How to Furnish Your First Apartment After College

apartment pixy

Everyone hypes up the first milestone steps into the “real world” after college, but Zillennials are entering a world of out-of-reach price points. Realtor and TikToker Freddie Smith stirred discussion when he broke down how much today’s college graduates need to spend on rent. Considering federal wages and state rental prices, the average graduate pays 45.4% — almost half — of their gross income on rent. 

This becomes even more complicated when you consider that today’s fresh graduates face higher unemployment rates than the general population. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed with a stressful job market and financial considerations, but the outlook doesn’t have to be so grim! You can still make your apartment feel like a home without breaking the bank. Here are some tips to get you started navigating your first space and furnish your first apartment.

Get thrifting 

A recent report from Strada Institute notes that around 52% of college graduates are underemployed in their first post-graduation year. This means you’ll need to spread your net wider to make the most of your money when buying furniture. Thankfully, the pre-loved market is full of gems that fit any budget and aesthetic. 

What may look like junk at first glance may be a key piece in your new home. And it’s doable, too, as showcased by a furniture thrifting expert featured in the Washington Post, who was able to thrift a sofa, accent chair, a couple of chandeliers, smaller light fixtures, and a flower pot for just $375.So, don’t be afraid to check out reliable spaces like furniture consignment shops, estate sales, and dedicated thrift shops. Before taking anything home, give yourself enough time to check for damages, bugs, and other hidden issues. You may also want to do a deep clean of any furnishings you purchase. If you’re buying something online, one good tip is to get a thorough look in person before dropping hard cash. 

Invest in select pieces

Some things in your home deserve to be splurged on for your quality of life. It’s easy to fall into the trap of buying transient stuff with the idea that this is just your first place after college. That said, investing in some big-ticket items immediately will be more beneficial for you in the long run. Not only will you be able to take a well-built piece of furniture with you in a future move, but it will also make your life more manageable now. It’s worth allotting most of your budget to significant items that make or break your daily routine. 

For starters, your bed (mattress and frame) is a big one you shouldn’t overlook. Studies have shown that recent graduates have more difficulty adjusting their sleep schedule from the grind of the college years to a regular nine-to-five. A comfortable bed can do wonders in encouraging better sleep habits and preventing chronic pain. The California king bed sets from Living Spaces feature not only a high-quality bed but also nightstands, dressers, and chests — so one investment gives you more value for your money, as you can have matching furniture pieces that make your home look polished and put-together; their Willow Creek set is stylish, sturdy, and affordable enough for a starter apartment. When choosing other pieces, pick classic designs you won’t tire of in the next few years and go well with the rest of your furniture.

Be mindful of how much you’re buying

The first big mistake you want to avoid is buying a bunch of stuff immediately to fill the space. Just because you’re shifting past the dorm aesthetic doesn’t mean you should succumb to overcluttering.  Incorporating wall art is an excellent way to make your apartment feel more ‘complete.’ This adds visual appeal to your home without necessarily taking up functional space. You may also want to consider dividers, which can help you create designated areas for varied purposes in a studio. Pegboard dividers from DURASPACE, in particular, areportable and lightweight but durable options. Moreover, they can help you save space for organizing jewelry, accessories, craft materials, and other small objects around the home.

You don’t need a lot if you have your necessities. Once you get the basics down, you can start accessorizing from there. As we mentioned in our “Six Ways to Bring Calm Into Your Home” article, creating a soothing home in a post-COVID world is all about organizing your space and focusing on stuff that contributes to your wellness. You’ll also find that this mindset steers you away from impulse buys that will only hurt your budget. 

Don’t be afraid to ask for help

Just because you’re setting out on your own doesn’t mean you have to isolate yourself completely. Having a support network will make the whole process smoother. Reach out to friends, family, and even online communities for help that comes in many forms. If you have trusted family members with the means, you might also reach out for some financial assistance. Even if money is tight, you can potentially ask for furniture hand-me-downs. You may be surprised how many secondhand goodies you can get this way. 

You can even check online for ways to upcycle old pieces. Seemingly unusable items can find a second life if you reframe their function. Check the “furniture flipping” tag on your socials for countless resources, direct guides, and inspiration. You can even recruit your friends to help revitalize old stuff. The simplest pieces to get started with are shelves and nightstands, which can make your place come together.


It’s a pricey time to be a college grad on the hunt for apartment furniture, but it’s not impossible. With the right tricks up your sleeve, you’ll have a space ready for the ‘gram in no time.