When I got divorced in 2009, I had a lot of ideas for decorating my new home. So many, in fact, that I kept a huge stack of catalogs covered in Post-It flags, just waiting for the moment when I could purchase all the items of my dreams. The problem? I was losing my ex’s income, severely limiting the amount of free money I had to spend on things like home decor.
Since I didn’t use credit cards to pay for my purchases, it feels like it has taken FOREVER to make the house look decent. After all, I didn’t want a repeat of the $12,000 sofa fiasco. Now that I’ve lived here for about 2 1/2 years, though, I’m finally almost done. And thanks to the shows on channels like HGTV (that normally would have tempted me to overspend), I managed to figure out the rules for decorating on a budget.
Rule One: Envision Your Space
Before the big-time designers start shopping, they create a plan for how they want a room to look. I don’t have the ability to sit down and sketch out an amazing design blueprint, but I DO have access to countless magazines, websites, and TV shows. I spent a lot of time analyzing the decor photos I liked most, trying to figure out what elements drew me to certain designs.
I had a color scheme picked out before I even found a house. I knew that I wanted to use similar colors in every room, allowing my home to flow without being too boring. I chose five main colors – brown, tan, green, teal, and orange – and worked out how I could use them without creating identical rooms. (The more astute among you may have noticed that I used the same colors in my site design!)
Rule Two: Allow Yourself Time to Window Shop
In the past, I would walk into a store, grab a bunch of coordinating decor items, and walk out with the supplies for a completely decorated room. Most of the time, though, I ended up with a room that looked overly “matchy” and nothing like the picture I’d developed in my head. AND I spent way too much money trying to make everything go together!
With this house, I took my time picking and choosing the items I wanted. I made many trips to many different stores, often finding similar items at drastically reduced prices. Let’s look at one wall in my living room as an example:
The branch sculpture on the wall came from JC Penney ($30). The lamp came from Walmart ($15), the fake grass ($8) and reed diffuser ($14) from Pier 1, and the vase from Crate and Barrel ($20). All the items on the lower shelves were things I already owned.
I spent less than $90 on all those items by waiting for sales, traveling to several stores multiple times, and reusing things I already had. If I had purchased them at full price (or, in some cases, from other stores) I would have spent over $300.
A few more discounted finds:
I found this clock at Kirkland’s for $10. I almost bought a clock just like it from TJ Maxx for $40, but I decided to check a few more stores first.
This picture was over $100 on an art website. By finding it at Target (as a print instead of an actual painting), I was able to get it for $20.
Rule 3: Make it Yourself
I’m far from crafty, but all the HGTV shows feature homeowners making their own art. I figured, If those people can make their own stuff, surely I can come up with something I like! And since it’s my blog and I’m able to leave out some of the more disastrous early attempts, I can say that I truly enjoyed making my own art for the walls.
For the kitchen, I wanted to keep up the branch theme I had going in the living room. I found this picture through a Google image search:
And used two canvases and leftover paint to recreate it. Well, kind of.
The canvases now hang on my kitchen wall, along with a branch sculpture I got for $20 at Pier 1 (originally $45). Believe it or not, most people don’t realize I made them myself unless I tell them.
I also made a silly picture to go in my spare room (with help from my son), which never fails to crack me up:
Rule Four: Be Patient if You Don’t Find What You Want
I looked for a large picture to hang above my desk for the longest time. I wanted something to tie in all the colors in the house, but I didn’t want to spend hundreds of dollars. The wall remained empty for about 18 months.
One night I was shopping at Gordman’s with my cousin – we were looking for wall art for his place, not mine – and found the perfect picture. Better yet, it was $75, which was far less than other artwork I’d seen in that size. Even though I kicked myself at the time for giving in to the impulse to buy, I’m very pleased with the purchase now.
I also only bought a comforter set for my bedroom this past December – that’s how long it took me to find what I wanted without (1) paying too much or (2) settling for something that didn’t quite fit into my color scheme. I’d show you a picture, but I haven’t even opened the package yet; I’m patiently waiting until I find the perfect sheet set to go with it!
Rule Five: Keep it in Perspective
Since my house has been furnished over such a long time period, I didn’t really have a specific “home decor” budget. However, I did keep a running total of how much I spent in each room, as well as setting limits for individual items. For example, I really wanted a Papasan chair from Pier 1 for my home office, but it would have cost $140 plus tax for something that would only seat one person. Instead, I spent $200 on these chairs from Target – little did I know my dogs would take them over!
By thinking out each purchase and how that money might be better spent in other parts of the house, I kept myself from spending a ton of money (for the most part), and managed to spread out my limited budget. The last thing I wanted was one perfectly decorated room and a bunch of empty ones.
Share Your Secrets!
I’ve given you a semi-tour of my house today, along with five rules you can use to decorate your home without going into debt or breaking your budget. Now I want to hear from you!
What are your best tips for decorating on the cheap? What amazing deals have you found? Any stories about reusing or repurposing old furniture? I’d love to know how you guys find great deals to make your living space comfortable, calming, and a great place to relax!