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College Apartment Decorating Ideas You Can Actually Afford

I have several nieces who are college students looking to get their first apartment. So I thought I’d help them along in the process by sharing some super cute (yet totally affordable!) college apartment decorating ideas. Even if you’re strapped for cash, there are plenty of ways to make your new place feel like home and save money at the same time!

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budget friendly home decor for your college apartment from Walmart

pillow // art // succulent

Your first apartment is a time to be creative and have fun with your space. But it’s also a little scary and intimidating having to furnish an entire apartment on your own.

Thankfully, Walmart is a great place to find inexpensive items to help you decorate your first college apartment! Their new Wow & Now section showcases trendy, affordable home decor at the perfect price point for any budget. That adorable art print is under $7 bucks!

Walmart Wow & Now budget friendly pillows

kindness pillow // Striped pillow

But if you see something you like, you’ll want to grab it quickly since things will be selling out fast and new items will rotate in. You can shop online or in select stores too. My local store had these cute pillows for $9.97 each, which would look super cute in a college dorm or living room.

How Can I Decorate My College Apartment?

Now that you’ve finally got the keys to your first place, it’s time to start decorating!

You want it to look good, but you don’t have a lot of money and don’t know where to start. Don’t worry! I’ve got some ideas for you that are both stylish and affordable.

The best way to decorate a small space is to get creative, and don’t be afraid to experiment! Whether you live in a low or high-rise building, there are lots of ways to add your own personal style. Campus apartments are sometimes furnished with a few basics (like sofa, bed, and desk) but I’m going to assume that we’re starting with a blank slate.

College Apartment Living Room Ideas

Let’s start with some living room decorating ideas for your apartment. I like to use Canva or Photoshop to throw together a quick mood board first. It’s an easy way to create a cohesive design and test out furnishings and colors without spending a dime!

College apartment decorating ideas with boho decor featuring a blush pink sofa, egg chair, round coffee table and storage ottomans

sofa // art // floor mirror

Plant // basket // floor lamp

wicker tray // side table // shelves

ivory pillow // yellow pillow // good vibes

egg chair // succulent // geometric sculpture

coffee table // storage ottomans

I love this sofa because it’s super affordable, has good reviews, and maybe most importantly – can arrive at your new place in 2 weeks! If you’ve shopped for furniture at all in the past year, you know how crazy delayed some pieces are right now. The dining table I’ve been eying has a 6 MONTH delivery window! Not good for us impatient types!

Choosing a fun colored sofa is also a great way to establish a color scheme for your room. But if you want to play it safe, they also have a neutral gray option too.

This egg chair will add instant boho vibes to your college apartment decor, and these throw pillows are an inexpensive way to add a fun pop of color.

Adding a round coffee table with storage ottomans that double as extra seats for guests is also a great idea.

A multifunctional piece of furniture is a great way to save space in an already small apartment. I love the idea of using an old dresser as an entertainment center because you can use its drawers for storage and save valuable square footage in your living room or bedroom.

In the end, it’s all about finding a space-efficient way to do more with less!

College Apartment Kitchen Decor

I remember my old college apartment kitchen from the 90s (yes, I’m old! 😂) It was basically the size of a closet but with a giant-sized fluorescent light box, which perfectly highlighted the chipping paint from the cabinets.

Ah, the good ‘ol days!

Thankfully apartment kitchen decor has come a long way since then! Walmart makes shopping for your new space super handy too, with free 2-day shipping and returns for purchases over $35.

College essentials for your kitchen apartment featuring a small dining table, kitchen runner, cheap dishes, pots and pans, and rolling cart / bar cart

pots & pans // towels // silverware

mixing bowl set // art // rolling cart

clock // dining table // chairs

dinnerware set // water bottle

plant // rug

I love to start designing with an inspiration piece, and for this kitchen, it was this rug (also available in other colors!) Adding an area rug or kitchen runner is the easiest way to hide less-than-perfect apartment floors.

It also sets the mood for your space and creates instant cozy vibes!

Even if you have a small kitchen, you’ll probably still be able to squeeze in this small dining table. And these rattan dining chairs fold up to store away in the closet when you need more floor space.

Adding this cute rolling cart is another affordable way to add function to your space. Store extra food and pantry supplies in baskets and bins to stack on the shelves. This helps keep your kitchen counters clean and clutter free.

Since the cart is on wheels, just roll it into your living room to also serve as a bar cart for impromptu parties (but only if you’re 21!)

College Apartment Bedroom Ideas

I’m finishing up this college apartment decorating ideas guide with one of the most important rooms in the whole place – the bedroom!

You will probably be spending a lot of time in your bedroom studying or working on projects. It can be difficult studying in an area that is cluttered and stressful but our bedrooms are the one place we should feel relaxed. So it’s important to take the time to make your bedroom a cozy oasis.

Check out this mood board I created full of super cute yet affordable bedroom decor for your first apartment.

Boho bedroom decor for your college dorm or apartment. Cheap and easy decorating ideas for small bedrooms featuring rattan / wicker headboard, chenille bedding , small desk and textured moroccan area rug and faux olive tree

lamp // art print // white desk

headboard // bedding set // chair

throw // sheets // olive tree // baskets

pink pillow // textured pillow // striped pillow

area rug // cube organizer // storage bins

I started with a nice soft color palette of creams, whites, and blush pink. Then I focused on bringing in pieces with plenty of texture to make the space more visually interesting.

This area rug is a great option to anchor a small bedroom with its woven Moroccan design featuring plenty of fringe and tassels (available in 3 other colors.) And the rattan headboard and chenille bedding help pull everything together.

Every small college apartment needs a study area, so I chose this $59 multifunctional desk that can also serve as a nightstand and makeup vanity.

Adding meaningful wall art, favorite books, and a photo collage of your besties or family is the perfect way to give your new bedroom a touch of personality.

More Small Apartment Decorating Ideas on a Budget

Finally, here are just a few more inexpensive (or free!) ways to decorate a small apartment.

  • Paint your walls a color that reflects your personality (be sure to check your lease first to see if it’s ok!) One of the easiest, cheapest and most rewarding ways to decorate your college apartment is to paint the walls a fresh color. For a quicker project, just paint a small wall in your favorite accent color for an instant focal point.
  • Add some plants to brighten up the room and make it feel more homey. Walmart has indoor plants that look so pretty! Adding plants to your college apartment not only brightens up the room, but is also a great way to keep things fresh. Plants have been proven to help purify the air and lower stress levels as well – which is definitely a good thing when you’re cramming for finals!
  • Decorate with fairy lightsString lights add atmosphere and ambience while creating a cozy vibe for guests. Hanging string lights is a great way to spruce up any space without spending too much money. Nothing says home like some fun mood lighting!
  • Hang up some pictures – Get your favorite pics off your phone and print them off and hang them on your walls. Hit up your local thrift stores and flea markets for a super cheap picture frame and you’ve got inexpensive wall decor that is memorable and unique to you.
  • Get rid of clutter – Old clothes, books, shoes, etc.- all need a permanent trip to Goodwill or a closet somewhere back at home. KEEP ONLY THINGS THAT SERVE A PURPOSE AND BRING YOU JOY.

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If you follow these tips for saving money on your college apartment decor, you’re sure to have a fun yet stylish space that won’t break the bank. So you’ll have lots of extra money left over to spend on the necessities – you know, like ice cream and pizza 😉

Farmhouse Coffee Tables from Amazon - most under $200


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