While you might have visions of your dream apartment, creating the perfect post-grad pad can feel like it’ll break the bank, but it doesn’t have to. If you utilize some of these tips to decorate your new place, you may find that your space is both stylish and under budget.

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Create Your Wish List

In the same way you don’t go to the grocery store hungry, you shouldn’t shop for furniture and other household items without a clear plan of action. “Sit down and make a list of all the items you absolutely can’t live without. Just the basics: a table, a couch, a bed, etc.” says Tatiana Desiree, a Los Angeles–based designer who believes in functionality over fashion. “Then, choose three to four colors that will act as your overall color palette. This will help stop you from impulse-buying things that either you don’t really need or won’t work with your vision.”

Find Key Pieces for Little or No Cost

The trick to decorating your space to look and feel like it could be on a design blog isn’t spending a lot of money; it’s resourcefulness. “I always tell young people to merchandise from family first before ever stepping into a store,” says Desiree. “It will not only help you stay under budget, but you can infuse your new space with a touch of home to help keep you grounded.”

Remember, your older family members have been at this a lot longer than you, and most likely have a few retro pieces they want to get rid of. The types of items you’re likely to find in a thrift store are things your grandma or great-aunt may own and be willing to part with, so start there first. “This is also a good way to get little things, like pots and pans. All the stuff that can eventually eat up your budget,” says Desiree. Also, trading items with friends may be a good way to refresh your space without having to spend lots of money.

Buy Quality Items When Possible

When you are on a budget, it’s easy to buy cheaply made things because of the price, but sometimes investing in better-made items at a slightly higher price point helps you to save in the long run. “I truly believe in investing in good quality furniture,” says Desiree. “It’s something that will last a long time and you can take with you to your next home.” While you don’t necessarily want to max out your card on big ticket purchases, if you find high-quality furniture items at a great sale price, using your credit card might be an attractive payment option, particularly if your credit card offers cashback rewards on purchases through certain retailers. As long as you make sure to keep your credit utilization low, you could still responsibly use your credit card to buy a larger ticket item like a couch or table.

Plan for the Long Term

There’s a lot of pressure to have the perfect home shortly after you move in, but it’s important to remember that creating a loving, comfortable space takes time. “Decorating your space should not be a race to the finish line,” says Desiree. “It’s the long game. You should feel like you are crafting something over time and it should be fun.”

Instead of running to the first home decor store nearby and blowing your entire budget, sign up for email alerts from shops you are interested in. It could benefit you to look for stores that have teamed up with your credit card issuer and offer perks for shopping with them. You might find a sale at your local home goods stores where you can get the piece you’ve been eyeing for much cheaper than if you rushed out to buy it.

Also, consider visiting local flea markets, thrift stores and art fairs on a weekly or monthly basis. It will not only help you to get to know the community, but you may be able to find unique, affordable pieces that you will love for years to come. “Every month I visit my local flea market, and sometimes I find stuff and sometimes I don’t. But the things I eventually buy for my home I know I can’t live without, and they were worth the wait,” says Desiree.

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