Splurge or Save? How To Make Good Spending Decisions for Your First Apartment

A woman assembles furniture in her new apartment.

When I moved out of my parents’ house two and a half years ago, I remember feeling so nervous that I found myself sporadically crying in the weeks leading up to the move. Was I sure I was ready to live in New York City? Could I really afford this? Should I wait another year? 

I’m so happy I took the leap and jumped out of the nest, because now almost three years later, I can’t imagine how different my life would be if I didn’t move when I did. Budgeting helped ease my financial worries. I set aside a chunk of my savings for the move and kept track of expenses on a spreadsheet to make sure I was staying within budget. 

As much as moving can be a pain, it’s also a very exciting and nerve-wracking time. Here are my takes on what to splurge — and what to save on — when you’re preparing for your first apartment.

RELATED: 11 Financial Lessons You Should Already Know

Splurge on a couch 

I was lucky to inherit my former roommate’s full-sized Ikea sectional, but I would have splurged and spent the $600 on it myself if I had to! On the other hand, my boyfriend purchased a cheap $250 couch on Amazon and ended up sending it to the curb a year after he moved into his apartment. The couch was teeny tiny, and not very comfortable (the cushions were too small). It was a classic situation of “you get what you pay for.” 

After that experience, we agreed that whenever we move in together, we’re splurging on a comfortable couch because it makes a huge difference in the ability to relax and feel at home in your space! 

RELATED: Decorating Your New Apartment? Here’s How to Be Kind to Your Wallet (and the Planet)

Save on a bed frame 

Since big pieces of furniture can get expensive, I knew I wanted to save money on my bed frame, rather than dropping $1,000 at Pottery Barn. I went with a metal Zinus frame (on Amazon at the time), paired with a gray tufted Home Depot headboard that I attached to the frame with some screws. You can’t even see the metal frame because my mattress and comforter cover it! I’m glad I didn’t shell out a ton of cash on a bed set because this has worked well for me  – plus, I get lots of compliments on the headboard. 

Splurge on kitchen tools and appliances 

Whether it be appliances like an electric tea kettle, blender, pressure cooker, or air fryer, or even smaller items like cutting boards or a knife block, I’ve found that it’s worth it to spend the extra cash on quality items. I’m super happy with my Instant Pot and Airfryer two and a half years later and love hosting dinner parties or making easy Pinterest meals with these appliances. 

Additionally, they will move with you to every future apartment/home, and you’ll be happy you don’t have to buy new ones every time you move. Isn’t it better to spend $50 one time, than $20 three separate times? Not to mention, similar to the Amazon couch fiasco, you tend to get what you pay for… and when it comes to good food (or relaxation), it’s worth the investment. 

RELATED: Questions to Ask Before You Rent an Apartment

Save on decor 

Guaranteed, your style will change over time and you don’t want to kick yourself for spending a fortune on cottage-core or Y2K decor that you hate in a year. Plus, there are so many budget-friendly options on the market… Target, Amazon, and Wayfair all have affordable decor pieces that look upscale. Both of my rugs are from Wayfair and they are going strong after two different apartments! I know that if I decide to get rid of them after my next move, I got good use out of them and they didn’t break the bank.

Making a budget and sticking to it proved to me that I was ready for the move. And now, I feel that much more confident for future moves or life changes that will come my way – I know that I have the ability to make a plan, stick with it, and still “treat myself” in some ways while saving in others. 10/10, would recommend budgeting your next move!

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