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Budgeting Tips: How to Furnish Your First Apartment on a Budget

Key Takeaways

Find Substitutions

You probably can’t afford West Elm, but you might find something similar at All Modern for less $$$.

Go Green

A beautiful, affordable and environmentally friendly way to spruce up your apartment? Hard-to-kill houseplants!

Make the Switch

Switch to a credit union for fewer fees and better interest rates. Put all that savings to save up for the good stuff.

You know those amazingly beautiful apartment pics on Instagram and Pinterest? Where there’s a coherent clean color scheme, and plants everywhere, and the photo was DEFINITELY taken with golden hour sun shining through the window? You know how you look at those photos and you’re like, “Yeah, that’s totally going to be my apartment one day … let me pin this for later.”

And then the day finally comes where you move into an apartment and realize … you can afford a folding table and lawn chair, and your decor consists of posters from your college dorm room.

Realizing you can’t afford your dream apartment furniture right after graduation can be just as hard as realizing you had to cancel your vacation because of COVID-19. But don’t worry! We have plenty of tips for how to furnish an apartment economically — without it looking like a poor man’s bachelor pad (no offense).

how to furnish an apartment bachelor pad

1. Greenery

Nothing says, “I’m an adult with my life together” like having some greenery in your home. But plants can be pretty expensive, and a heartbreaking waste of money if they die soon after purchase.

There are plenty of hard-to-kill plants that can actually improve the air quality in your home. Check out this list of low maintenance houseplants with descriptions on how to care for them. As aesthetic as they are, skip the boutique artsy flower shops. You can find the same plants at Home Depot or even your local grocery store for a third of the price.

If all else fails and you really have the furthest thing from a green thumb, get some fake plants! No shame. They won’t die on you, you don’t need to remember to water them, and you’ll never have to deal with repotting expenses and hassle. If you have a furry roommate, this could also be the best option as some plants are harmful to cats and dogs.


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To those who are doing quarantine, how many days have you been doing it? How are you holding up? //📸 @ygkplantmother

A post shared by 🌿 House of Plants 🌿 (@houseofplantlovers) on Apr 5, 2020 at 3:01pm PDT

Saving Up for Finally-an-Adult Furniture?

Put that savings to work and start earning more interest with a credit union savings account.

Find Your Credit Union

2. Hand-Me-Downs and Thrifting

Know some friends who are moving and getting rid of some stuff? Heard about an estate sale happening a town over? Ever wandered past the “Home” section in a thrift store?

Second hand furniture and decor is a great option on a tight budget. There are tons of items in excellent condition, but if you’re into it, a bit of wear and tear could be great for adding personality. It might even go with your target aesthetic.

Friends apartment

Also check out Facebook Marketplace. It’s not just for moms! I’ve gotten plenty of sweet deals off it — from a kitchen trash can to my bed frame — from people who are moving, downsizing or just doing some spring cleaning.

Sellers are within a mile range of your choosing (yes, like Tinder), prices are negotiable, and there’s actually a lot of free stuff (also like Tinder … sorry, not sorry). Just message the seller that you’re interested, make a deal and go pick it up.

But just like meeting someone from a dating app, safety first. If you’re picking up from the seller’s house rather than meeting in public, take a buddy with you or send someone the address and time you’re going.

3. High-End Alternatives to High-End Prices

Yeah, we all want the West Elm-, Pottery Barn-catalog apartment. But that sh*t’s expensive.

Instead, you can imitate that mid-century modern chic boho look on a much lower budget.

For starters, Bed Bath & Beyond ALWAYS has a 20% off in-store sale … always. If you don’t get coupons mailed to you, you can find them online.

Ikea is cheap and cute, and makes for a fun DIY date/friend hang out.

And of course, Home Goods and Target can make all your decor dreams come true. Just … be careful to avoid Target’s magic impulse-buy spell. Remember, this is about saving money.

How to furnish an apartment at Target.

Some cheap online retailers include All Modern and Wayfair. Most online furniture and home decor retailers also have inspiration style guides on their websites to help you visualize your dream home.

And if you’re really in love with a piece from a high-end store, just keep an eye on the online catalog! Sign up for the email newsletter and rewards program, and you’ll be notified when there’s a sale.

It’s worth investing in high-quality pieces so you don’t have to replace them and spend more money in the long run. Just make sure when you splurge, it’s on things you love and not necessarily what’s trendy. Online sales actually happen pretty often, and, while you wait, you can save up.

4. Open a Savings Account with a Credit Union

Saving up for items you really love can feel like a monumental task when you’re just trying to afford groceries for the month.

One way to make saving a little easier? Open up a savings account with a credit union.

Credit unions are not-for-profit financial institutions, unlike banks. That means credit unions are owned by you and the other members. With no one in a fancy conference room to profit off you, that “profit” goes right back to you and the other members. That means you get lower fees (and sometimes no fees at all!) and higher interest rates on savings accounts than you would at a bank.

Many credit unions also have services like financial literacy programs that help you make a plan to save even more. In short, a credit union will make furnishing your dream apartment that much easier.

Every Little Bit Counts

Better interest rates, fewer fees — it all adds up in the end.

Find Your Credit Union

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