Procrastinator’s Guide to Frugal Halloween Costumes

Happy Halloween! I decided to bring back this popular post from last year with a few new costume ideas for this year!

According to the National Retail Federation, Americans will spend 2.6 billion dollars on costumes for adults, children and pets this Halloween. The average spending per person is predicted to be about $75 on decorations, costumes, and candy! For those of us who are trying to live frugally, holidays can be a challenge. Here are a few frugal, DIY Halloween costumes for those who are still looking for ideas for this year or beginning to think about next year:

  • Classic Toga Costume: Wrap yourself in a sheet + sandals + put leaves in your hair
  • Jay Crew: Polo Shirt + Khakis + a name tag that says “Jay”
  • Jellyfish: Clear umbrella + party streamers or metallic ribbons hanging from it
  • Sick and Tired: Pajamas + thermometer + ice pack + pillow
  • Olympian: Track suit + medal + Olympics logo
  • Hippy: Tye-Dye apparel + bell bottoms + sunglasses + beads
  • Prom Queen: Formal dress (old bridesmaid dress, prom dress, etc.) + Tiara + Sash
  • Facebook: Write “book” across your face
  • Mixed Greens: Wear a variety of different green clothing
  • Beer Bottle: T-shirt of favorite beer brand + Get a foil pie plate, punch two holes in it at either end, and run string through it. Put it on your head like a hat and tie it.
  • Identity Crisis: Plaster yourself with nametags, each with a different name.
  • Carmen San Diego: Red Trench, purple/black hat, gloves, boots, and a globe
  • Freudian Slip Costume: Write Freudian words (regression, Oedipal complex, etc.) on a slip
  • Highway: Black clothes + Yellow dotted line with duck tape down the middle + toy cars and paper signs glued on your body.
  • Lady Bug: Pin some felt or paper circles on a red dress and pick up a pair of wings from a halloween store or goodwill.
  • Bunch of Grapes: This is a great one to do with friends. Wear a purple, red or green shirt then tape balloons of the same color all over your shirt and put leaves in your hair.

For more ideas check out wisebread, realsimple, buzzfeed, c.r.a.f.t. and essortment.

Join the Conversation: What is your favorite frugal Halloween costume?

How to Save Money on Your Grocery Bill

Photo Credit: Robin DeGrassi James via Flickr

Photo Credit: Robin DeGrassi James via Flickr

One of the largest expenses that most students have outside of tuition and rent is groceries. Here are some tips that can help you both save money without resorting to ramen noodles and eat healthy without forking over hundreds of dollars:

  • Budget: Have a specific grocery budget for the week and stick to it. One great way to do this is by shopping with cash.
  • Make A List: Set aside some time each week to plan out your meals and make a specific grocery list. Try to base your meals on what is in-season, on sale, and what you already have on hand. Then organize your list according to the layout of the grocery store, you’ll save time and money by avoiding impulse buys!
  • Coupons: Check the Sunday paper or your local grocery store website for this week’s deals. Check out Couponsuzy.com or CouponMom.com both sites feature printable coupon deals organized by region. Check out this post on couponing for more tips and tricks.
  • Buy In Season: Buy fruits and vegetables that are in season, they are cheaper and a lot fresher. Try going to a farmer’s market, you can find good deals and the produce is fresh! Or, support a local farm by joining your local CSA.
  • Going Organic: It can be hard to buy organic on a small budget. You may not be able to buy everything organic, but you can be more conscious about where you get your food. Check out your local co-op, join a CSA, or go to a farmer’s market. Or, try out one of my personal favorites Trader Joe’s that features tons of organic food and products at lower prices.
  • Buy Less Meat: Meat is often very expensive. Try cutting down on your meat consumption by eating vegetarian for most meals. If you find a good deal on a large amount of meat, re-portion it into individual servings and freeze it for later use.
  • Store Brands: Don’t neglect the generic store brands, often they are the same product as the name brands. Sometimes the store brands even offer organic or all-natural options!
  • Avoid Prepackaged Foods: They may be convenient but they really add up. Instead of buying prepackaged cookies, why not make your own?
  • Check Unit Pricing: One of the best tips for finding a good deal is to check the unit pricing on items. This will quickly help you find the best deal.
  • Watch the Scanner: This will help you keep track of costs, make sure your coupons actually went through and it will keep the cashier more alert.
  • Limit Your Trips: Make fewer, larger trips. While shopping around can be very good, it can cost a lot in time and gas. Check out what you can get for the best price at different grocery stores in your area and make trips once a month to those stores for specific items.

Join the Conversation: What tips do you have for saving money on your grocery bill?

Fall Budget Challenge Step 2: Create Your Budget

Posted on Flickr by  Tax Credits

Posted on Flickr by Tax Credits

One month ago we started the fall budget challenge! If you missed the first budgeting post, check it out! Hopefully, you have tried tracking your spending for the past month. If not, it is never too late to start! This week, I will show you how to create your budget for the next school year.

Before we begin with the budgeting, let’s spend some time learning from your hard work of tracking your spending. If you were able to track your spending for the last month, great job! If not, you can certainly use your bank and/or credit card statement as a start. Take a look, where does most of your spending go? Housing? Car? Groceries? Entertainment? Dining out? Are there any surprises in your spending? Is your spending going to the places that you want it to go to? Are you spending in accordance with your values? What spending habits do you have, both bad and good? One of my biggest surprises when I first started tracking my spending is how much of my money goes towards groceries and eating out. Check out this article “Confessions of a Foodie” from last summer for more information. Keep these discoveries in mind as you create your budget.

Now, how to create a budget:

1. Choose your system: You can choose to create and track your budget using a variety of different tools. You might want to use the same one that you used to track your spending, or switch to another one.

  • Worksheet: Some people still enjoy putting pen to paper, if that is you check out this worksheet.
  • Spreadsheet: Excel offers a variety of different worksheets. This site features a few good templates that you can use with Excel or Google Docs.
  • Envelope System: Create your budget then take out cash for all of your expenses and put cash in specific envelopes. You can only spend what is in the envelope. For more information check out this link.
  • Budgeting Software: There are a variety of different programs out there; one of the most popular is Quicken.
  • Online Site: Again, there are a variety of sites. I use Mint.com because it syncs with my bank account, categorizes my transactions and tracks my budgets all in one place. You might also check out these personal finance apps.

2. Create your budget: The goal of the budget is to make sure that you are both living within your means and spending in accordance with your values. Over the past few weeks you have tracked your spending. You will want to use this information to help you create your budget categories as well as decide on how much money to allot to each category. Begin by calculating your different streams of income such as student loans, scholarships, job income, gifts, etc and how much you have in each category for each month. Then, calculate your different expenses making sure to include both needs (bills, rent, tuition, groceries, gas, etc.) and wants (dining out, coffee shops, shopping, entertainment, etc.). You can create as many or as few categories as you like, it is just important that every specific spending item fits into a category.

Here are some questions to ask yourself as you begin outlining your budget:

  • Prepare for the Unexpected: Do you have an emergency fund to draw on if you lose your job or incur unexpected expenses (car repairs, medical bills, etc.)?
  • Plan for the Future: Do you have a savings account that you regularly contribute to? Even a small amount (such as $25) every month can add up. Are you investing in your retirement? Are you saving up for a large purchase (computer, car, house, etc.)? If you have student loans, could you pay off the interest now?
  • Save for Occasional Expenses: Do you have a way to pay for occasional expenses? Make sure that you take into account how you will pay for Christmas and birthday gifts, travel for the holidays and other occasional expenses so that they don’t end up breaking your budget.
  • Problem Areas: As you tracked your spending did you find any problem areas? If so, gently challenge yourself to be more frugal in those areas. Remember to start out slow, it takes a long time to change a bad habit.
  • Have Fun: Where is your discretionary spending? Many people when they are first budgeting forget to give themselves some room to have fun. While it is important to be frugal and align your spending with your values, it is important to have some space in your budget for the fun stuff such as dining out and entertainment.
  • Be Flexible: It can be difficult to precisely predict your spending, especially if this is your first budget, so be flexible. If you have to switch some things around to better fit you, that’s fine!

Happy Budgeting!

Join the Conversation: What are your budgeting tips?

Fun and Frugal Activities for Fall

boundary waters trip

Trygve, Dave, Michael, Beth and I in the boundary waters Fall 2011
Photo Credit: Trygve Wastvedt

October is upon us. The leaves are changing and the air is developing a distinct chill. Don’t let this beautiful season pass you by! Here are some great ways to enjoy the season both outdoors and indoors:

    • Camping: Looking for a cheap weekend gateway? Fall is the perfect season for camping and sitting around a campfire. If you’re not quite ready to spend a weekend in a tent why not enjoy the crisp fall air with a bonfire, some smores and hot cider?
    • Apple Picking: Grab some friends, drive to an apple orchard and enjoy this fun, fall tradition. For some extra special fun, check out the Afton Apple Orchard’s Apple Festival featuring hayrides, corn maze, live music, a petting zoo and of course apples! Looking for ways to use up all of those fresh apples? Check out these 101 crisp & juicy apples recipes from Southern Living.
    • Outdoor Attractions: Visit the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum in Chaska.It is free on Thursdays all day (November-March) and every third Thursday after 4:30pm (April-October). Say a last goodbye to the animals at the Como Zoo before they hibernate. Check out the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden and if you get chilly head inside to the Walker Art Center– free on Thursday night. Visit the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden and Bird Sanctuary, a peaceful garden in Minneapolis with free regularly scheduled birding walks and nature hikes.
    • Ride A Bike: Explore the twin cities by bike, using these handy bike maps. Take in the fall colors at these places around the cities. Don’t have your own bike? No worries! Take out a Nice Ride Bike, for a small fee.
    • Relive Your Childhood: Rake some leaves and jump in the pile. Go for a walk with a friend and collect some colorful leaves to press.
    • Pumpkin Patch: Go to a pumpkin patch and find some pumpkins to decorate.
    • Study Outside: Savor the last few moments of fall by taking your reading or writing outside to study amongst the falling leaves. Need a break from all of the studying? Check out the Twin Cities Book Festival for some fun reading!
    • Farmer’s Markets: Many of these markets are soon to be coming an end for the year, don’t miss your opportunity to get some fall fresh fruits and veggies.
    • Grape Harvesting and Wine Tasting: Grab a friend and join the harvest crew at your local vineyard for a few hours. One of my favorite’s is Cannon River Winery. The harvesting is fun and free, plus you often get to try some of the wine after! Fall is also a great time to go wine tasting. Check out LivingSocial or Groupon to see if there are any good deals in your area.
    • Cheer on Fall Sports: The sports scene roars to life in the twin cities as football gets underway for the Minnesota Golden Gophers and Minnesota Vikings. The Minnesota Twins wind down their season at Target Field, and the Minnesota Lynx make their playoff push at Target Center. Check out the sports teams’ websites for discount ticket opportunities.
    • Celebrate Halloween: Attend a harvest festival, throw a halloween party, go to a haunted house or check out a spooky tour at the State Capitol. For more Halloween events, deals and fun check out twincitieshalloween.com.

Join the Conversation: What is your favorite fall activity?

How to Use Student Loans Wisely

I recently read an article on using student loans wisely where the author posited that there was a pervasive “epidemic” among college students because they were using their loans to pay for things such as beer, clothing and flat screen TVs. Whether this is truly an “epidemic” or not, I could not say. His description certainly does not match my college experience, but I am sure there are some students who do use their loans this way. While I do not agree with the author’s blanket characterization of college students, I do agree that there is a large misunderstanding around loans and how they can be used wisely. I think that some of the blame for this misunderstanding should fall on the shoulders of the students, some on their parents and some on educational institutions. As my primary audience is students, here is what I think that a student should know about using his/her loans wisely:

  • Don’t Forget Your Loans Are NOT Free Money: When you get a loan disbursement, it is easy to trick yourself into thinking that you are receiving a free gift. The money seems to come in with no strings attached, when in reality this money has massive strings, called interest. Check out a loan calculator to see how much paying back this loan will really cost you over time.
  • Borrow Only What You Need: Make sure to return the loans that you do not need. Even if it is just an extra $100-200, that is extra money that you do not have to pay back later. Most people who hold on to money “just in case” are likely to spend it because it is available. Even if you put it into a savings account, remember that you are likely earning less interest in that account then the loans are accruing in interest so don’t take out more than you need.
  • Create A Budget: Make sure that you know exactly what your expenses will be before you accept your loans. The best way to do this is by creating a budget. Join the fall budget challenge for more information. Resist the urge to just estimate. Take the time to stare your income, expenses and lifestyle in the face.
  • Reduce Your Expenses: Ask yourself if you can reduce your expenses. Can you cut down on how often you eat out or go shopping? Could you try to take the bus a few times per week? Try to find a healthy, frugal balance between funding your needs and wants.
  • Supplement Your Income: Ask yourself if you can increase your income. Can you work while you are in school? How many hours can you work without sacrificing your school work, social life or peace of mind? Can you find other scholarships or grants? Check out fastweb.com for additional scholarship opportunities. Every dollar you earn will save you a lot on what you have to pay back later.
  • Pay Yourself in Installments: One of the smartest things that I did with my loans was pay myself every month. I kept the loan money in my savings account and “paid myself” my loan money in monthly installments to my checking account so the only money available was what I would need for that month. This allowed me to pace myself with my loans and kept me from thinking that I had more money than I really had.
  • Fund Your Education First: Remember that these are “student” loans. Use your loans to pay for your tuition and books first. Then pay your bills and groceries. Lastly, you can consider other lifestyle related purchases such as dining out, entertainment and travel.
  • Emergency Fund: Make sure that you do have some money available for emergencies during school that you do not touch unless absolutely needed. You may not need this if you have savings or a friend/relative who is willing to help you out if you have car trouble or health emergency.
  • Cover Large Expenses: In some cases, loan money can be used wisely to cover large expenses. For instance, if you need a computer, car or another large item while you are in school it is possible to use student loans wisely to purchase it. But, I encourage you to consider these questions: is this purchase a need or want? Is it necessary to my education? I am ok paying it back plus interest for years to come? If yes, go for it! If not, you may want to consider another way to make the purchase.

Contrary to some popular belief, student loans can be used wisely to pay for your education and support you while in school. With some careful forethought and planning, student loans can help you live frugally and maybe even teach you a little about finances along the way!

 

Fall Frugal Recipes Featuring Fall Produce

Photo Credit: Quiltsalad Flickr

Photo Credit: Quiltsalad Flickr

One of the best ways to eat frugally and save money on your grocery bill is to feature in-season produce in your recipes. Here are some fall fruits and veggies to keep in mind as you shop and some great frugal recipes to go with them.

  • Apples: Apples are the quintessential fall fruit. They are harvested in the Northern Hemisphere during the late summer and fall. While apples are really great all by themselves, they are also wonderful additions to almost any dish. Check out two of my new favorite apple recipes: fried collards with apples and cinnamon apple pork chops. If you are looking for a fun fall activity, why not pick the apples yourself? Check out these twin cities apple orchards for more information.
  • Kale: This hearty green often gets over looked in the grocery store. But it is really tasty when prepared well. Kale is known as one of the most healthy foods in the world, chock full of vitamins A, K, C and maganese. With its hearty leaves it is great in soups and salads as well as steamed all on its own. Check out this great kale with white beans and sausage soup recipe. Check out these 22 kale recipes from cooking light.
  • Eggplant: This beautiful veggie comes into season towards the end of summer and stays in season well into fall. They are at their best August-October. Eggplant is a great meat substitute as well as a good source of fiber. Here are some great eggplant recipes from treehugger.
  • Green beans: While green beans are often available year-round, they tend to be sweetest and most tender during their natural season, from mid-summer into fall. Green beans are a good source of vitamins C, A and K. They make a great side, sauteed or steamed with a little salt and pepper. If you want to get creative, try pickling your green beans for a great snack.
  • Sweet Potatoes: These orange gems are available from late summer through winter, often sold in the grocery store as “yams”. They contain lots of vitamin A as well as vitamin C, maganese, vitamin B6, potassium and fiber. These work as a sweeter alternative to your traditional potato. Check out these 25 healthy sweet potato recipes from health.com.
  • Pumpkins: With Halloween approaching, pumpkins are beginning to pop up in stores. Pumpkins, the most popular variety of winter squash, come into season in September. While they make great decorations, they are also a great source of vitamins A and C as well as fiber. Frugal Living NW lists 26 pumpkin recipes from desserts to drinks to baked goods. But, my all time favorite frugal recipe for pumpkins is simply salted pumpkin seeds.
  • Zucchini: This popular green variety of summer squash is in season from summer into the fall. Zucchinis are high in folate, potassium and vitamin A as well as low in calories. One of my new favorite frugal recipes is zucchini banana bread. It is easy to make and oh so delicious! For some other zucchini recipes, check out these recipes from health.com.

Looking for more information and recipe ideas for in season fruits and veggies? Check out the fall recipe guide from Martha Stewart.com.

Join the Conversation: What are your favorite fall recipes?

Fall Budget Challenge: Step One Discover Your Habits

By 401(K) 2012 under CC BY-SA 2.0 on Flickr

By 401(K) 2012 under CC BY-SA 2.0 on Flickr

Fall is here and the school year is now in full swing! As you get used to the new school year and the challenges it brings, why not consider how this year will affect your finances? Fall is a great time to set your budget for this year. Whether you have never had a budget or you religiously track each purchase, it is a great to consider or reconsider making a budget that works for this year. This is especially important if you are just starting school, have a new job, new living situation or you want to get a better picture of where you stand financially. Budgeting can help you see how much money you actually have (probably more than you think) and where that money is going (probably more places than you think). This fall join me in the Fall Budget Challenge. Together we will discover our spending habits, align our spending with our values and create a budget that we can maintain, all in just a few weeks!

We begin by discovering our spending habits. Over the next month, you have one task: track your income and your expenses. You may think you know where your money is going, be prepared to be surprised. Over the next few weeks track every dollar that comes in and every dollar that goes out. This includes everything from bills to paychecks to birthday money to the dollar you used to get a diet coke from the vending machine. Every penny counts. There are a variety of ways that you can do this:

  • Journal Method: Carry around a small notebook or journal and track every purchase you make whether with cash, credit or check. On another page track your income.
  • Excel Method: Instead of using a journal, track all of your income and expenses in an excel spreadsheet. This works best if you set aside some time each week to put in each transaction, if you do it with any less frequency you might forget some of the smaller purchases. This method works best if you keep your receipts from all of your purchases and write down those for which you don’t have a receipt. Microsoft provides a variety of personal budgeting templates.
  • Software Method: If Excel isn’t your thing, but you still want to track your spending on the computer there are a variety of different programs out there, one of the most popular is Quicken. This software will also be helpful later when we create a budget.
  • Online Method: There are a variety of websites that can help you track your income and expenses as well as create a budget. I use Mint.com because it syncs with my bank account, categorizes my transactions and tracks my budgets all in one place. There is also a great app that allows me to track on the go! Again, it is important that you set aside time each week to track your expenses on the site to make sure everything is categorized correctly and all of your cash purchases are included as well. For more information on other personal finance apps, check out this article.

Happy Tracking!

Join the Conversation: What has been your biggest surprise that you found out about yourself while tracking your spending?

Student Discount Blitz: Explore the Twin Cities on a Dime

Minneapolis at Night Photo Credit: Andrew Olson

Minneapolis at Night
Photo Credit: Andrew Olson

Exploring the twin cities can be expensive, but your student ID can make your adventures a whole lot easier on your wallet. Here is a selection of some of the discounts that you are privy to as a student in the Twin Cities. Whether you want to check out a museum, the orchestra, the movies, new restaurants, even sky diving, there are a variety of student discounts just for you!

  • Museums: On Friday evenings after 5pm the Science Museum offers discount admission to students. You can get into the museum for $6, or go to the omnitheater + museum for $12. The Minnesota History Center offers students $9 admission with a valid student ID anytime.
  • Live Entertainment: The St. Paul Chamber Orchestra (SPCO) hosts Club2030, a club of people ages 18-39 years old who get $10 best available seats to SPCO Concerts at the Ordway in St. Paul and Ted Mann in Minneapolis. All you have to do is sign up! The Guthrie Theater offers students a $5 discount off of regular price tickets and now you can join Guthrie U to receive student discounts right to your inbox. The Shout House, featuring rock ‘n’ roll dueling pianos, offers College ID Night on Fridays, students can get in with no cover.
  • Sports Games: The Minnesota Twins host Rasmussen College Student Day every Wednesday. You can get a standing-room only ticket for $5 with valid Student ID. The Minnesota Wild host a few College Nights throughout their season. On College Nights students can purchase a Lower Level ticket for $35.
  • Movies: There are many discount movie theaters in the Twin Cities including: Brookdale 8, Maple Grove Cinema 10, Hopkins Cinema 6, and the Riverview Theater.  Also, the St. Anthony Main Theatre offers $6 tickets with student ID.
  • Restaurants: The Loring Pasta Bar offers students 25% off with a valid ID, anytime except Friday and Saturday.
  • Shopping: If you are shopping be sure to check out J-Crew for a 15% discount and Picky Girl for a 10% discount on Tuesdays.
  • Skydiving: If you are looking for a little adventure, you can get a $20 discount on skydiving at Skydive Twin Cities.
  • Travel: If you are traveling, check out Student Universe for great deals on flights, hotels and more. Looking for student discounts at your new destination? Check out this article from daily finance.

For more discounts check out yelp. What other student discounts have you found in the Twin Cities?

Back to School Budgeting: How to Live on a Graduate Student’s Income

Back to School PicIt is back to school time once again! Luther Seminary, where I work, is buzzing again with students and professors beginning the new school year. The start of a new school year is always full of excitement and anxiety. How will your classes be? Will you be able to complete all of your assignments? How will you be able to pay for all of the tuition, books and living expenses? This last question is especially hard if this is your first year in graduate school, and even more difficult if you are entering school again after a salaried position. How will you survive on such a small income made up of some student work money, scholarships and loans?

As a seminary graduate, I can tell you wholeheartedly that it is possible! Here are some tips to help you downsize your expenses and begin living like a student:

  • Values: Start by considering your values. What are the things that matter most to you? Family? Giving? Saving? Travel? Make sure that your spending reflects these values and priorities. When you are in school, it can be really difficult to completely match your spending with your values because you are trying to live as frugally as possible. However, it is vital that the things that are important to you stay at the top of your list. Resist the urge to give priority to the urgent expenditures over the important ones.
  • Create a Budget: Whether you have had a budget before or not, having a defined budget that you can stick to is vital to living frugally as a graduate student. A budget is just a plan for where your income will go over the course of a month. Need some help creating a budget? Check out these articles and stay tuned for budgeting 101 coming up in two weeks!
  • Needs vs. Wants: Distinguish between needs and wants. Just because something is a want doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t have it. But, you may need to do some prioritizing to see if this is possible. This step is incredibly important if you are coming from a salary or if this is your first time supporting yourself. You may be used to a certain standard of living that you can no longer afford.
  • Savings: While it may seem difficult to save money while you are in graduate school, it is a good practice to start. Even if you can only save $20/month, that $20 can make a big difference when unexpected expenses come up. Start building an emergency fund for yourself.
  • DebtMore than likely, you will need to take on some sort of debt while you are in graduate school. Be aware of how much you are taking out and begin formulating a plan for how you will pay it back after graduation. Resist the urge to treat your loans as “free money.” Only take out what you will need, there is no harm in returning money that you will not use. The less that you take out now, the less that you will need to pay back later.
  • Giving: Some people choose to give money regularly during school, others do not. Giving, even just a little bit, during graduate school to the church and other non-profits was one of the most freeing things that I did during graduate school. So often, I felt like I was just receiving (loans, scholarships, knowledge), it was wonderful to be able to give back and make an impact. Even if you start small, this a great habit to form. Similarly, there are many creative ways to give back that don’t involve giving money.
  • Frugal Lifestyle: Most likely, your lifestyle will change as you enter grad school. Take some time to think about the little places where you can save money. Look for places where you can save on regular expenses like your grocery bill, rent, transportation expenses and other regular bills. Also, take a look at how you can save on your variable expenses like shopping and entertainment. This blog features a whole host of tips to help you save money on just about everything from fitness to vacations! Frugal living can be a lot easier and more fun than you think!

While living on a graduate student’s budget can initially seem really daunting, it is definitely doable. It is all about trimming the fat. Distinguish between the needs (meat) and wants (fat), and trim the meat keeping in just enough fat to keep your meat tender, not tough. In other words, budget in just enough money for “extras” to keep yourself sane and happy.

Happy New School Year!

Join the Conversation: What advice do you have for new students who are moving from a salary to a graduate student’s budget?

How to (Re)Decorate Your Apartment on a Dime

Have you just moved into a new place that you would love to decorate?Have you been dreaming about redecorating your apartment but you aren’t sure if you really have the time or the money to do it? Does your apartment still feel reminiscent of your college dorm room? Never fear! You can decorate or redecorate your apartment on a small budget, check out these tips to help you get started:

  • Get Inspired: Start out by finding some photos of rooms, apartments or items that you like. Check out Pinterest or Apartment Therapy for ideas. Apartment Therapy has a great section on Decor Styles that offers examples of different styles so you can hone in on yours. You might also want to go out to some furniture stores, like Ikea, if you live close by so you can get a feel for different spaces that you like.
  • Start Small: If you are on a tight budget it may be best to start small. Pick out one room that you want to (re)decorate and imagine what items you would like to add to it. You don’t have to completely overhaul the space. Shifting the furniture and adding a touch of color with paint, new lamps or window treatments may be all that you need. Pick the space, and figure out the things that you would like to change.
  • Set a Budget: Next, set a budget and be stick to it. You would be surprised how much you can do with a small amount of money if you are careful about. Get some ideas for inexpensive DIY projects that you can take on. Check out Better Homes and Garden’s Ideas to steal for your apartment, HGTV’s 15 budget decorating tips, apartment therapy’s 25 DIY project that cost less than $50 and Budget DIY tips for stretching your project dollars.
  • Get Shopping: Now is the perfect time to hit garage and estate sales while the weather is still warm. Check out Goodwill, Freecycle, Craigslist and other thrift stores in your area. You will be surprised what treasures you can find.
  • Need a Little More Help? That’s ok! Apartment Therapy has the Style Cure to help you redecorate a room over a month. They will send you an email each day with a specific assignment to help you keep on task. Best of all, it’s free!

You can (re)decorate your apartment on a budget! So stop pinning photos on Pinterest and get moving! 🙂

Join the Conversation: What apartment DIY projects have you tackled?