemporary, or traditional, although it’s most likely somewhere in between or a combination. Pick out the key items that really sing, and then figure out how to duplicate the vibe.

The Best Ways to Decorate Your Apartment on a Budget


While many college apartments are furnished, there are always extra pieces you might need like a dresser, desk, side tables, etc. If you’re moving into an unfurnished place and starting from scratch, hit up mom and dad and other family members first, because that’s always the cheapest route and they’ve had years to collect stuff that goes unused. Stores like IKEA, Target, Walmart, Marshalls, HomeGoods, Hobby Lobby, Goodwill and even local thrift stores are your new best friends! Many offer convenient online shopping and delivery, and even whole room looks to pin on your college apartment room ideas board. Hit local brick and mortar stores when you can, and save the delivery fees. Find out which days local thrift stores and Goodwill put out new items, then go. You won’t believe the incredible stuff people get rid of – ranging from brand new, gently used, to OMG that’s hideous, and the prices are low, low, low. 

Don’t be afraid to say “yes” to the ugly stuff, either. With a little TLC, you can have a one-of-a-kind piece that’s all your own! Ever fallen in love with some rustic chic bed, dresser, or chest only to find a ridiculously high price tag? Underneath it is something someone picked up cheap, refinished with paint, new hardware and then purposely distressed to resell. Pay a few bucks for a not so pretty table, bed, or dresser, buy some paint or decorative tiles, and new hardware (knobs and handles), and the transformation will be incredible. Investing a bit of your time can result in furniture pieces you’ll love for years to come, and you’ll get a great sense of satisfaction from knowing you made that

Accent Pillows

Accent pillows are a great way to add pops of color and personality to your space, plus they give you a lot of bang for your bucks. Find accent pillows at Target, Walmart, and Bed, Bath & Beyond, visit discount retailers like TJ Maxx and Marshalls, or head out to one of the local outlet malls. Can’t find anything you really love? Buy some fabric and pillow inserts and make your own. There are minimal sewing skills required. Pro tip: fabric tape or fabric glue eliminates sewing. You can even make pillows with just fabric, scissors, and filling – no glue, tape, or sewing involved!

Throw Rugs
To paraphrase ‘The Dude’ from the 1998 cult movie classic, The Big Lebowski, a rug really ties the room together. (If you’ve never seen The Big Lebowski, check your streaming channels – it’s always free to watch somewhere!) Small throw rugs are great for the kitchen and bathroom, and larger ones are perfect for living rooms, bedrooms, and dining areas.

With so many colors, patterns, shapes, sizes and materials available you can set the tone for your personal style, without breaking your budget. You can even use carpet tiles to create your own geometric, freeform design. Throw rugs are available at all the stores mentioned above, or just shop online to find the best deals. Pro tip: measure, measure, measure!

Multi-Purpose Furniture & Built-in Storage

The classic futon has been a staple item for furnishing an apartment cheap for decades, and for good reason! It’s a couch, it’s a bed, and it makes a great multi-purpose solution for study/media rooms or overnight guests. Really want to save some money? Check out local thrift stores for futons because you can always replace or recover the pillow portion. Storage ottomans and coffee tables with built-in compartments or shelves can also help keep everything in its place. Tip: if you need to clean up quickly, hide books, magazines, and other clutter items inside.

Wall Art 

This is where you can really express yourself. Make your own art and hang it up on the walls, or get creative with your photos. Quality prints on canvas or paper are very affordable, and there is always a discount code online somewhere to save you even more money. If you truly love art, check out the National Gallery of Art where you can download images for FREE. With more than 53,000 images available, you’re sure to find something you love. You can display art in groupings or pick a larger statement piece. A casual favorite is the clothesline style with clips or pins to display multiple images you can change out easily whenever you like! Floating shelves can hold small decorative pieces as well as textbooks, clothes, or other stuff you want out of the way.

If you want to make a big statement, peel and stick wallpaper is a fantastic option for creating a contrast wall, without damaging the paint or your security deposit.

Decorative Accessories

The very best decorative accessories are the kind that also have a function. Think colorful metal or canvas bins that store throw blankets, games, bath products, or whatever you like. Bulletin boards for messages, grocery lists, etc. Putting up a mail and keyholder near the front door means you’ll always know where your keys are – assuming you use it, of course! Use some string lights to add ambience to your bedroom, living room, patio, or balcony space.

So you can see, decorating your apartment on a budget is not just smart, it’s a chance to really be YOU. Have fun!