Friday, January 10, 2014

25 Tips to Make Your Home Beautiful on a Budget

When it comes to my home, I definitely have champagne taste on a beer budget. Over the past couple years, I devised some simple tricks to help me get the look I want without breaking the bank. I've compiled a list of tips I use on an ongoing basis to make my home beautiful and welcoming. I hope you find them helpful!

1. Garage Sales.
This is the #1 place to buy affordable stuff for your home. There are usually lots of them in the fall, but keep an eye on community newsletters and websites for them. My favorite garage sale purchase to date is my breakfast table. I got this baby for only $150 and it came with 8 chairs and a leaf. It's sturdy and in good shape and would have easily cost me $1,000 in an actual store. 

Here are a few other things I've bought at garage sales that I absolutely love:
The massive wooden candlestick on my mantle (the one on the left). It was only $1. 

The shutter on the right hand side. It was only 50 cents. The one on the left I got at an antique store and paid way too much ($45!). Lesson learned the hard way.

This lamp. I can't remember exactly how much I paid, but it wasn't more than a couple bucks. (Shade purchased separately at a craft show for $6).

I could go on because literally almost all the decor in my house is from a garage sale, but you get the point.

2. Wine.
Wine is good for almost everything in life, including decor! If you are a wine drinker, don't throw out your bottles and corks! Use them as free decor!

I updated these wine bottles with some spray paint I had in the garage. Total cost = $0.

I tossed some wine corks into my cake stand vignette to give it a completed look.  

This lantern is also filled with wine corks. 

3. Goodwill.
This is also a wonderful place to buy home decor. I've had particularly good luck finding vases, jars, pitchers, baskets, and picture frames (especially large ones because they can be so expensive to buy brand new!)

I fell in love with this duck art when I found it at Goodwill. I painted and distressed the frame (which was black before).  

This frame is from Goodwill, as is the art inside it (which is really just a pillow case that I cut).

I bought this candle centerpiece at Goodwill. I spray painted it and then distressed it, all for under $10.

4. Paint Samples.
If you've ever painted walls, cabinets or large pieces of furniture, there is a good chance you bought some samples before you decided on your color. Save those samples and use them for smaller projects in the future. Chances are good they are at least within a similar color palette as the rest of your home if you bought them in the first place and it makes doing small little projects quicker and cheaper. I did this here:

5. Reuse leftover paint.
While were on the subject of paint, when you complete a large project, don't just let any left over paint go to waste! Re-use it for other projects. We had about a half gallon of paint leftover from our kitchen remodel and I have used it to paint our secretary, refresh our gallery wall and on the half bathroom mirror frame. I have plans to use it for other projects soon too! 

6. Craigslist. 
Such an awesome place to buy beautiful furniture. Of course you should be careful not to give out your address to anybody and if you do meet up with somebody, meet them in public and bring a friend along with you. I bought my secretary on Craigslist for $140. 

7. Hard vs. Soft Furniture
When it comes to buying used furniture at garage sales, Goodwill or on Craigslist I typically try to stick to only buying "hard furniture". Which means things that can easily be cleaned and refreshed like wooden tables, wooden headboards, kitchen chairs, etc. (I bought the headboard and both night stands in my guest bedroom at a garage sale for $10 total!) "Soft furniture" like couches and mattresses I typically try to buy new, unless you know for sure that it has been well taken care of or can be cleaned.  If you have to buy new furniture...

8. Buy it on Black Friday.
I am not a black Friday shopper typically, that is just too much madness for me. But when it comes to big purchases like furniture, sometimes the savings are worth it. Since we moved into our house at the end of November and we were coming from a one bedroom apartment, we needed lots of furniture (and lots of soft furniture which meant we wanted to buy it new). We went to Ashley on Black Friday because they were having a 25% off the entire store sale. Because we were buying in bulk and because it was Black Friday we were also able to haggle with the sales guy. We got both the blue chairs in our living room, the rug in our living room, the large rug in our dining room and a sectional sofa (which you guys have never seen because it is in my hubby's man cave) for UNDER $1,500. The full price for all of those items was more than $2,000 before adding taxes.  Serious savings. 

9. Use ribbon/twine.
These are good alternatives instead of purchasing curtain tie backs or napkin rings, which can be expensive. I used scrap fabric from an old project to tie back the curtains in my living room, and I used ribbon as napkin rings here:

10. Printables.
Printables are free art. I have several printables in my house. Some I made myself using PicMonkey, others are Pinterest finds:

This is in the guest bedroom. #obviously  

This is in the kitchen. Also pretty obvious.  

11. Extra dishes.
Everybody needs dishes right? And most people have at least one pitcher or serving tray that they only use two times a year when they host a party. Might as well free up some storage space in your kitchen by using that stuff as free decor! You've all seen the pitchers I keep on top of my kitchen cabinets. And I've shown you guys my cake stand several times (See tip #2). It takes up a lot of space in a cabinet, so instead of tucking it away when I'm not using it, I put it on display! It's not hard to take it down every few months when I want to use it to hold an actual cake :) Here's another idea:

It's not very often I need to actually use my cheese tray, so most of the time I use it as a chalkboard!

12.  Take advantage of nature.
Go to a park or search your own backyard for pine cones, sticks, leaves or stones. These items can help create a serene and natural feel in a room and are totally free.  

See what I filled that vase with?  :)

13. Imperfect gifts.
We've all been there. We get a gift that is less than perfect. Don't re-gift it, or even worse, tuck it away never to be used. Make it work, after all it was free. 

We received this as a wedding present (in all fairness, we did register for it, but my taste had just changed by the time we actually got it). It was too dark for my liking. Instead of returning it, I painted the base white and distressed it. Now I absolutely love it. 

14. Beware of gift cards.
I got a Crate & Barrel gift card for my birthday once. When I went to see what I could buy I was tempted by all the beautiful (and expensive) stuff. Rule of thumb: Instead of convincing yourself that a $50 candle isn't really all that expensive because it's really only $25 since you have a $25 gift card, only spend what is on your gift card and no more. I got this candle stick holder with my gift card from Crate & Barrel:

15. Air freshener.
This tips isn't so much about decor, but it's definitely still about making your home beautiful. Nothing makes a home feel welcoming and lovely quite like good smells. Freshly baked cookies, fresh flowers in the spring, or pine in the winter, it's the cherry on top of a beautiful home. So buy some off brand air freshener from the grocery store and spray it 5-10 minutes before you expect guests to arrive. (Buy spring/summer smells in the winter and vice versa, and hold onto them until its the right time of year.They will likely be on sale!)

16. Buh Bye Brass.
If you've got brass light fixtures or door knobs, don't replace them! Spray paint them! Remember, spray paint can hide anything. 

17. Sell stuff.
In general, I try to work with what I've got but when you've specifically replaced an item with something new, sell the old version. For example, my hubby got me an awesome bar cart for Valentine's Day last year. So there really was no reason to hold onto my old wine rack. It could be painted sure, but there really wasn't a way to re-purpose it (this wasn't the kind I could use as a towel rack). So I sold it! Cha Ching!

18. It doesn't have to be what it is.
Or, at least, it doesn't have to only be what it is. I have a throw pillow with snowflakes on it for the holiday season. Rather than keep it hidden in a box for 11 months out of the year, I just flip it around so that the back side (which is solid tan) shows most of the time. Saves me the cost of buying another throw pillow.

This "display table" is actually a desk from my college days. 

19. Use what you need.
Q tips, toilet paper, coffee. Everybody needs them. (Especially coffee). Might as well make them pretty. Put your coffee in a cute jar and put it on display. Stack toilet paper in an artful little pyramid and stick it on a shelf. Like this:

20. The Dollar Store.
You've gotta be careful when it comes to shopping at dollar stores because sometimes you can get the same stuff elsewhere for the same price, and other times the quality of the items they sell can be poor. In general, however, I've found this is a smart place to go for candles, artificial flowers, Christmas ornaments and jars (although you should still check Goodwill and garage sales first!).

21. Save packaging.
Any time you make a purchase or receive a gift that has pretty packaging, save the packaging. You never know where you may be able to put that box on display or what you may be able to tie that ribbon around!

22. Cheat on your Iron Stone.
Iron Stone is gorgeous. But when you are just using it for display, nobody is going to know the difference between the real stuff and the fake. So, seriously, go to Goodwill. I can't emphasize this enough. Then when you find a vase or container that you like the shape of, paint it white. You'll get the same effect for much less money. 

Here's the real stuff:

 And, here's mine:

23. Shower curtains instead of curtains.
If you can't find curtains you like at a garage sale, try searching for shower curtains instead. They are usually around $15 each, so you can complete a window for $30. Real curtains can easily run twice that (or more depending where you are shopping). I did this in our guest bedroom.

24. Small splurges.
Maybe you are one of those people who gets a hole burned into your pocket any time there is money in it. Or maybe you are like my husband, and have a taste for the finer (read: expensive) things in life. I get those feelings now and again too. Sometimes you just gotta buy something pricey! But here is the key: make your expensive purchase a small one. You'll get that custom, high end look and feel but without breaking the bank. I dropped $15 on the towel pictured below, which was ridiculously expensive. But hey! It's better than dropping $8,000 on a sofa.   

25. Pick smart stores.
If you have to go into a "regular" store, avoid high end stores like Pottery Barn, Restoration Hardware, Pier One Imports and Anthropolgie. Instead go to Home Goods, TJ Maxx, Ross and Kirklands. Trust me, you'll feel like an idiot when you drop $75 on a throw blanket at Pottery Barn because it was just so unique and gorgeous, only to find TJ Maxx has one just like it for $15. 

I hope you've enjoyed these tips and will find ways to incorporate them into your own home! Do you have any great ideas on how to get the best bang for your buck that I left out? 



  1. What???? $150 for that table! Crazypants! Man...what a score...can you tell that I am excited about that deal???

    1. I know, right?! I had shopper's high for like 4 days after I bought it, lol!

  2. HI , love every one of your ideas! Makes me think about going out shopping--there are several Good Will type stores not terribly far from here. Thanks for the brain jog and the tips!

    1. Thanks Lorraine! Good luck with your Goodwill adventures! I'm sure you'll find some awesome bargains! :)

  3. Great ideas ~ thank you! Your home is beautiful and proves that one doesn't have to spend a ton of money to make it so.


    1. Thanks Pat! I'm so glad you like it! Thank you for taking the time to stop by :)

  4. Wow!! You are truly gifted!! I'm moving states in a few months and I was worried about how much furnishing a new home would be! You gave great pointers for decorating!

    Sharita L Conley

    1. Thank you Sharita! Good luck with your move! I hope you have fun decorating your new place!


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