The Renter’s List: What You Should & Shouldn’t Be Spending Big Bucks On

updated Jul 17, 2020
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Post Image
(Image credit: Samara Vise)

The semi-nomadic life of a renter can make it hard to make a commitment—to furniture, to art, to a real set of knives. And yet, there are some items worth investing in, even if you don’t know where you’ll be living a couple years from now. These are things you’ll want to take with you, even if it means buying some bubble wrap and renting a U-Haul on moving day. In addition to these splurge-worthy items, we’ve also ID’d some low-risk spots to have some fun and test out funkier trends.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Choose timeless: Furniture for keeps

If your budget can manage it, it’s always worth investing a little more for timeless pieces you plan to bring with you when you move. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that all of your furniture needs to buck the trend. Slot your furniture into one of two categories: Pieces you love and intend to keep for a while, and pieces that are trendy, fine-for-now, or not quite your style and that you may leave behind (or sell!) when you move. Then, use those categories to gauge how much you should spend on a piece. It’s okay if a timeless armoire costs a little more, but you may not want to shell out a month’s rent for a trendy bar cart you’ll be sick of in a year.

Try trendy: Smaller pieces, or those that face a lot of wear and tear

This may sound obvious, but investing in something like a designer step stool probably isn’t worth it. You don’t pull it out that often, and when you do, you climb on it while precariously clutching cans of paint. I also throw outdoor furniture into this category, as in my experience, it will likely get destroyed after a couple harsh winters. The good news is you can get that cheap neon green outdoor set you’ve been eyeing—and you won’t need to feel guilty when you give it away a year later.

(Image credit: Ellie Arciaga Lillstrom)

Choose timeless: Rugs

Even though you walk on them every day, high-quality, well-made rugs are actually good investment pieces and are common family heirlooms. If you have a rental big enough for one, buy a large timeless rug now that can move with you to your next home; if you only have space for smaller area rugs, these can be used in bathrooms, kitchens or bedrooms down the line. As far as style goes, a handmade Oriental rug is always a classic, while a neutral, natural fiber option is another safe bet.

Try trendy: Bathmats and doormats

Following the same line of argument outlined above, these floor coverings are the most likely to get grungy, and therefore, aren’t worth splurging on. On the bright side, these are ideal spots to inject some personality with bold colors and trendy motifs.

(Image credit: Liz Vidyarthi)

Choose timeless: Dinnerware and serveware

If you choose the right set, you’ll pull out these plates every day, and for many years to come. Not sure what will stand the test of time? Here are 6 sets we love for their ability to outlast our design whims.

Try trendy: Small kitchen tools and gadgets

Want an orange kitchen, but are worried history has taught us that this isn’t a wise investment? Well, you’re not wrong (here are some more historically safe decisions, if you’re curious). Save flashy colors and wild patterns for tools or small appliances, such as rubber spatulas, whisks and blenders. These items tend to be cheap, and if used regularly, you’ll likely need to replace them within a few years anyway.

(Image credit: Julia Brenner)

Choose timeless: Duvet cover and sheets

A good set of sheets can stay with you for many years, especially if you invest in linen ones that soften with use and get better with age (here are some of our favorites). As long as you buy a size that will fit your future beds, this is a sound investment. However, if you’re currently sleeping in a full, but aspire to buy a king in the next couple years, your money may be better spent elsewhere.

Try trendy: Throw pillows

Ahh, throw pillows, can you ever really have enough? (Actually, we investigated and decided more than six verges on too many.) Because inexpensive covers are easy to find and standard pillow sizes allow you to reuse the same inserts, switching up your throw pillows is probably one of the simplest and most affordable ways to introduce a trend into your rental. Go ahead, pile on the chevron, palm prints or color du jour, you can swap them in a second if you get bored.

(Image credit: Bethany Nauert)

Choose timeless: Art

Timeless art doesn’t mean critic-approved, but pieces you can imagine yourself being happy to own for decades to come. Rather than go for the of-the-moment style everyone’s buying, try to find pieces that truly speak to you and your taste. If you own works you love, you won’t even mind carrying them down five flights of stairs when you change apartments.

Try trendy: Curtains

Both window and shower curtains were made for fleeting whims. In apartments with odd-sized windows and varying ceiling heights, it doesn’t make sense to spend a lot on drapes that likely won’t fit the windows in your next place. Shower curtains tend to get mildewy and need to be replaced relatively often—but they’re also an easy way to refresh a room, so we aren’t too upset about it.