How to Decorate your Student Apartment on a Budget

Written by Amaara Dhanji

Friday, August 31st, 2018

Moving halfway across the country for university was a big decision. Like many students, I was leaving close friends, family, and the city I loved. For me, decorating my student apartment was a way to add a touch of home to an unfamiliar environment, but after spending so much money on rent, fees, and other necessities, I knew I had to shop smart.

These pointers helped me spruce up my student apartment while keeping within a student budget:

Furniture Tricks: Making the Most of a Smaller Space

One of the key issues with student living is space. When looking for furniture, I opted for items that doubled as storage –drawers, cubbies, and under-bed storage. For example, I wanted a nightstand, but instead of a traditional small table, I bought one with four cubbies. It was bigger, had storage, and doubled as a nightstand when placed beside my bed. Better yet, it was more cost efficient than the other nightstands.

Another tip is to try to keep colours consistent. I went for white furniture as it made my room look bigger, and tied the pieces together when purchased from different retailers.

Do-it-Yourself (DIY): Adding Personal Flair without Breaking the Bank

DIYs are a great way to add personality to your room. You don't need to be crafty, but you do have to put in work! Since I didn't have a lot of equipment, I created a gallery wall. Normally, art prints can cost around $20, and picture frames around $30. But to complete the gallery wall in a cost efficient manner, I printed free online art at an office supply store and placed them in cheaper frames. The entire project cost as much as one picture frame at a mid-tier lifestyle store.

Another item I wanted was a grid wall. I had seen images trending on Instagram of a wire grid used to organize items and clip images. However, I wasn't going to spend $60 on a small grid from design boutiques and shops. One day while walking through a grocery store, I noticed a set of grid squares that assembled into storage cubes for $30. I figured that I could use four squares to create the grid wall, and the rest for storage! I bought the black version, taped them together with black tape, and hooked them on my wall for a similar effect - with enough left over to build two storage cubes.

To complete my room, I really wanted a marble table without the high cost. After scouring the dollar store, I found marble contact paper for less than $3. I applied the contact paper on table surfaces for a simple DIY that I could easily remove later. If you don't like marble, you can choose from various other patterns to create your desired effect.

Budgeting 101: Do research, and Take Advantage of Back-to-School Sales

Another way to stay on budget is by checking your college or university Buy and Sell Facebook groups. Many students that graduate post their furniture for lower than face value, so it's a great way to get small items like lamps, mirrors, and desks.

As well, back-to-school sales are a great time for investment pieces such as a bedframe or mattress, especially when moving out of residence. Classic big box furniture and lifestyle stores often have sales around this time of the year, and planning the furniture I needed at this time helped me avoid impulse purchases and compare prices. Keep in mind that you may not want or be able to take the furniture with you when you're done school, so maintaining it is important in case you decide to resell it to future students.

At the end of the day, decorating is a very personal expression of what you enjoy –so what I did may not work for you. The most important tip is to make sure you like what you've done with your space, and that it reflects your personal style.

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