Home Theater on a Budget: Tips from Twenty-Somethings

Assembling a home theater sounds like a pricey project. Yet, the kids these days seem to have high tech entertainment systems in their otherwise shabby apartments. If you want a quality home theater setup and a bank account that’s in the black, ask yourself “What would a twenty-five year old do?” If you are unfamiliar with the mindset of the recently matriculated, read these guidelines for Thinking Like a Twenty-something.

Build Slowly, Buy Quality

Relax. You don’t have to purchase your whole system at once. Young people understand that upgrading just one element, improves your entire entertainment experience. If your sound quality is bothering you, focus on that. If you are tired of watching Arrested Development in bed on your laptop, spend your funds on a projector.
Buy one nice item at a time. Get something you really want and that you will be happy with for a long time. Twenty-something’s don’t worry about obsolescence. It’s kind of a badge of honor to have years-old equipment. Do your research. Buy products that other users have had good experiences with. Be logical. Don’t rush out and blow thousands of dollars on an internet capable TV, when a regular TV or a projector connected to a much less expensive streaming device will perform the same function with fewer glitches.
Never pick quantity over quality. Your snooty musician friends will sneer at your inferior electronics.


The audio system is the most inherently buildable part of a home theater. Start with a great 2.1 system, that’s two front speakers and a subwoofer. You can add a center speaker later, which will separate movie and TV audio tracks into a center channel for dialogue and two side channels for effects. As you continue to add on to your home theater, you will probably want surround sound speakers so you can hear ambient sounds around you.
Financially restrained recent college grads do not try to hide their audio systems. Big front tower speakers have a neat retro look that gives you instant audiophile cred. In-wall and wall mounted speakers only make sense if you own your home. Just stick your surround speakers on top of a pile of graphic novels.


HDTV’s are incredibly popular, but the cool kids have projectors. Why? They’re portable. You can toss a stand-alone screen in your car, pack up your projector and take it to your friend’s cookout. More importantly, projectors offer much larger screen sizes than TVs. A flat screen TV with a large screen is much more expensive than a comparable projector.

Game Consoles

You may have heard that the AV receiver is the hub of the home theater. Twenty-somethings use their PS3s instead. Yes, consoles play games, but they play Blu-ray and DVDs too. They decode up to 7.1 channels of sound. Did I mention that they stream video and music? Well, they do. Not a bad investment, huh?


Don’t bother. Just kidding, blank walls are depressing; put something up there. However, if you’re just starting to build a home theater, you are probably going to use it as, well, a theater as opposed to a game room. So, paint the walls yourself, the lights are going to be off most of the time anyway. Put up your movie posters. When you’re an adult you can have them framed.

Now that you’re thinking like a plucky young thing, go forth and make yourself a sweet home theater. Just remember not to keep your homemade kombucha jars next to your speakers.

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