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In this post: Are you looking to decorate your house but strapped for cash? Learn more about decorating on a budget here.
Do you know what people ask me all the time? Like all the time. “How can I decorate my home on a budget?” Maybe you’re wondering the same thing. Decorating on a budget can be really simple and some of the tips listed here can make a huge difference in your home.
Finally decorate your own home – with confidence!
You’re so much closer to a beautifully-decorated home than you think. You just need a little help to get there!
Table of Contents
How to Decorate on a Small Budget
A budget is basically just a plan for spending your money. And if you’re going to decorate your home, it’s good to know how much you have to spend.
Even if that’s a small amount compared to someone else, you can absolutely decorate your home on a budget with a little planning and patience. And I’m going to show you exactly how to do that here.
Plan and Prioritize
A key part of decorating well on a budget is to plan for and prioritize your decorating wants and needs. Here’s how to do that.
1. Keep It Simple
A beautifully decorated home isn’t one that’s full to the brim with decor. It’s simple and lovely to look at and pieces have been chosen with intention.
Even if you’ve been given lots of hand-me-downs and second-hand furniture over the years, you can simplify.
2. Know Your Decorating Style
Defining your decorating style is the FIRST STEP in creating a beautiful home because every decorating choice you make is based on the decorating style that makes your heart go pitter-patter:
- Paint colors
When you know your decorating style, these choices become MUCH easier to make.
If you don’t know your unique decorating style you can get some clues as to what it is with our Find Your Style Quiz here.
3. Decorate in Order
Did you know there’s an order to decorating your home that will make everything so much easier?
Interior designers decorate in a specific order based on how they’re trained. But I find that beginners and do it yourselfers need to decorate in a different order:
- Defining a personal decorating style.
- Choosing a color scheme and palette.
- Planning the furniture layout.
- Selecting area rugs and window treatments.
- Planning and installing the lighting.
- Adding any wall treatments.
- Selecting and displaying art.
- Sprinkling in accent pieces.
When you decorate in this order, you will be able to visualize your space and avoid costly mistakes along the way.
4. Create a Budget for Decorating
So you’re ready to decorate that space. But wait you need to budget for it first, right?
There’s no reason to go into debt or to be caught off guard in the money department when decorating! Nor do you need to fill your home to the brim with things you just picked up here and there.
As much as I wish that we all had unlimited budgets for all the things, the real truth is, we just don’t. No one does.
Here’s how to budget for decorating so you don’t overspend…or clutter up your house!
Make a Wish List
Look around whatever room you’re planning to decorate and make a list of the items you’d really like to add or change. List everything, like in a big, brainstorming session. Then rewrite the list in order starting with the most wanted or needed items at the top and down from there.
Do some research to find pricing for the items on your list. Shop around, compare prices and availability. Look online. Check second-hand stores to see if any items on your list are available that way. Go into local stores too. The catch is for this to work, at this step, you can’t buy anything. Not until you know the costs and have your budget mapped out. After gathering this info, allocate a price to each item on the wish list.
Saving for decorating works just like saving for anything. Set up a bank account that you will use just for decorating. Use online banking at a bank that offers no-fee banking and transfer money to that account as you go to make it easier. If you skip coffee today so you can save up for that throw pillow, transfer the money into the decorating account right away. If you are really serious about saving to make home your happy place, temporarily reduce your cable package, negotiate new rates on your insurance and phone bills, eat out a little less, switch banks to one that has lower or no fees, etc. Put money aside little by little.
Jumpstart your savings
Another way to gain money for decorating is to declutter, purge and sell anything that will not be used in your new decor! You could have a decor sale if you have decor that you simply outgrew, but that someone else may love. Try a garage sale. Maybe sell items on eBay or Kijiji/Craigslist. It may not be possible to fund your new decor plans entirely with this method, but you could get quite a jumpstart on them!
Adjust if Needed
Make adjustments to your wish list based on when you want to finish decorating and how much you can have saved in that time. The reason we put the items in order of want/need is that NO ONE can afford everything on their wish lists. All of us need to make adjustments to that list. And we may have to compromise and wait a while for the things that aren’t as important.
Add 10% to the budget
And finally, plan for a little cushion room in the budget, especially if you’re doing any renovations. Renos notoriously go over budget. So if you plan for that, you won’t be caught off guard. Even if you’re only buying decor, adding a buffer of 10% to the overall budget can really help cushion you, should pricing change, etc.
It can be really easy to spend a lot of money on decorating. But it’s much easier to rein it in when you actually have a budget in mind. Plus your house will thank you for not filling it with spur-of-the-moment purchases that just end up as clutter!
Keep Big Things Neutral
When you’re decorating on a budget and purchasing pieces keep your big-ticket items neutral and basic.
I know I say this a lot, especially when we talked about trends. But it’s worth repeating.
If you want to add in trendy looks, or if your budget is tight, keep the color to the easily replaceable and inexpensive accessories like pillows, throws, candlesticks, etc.
Splurge Only Where it Matters
There are some things that you won’t want to go cheap on, such as items that are fixed in your home like:
These items are seen as part of your home, are a bigger deal (more work) to replace, and stay even if you sell or move. So if you’re going to replace them, you definitely want to buy the best you can afford (that fits with the house and your neighborhood).
With that being said, you can often find quality finishes on these types of items second-hand, so be sure to take a look at our second-hand shopping tips below.
Be Willing to Compromise
Again, no one has an unlimited budget, so knowing ahead of time that there are some things you will need to compromise on is going to save your sanity.
When you set your budget, you created a list and organized it by most important to least. Look that list over again and decide what you can compromise on. Will you be okay with laminate flooring that looks like hardwood? Or is that a deal-breaker for you? Do you love that Pottery Barn slipcovered sofa, or can you live with a very similarly shaped Ikea version?
You will have a much easier time decorating – and be much happier – if you know before you begin that you can’t have it all.
Steal Like an Artist
Of course, I don’t mean you should actually steal. Nor should you blatantly copy someone else’s work.
What I mean is, visit upscale shops for ideas and then hunt for bargains to “get the look for less.”
Pro Tip: Window shopping can make you miserable if you let it (much like scrolling Instagram), but it can provide a plethora of inspiration if you know you can get a similar look for a lot less by bargain hunting or making your own. Try it with a good attitude and you may be surprised!
My Decor Staples Checklist is super helpful at this stage of the game!
I know I’ve said it before. But it’s true – clutter just looks awful. No matter how beautiful a space – how gorgeous its bones or decor – it will NOT look good if it’s cluttered.
A clean, uncluttered home is a must!
You can eliminate at least some clutter by using our list of 50 Things You Can Throw Away Guilt-Free Today.
It ALWAYS blows my mind how much tidying up can do for a room – and a mood!
Related: If you’re overwhelmed with clutter and you’re not sure why check out this post 7 Reasons You Have Clutter and How to Prevent It.
Hide the Cords
Another way to prevent visual clutter is to hide your cords. We did this recently in our living room and it makes such a huge difference in the “tidiness” of the room.
Try cord organizers like this one.
Decorate With a Coat of Fresh Paint
This one is a tip that gets shared a lot! But that’s because it’s tried-and-true and it works to freshen any space.
A new coat of paint freshens up a place more than you’d ever think. Why do you think even landlords paint spaces between renters?!
Harmonize with color. Well-coordinated colors go a long way to a beautifully styled and decorated home.
But don’t go overboard. If you don’t mix your colors well, they can look chaotic, which leads to a cheap-looking home. I always recommend that people stick to classic neutral walls. That way you can add colors to the smaller furniture and accents. This means you can change them as you please or with the seasons.
If you need help choosing colors for your home, here’s how to choose paint colors.
Here are a couple of other ideas for freshening your walls:
- Paint an accent wall in a coordinating color (one that goes with your whole home color palette).
- Add wallpaper on multiple walls, an accent wall, or above a chair rail.
- Try a stencil instead of wallpaper. Try using a purchased stencil or a stencil made from cardboard or projected using an overhead projector to get a lovely pattern, on a tight budget.
Add Architectural Details and Trim
Architectural details are one of the big reasons people buy older or century homes. But you don’t have to buy an old home to have this type of character in your home. You can just add it yourself!
Consider adding these for character:
Update Your Flooring
If you have some budget, and your floors are looking a little worse for wear, try replacing them.
- Install laminate flooring
- Replace tiles
- Paint tiles with durable floor paint
Paint Your Doors
Much like painting the walls for a refresh, you can paint your interior and exterior doors, for a new look. We’ve painted our exterior doors, black, red, and gray, and our interior doors have been taupe sage green and now black.
Update Your Hardware
Hardware is fairly easy to swap out in a weekend and can be very budget-friendly if you shop around. Try swapping out your:
- Kitchen hardware
- Doorknobs and hinges
Update Your lighting
There are three kinds of lighting: general, task, and accent. They’re pretty self-explanatory.
- General lighting is typically overhead lighting that sheds light on an entire room.
- Task lighting is like a bedside reading lamp or a desk lamp.
- And accent lighting is lighting that just adds another, cozy layer of lighting to your home.
Here are a few tips for cozying up your space with lighting:
- Add some accent lights or put on candles instead of turning on the overhead ceiling lights.
- Get rid of all the BOOB lights! Who designed those things anyway? Even updated inexpensive lighting is better than builder-grade flush mount lighting.
- Shop around online for the best deals. You can often find better lighting from big box stores by shopping their online selection. Or try places like Wayfair.
- Pick out a new lamp shade and replace the old one.
- Give table lamps a new paint job to freshen their look.
Use the Furniture You Have
Maybe you have an old chair tucked in a corner. Or a hand-me-down table. By looking at them with a fresh pair of eyes, you may be surprised to find that they may work somewhere else in your home, with a little TLC.
- Clean it and repair it if necessary.
- Try slipcovers or beautiful throws to hide a bad color or pattern.
- Repaint the table.
Appreciate it for what it is and make it prettier with a little elbow grease.
Give tired furniture a makeover
If your existing furniture is looking a little past its peak, you can give it new life with a makeover.
Rearrange the furniture
If your furniture is looking fine, just shuffle it around. Try that chair in a new corner. Or put the sofa on the opposite wall. See how your things look in a different place.
Add Some Life
Every room could benefit from a little plant life. Faux or otherwise.
- Pot a plant
- Buy fresh flowers
- Hang a wreath
Change Out Accents
In my opinion, accents are the most fun part of decorating. Once you have a whole home color palette selected and get the big stuff in place, the accents are all fun. And because they’re smaller and less costly, you can play around with different ones.
Here are some ideas for accents:
Reorganize Your Bookshelf
Reorganize your bookshelf and use bookshelves for more than books to add to the decor and style in your home.
Add visual space and reflect light with a mirror or two. You can find thrifted mirrors to refinish if you like their shape.
Try Your Hand at DIY
Here again, is another way to save some money. If you, your hubby, or your friends are handy, perhaps you can DIY that dining room table for $500 instead of buying it for $1500.
1. Build Your Own Furniture
Even with the current price of wood (Sheesh!), DIY is still a money saver for a lot of things. You could build a:
- Dining Room Table
- Coffee Table
- Floating Shelves
2. Refinish existing kitchen cabinets instead of replacing them
We did this a few years ago in our last kitchen when there simply wasn’t any budget to replace the cabinets or even the doors.
I even learned a valuable and somewhat funny lesson in how NOT to refinish kitchen cabinets (a great reminder that even with my painting and DIY experience, I totally screw up too)!
3. Add a backsplash
Lots of us create or update kitchens and bathrooms and then run out of budget. So for years, they sit there without backsplashes. If that’s your home, now is the time to put in that backsplash! Like we did with our subway tile wall here.
Add Some Artwork
Artwork livens up just about any room and can inject a lot of your own personality into your spaces.
Frame things that are free: pinecones, flowers, book pages. Free printables are available online if you look. We have lots of printable art here.
- Frame free printables in inexpensive frames
- Downloadable vintage art
- Create a gallery wall
- Turn plates into wall art
- Frame a vintage board game or cards in a shadow box. This is just plain fun for any family space. Try it in the living room, or the family room, a games room, or even a bedroom.
- Print B&W photos and frames in standard frames. Find some great frames at Ikea or shop for them at Michaels when there’s a big sale or a great coupon. By printing them in B&W, you create cohesion and a much more gallery-esque look.
Pick Basic Dishes
Although not strictly decor, if you need new dishes, you can choose pretty but plain ones that will work with all seasons, napkins, placemats, and holiday decor.
Add a Rug
Many rooms can use an area rug for form and style. Area rugs can ground a space and help to coordinate colors. But make sure you choose the right-sized rug.
Upgrade Your Bedding
Bedding tends to last for a long time and most of us procrastinate in buying new bedding. But if you are patient and shop around you can find some great deals on lovely bedding!
- Pick basic bedding so that you can mix in seasonal throws.
- Up your thread count for some extra hotel or spa-inspired luxury in your own home.
My preference for bedding is flannel in the winter, linen in the spring and fall, and cotton in the summer.
Update Your Home’s Window Coverings
Window coverings like blinds and curtains are often one of the last things to be updated. But they shouldn’t be. They’re so easy to update and don’t need to be expensive. If you want DIY ideas, here are a few:
- Ikea Curtain Hack
- Use sheets or lengths of fabric as curtains. You don’t have to buy actual curtains or drapery to get a beautiful look. Curtain clips and rings, and no-sew adhesive tape turn sheets and fabric an easy, no-sew curtain project!
- Make curtains made from drop cloths.
- Add trim to plain curtains to give them a bit of oomph and style.
How to Decorate on a Budget: Bargain Shopping Tips
There is nothing wrong with buying things second-hand. And it is actually really good for the earth to re-use and re-purpose things.
Check thrift stores, yard sales, auctions, flea markets, etc. to see what you can find. I recently found a large, beautiful old painting in a gold frame for $30! It fit perfectly with our new look and now hangs proudly in our dining room.
There are SO many options when it comes to finding bargains; there really is no need to pay full price for anything! Here are a few ideas:
1. “Shop” Your Own Home
Sometimes a little decor refresh is desired in one (or maybe two?) rooms in your house. You know, just to freshen things up. But often you don’t want to spend more money on decor items, right? Well, that’s when you can employ a little trick called “shop the house”.
The concept of shopping the house is simple enough, of course. You simply wander your house – or your storage room/closet – and pull decor items from different rooms to use in another room. But how do you do that without making a giant mess?
- Know Yourself. When you are shopping for deals you need to keep a few things in mind. Know what you’re looking for, your space’s measurements (where applicable), and what your skills are. For example, if you see a gorgeous wood table with some damage, but you can repair it – go for it! But if you see an equally beautiful upholstered chair in need of work that is beyond your skillset, leave it for someone else. Make sense?
- Switch big things first. If you’re feeling the itch to switch things up, take stock of your main rooms and the big pieces in them. Can you move a loveseat or couch to the dining room for comfortable seating at the table? Or maybe a dining room chair can spend some time in the bathroom? If you swap the large items first, you will get a better feel for the spaces as you go. You could also swap out slipcovers on the sofa if you’ve got more than one. I love our Ikea Ektorp for this because even with additional slipcovers, it still costs less than other sectionals!
- Create moments or cozy corners. Think of the activities you do in each space. Do you read to your small children in the living room? Well, can you create a reading nook by placing a small bookshelf and chair next to each other with a floor lamp? How about a coffee corner in the kitchen with all the necessities to have a morning cuppa? Or can you carve out space to store your craft supplies in the dining room cabinet, since the table is where you craft anyway? By creating these little moments in your home, you make things more deliberate and more cozy.
- Accessorize with pretty utilitarian pieces. I don’t know about you, but I often forget about pieces that are tucked into cupboards and shelves. Like that pretty vase or lovely bowl that were gifts. Pull them out for display on a shelf or as part of a vignette on a tabletop.
- Separate the matchy-matchy sets. Did you buy the matching sofa and loveseat from the big box store? Or maybe the full bedroom set with a matching bed, dresser, and nightstands. Try a new look by breaking up the sets. Put the couch in the living room, but the loveseat in the family room or at the end of your bed. Move the nightstands to the guest room, and try something else paired with your bed and dresser.
- Move the art. Either move the art to another space all together or just change up where it is in the existing room. Swap out frames and family photos. Or change the posters to another room. All of this becomes easier if you’ve got a whole home color scheme in place!
- Don’t buy something JUST because it’s a bargain. Of course, you are trying to save money by bargain hunting – which is beneficial whether you are a one-income family trying to make your home cozy on a budget or you are someone who makes a comfortable income and is saving for the future. But it should go without saying that you shouldn’t buy something JUST because it is a bargain! ‘Cause, that’s just wasteful!
2. Save money when buying new appliances
- If buying new appliances, choose more economical finishes. You don’t always want the trendiest finish. It will not only be “out of style” in a few years but also because it may cost you more. A few years ago this meant that white cost less than stainless, but I noticed that that had recently changed at our local big box store. Stainless is now cheaper!
- Try to buy appliances used on Kijiji or Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace. Appliances can eat up a budget really quickly. (And right now they can be hard to find new, with all that’s happening in the world.) When we had to gut the kitchen of our tiny bungalow a few years ago, I bought ALL of the kitchen appliances from a man who was moving out of the country, but whose appliances were only a year old. And our laundry appliances were bought at a steep discount during Boxing Week.
3. Think outside the box
Also, look for pieces that can be used for a purpose other than originally intended; a door as a headboard, a bench as a table, etc.
4. Shop around
It would be my suggestion to not buy the first thing you see, even if you love it. Unless you know that it’s the best price!
So where do you look for these bargains? How about:
- Scratch & dent sales
- Garage sales
- Flea markets
- Dollar stores
- Ikea (don’t forget the as-Is room)
- Salvage yards
- Thrift stores
- Consignment stores
- Trade with family or friends
- The curb(!)
- Outlet stores
- Antiques and Estate Sales
Swap skills with a friend
Creating new looks and decorating your home on a budget can seem like a lonely thing to do – especially when it seems like all the online inspiration is full of perfect homes that were created with oodles of money.
But there are more people out there like you – trying to decorate on a budget – than you realize!
Or let me help you
I created Decorating Uncomplicated, my super budget-friendly how to decorate course so that I could help way more lovely people like you.
It’s perfect for you if you’re:
- Wondering why the heck the decor you loved at the store doesn’t look quite right, now that it’s in your house?
- Feeling overwhelmed by all the decorating rules, steps, and elements you “must-have” to create a beautiful home?
- Longing for a trusted friend to answer your decorating questions and help you solve your decorating dilemmas? (And maybe give you a loving kick in the rear when you need it?)
It’s open now to join.
Finally, Be Patient
The other really big thing to remember when decorating on a smaller budget is to have patience.
This can be SO hard, I know. But if you’re not in a big rush, you will be more likely to find deals and sales and just the right thing for that space.
Pace yourself, try to enjoy the thrill of the “hunt.” Remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day. And most lovely homes weren’t all decorated at once either.
Besides the “collected over time” look is much nicer than the “bought all on the same day big box store” look anyway!
If you can patiently put your space together a little bit at a time, you’ll get the look you want in the end, even with little money. Just take your time.
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