The Best Tips For Decorating Your Dream Apartment On A Tight Budget

This article includes paid advertising content from American Express.

Although scrolling through social media can make you believe everyone on your feed is renovating their starter home, the reality is that there’s no clear trajectory for millennial adults when it comes to the spaces they live in. Today, it can feel just as common to rent as it is to buy, and living in a cozy apartment in the city might be just as common among your friends as living in a fixer-upper split-level in suburbia. What really matters — whether you share your space with roommates or have a place all to yourself — is how we choose to make our surroundings feel like home.

Ideally, we’d all have unlimited expenses at our disposal to furnish and decorate our dream homes, but the reality is that most of us are on a budget — and some budgets are stricter than others. Nobody knows this better than American Express, which is why they created the Pay It Plan It® feature* to help people manage their purchases in a way that gives them more control.

To help everyone come home to an oasis that’s uniquely their own, Bustle has partnered with American Express to find out how one millennial on a tight budget is making her apartment dreams come true. Read on to pick up some practical tips from Bustle's branded fashion editor Elly Ayres, 24, on how she's creating her ideal home in an affordable way.

Rule #1: Choose A Theme

Mary Blount/Bustle

Whether you're looking to turn your home into a tropical-inspired getaway, or if your vibe is more Scandinavian minimalism, having an overall decor theme will help you grow your vision as you expand from furnishings to artwork and beyond. Home decor is a wonderful way to express yourself, but more importantly, it can be a great way to make sure that you’re leaving the stresses of your life outside and coming home to a place that’s comfortable, inviting, and most importantly, yours.

To achieve this sense of home, Ayres recommends filling your space with things you love coming home to, whether they’re new or old, DIY’d or created by professional artists. She advises planning ahead and really thinking about each piece as it fits into your overall theme so you don’t accidentally accumulate clutter or useless items.

“Remember, you’ll see these furnishings every day — so be purposeful about the things you share your home with!” she says.

Rule #2: Take Your Time

Mary Blount/Bustle

While it can be tempting to decorate everything at once, Ayres recommends living in your space first before making any big purchases.

“If you try to decorate every room at once, you’ll burn yourself out,” she says. “You might find yourself wanting to finish ASAP, which can lead to thoughtless purchases you’ll end up resenting later.”

Giving yourself time to explore your new home allows you to think more about what exactly you want for each room, and then make a plan.

“You might even realize saving up for an art print or two to fill those empty walls is a better use of money than that hall table you liked but don’t actually have room for,” Ayres says.

Rule #3: Prioritize Bigger Purchases

Mary Blount/Bustle

"A couch and bed are things you’ll use and see every day — it’s not an area where you want to settle,” says Ayres, which is why those big-ticket items for her living room and bedroom were her first and most vital purchases.

As living essentials that take up the most space in a room, it makes them ideal items to start with. Once you've filled your space with must-haves that tend to take up the most square footage, you'll feel more comfortable bringing in accent pieces that help infuse your personal style.

Rule #4: Create A Budget

Mary Blount/Bustle

To save up for an apartment shopping spree of sorts, Ayres started cutting back on extra spending in the weeks before her move by opting for movie nights in over going out with friends, and cooking for herself versus ordering out. The extra savings went straight to her "Dream Apartment Fund." Even so, she still struggled to figure out how to budget for more expensive costs, like a $600 couch. Though cheaper options were available, she didn’t want to compromise on a room she’d be spending the majority of her time in, in addition to entertaining guests.

This is precisely a scenario when the Pay It Plan It® feature* that American Express offers on select Cards would come in handy. The "Plan It" feature lets you split up American Express Card purchase amounts of $100 or more over a fixed period of time with a monthly fixed fee and no interest, all while still earning rewards for purchases in the same way you would for other purchases. The "Pay It" part of the feature lets you pay off purchase amounts under $100 once they hit your statement, which is helpful for those smaller decor items.

Rule #5: Pick Solid Staples, Then Add Flair

Mary Blount/Bustle

As a huge fan of fun and color, Ayres decided to go with neutral shades for her essential furniture items, brightening up rooms with an eclectic mix of throw pillows, artwork, and accents.

“My living room couch is a neutral gray, which was a choice I made to accommodate any shifts in style I might have down the road,” she explains. “With the help of a few throw pillows and rugs, it’s easy to work my penchant for pattern into the mix at anytime.”

Rule #6: Make Decorating A Fun Activity

Mary Blount/Bustle

In efforts to both cut costs on going out and to make more thoughtful decisions, Ayres reserved her Friday nights for staying in and decorating, whether that meant completing a new DIY project or organizing her hanging frames just so. The more time you spend in your apartment, the more you'll feel the ROI of your efforts.

Rule #7: Let Go Of Perfection

Mary Blount/Bustle

Rather than going all-in on an expensive piece of artwork or a stunning piece of furniture, Ayres went with a cheaper coffee table and created a gallery wall of playful prints to be the focal point of her living room. The prints came from various retailers and family members, and Ayres tied them all together by sticking to her passion points of music and nature.

“It’s kind of a random match-up, but I promise it works!” Ayres says. “Pick a general color scheme to stay within. Mine’s a mix-up of greens, blues, and pinks: Crashing turquoise waves on a pink sandy beach, breezy palm leaves captured in watercolor, and various music-inspired prints that make me smile.”

This post is sponsored by American Express.

*Terms apply. Visit americanexpress.com/payitplanit to learn more.