11 Easy But Wonderful Things You Can Do For Under $40 To Make Your Apartment Instantly Cuter

We're rapidly approaching that time of year again: Hibernation is an imminent part of your near future. Fall is a season for pumpkin spice and long romantic walks through fallen amber foliage, sure, but it's also a time to prepare your apartment for your impending winter house arrest. I'm not saying you never go out in the winter, but realistically, you're probably going to be spending considerably more time in your apartment than you do when it's pleasant or warm outside. It's why Scandinavians are masters of interior design: they understand being cooped up for long winters, and how essential it is for said coop to be lovely.

Now, I'm sure, like me, you might not have the money to invest in luxury home wears right now, so that vintage Eames chair is going to have to remain on your apartment bucket list for the time being. So as I'm going into winter nesting mode, I'm focusing on affordable ways to make my apartment really cute – which is not as difficult as you might imagine. It's just about being creative with the resources you have. You can trust me on this stuff; just this morning my boyfriend told me I'm a "Monica". So clearly, I know what I'm talking about. Here are 11 things you can do for under $40 to make your nest a little cozier and more functional:

1. USE JARS FOR FOOD STORAGE

Putting things in jars is one of my favorite things to do. Displaying dry food in clear jars is a really easy, cheap way to add some artfulness to your kitchen. My collection of jars come from all over the place: some were purchased from the 99 cent store (between $1-$5 depending on price), some from Crate & Barrel or Ikea (also varying in price based on size, but generally anywhere between $2-$10 for a jar, depending on how fancy it is) and others are scrubbed out jars from food I've used (you can see the blue lidded Goya jar in this photo. Reusing jars is a great way to recycle too, obviously.) The jar fun doesn't have to stop there; I have all my spices in mini jars, my vitamins, hand soap (you can buy pumps to insert through the lid from a craft store) and I use lidless jars as vases and for things like coins. I feel like I should make my own "Put A Bird On It!" sketch but call it "Put It In A Jar!"

2. PLANTS

Plants are my favorite way to decorate for cheap because they're colorful and alive. I'd recommend going down to your local plant store or florist and finding some cute indoor plants. Small sizes normally range from between $5-$12 each, and you can head to your local 99 cent store to pick up cheap planters. I'd also recommend getting creative with planters. You can use jars (DUH), mugs, cute bowls, and just about anything else that tickles your fancy. If you're not so great with living things, look for snake plants. They need almost no natural light and you can forget to water them for months and they'll do just fine. You can't kill a snake plant. Although if you do, I'd suggest getting some kind of life coaching, because I'm worried for you.

3. A CUTE MUG FOR PENS

My friend got me this incredible mug for my birthday and I'm too scared that if I use it, my roommate will accidentally break it while doing the dishes or something, so I use it on my desk for pens. Sites like Society6 and Etsy have awesome, weird and arty mugs for reasonable prices that you can use to liven up your office space. Some mugs are just too cute to be kept in a cupboard, so use them creatively around the house instead.

4. MAKE YOUR OWN ART

Admittedly I had a friend make this too, but a sheet of poster paper will set you back around $2, and she used water color to swirl dots onto the paper with her finger, so no brushes necessary. I picked up the frame for around $10 at Ikea, so even if the paints cost $20, it's still a bargain piece of art that is – BONUS – completely unique. I've since made some folded sploge paintings with some kids I babysit for my bathroom too, which requires small sheets of white paper, any kind of paint (we used the 99 cent store kids paint), dripping the paint onto the paper, folding it in half, and then pulling it apart to reveal a beautiful Rorschach. Plus, it's SO much fun.

5. DISPLAY YOUR BOOKS

If you have any books with lovely covers, display them like art. It's also a great excuse to shop the art book table at The Strand. Both of these were gifts, but there are lots of beautiful books for under $40 (check out Amazon for a start!) that will suit your specific interests. I also like to color code the spines of my books on the bookshelf to make the room seem more artful (and also because I've got a few OCD tendencies.) (Also, look, ANOTHER JAR!)

6. PRINT OUT AND FRAME YOUR ARTSY PHOTOS

I took this photo on my iPhone about a block away from my apartment last spring. A friend asked me to send it to her so she could print and frame it for her apartment so I thought WHY NOT ME TOO? The print cost less than a dollar from Walgreens (and I ordered it online so I didn't even have to go anywhere) and I bought the frame for $15 from Amazon.

7. DRY SOME FLOWERS

Go out and buy yourself flowers. It's such an instant room mood lifter. When you're choosing your flowers, choose ones that will dry nicely and retain their color, that way you can keep them FOREVER. I like eucalyptus or lavender. If the room isn't too humid, you should just be able to take them out of water and sit them for a while and they will crisp naturally.

8. GET SEASONAL

I bought these two little mini-pumpkins for $2 each from a food market and every time I walk past them I feel a little bit special. It's a little bit momsy to seasonally dress your house, but isn't that where we're all headed eventually anyway? (Yes, I'm aware that statement is both presumptuous and possibly untrue.)

9. MAKE YOUR FRIDGE A COLLAGE

I bought these heavy duty magnet clips from Amazon for $20. Then I let the fun begin. Anything that comes your way that looks cute (cards from friends, artful promos, invitations, photos) can go into your fridge collage. Mine is designed haphazardly but let it be know it is a very deliberate haphazardness. 

10. VISIT THE 99 CENT STORE

If it hasn't become clear to you already, the 99 cent store is your best friend. There's SO much useful crap in there, you just have to dig for it. I once found a beautiful full length mirror with a thick wood frame for $10. You can also score some great kitchen stuff, and other useful things (like JARS!) that will help in your home improvement spree. Remember, almost anything can be used as anything else, and that's the attitude you want to take when you're 99 Cent store shopping.

11. THROW A HOUSEWARMING

Finally, throw a party. By $40 worth of booze (Trader Joe's wine) and chips, and invite all your friends. Call it a house warming and watch the home wares, books, mugs, plants, you name it, roll right in. You'll at least get some nice booze out of it. If anyone questions why you're throwing a housewarming when you've already lived in your apartment for four years, stick to your guns: they are insane, how dare they not remember that you've moved, do they call themselves your friend, of course this is your new apartment.

Images: Kat George; Giphy(2)

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