Decorating on a Budget


One of the suggestions you guys gave me was to share my tips and advice on different topics, such as decorating on a budget. Since that is the only type of decorating I've ever done, I figured it would be a great topic to start with! Sure, it would be nice to one day have an unlimited budget, but there is something about finding good deals and inventive ways to save money that is actually really fun, rewarding, and exciting. And it truly does inspire more creativity! Here are some of my best tips for getting the most bang out of your buck.

1. "Shop" your own house first. Before you go out and buy a bunch of new stuff, survey your own house (and shed) and think about how you could repurpose things you already own. A paint-splattered stepladder might look really cute as a side table or bookshelf. You could use a muffin tin or empty egg carton to hold earrings and other jewelry. Sometimes, just moving something from one room to another can make it feel fresh and new. Try using dining chairs as bedside tables, or switching around lamps, curtains, pillows, etc.

decorating on a budget

2. Shop thrift stores, garage sales, estate sales, and flea markets...even the side of the road. When I was a kid, before thrift store shopping became the cool hipster thing to do, my mom would take us to Value Village and garage sales to find the best deals on everything from clothes to dishes to our piano. Now, I'm the one dragging Ben to thrift stores and craning my neck to check out every garage sale we pass--just in case. You never know what you'll find, and the stock is always changing.

decorating on a budget

When it comes to thrift stores or garage sales, if you see something you love, don't wait. Get it. I know that sounds counterintuitive if you're trying to stay on budget, but you're more likely to regret the things you didn't get than the ones you did. It's different from shopping at a department store, where it'll probably still be there in a day, a week, or even a year. In thrift stores, once it's gone, it's gone forever...and you may never find another like it. Of course, that's also the great thing about shopping at flea markets, garage sales, and all those kind of places--the treasures you find are one-of-a-kind, they have a story behind them...and they're oftentimes better quality than the stuff you get these days.

Thrift stores are also a great place to get materials for crafts and projects on the cheap. When I was planning my wedding, I bought a bunch of old novels and music books. Most of them I got for about $1 apiece (or even less). I used the pages to make paper pinwheels, for everything from the guy's boutonnieres to the centerpieces to our photobooth backdrop. It was so much cheaper than buying patterned paper from a scrapbook store. I've also recently started buying patterned sheets from Goodwill. Most of the fabric at Joann's is at least $4/yard, so $4 for an entire bed sheet is definitely worthwhile. I'm planning to use the fabrics I've been collecting to upholster our dining chairs, but you could also use sheets as curtains...they're a great size for it! Just use clip rings or fold the sheet over at the top if you don't feel like sewing.

ideas for drawers

And let's not forget the side of the road. I am a sucker for a "free" sign! Don't just think about what it is, think about what you could use it for. You might see a desk with a broken leg that isn't really your style--but if you take the drawers out, they'll make really cute storage for bathroom necessities, craft supplies, or treats at your next party.

3. Don't be afraid to check out the kid's section. I mentioned in this post that I like to shop at kid's stores...for myself! You won't find dirt cheap deals, but their price point is definitely less than the adult counterparts. The kid's section is a great place to look for pastels, bright colors, cute decorative accents, white painted furniture, and simple, graphic patterns. In particular, look for pillows, rugs, baskets, and lighting.

stylish kid decor

4. Look in nature. I wrote a whole post on this here, but it bears repeating. Nature is definitely one of the best places to look for decorating supplies. A long driftwood branch makes a great exposed closet or an anchor for a pendant light. Rocks, leaves, pinecones, seashells, moss...they all have potential. And best of all, they don't cost a thing!

decorating on a budget using branches

5. DIY -- wisely. I'm a huge fan of the DIY movement, and it's really satisfying to create something for your home and be able to tell people "I made that!" when they compliment you on it. But be smart about it--if a project ends up costing more in materials than it would be to buy it, it's not worth your time and effort. I prefer simple DIYs that are inexpensive and quick, especially those that breathe new life into things you already have. After all, the best way to save money and stretch your personal finances is not to buy anything new at all. My favorite way to do that is with paint! Whether it's furniture, picture frames, lamp bases, silverware, drawer knobs, or kitchen cabinets...almost everything can get a fresh new look with a coat of paint.

What about you guys? I know you have your own tips and tricks to save money...feel free to share them in the comments!

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  1. Posted by kelsey on Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013

    we've purchased our best pieces antiquing, or finding the display table under a design in a thrift shop and getting it for cheap! :) you can repaint all destroyed woods white too!
    kw, ladies in navy
    jewelry giveaway!
    • Posted by Aileen on Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013

      Oh that is a great idea--it never hurts to ask, even if something isn't tagged with a price! Painting things white is definitely a great way to make old "junk" look new again.
  2. Posted by Renae on Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013

    You already hit all my favorite tips, the only other thing I would add is to save a little money to buy quality stuff once in a while - instead of buying 3 cheap dining tables that break quickly, save up to buy a good one and watch for sales.

    Also be careful of how many things you bring home that need to be "rehabbed". You don't want to end up with a garage full of junk waiting for inspiration to strike, or for the time to fix it...
    • Posted by Aileen on Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013

      Yes, great points. It's definitely worth saving up for quality pieces that you love versus getting a bunch of okay stuff you can afford (but will want/need to replace soon). And I also really agree that there is such a thing as too many projects.
  3. Posted by Ben on Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013

    I really like the idea of a ladder as a side table!
  4. Posted by Kenpeterson on Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013

    I like the idea of decorating with donuts! :) I am diggin' the reduce reuse recycleness and the driftwood.
  5. Posted by Laura | The Velvet Doe on Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013

    Great tips!! I've never been much for thrifting but I really want to get into it with these fantastic ideas you've posted here. Thanks! :)
  6. Posted by Debbie on Thursday, May 23rd, 2013

    Great tips. Thrifting at first was because of need, then it was just for fun. Now, when I have a need( usually an organizing dilemma), I go on a treasure hunt...Thrifting, to find something to meet that need. Using a cute piece of china to hold soap in a bathroom. A gravy boat to keep sticky note pads and pen by my bed for quick notes etc... I now am more a purposeful shopper as I don't want clutter. The tip to shop at home first is a great one.