On a tight student budget, no problem you can still make your place look great

Being a student can be tough and not just because of the studying and 8am lectures. Money is tight and our allowance barely gets us through the week with food and maybe a night out. And when it comes to sacrificing a meal for a day, it better be for something good like an apartment upgrade.

Living on campus and away from home for the sake of your tertiary education can be difficult because you no longer have the luxury of living in a beautiful home. Which you only now appreciate because your place looks like an overpriced hospital room. Stark and sad.

But fear not, you can make your place look great even on a student budget. And, maybe, if your parents see you trying hard enough, they may even help you out a bit in the apartment-budget department.

Make the most of living away from home and follow these few affordable ways to add some flavour to the walls and character to the rooms.

Washi tape

Photo frames, geometric objects and edged furniture can all be achieved with the magic that is patterned, no-marks-on-the-wall, washi tape. Find patterns and colours that you love and go crazy for only R30 to R35 a roll.

Have some photographs printed and build a frame around them on the wall with your washi tape. Or, if you’ve always wanted a cool geometric pattern on your walls but don’t have the time to tape a wall and paint over it (or the money to buy a tub of paint for that matter), then all you need are your standard white walls and a patterned or colour tape of your choice to spread out at any and all angles for that geometric feel.

The throws

When it comes to decorating the bed and the couches (if you’re so lucky to have a couch), your more affordable options are the throw options.

Throw pillows and throw blankets come in all different shapes, sizes and textures – all of which can add character to a room. Blankets for your bed can add the pattern your duvet lacks at more than half the price and throw pillows can add flair to the simplest of couches.

If you have a few more bucks to spare, you can get a few extra throw pillows for your single chairs around the apartment to make them more inviting.


Real plants or fake plants, whichever you will be able to care for the best. Anything but beautiful fresh flowers that will need replacing every week because that might just cost you two meals a week.

Having some foliage in the apartment brings life and fresh air. Students could do with both of those things.

Soap dispenser

You can’t ignore your bathroom. It’s the one room that everyone who visits will definitely go into. Do yourself and your guests a favour and invest in a laundry basket (they’re really not that expensive) and, if you can afford it, a bath mat.

Now that your bathroom looks slightly neater, you can add a soap dispenser at the sink for your guests to enjoy when they come over. It will make your bathroom seem fancier than it is and it will make less of a mess than a random bar of soap slipping around the sink.


Students don’t always like to talk about the smell in the room, but there always seems to be a smell lingering around the kitchen and floating around the place. Now, if you aren’t a fan of the air freshener that you forget you have and you have a heart attack everytime it goes off on its own, you can try some candles.

With all the scents under the sun (or under the sea if you prefer a sea breeze), you can have your place smelling as good as it’s starting to look. Larger candles will cost you slightly more, but they’ll last longer. However, if you want to save even more money, you can just make your own candles.

Candles can be a safety hazard if you forget to blow them out before you leave the place or go to bed, so keep them in areas you pass often and it shouldn’t be a problem to remember.

Fairy lights

To add some mystery and cosiness without spending money on filament light bulbs, you can pop into your nearest Chinatown and buy a few packs of fairy lights and hang them along your curtain rail, trail them around the frame of your mirror, taper them above your bed or hang them at different lengths down the wall.

Fairy lights are the final touch any room could do with if you’re looking for that little something extra. And what’s more, they’re super affordable. You wouldn’t even have to skip a meal for the week to buy them (maybe just a takeaway coffee, if you dare).

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