6 Cheap Ways to Upgrade Your Rental

Renting does have its benefits (right? I think… maybe), but one of them is not customization. Even if you live in an apartment that allows you to paint or remodel, which is pretty rare, who wants to put that much work into something you don’t even own? Not me.

So here are some quick, fairly affordable ways to make your apartment feel more like a home, without losing your deposit:

Photo: Dan DeLuca / Flickr


1. Curtains are one of the cheapest, easiest ways to add color and personality to your rental space. The variety of patterns is practically endless, they’re functional (sometimes you just wanna hang out in your underwear), and you can take them with you when you go. The best part is that you can usually find the other hardware you need, like curtain rods, in the home section of thrift stores for dirt cheap.

Photo: style labo montreal / Flickr

2. Rugs can be a little on the pricey side, so look for them at discount stores like T.J. Maxx or Marshall’s, or on sale at affordable places like Target or on Amazon. I wouldn’t recommend getting a rug second hand unless you know and trust who it’s coming from, especially if it’s fluffy–it could hold pet scents, dirt, or something even grosser (fleas, maybe). I know you most typically see them over hardwood flooring, but I’ve been known to toss a rug down on carpet when I’m getting bored with a room. This is one area where people tend to play it safe. Please don’t do that. Your space is meant to be a reflection of your inner self, especially if your inner self is a fabulous faux cowhide rug!

Photo: Tricia Royal / Flickr

3. Extra shelving. If you’re one of those people who insists on keeping every book you read or every knick-knack you find, you’re going to need some extra shelving. Luckily, shelving is super easy to come by: Ikea, Home Depot, and Target all have cheap options. If you’re feeling ambitious, you can search local second-hand stores for shelving units that are still in good shape.

Photo: Geoffrey Fairchild / Flickr

4. A new shower head costs around $20, is easy to install, and will turn that leaky, rusty, rental shower faucet into a luxurious tropical waterfall. Okay, I know that sounds extreme, but that’s really what it will feel like the first few times you take a shower after making the switch. Your whole shower will seem newer and nicer–but beware of your rising water bill once you start spending an extra fifteen minutes pondering life’s meaning during a hot shower.

Photo: zoetnet / Flickr

5. Plants! I think this one pretty much speaks for itself. It adds color, has a cheerful presence, and improves air quality. Triple threat for sure. Just be sure not to let it die.

Photo: Tara Faul / Flickr

6. Paint your furniture. If you’re working with a bunch of hand-me-downs or Craigslist finds in mismatched shades of wood, wicker, or metal–paint them all to match. It will take a little bit of time, but it won’t cost much and it will instantly make your rental space look more grown up and put together. If painting is a daunting task for you, stick with neutral colors like black or white that will stay looking nice with a few touch-ups here and there. If you’re don’t mind dedicating days to your decor, go ahead and pick bold colors that you can paint over as your mood, taste, or style changes.