I just signed the lease on my first apartment, which is super exciting, but filling it up is going to be really hard because I can only take a few things from home (what fits in my suitcase,) and money will be tight because rent is suddenly a thing. So, I spent the past two days figuring out how to make my three-room place feel full on a $200 budget, and I (believe) I have succeeded, so here are my tips.
Bring everything you can from home
I'm bringing sheets and a chic spice rack. But, if I could bring more, I would definitely want old pots and pans, the old kitchen table and chairs, some pictures we've taken down, and our old plates. Even though this stuff isn't décor, it reallly eats into the overall budget, which takes away from the decorating budget.
Look online for everything you need
By looking online, you can get better sense of what stores are worth visiting in person. Target, for example, is where I'll be buying most of my things, but, until I checked online, I assumed it would be much more costly than it is, and I would have missed out on all those deals ($1 glass cups!)
Shop multiple retailers
Some stores have great deals on certain items, but others are expensive. In my case, Costco has great towels and food storage containers, but it's flatware and throw pillows are way out of my tiny budget. Whereas Walmart has throw pillows and flatware that are affordable, but no great food storage containers.
Make use of yard sales and freebies
These are the best, especially if you live near a military base where people move all the time. I found a full dining room table, bought just months ago, totally free on Facebook Marketplace.
Buy things that are big
When you have a small budget, you need to get the most bang for your buck. So, buying large and cheap items, like tapestries, lets you make the space feel full and friendly without going way over budget for lots of small decorations.
Don't get things that look too cheap
The key to making your home look nice is filling it with nice things. With that in mind, it's better to have fewer nice things than lots of crappy things.
Sometimes DIYs actually cost more than just buying something, so be careful, but, in most cases, you can get cute stuff by making it for yourself! There are DIY bookshelves made from painted crates, DIY light fixtures to put over rental lights, and simpler things like DIY curtains.
Use old gift cards
If you were like me in middle school, you got a lot of gift cards for birthdays, but never spent them because your parents bought what you needed. Well, this is the time to use them! I have $50 to spend at Target for turning 12, 9 years ago.