Save Money on Your First Apartment

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Emma is the editor & creator (and occasionally writer) for The Messy Heads. She enjoys yellow curry, print media, and singing to herself.

After I signed my lease and emptied my bank account I thought I was back into money saving mode. Flash forward to me three days later crying on the floor of Bed Bath and Beyond because I couldn’t fit everything into one cart and couldn’t find bed sheets for less than $200. Don’t be like me. Don’t end up in despair on the cold, linoleum floor of BB&B.

I did some things right and made some mistakes- here is what I learned from my experience with my first apartment and how you can save money on getting your place together.


So simple but so effective. I got two packs of different sizes (each one is about a dollar each and packs of 12 are even cheaper). I use them for literally EVERYTHING.


  • coffee
  • storing uncooked pasta or rice
  • leftovers
  • smoothies
  • flowers
  • flour or sugar



  • cocktails, wine
  • tea, coffee, drinks
  • toothbrushes or other bathroom organization
  • homemade coffee scrub


Search “used furniture” in your area. I would shy away from craigslist, especially ads that say to meet at a location in the outskirts of town with only cash. If you live in NYC check out AptDeco, I furnished my whole place for under $350 from there. Sort high to low and a lot of people will give you discounts if you buy from the same seller. I bought a dresser for $50 and got a mirror for free. I found a coffee table for $6o and the seller gave me two side tables for free. All about that bargain!

If you don’t have a reliable online place to buy used furniture go to a flea market, goodwill, or used furniture store. A quick search on yelp should do the trick. You would be surprised with what cool stuff you can find for cheap, and it may just take a coat of paint to make brand new again! And used furniture is way easier to haggle over and make deals.


Most big retail stores (like bed bath and beyond) have student days where you can get 20% off your entire purchase. Usually if you come a couple weeks before or after they will still be loyal to the sale. Or shop now and bring back your receipt.


White wall space can be such a drag and make you feel suffocated in a hospital like space. Fill up the wall with images that inspire you! Some easy ways to do that are..

  • Host a painting party and provide friends with canvases or all work on one together
  • Tape up images that inspire you cut from magazines, newspapers, or posters
  • Get some photos printed out at kinkos and arrange them in a cool layout on your wall
  • If you are bold like me- paint directly onto your wall. I checked in with my super and I can do whatever I want with my walls as long as I paint it back when I move out! I have been drawing or painting directly on the walls as I get inspired.


The cheapest place to get plants is for sure Lowes. Ask around a bit and figure out which ones won’t die on you. Some plants will thrive in the misty dark environment of your bathroom and others will blossom on the brightest windowsill you got. They key to plants is taking care of them so you don’t have to keep buying more! 


When it comes to household goods- vacuums, toilet paper, paper towels, drain-o, cleaning products, etc- definitely shop online. It can be confusing wandering around a store, fumbling for all the items you need and definitely forgetting things. Online you can sort low to high (my favorite feature), read reviews, and search for company ethics in another tab. All while chillin on your couch. Invest in an amazon prime membership for your first month moving in or use your free trial. Free shipping and next day delivery is a SAVING GRACE.


Find your decorative pillows, random vases, and candles at Marshalls or TJ Maxx. I feel like it’s hard to get cool stand out pieces that make your space unique because it seems like the only available source is Urban Outfitters. So not true. Check out the home goods section of both of these stores and you will find some really good quality things for insanely cheap. + I got my yoga matts here and a few kitchen items!


I have seen some of my crafty friends make furniture for free.

  • Go to a builders site and find a crate used to support heavy objects. Usually they will let you take it for free! Someone I know painted hers white and used it as a bed frame, and it turned out so cute.
  • I have an awkward corner in my apartment that isn’t really of any use. I found a slat of wood that was the same size as the space, got some shelf brackets, and voila! A bar to lay out food on or a splash console for less than $20.
  • If you find a loggers yard some tree stumps or pieces make for cool side tables. Yazzy has a few in her apartment that double as function and decorative pieces.
  • Swenyo has cool furniture legs that can be tacked onto skateboards, wood slats, or more. They did a really cool blog post on DIY options here.


But not necessarily for furniture pieces! They last a while, but finding used furniture is usually cheaper, easier, and has more flair to it. I go to ikea for their organizing materials! You can get a pack of three baskets for just $5. Perfect for drawers, organizing toiletries, or sorting out stuff on your desk. It immediately brings a space together and makes it look clean and organized. 


Buy key stuff first. This means mattresses, bedding, towels, and a dresser. Then space out the rest. You don’t have to spend all at once, and it’s better if you space it out. Not only for your wallet but to give yourself a break. When I first got my place I was so ambitious and thought I could get it all together in a matter of days. Now three weeks into having my place, I’m realizing it’s just bit by bit. Function is priority, and decorating will come naturally. A mattress has to be organized and bought and scheduled for delivery, but quirky posters are found as you pass by a random outdoor market on the way to the grocery store.


Speaking of groceries- those are HIGH priority. It is so tempting to keep eating takeout when you don’t have a proper table or utensils yet, but during this time when your wallet is on E you will be thankful you have food in the house. Focus on non perishables like rice, canned beans, pasta, and frozen foods.




  1. I really liked this. It makes me more determined/inspired to save up for my own place.

    It’s Eclectic not Aclectic.

  2. isn’t the stuff at ikea, bed bath & beyond and other places made from slaving workers too? i hope not just wondering!

  3. Great tips 🙂 Hopefully I’ll have my own apartment/room next year and I’ll definitely use these tips.

  4. Louise says

    super great tips!!
    btw for those who read the comments, I have a tip for your groceries: don’t be afraid to go explore the small grocery shops in your neighborhood, sometimes it turns out to be far cheaper than popular chains or supermarkets like trader joes’, and you’ll also waste less time wandering in the store!

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