Decorating a home when you’re a budget can be a challenge, but it’s certainly doable. The strictest budget room can have wow factor and be everything you desire; you may just have to work a little harder to get it. What you shouldn’t do is settle for a room filled with stuff you don’t love.
A lesson from my mom
I remember being off to college when my parents bought their first house. My mom searched for well over a year for a home she could fall in love with. She had traipsed the globe for 14 years as an army wife and then lived in rental homes for six years, and she was finally ready to put permanent roots down in Orlando, Fla. When she found her gem; the entire family was excited. My older brother was off to school in California and I was just a stone’s throw away in Tampa. My younger twin sister and brother would be the only beneficiaries of their own rooms in the new abode.
That year I made plans to come home for Christmas—a few months after they had moved in. I couldn’t wait to step inside and check out the new digs. Curb appeal was great: carpet-like green St. Augustine grass, mature oak trees, and a cheery orange door. This was going to be nice.
As I entered…I was perplexed. The living area was empty. I mean empty. My parents had moved their bed in and there were a few other things in the den. The twins had their rooms neatly unpacked, but the living room was cavernous. This did not compute. My mom loved to decorate; surely this was her opportunity to shine. Baffled, (and a tactless 20-something) I barely said hello before I blurted out— “Why haven’t ya’ll bought furniture yet?”
My mom put her hand on her hip, rolled her eyes and neck and quipped right back, “Missy, if you must know, it’s because I want what I want, it’s expensive and I’m not going to settle.” I shrugged my shoulders; dropped my dirty laundry on the floor and just said ok; not really understanding at all.
For the next few years, every time I came home there was a new piece in the living room; new sofa, new chair, new art. All meticulously curated. Over the phone she told me, she had painted the living room lime green. “Eww,” I grimaced. But when I walked in to see the cream couch and purple accessories she had paired it with, I thought–‘Ok maybe she’s not crazy.’ After two long years, the room was complete. The space felt like her, it was everything she fancied; not just a bunch of stuff she could afford. It was worth the wait.
That lesson never left me. You can fill a room with niceties from anywhere and really create a beautiful space, but if you walk in the room and it doesn’t feel like home, then you’ve wasted a lot of time and money. If you settle, you’ll have spent a lot resources on furniture and DIY projects, but have a constant nagging thought that you should have bought that rug or the expensive lamp you really wanted. Yes, the one you have is fine, but if you can’t stop thinking about the one you should have bought—then you should have bought it. This doesn’t mean set your sites on a $5,000 lamp and forget the budget, but you have to learn that patience is really tantamount to getting the finished product you’ve dreamed up.You can fill a room with niceties from anywhere and really create a beautiful space, but if you walk in the room and it doesn’t feel like home, then you’ve wasted a lot of time and money.
Design your dream room on a budget
When budget is an issue, you still need to be realistic, but perhaps you can compromise with other non-essentials to make more room in the budget. Here are a few tips on sticking to a budget without having to settle.
1. Set a realistic budget in the first place
Creating a budget based on what things really cost, not your hopes, is key to not setting yourself up for defeat. Yes, you can plan to spend $1,000 on your kitchen, but the appliances alone will kill that budget. Instead do a little window shopping online and in stores to see what things really cost. This will prevent frustration when you’re trying to spend your nickels. If you’re realistic, you can determine that the room can only have a refresh of paint, drapes, cabinet pulls, and rugs instead of thinking you can get new appliances, flooring, lighting and cabinets.
2. Shop around for knockoffs to fit your budget
Usually if you find a high-end widget you love, someone has made a similar, but more affordable knock-off widget that will fit the bill. Copycatchic.com is one of my favorite websites dedicated to finding less expensive versions of designer décor. It may take a little work, but if you love something that’s too far off, this is a great option. And knock-off doesn’t always mean lesser quality. A lot of times price is tied to a name. Take off the fancy name and you’ve got a similar piece for a 1/3 of the cost.
3. Search second-hand options for budget decor
Sometimes we forget that people do sell great used home décor online. Places like EBay, Craigslist and Offer Up can be a goldmine. The key is to be specific in your search and search often. You can even set up automated searches on eBay for items you’re looking to buy and get an email when someone posts a new item.
4. Check for sales, coupons and clearance to save money
I know sometimes you just want that thing. I get it. Then be resourceful. Wait for a sale, scour the internet and sales papers for coupons and keep your eyes peeled for when it will go on clearance. Again, you may need to check often, but the prize is worth the wait.
5. Buy things slowly
This was how my mom got her dream room. She simply waited it out. She bought custom covered furniture one piece at a time. You’ll be more satisfied with your purchase if you get the thing you really want. Set aside a little here and there and when you have all the funds: go for it. Rooms evolve over time; don’t be in such a hurry to finish that you miss out on making it special and making it you. Take it from my mom, don’t settle.
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