Furnishing Basics: Where to Skimp and Where to Splurge

Moving into a first apartment is exciting, and it should be! But it also often comes at a time in our lives when we aren’t rolling in money. Many of us are college students or recent grads…so how can we make sure that our money is well spent? Accepting that we don’t need the most high-end furnishings, but still want our home to be comfortable, there are items that should eat large parts of our budgets and there are items that definitely should not.



Friends sitting on mattress in furniture storeSo obviously you don’t want a mattress that is going to cause you back problems or give you trouble sleeping, and that is why it is important to spend a bit more money to get quality. With that being said, you DO NOT need to spend thousands of dollars on a mattress. It is your first apartment not the home you’ll be living in forever. I purchased a queen mattress that retails for over $800 for $400. Don’t fall for the sales pitches that will try to get you to spend more. The sales-lady tried giving me four other prices before I got her to come down to my budget. You can stretch your budget further than the labels want you to know. (It helps to make it known that you are a poor college student, if that is the case.)

For advice on how to get the best mattress deal at the store, also check out Alissa’s Tips for Buying a Mattress.  And for even more detailed information about mattress styles, sizes and online and chain stores, read our How To Buy A Mattress: A Complete Guide.


Again, this is your first apartment, so I am not suggesting you spend thousands on a sofa, but if your budget has some room you might want to spend a bit extra to get the quality that will reading-1142801_1920last. There isn’t much worse than a sofa that sags when you’ve only had it for two months. Consider what uses you will have for your sofa, how often you will use it, what materials you want or need (especially if you have pets), and decide on what price range works for you. Would you rather spend $300 on a cheap sofa and have to replace it in a year and spend even more money, or spend a little more money once and have a sofa that lasts?

(Now, if you already know that you’ll be heading to graduate school or for a job cross-country in a year, head to Ikea and get that $300 sofa. When it’s time to move you just sell it for $100 and save the moving costs.)



This is one of those things that I need to take my own advice on, and I am working on that…But YOU DO NOT NEED TO BUY EXPENSIVE DECOR. As you probably know if you’ve read my author’s bio, or any of my other articles, I am obsessed with Anthropologie. Unfortunately, that store could empty my bank account in less than five minutes. So although I absolutely love the home products that they sell, and everything is beautifully unique, I take the cheap route and head to Homegoods. That store is also one of my obsessions, and everything it much more within budget. Homegoods carries anything you would want to decorate the apartment with your unique style, and you won’t break the bank doing so. I would highly recommend shopping there. (Although always check the clearance at Anthro! My sister and I find some awesome things in there.) Recently, H&M (that Swedish fast fashion chain) has added some cute decor and home goods at first apartment friendly prices, so it’s also worth a look.

Bedding/Sheets and Bathroom Linens

I am all about high quality sheets and bedding, don’t get me wrong. But I don’t think this is where the majority of your budget should go. You can get the quality without paying the original price, trust me. Sheets are on clearance in pretty much every store they are sold. You just have to look. Spending $80 on a set of queen sheets was definitely not in my budget when apartment shopping, but Bed Bath and Beyond had tons of clearance sheet sets. (Don’t forget to use their 20% off coupons — they usually even accept out-of-date ones!)

I am also going to refer you back to Homegoods. I was looking for all white bedding, and ended up finding a comforter set cat-1058095_1920(Originally retailed at $450) for $80. If you look for the bargains, you will find them. Skimping on the price does not have to mean compromising quality, just shop smart.

Nobody wants to have to use cheap, rough towels; I understand that. But towels are often on sale and with coupons you can get great deals on them! Go to Bed Bath and Beyond, Macy’s, Overstock.com, or wherever you usually find good deals! You will find some coupons and good sales, and that combination means a happy bank account!


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Author My First Apartment

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I'm just your average college student, living out her first real apartment experience in New Haven, CT! When I'm not busy in school, slaving away at work, or crying over Anthropologie prices, I can be found outside enjoying the day! My hobbies include volunteering, biking, hiking, kayaking, and drawing.

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Comments (2)

  1. Avatar Brianna Yates

    Thank you Sammie! Your article really helped me how to decide which furniture items I should not skimp on when it comes to price. What about the kitchen table? I look forward to entertaining friends, but I don’t how much is too much for this. Thank you again!

    • Sammie Sammie

      That is a great question! I think that having a high quality kitchen table is pretty important because something that is used that often can get scratched and damaged easily if it is cheaply made. My advice? Check craiglist, yard sales, etc. You’ll find well-made tables for cheap! There is no need to go buy brand-new. Kitchen tables aren’t focus points of decor in apartments so just look for good-quality second hand pieces! My roommate got our beautiful kitchen table on Craigslist for a fraction of it’s retail price and the table is like-new!