No, this post is for the rest of us. Those of us who spread out decor purchases in order to stick within the budget.
Those of us who will sacrifice Sephora skin care products for the cheapo stuff to justify the new lamps we just scored. Those of us who agonize in the checkout line at Target and do some fast-as-lightning maneuvering to figure out how to keep both the diapers and the throw pillows.
You know…the really hard decisions in life. #firstworldproblems
The fact is that even though we are on a budget, we still want our homes to beautifully reflect how we feel. So we bargain hunt, we DIY, and we carefully calculate the decisions we make for our homes.
Today I put together 22 specific tips to help people like us make the most of our decorating dollars. Why 22? Because adding 3 more “fluff” ideas just to get to 25 isn’t my style.
IN THE KITCHEN
1. Change out your hardware.
One of the fastest and easiest ways to give your kitchen a mini-makeover is to change out the hardware on your cabinets. For a little as $100 (depending on the style and how large your kitchen is), your cabinets get an entirely fresh look with new pulls and knobs.
Low mess, low stress, and BIG impact.
This is one you can feel really good about and tackle on a Saturday afternoon.
(Image of Sarah Sherman Samuel’s to-die-for kitchen.)
2. Add a small area rug.
A lot of people overlook the potential to add a really nice rug in the kitchen. Because you might only need a runner or a small area rug, this can be done for minimal investment and bring a whole new vibe to the room.
If using a rug in the kitchen makes you nervous, try an indoor/outdoor rug. They’re more resistant to spills and clean up easy with soap and water.
3. Edit what’s on your counter tops.
Go take a look at your counters right now…Is there even one area that is totally clutter-free? If you’re like me, you might pack as many tools and gadgets as you can on your counter tops.
What ends up happening as a result are two things: 1. It’s difficult to make enough workspace quickly when you need it and 2. All that stuff ends up looking messy and distracting from any of nice visual elements in the room.
Ask yourself, “What do I use almost everyday?” Anything else, has to go. I know; this will not be easy.
Your kitchen counter tops are prime real estate and only the most necessary items get to stay there. Be ruthless.
I tell this to my clients all the time…the fastest, least expensive, and sure-fire way to change the look of an entire room is with textiles. Window treatments, throw pillows, and bedding give you the MOST bang for your buck, no question. Here are some ways to be savvy and still refresh a room:
4. Purchase plain curtains and then customize.
Add a block of more expensive fabric to the bottom of inexpensive curtains (like these from Target) can give you a custom look without the price tag.
Also adding ribbon or a tassel trim like Megan did is a really fun way to turn boring curtains into something unexpected. Check out her DIY here.
5. Turn pretty napkins into pillows.
Keep an eye out in the napkin sections at your next trip to HomeGoods or TJMaxx. So often they will have the most gorgeous napkins or table cloths that can be used to make inexpensive pillows.
Don’t sew? (Me neither.) Check out this DIY no sew pillow tutorial instead.
6. Layer rugs.
One of the most common mistakes people make is buying an area rug that’s too small. (Emily Henderson has a great post about it here.)
I get it. Large rugs are expensive.
One of my favorite designer tricks is to layer rugs. You can buy a large neutral rug from natural fibers for much less than a wool or hand knotted rug. Once you have a large rug in place, you can layer a smaller rug on top for the visual appeal.
Gallery walls have made it big lately and for good reason. You can create such a personalized look and incorporate color and pattern to instantly give a room that pop. BUT when you’re sourcing multiple pieces of art from your smartphone for one wall, that adds up. Fast. Here are my tips to make your money go farther in the art department…
7. Frame decorative paper.
My favorite DIY artwork of ALL time was this quick and easy framed wrapping paper I hung in my living room. I loved the look of the marbled paper, and it cost me only $8 for a huge piece of “art” that instantly added gorgeous color and pattern to my mantel.
8. Get your next prints from a book.
One of my favorite things to do for clients on a budget is to find a book that they love and use the pictures as art in a gallery wall. These prints were cut from a book about botanicals and hung in my own dining room several years ago.
9. Use free printables.
There are so many great sites online that offer free printables. You can just print off with your home computer and have instant artwork.
TIP: Printables are good filler pieces, but always try to mix them with original artwork or photos if possible.
Vanessa has a great round up of FREE printables (shown above) for your next gallery wall. Head over and check it out.
10. Print an oversized photo for under $5.
You can print a huge copy of a photo in black and white for around $5 at FedEx Kinko’s. I did this with one of our engagement pictures and hung above our bed for my master bedroom makeover on a budget.
It’s not a high quality photo obviously, but behind glass it actually makes for decent artwork when you want something large but don’t want to spend a fortune.
TIP: Choose black and white instead of color in order to minimize graininess.
11. Hang a collection of objects.
This is a fun way to make a big impact on a wall. You can shop your closet or thrift stores for fun objects to hang on your wall. Check out this wall of hats for inspiration.
12. Use coupons at craft stores.
Michael’s and Hobby Lobby have weekly coupons that you can find on their websites (while you’re shopping in the store) and use directly from your smartphone at check out. Usually you can save 40%-50% one a single full priced item. This works great if you need to buy a large frame, lamp, or that perfect little accessory to put on your bookshelf.
13. Learn when your local discount store gets shipments (and does mark downs).
I love Tuesday Morning for this reason. As evident form the name of the store, I know exactly when they’ll get new products and can shop before the good stuff gets picked over.
At discount stores like TJ Maxx, Marshall’s HomeGoods, At Home, and Ross you can call and ask when they’ll be receiving their next shipment. Most of them get new items daily, but sometimes home accents come less frequently than clothing.
14. Garage sales & Craigslist over flea markets.
I have found some of my favorite vintage pieces at flea markets, but the REAL steals happen when you buy directly from an individual. Most people simply want cash and to have the item taken off their hands, so the prices are as low as they get.
My friend Laura bought this Persian rug and several others for a fraction of what they’re worth just by trolling Craiglist and having cash ready for a quick pick up. (image by The Makerista)
Garage Sale & Estate Sale Tips
15. Get there early. The pros know this and clean up at 7:00am well before you ever get there at 10:00.
16. Go back right at closing. Make a trip back right before the sale ends. People are willing to part with leftover things for next to nothing. I’ve scored a couple really cool pieces for under $5 this way.
17. On wood furniture, check for dovetails. (The wooden portion on the joints of the furniture that look like puzzle pieces fitted together.) This means a piece is well made and worth the time you’d put into refinishing it.
18. Buy good paint.
It sounds counterintuitive to pay for the high dollar paint when you’re trying to save money, but let me tell you there is no other way to go. My favorite (and I’ve used em’ all) is Behr Premium Plus Ultra. It’s paint + primer + magic in a can. I swear I have painted white over wood paneling and only had to use one coat.
It’s just that good.
Because you buy less paint for the one-coat approach, you end up saving so much time and the paint pays for itself. (Ok, so this tip was more about saving your sanity than your money. I’d pay to be a little less crazy though…)
19. Opt for a painted stencil over wallpaper.
When I wanted the look of wallpaper but couldn’t afford the price tag, I spent a weekend drawing with white paint pen to create this patterned focal wall in our dining room. It cost less than $15 to make.
20. Buy hurricanes from the dollar store.
I love using hurricanes in styling year round. The nice thing about these clear glass cylinders is that the $20 version from Target and the $2 version from Dollar Tree are relatively the same. You can fill with stones or sand year round and then switch out items for seasonal decor.
We used clear hurricanes and sprigs in my client and friend Dana’s mantel to keep it neutral year round, but also provide her a space to decorate during the holidays.
21. Use yard clippings instead of buying flowers.
I do love fresh flowers, but they can be pricey to keep around unless it’s a special occasion. I rob from the bushes and trees in my front yard to bring a little life indoors. Greenery is such an easy way to add life to your table, mantel, or bookshelf. For free. Hello!
22. Curate a quick collection.
Head to flea markets and thrift stores in search of one type of object…Maybe all white ceramic pieces or just small bronze accents. For under $50 you can pull together a little collection for a mantel or bookshelf that’s interesting and eclectic.
MO’ MONEY, MO’ PROBLEMS
Ok, so that’s not really the case in decorating. (I just really wanted to type it.)
However, I will say that some of my most favorite items in our home were purchased or made because I was on a budget. They never would have happened if I had been able to just go out and buy what I wanted originally.
The upside of limited funding is that it forces you into the creative process, which can be frustrating in the beginning but ultimately exhilarating once you come out on the other side.
Q: How have you made the most your decorating dollars?