6 easy and cheap upgrades you can make to refresh your rental home

Collage of a spaniel with rainbows shooting out of its glasses.

Is your rental home #sadvibes at the moment? Same as your bank balance? No worries – here are some easy and cost-effective ways to give your space the makeover it deserves. 

NOTE: Remember to touch base with your landlord/agent/lease. You’ll have to put any changes back the way they were when you move out, unless they say it’s okay to leave it. Luckily, all of these hacks are fairly simple to undo!

1. Let there be light

Collage of a hand holding a sparkler.

It’s astonishing how much light affects how we see our space, but renters often don’t think to do anything about it.

For instance, if you prefer natural light, you could remove your curtains and trim the plants to let more in. Prefer to stay in the dark? String up new curtains to complement your style.

Alternatively, you can fix your fixtures by carefully changing them out. Most rental homes come with a standard flush mount light or two (these sit directly against the ceiling), but you can usually swap them for something more elegant, like a chandelier, pendant bulb, or even a different flush mount. Ask your landlord about installing dimmer switches, too, to control the ambient light more effectively.

Don’t underestimate the power of cords and batteries, either. Battery-powered accent lights can illuminate a space with a modern twist, while new lamps, string lights, or even candles change the tones of the light in the room (as well as provide more strategic lighting). 

If you want to keep things tight on budget, replacing the bulbs with warm-toned energy-efficient LEDs can instantly banish gloom. Maybe that sad kitchen light was just old!

2. Give your features new hardware

Collage of a strong woman holding up two mirrors, her reflection in each.

You can remove most handles and hinges with a simple screwdriver, so if your home’s hardware bums you out, it could be time to swap it for something more ‘you’.

Hardware pieces you can change include:

  • Cabinet handles
  • Interior door knobs
  • Curtain/towel rods
  • Mirrors
  • Closet doors

If you plan on doing any heavy lifting, remember: lift with your knees (and someone else).

3. Add an indoor plant or two

A hand holding a bouquet through a phone.

Plants bring instant joy to a rental. Add a succulent to your work desk or a few ferns in your kitchen. Plants in unexpected places can be a reminder to cherish growing things. Fun fact: your contents insurance policy may cover plants!

If you don’t have a green thumb, don’t worry: plenty of plant species thrive on neglect, and buying yourself a cheap weekly bouquet from the grocery store can be an excellent treat. 

Fake plants are okay too! Pairing fake plants with real ones can be a great and cheap way to fool the eye into thinking your space is greener than it is. 

HOT TIP: Visit your local plant or garden store for flora native to your area. The caretakers will likely have custom insights into which plants will thrive in your home and where to put them.

4. Deep clean and declutter

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No money to spend at all? Then roll up your sleeves: it’s time to do a deep clean. Bleach your sinks, vacuum the corners, and get rid of anything you haven’t used in six months (especially things you forgot you even had). 

Go full Marie Kondo on your rental: if an object doesn’t spark joy, it should go to a home where it will. 

Even better: sell whatever you aren’t using that still has some value. Pocket the change for a rainy day – or one of the tips in this article.

5. Just add colour

Collage of a woman jumping against an explosion of rainbow colour.

You don’t have to paint (though some landlords will let you!) to add a pop of colour to your space. A bright throw, new dishware, or a stylish table runner can elevate your rental home. 

Greige (grey-beige) minimalism is trendy right now, but that doesn’t mean it suits everyone. Different colours affect our moods differently: earth tones improve serenity, while vivid reds and yellows spark energy and productivity. White can be mind-clearing, while blue encourages calmness. Even black can make a stark yet tasteful addition to your home. 

Collect some colours you like (such as the free paint swatches at hardware stores), then shop/thrift/collect accordingly.

6. Bring out your favourite items

Collage of hands holding different coloured shapes.

Let 2023 be the year we go through some of our best things. Enjoy that scented candle, or display your favourite signed concert poster proudly. The more you reflect yourself in the space, the more a rental can feel like your home.

Where are good places to get supplies for a home makeover in Australia?

Collage of legs with shopping bags against a city backdrop.

A rental home makeover doesn’t require a tonne of cash or time to happen. A quick trip to the following stores can help you pick up what you need before knocking out some upgrades in an afternoon.

Need more cash for your makeover budget? Try out this ultimate savings hack to put away the moolah you need. 

For more lifestyle insights and tips, check out our family finances hub.