Want to turn your living space into a home but you’re short on funds? Here are 5 secrets to decorating your home on a budget.
By Hilary Bernstein, Contributing Writer
If you’re on a tight budget, you know what a challenge it can be to live.
After paying for essentials like food and a place to live, other expenses like utilities, healthcare and transportation can zap your finances in a hurry.
It can be hard to stretch your money for treats like decorating your home. Yet if you’re a homemaker you want to make your home your own, decorating can begin to seem like a necessity.
While it’s not an essential, I’ve found there 5 secrets to decorating your home on a budget. Even a tight budget.
Secret #1: Have a good attitude.
Attitude is everything, especially when it comes to creating your home on a budget. You could choose to hate everything about where you need to live, or you could choose to make the most of it.
By keeping a good attitude and looking at your decorating challenges as a sort of game – how little can you spend to make your space perfect for you? – you’ll begin to have a better perspective.
Secret #2: Get creative … and be flexible.
Depending on where you live, your living space may not seem conventional. One of my first apartments originally had been the attic of an older home, and it had plenty of quirks. The ceilings were 6 feet tall. (Good thing I’m short!) The bathroom was as large as the living room. Closets were non-existent.
Instead of lamenting the fact that all I could afford was a really weird space, I tried to make the most of it. I moved my large cedar chest into the bathroom so it could serve as storage. For living room furniture, I reused a small wicker chair and couch I originally used in my college dorm.
When I’ve been faced with homemaking challenges, I try to get creative. Depending on the available space, I evaluate what I truly need in my home. Instead of feeling like I rigidly need to keep certain things in a linen closet, I try to see the space I have and tailor it to my needs.
In each home, I’ve never had a ton of storage space, so I’ve learned to get creative. Kitchen gadgets that I occasionally use may be stored in the basement – or a bedroom closet. Keepsakes may be displayed in unconventional places (a treasured wall hanging might brighten up the inside of a closet – I still can see it and it brings a smile when I open my closet door) – or they may be rotated based on space.
Secret #3: Make a plan, including a signature style.
Sometimes it can seem impossible to make a decorating plan if you’re on a budget. But think about the elements you already have. Then think about what you need.
While you’re planning, think about one to three colors you LOVE. Stick to those signature colors – then when you’re looking for things to add to your home, you’ll know if they will complement each other.
You don’t have to get all matchy-matchy with your color scheme. But knowing a few standard colors will help you be able to switch things around if and when you have to move – plus, you’ll end up saving money by not buying a bunch of random decorating elements.
Similarly, decide on a style you prefer. Do you gravitate toward modern pieces, or something more traditional? Do you prefer a reclaimed look or something with clean lines? Remember this style and remember your signature colors as you search what to add to your home.
Secret #4: Make a budget and a shopping list.
Since finances are tight, you’ll need to know how much money you can spend on extras. You never know when you might find a picture or decorative bowl at a consignment store that fits your budget. Even if it’s $2 a paycheck.
Just like you know how much you can spend, know exactly what you need. Add those essentials – and wishes – to your list. You never know when you might happen upon a clearance sale of doormats or funky drinking glasses that would add a spark of personality to your home.
Be sure to keep your shopping list with you – complete with measurements, if needed – so you know what you’re looking for when you’re out and about.
Secret #5: Welcome hand-me-downs and find good sources for bargains.
Early on in my homemaking attempts, I discovered the beauty in hand-me-down furniture. Sometimes people are ready to get rid of furniture – and that can be a huge blessing. By letting go of the expectation that everything needs to be brand new, you can create a home filled with unique items.
In my own home, I have plenty of furniture and decorating touches that have been given to me as my mother and grandmothers have downsized their homes.
Aside from freebies, though, you can search for hand-me-downs at garage sales and second-hand stores.
If and when you do have to buy something – a new area rug or window coverings – keep a mental list of your favorite places to find a bargain. This will involve a lot of window shopping at first. Check out salvage stores, closeout stores, and thrift stores.
Because the merchandise changes in these stores, you’ll need to be willing to search. (This is why you should keep your shopping list with you. You’ll never know when you might find exactly what you were hoping for!) But once you do find a treasure to you – and it’s within your budget – it will be well worth the search.
By following these 5 secrets, I’ve been able to move frequently and create a homey atmosphere as I’ve been decorating my home on a budget.
Gotta love those first apartments! My first apartment was in a basement. The front door opened into the kitchen – which was very cute, 1950s everything, except for the GINORMOUS shower. Yep, a shower in the kitchen. Then you had to walk through the toilet to get to the bedroom. I loved it though because it was mine.
My big tip would be to shop your home first. If I want to change displays I can usually find exactly what I’m after hiding away somewhere else in the house. Sometimes I have to steal it from another display but that just makes it more fun because that means I have another display o redo! My mom says she always has to go out and buy new stuff for displays; but I almost never do, because I’m bound to have something that will work.
Shopping your home first is SUCH great advice … it’s a fun way to get creative with the things you already own and love!
Love this!! We are renovating/decorating on a limited budget. One thing I’ve learned is DO NOT buy something simply because it is a great deal. If I don’t love it, I leave it. I don’t want s home full of things that were good deals but that I dislike.
Love this article! I agree with Aimee above who says she doesn’t buy something because its a great deal. She spoke my heart out. We are building a home and we are planning to decorate it on a limited budget and this would be super useful.
It looks great! Did you r door have any texture to it, or was it smooth already? All of our doors have an ugly faux wood grain to them under the white builder-paint.JACK
Great advice! Funny story – just this weekend, the kids found some toys in a box in my car that were headed for Goodwill (the box has been there for quite a while). They had so much fun with those stupid toys. Goes to show just how right you are about rotating the toys.lisa
Great article Tom. I read your stuff because you are one of the few disney blogs that actually dares to write something negative, which I wholly appreciate. Because of this article I’m intrigued if you could write a top ten worst restaurants in all disney parks, being one of the rare few to go to so many of them.Garage