Budgeting Tips For Decorating Your First Apartment, According To Experts

Nothing says adulting quite like moving into your first apartment. Once you’ve got the keys to your new place, the next step is making it your own by decorating and furnishing it — a step that can be extremely expensive. Luckily, you don’t have to clean out your bank account to have an aesthetically pleasing apartment if you know exactly what to splurge on and what to save on. Elite Daily spoke to two interior designers — Eryn Jones of popular TikTok account Everything Eryn and Cara Newhart, Never Skip Brunch blogger and host of the Make Space podcast about first apartment budgeting tips and their picks for products that will turn empty space into your new home sweet home.

Knowing which pieces are actually worth spending a bit of extra money on is key when it comes to decorating and budgeting for your first apartment. Not only can these items make a big statement in your space, but they can also serve as investment pieces that you’ll keep for years instead of constantly replacing them, which will save you money in the long run. There are also some cheaper pieces that you really don’t have to spend much money on that’ll look just as nice as their more expensive counterparts. It’s a win-win.

To help you figure out what to splurge on and what to save on for your first apartment, Jones and Newhart share their picks for your bedroom, bathroom, closet, living room, patio, and kitchen. For a little extra home decor inspo, we also curated a selection of the must-have items in each category to help you get started on your journey.

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Bedroom Essentials For Your First Apartment

What To Splurge On:

Your bedroom is your haven and your dedicated private space, especially if you’re sharing your first apartment with roommates. So, if you’re looking to fill your sacred space with investment pieces, Newhart suggests starting with your bed. “Mattresses last a while, and they’re a piece you literally spend hours on every single day, so they’re well worth the splurge,” she says, adding that because mattresses frequently go on sale, you still might be able to save some money on it.

And what’s a quality mattress without some quality bedding? According to Jones, high-quality sheet sets are a great investment because they will instantly help your bed feel luxurious. “Having good quality bedding is proven to give you serotonin and ensure you are well-rested,” she says. But if you think high-quality sheets are all about the thread count, you’d be mistaken. Newhart advises taking into consideration whether you sleep hot or cold and what kind of material you like (i.e. bamboo, silk, or sateen).

What To Save On:

While you’ll want to splurge on the mattress and bedding, Jones suggests purchasing a regular bed frame with no headboard. “This gives you the opportunity to create your own headboard later or buy an attachable headboard of your choice to save some money,” she says.

Instead, you can add some character to your bedroom with thrifted decor pieces, like artwork or a nightstand, that you can DIY to make your own.

Bathroom Decor For Your First Apartment

What To Splurge On:

Just like the linens in your bedroom, you’ll also want to lean toward nicer linen options for your bathroom. Newhart recommends purchasing quality towels, since they hold up better over time, as well as chic countertop storage products that make things easy to find. “This could be a small basket and lid for everyday essentials, or some acrylic makeup organizers to display your favorite products,” she says.

Speaking of towels, Jones says you won’t regret splurging on a towel or bathrobe warmer as a “form of self-care.” She says, “Trust me, it is the luxury item you didn’t know you needed until you have it.”

What To Save On:

It’s tempting to buy Instagram-worthy bathroom decor to decorate your countertops, shelves, and wall space, but Jones warns it can quickly get costly. “Print some pictures online or [from] Etsy, frame them, and get inexpensive decor to complement them,” she suggests.

One good test to see if you should save on a bathroom product is if you don’t plan on bringing it to your next home. For example, cheap bath mats are definitely the way to go for Newhart, who says she purchases a new one every time she moves.

You can still have a cute bathroom without spending a lot, though. One hack Newhart recommends as an easy way to save money on bath products is by buying them in bulk and storing them in some cheap yet aesthetically pleasing refillable bottles with pumps and labels. You know, like the ones that pop up on your TikTok For You page.

Living Room Must-Haves For Your First Apartment

What To Splurge On:

One often-overlooked detail in your living room can make a huge difference, according to Jones. The interior designer swears by good quality curtains as one of the easiest ways to make your living space look luxurious. “Good window treatment panels can get expensive, but it is the staple in your living room that will always elevate your space and last a long time,” she says, adding that an investment on good curtains versus cheap ones is “like night and day.”

When it comes to living room furniture, Newhart has strong opinions on what you should and shouldn’t spend a lot of money on. Instead of springing for bigger furniture pieces like couches, which might not fit the same in your future apartments, it’s a better idea to invest in a key furniture piece like a floor-length mirror that can move with you over time.

“A good floor mirror that you’ll use every day to get ready and check your ’fit can totally be worth it,” she says. However, if you’re in the market for smaller accent mirrors or space-specific pieces that need to be a certain size, like an accent chair, Newhart recommends checking out Target for items that are affordable but feel elevated.

What To Save On:

For everyone who discovered DIY during lockdown, you’re in luck. Both Newhart and Jones agree that items you can DIY for your living room are good pieces to save on. While Jones suggests using a can of spray paint to transform a thrifted statue or use thrifted coffee table books to decorate your space, Newhart says you can even DIY your coffee table.

“Grab a super basic coffee table that’s functional but not pricey,” Newhart recommends, adding that unlike upholstered items where higher price often corresponds to better quality materials and a more well-made piece, coffee tables are almost purely functional. “A basic or DIY-ed table like this DIY table I covered in plaster can still fit your style while being super inexpensive,” she adds.

To pair with your DIY pieces, Newhart also recommends adding an ottoman as a cheaper way to incorporate on-trend patterns, fabrics, or colors into your space without having to invest in a larger piece that might be more expensive.

Closet Organizers For Your First Apartment

What To Splurge On:

The Kardashian family’s meticulously organized closets might be your inspiration for your own closet, but you really only need to spring for one product to make your clothes look as nice as possible. Both Jones and Newhart swear by good quality hangers for a closet splurge, as they make your closet look uniform while also keeping your clothes from getting pulled down or torn.

Newhart personally recommends wooden hangers, saying, “I love the polished and cohesive look they give the space.” They’re also more durable than wire or plastic hangers over time, and help a basic closet feel more like a leveled-up wardrobe space.

What To Save On:

Replicating the kind of closet organizers or shelf dividers you might see on The Home Edit will actually cost you a lot more than you’d expect — and, according to Newhart and Jones, it’s really not worth it for your first apartment.

“An aesthetically organized closet is nice, but it usually takes a lot of product to create a polished and rainbow color-coded closet,” Newhart says. Instead of pricey organizational items like acrylic organizers, you can opt for inexpensive matching baskets to conceal items like belts and hats on shelves.

If you do want to purchase some organizational tools, Jones says you can save on shoe racks and shelving, as some of these inexpensive items can work just as well as the more expensive selections. Another easy and cheap way to spruce up your closet is to cover your closet shelves with contact paper.

Kitchen Tips For Your First Apartment

What To Splurge On:

Once you’ve gotten settled into your new home, once of the first things you’ll want to do is invite your besties over to check it out. For that reason, a nice set of matching dishes is a must for entertaining guests in your new apartment. Even if you’re just eating solo, it can also make all your meals ’Gram-worthy.

Whipping up your favorite recipes on TikTok or your post-workout protein shakes should also get an upgrade now that you’ve moved into your first apartment. Newhart suggests splurging on your go-to appliance. “Snag a nice blender if you love making smoothies, a higher-end coffee maker if it’s an essential part of your daily routine, or a super nice air fryer if you love using it for quick meals,” she says. Investing in an appliance you’ll use daily can be a total came changer — bonus points if it’s stylish enough to be able to stay out on the counter as decor.

What To Save On:

Spending more money on dishes is one thing, but you don’t need to spend a lot on your flatware or kitchen utensils, since they are mostly functional pieces and are usually tucked away in drawers. Newhart suggests buying a matching set with everything you need, including forks, knives, and spoons, all together.

Most of your empty kitchen space will be taken up with practical appliances, but an easy way to save on your kitchen spending is by purchasing cheap kitchen wall and countertop decor. There are plenty of great inexpensive options like cute clocks or wine holders that’ll add character to your kitchen and break up any blank walls. Jones suggests picking pieces that have a uniform color as a way to tie everything in together and make them look more intentional.

Patio Decor For Your First Apartment

What To Splurge On:

Unsurprisingly, if you have an outdoor space, your main splurge should be seating, as that can totally make or break your or your guests’ experience. “Investing in a couple nice chairs or a comfy outdoor sectional puts the focus on sitting and relaxing,” Newhart says, adding that she loves upholstered pieces with washable cushions to keep the space looking and feeling fresh.

Plants can also really add character to your outdoor space, and while you don’t need to spend a lot to bring some green to your patio, Jones recommends splurging on some nice planters and good lighting to create the ambience you want.

What To Save On:

The best part is that once you’ve invested in your seating, your budget for the rest of your patio decor can be pretty minimal. This includes other outdoor furniture, which you ideally want to be weather-resistant and multi-purpose. Newhart suggests using a durable garden stool as an accent table, saying “You can use them as a side table or a riser for plants or even utilize two side by side instead of a coffee table.”

You’ll also want to consider the elements and weather changes when deciding exactly how much you want to spend on an outdoor decor piece. Case in point: While a nice outdoor rug is a must and can tie your patio space together, Jones cautions on spending too much on it because there’s a possibility you’ll need to change it out a few times. She says, “It’ll get the most wear and tear, plus you likely won’t be walking barefoot too often.”

As your final touch, both Newhart and Jones agree that adding some greenery to an outdoor space is a must. While plants are generally pretty inexpensive to purchase online or from a local shop, Newhart suggests growing them from seeds or propagating from a friend’s plant to save even more.

Experts cited:

Cara Newhart, interior designer, Never Skip Brunch

Eryn Jones, interior designer, Everything Eryn

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