Decorating & Budgeting the First Place

I like to think of myself as an interior design guru – more so because I’m obsessed with interiors but I don’t have the education or credentials to really back it up. Unless you count my first apartment on my own which is the epitome of this post. Let’s back up a little to my credentials: senior project on a design where I redid my little sisters’ entire room and it was probably the start of an obsession, my parents’ living room, my first & second shared apartment followed by my apartment on my own and Instagram interior design like galore.

Okay, okay, let’s focus on the fact that most of us that are moving out on our own don’t have the pleasure of throwing dollars where we please. Some might be lucky enough to score the big bucks but the rest have to get by with whatever they have. That 500 square feet apartment can turn into a lot of things even your dream. You just have to give it a go and put in the work. Hanging up a picture is not that easy… not when you have to make sure it isn’t crooked or that it goes with the rest of the décor.

Big decisions are being made when you are decorating. You can either put together this peaceful oasis or have a room that screams loud. It’s all up to what you prefer. I would never tell anyone how they should decorate because I’ll be listing off décor that I like and things I want to do in my own home. Instead, I can provide sources and ideas on how to furnish without going overboard. You don’t need a West Elm budget to get West Elm dupes. Same with Arhaus Furniture and Restoration Hardware. Let’s keep those choices for the future because let’s be real… Restoration Hardware is pretty bomb and makes me wish I had a home to go décor crazy in. That’s not the point, though. The point is that you don’t need or have to go broke while getting your apartment together. Budget. Think about what you want versus what you need. Compromise with deals that you see. Let’s talk. 

First, focus on your budget. 

Decorating and not going broke…

Your place does not have to come together all at once. In fact, it’s better that you buy throughout the months because you might not be 100% in love with something that you think will look nice. You need to make sure it’s a piece that you’re going to want to reuse and move around to different locations in the house because it looks just that good. I don’t want to promote having a theme for a room but have an idea of how you want it to look and find pieces that can pull together that look. You can easily dupe a room rather than shell out all the money to have the same exact room as someone. Why would you want to have the same room as someone else anyways? Your home should be a representation of you, not someone else’s room. 

Bills, oh what fun…

The important thing here is not spending all of your paychecks. Things in your apartment can wait but rent and utilities can’t wait. My advice to myself has always been to be frugal with my money. I literally have my payments chalked out and then after all that is said and done, I look at what I need to buy. I went overboard when I moved out on my own but now, I’m like do I really need this or do I really need that? Split your bank accounts – utilities & payments should be one account, make a savings account, and throw in an account for spending. That’s how you can easily tell what you can and can’t do with your money. I keep track of my payments with Mint – it’s pretty helpful and I get a budget report which is nice. Make sure that everything you’re spending money on is worth it; you need electricity, for the most part, you might have to throw in money for water and gas as well. Internet and cable are choices you have to make–on my end, I pay for the internet and I have an antenna that gets me the basic channels which are all I need (Grey’s Anatomy comes on basic, Thank God). You can save more with Netflix and/or Hulu, just saying. Just think of the necessities and accessories.

Save for the future or emergencies.

No place is worth going broke over. Always save. I’ve heard stories about people living paycheck to paycheck when I was younger but if you can avoid that, do just that. There’s no point in spending that last $55 in your account if you don’t have an emergency saving and aren’t prepared for the unexpected. As Negative Nancy as that may seem, it’s better to be safe than sorry. People tell you to save all the time but you never take them serious until those bills start popping up. I’m a newbie saver but I can say that I’ve surprised myself with the resilience I have when it comes to spending money now. Shuttle away $50 or so away in an emergency fund to keep you on your feet in case an apartment accident happens or those security deposits hit hard after you move out.    

Now, where to shop?

Home Goods

Home Goods is always my first choice – They’re part of TJ Maxx and Marshalls so if you’re in a triangle of these stores like me, you take multiple trips to each store to check out the stock. I’ve found everything that stands out or is trendy at Home Goods for half the price that another store might sell it. Want a gold pineapple? $12.99-$14.99 at Home Goods. They have great deals especially if you’re on a budget. You can get a great bathroom set here and find treasures in the clearance racks. My whole bathroom is decked out in Home Goods brands. The small trinkets and kitchen utensils can also be found for a great price here. If there isn’t a Home Goods near you, I hope TJ Maxx or Marshalls are close because they have a lot to offer.


Everyone knows about Ikea. Ikea is a blessing sent from Sweden. It’s the place that has $1.00 cinnamon rolls and great deals for those starting out. I bought a bed for $90 and that’s pretty great in my opinion. Obviously, this place has so much more to offer from bedroom furniture to living room furniture to kitchen remodeling. Ikea seems to be rare in different states – there’s currently only one in Ohio but there will be another added next year. Online shopping is ideal for those that don’t want to make the trip but you miss out on cinnamon rolls and they’re worth it to me. If you want a bargain, Ikea definitely gives you a bargain whether it’s your first apartment or you’re moving into your newlywed home.

Thrift Stores

Treasures can be found in thrift stores. There are so many hidden treasures that are kept away at thrift stores. If you’re lucky enough to live in a city with dozens of thrift stores, I say to take a day and scurry through them all to see what you can find. Not only can you find some great things but you can also restore them to your ideal image. DIY is fun and helps you make something that can stand out. Thrift stores are the spot. I would say to stick to simple basics when it comes to shopping at thrift stores. Picture frames and simple décor are great things the get. I wouldn’t suggest buying a couch or anything of that sort there but that’s your decision.

Facebook Pages

Maybe you live in a city that has a group for sale items or things that people are giving away. Similar to Craigslist but you’ll get notifications (if they’re on) when something new is shared. I would say these are useful for big items that you don’t want to travel for. Washer and dryers can pop up and be a thing to grab when you’re starting off and you know you’re not going to stay in your new place the next year. These are also perfect just to find people that are local so you can check things out before making the purchase — you get your eyes on it before you buy it.

At the end of the day,

Do not sweat it when it comes down to your first place. If you budget out what you NEED versus what you want, you will be good. Start saving a few months in advance, though, it’s always a good idea to have more than what you need especially when it comes to money. What are your secrets to budgeting? How about decorating? I can’t wait to get my new place in order to share it with everyone.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.