The renting experience can feel a little outside of your control.
This is especially true when it comes to the more permanent fixtures of your apartment.
While upgrading the stove in your new place is far too permanent ‒ and far too expensive ‒ to make sense, there are many ways you can make your new rental feel significantly more like home, without breaking the bank.
If spending the least amount of money for the greatest positive impact is the real point of frugality, then here are 8 frugal ideas to make your place like your own.
- Wall decals or reusable wallpaper
- Contact paper
- Wall art
- Curtains or blinds
- Handles and knobs
- Toilet seats
- Light switches
There’s nothing like a fresh coat of paint to make a space feel like your own.
And if you’re renting, there’s a good chance all you’d have to contribute to this project is your time.
Think about it: If you offer your landlord free painting labour in exchange for them covering the cost of a mutually-agreed-upon paint colour and a few painting supplies ‒ you’re saving them a bundle of money. They get a freshly-painted rental and you’re out a grand total of $0.
Even if they say no, a can of paint can run anywhere from $40 to $80. But if it’s a rental, there’s no need to spring for fancy paint (especially if your landlord doesn’t see the value in a new coat).
The absolute worst case scenario is that your landlord asks you to paint it back to a neutral colour if (or when) you leave. But if you have your heart set on a bright yellow kitchen, it could still be worth it.
2. Wall decals or reusable wallpaper
If paint is off the table, but you’re sitting there staring at puke-green walls you’re pretty sure are going to drive you up another wall over the next year, you’re not entirely out of luck.
You can check out reusable wallpaper and wall decals to help upgrade the vertical surfaces in your new place.
And while decals are typically a one-time use art, the reusable wallpaper can follow you from rental to rental. So if you find a pattern you love, it might be worth investing a bit more into it.
3. Contact paper
If you’re not familiar with it, contact paper is a type of paper that has adhesive backing and usually some kind of decorative or functional surface on the other side.
It’s incredibly cheap and versatile, and can help you make those old cabinets, dusty drawers, or even a tacky backsplash your own for the cost of a few lattes. Depending on the type of contact paper you go with, you’ll be looking at $20 to $30 for a 25-foot roll.
You can even find contact paper that’s specifically designed to cover old, gross countertops, which can look like a major upgrade for about $25. A win in my books.
4. Wall art
Depending on your lease, you might not be allowed to nail anything to a wall, but don’t worry! That doesn’t mean you can’t put your own spin on the (freshly painted?) walls in your place.
You can invest in a few packs of adhesive hooks to get your frames and photos up on the wall. And if they’re a bit too heavy, you could use the same hooks to set up a photo wall like this one.
5. Curtains or blinds
You want to get to know your new neighbours when you move, but leaving all of your windows uncovered is probably the worst way to do it.
Even if you’re inheriting the leftover blinds and window coverings from the previous tenant, it’s still worth updating the coverings in rooms you use a lot, like the kitchen, living room, and your bedroom.
Curtains and blinds will give each room a facelift and help you get the right balance of light for your preference.
For example, I’m very much a sunshine person, so blackout shades are never going to work for me ‒ and cheap, gauzy white curtains can be found at Ikea for $9.99.
6. Handles and knobs
If you’ve never replaced the cabinet hardware in a rental before, you’d be surprised at how much of a difference it can make and how affordable it can really be.
This is another item you’ll want to run by your landlord to see if they’ll chip in, because it’s an upgrade that you’ll likely leave with the house when you move.
Even if they don’t pony up for half of the cost (or the whole cost), it’s still well within a reasonable amount. You can score cabinet handles between $2 and $4 a pop at most hardware stores.
Pro tip: This is also a great way to refresh an old dresser if you’ve got one.
7. Toilet seats
Let’s be real, you’re not going to upgrade the entire toilet ‒ that’s a messy job that’s probably best left to the pros (or at least someone with a bit of experience).
But you can upgrade to a new toilet seat for about $25 at most hardware stores. And installing it is easier than hanging a level photo frame.
For about five minutes worth of effort, you’ll have the pleasure of knowing that no one else has used your toilet seat before. Pretty priceless if you ask me.
8. Light switches
I’m sure most light switches start out their lives as shiny, bright new plastic, but since most of the ones I’ve seen in rentals haven’t been changed in decades, it’s understandable that they end up looking dingy and yellowed.
Plus, of all the things we touch on a wall, light switches are way up there.
Replacing them might sound intimidating, but as long as you find a good tutorial on Youtube, and as long as you make sure to turn off the electricity before touching anything, it’s nothing you can’t figure out as a beginner.
All that’s left to do is sit back, relax and enjoy your newly-upgraded rental for the entire time you’re there.
And if you have any other frugal tips on turning your rental into your home, please leave your tips in the comments below.