Decorating on a Shoestring Budget: It Can Be Done!

For those of you that have been following along, you know that the first few years of marriage were very financially trying for my husband Don and I. We were tested with three job losses in just under a year and half, large combined student loan debt, and rent that we could not afford. Some of those circumstances were out of our control, and others weren't. It was tough but just like most things in life, when your back's against the wall, you do what "you gotta do". I have always been resourceful but these last few years have kicked it into full swing! I have learned how to save a penny, pinch a penny, stretch a penny, and make a penny. I have learned how to reuse and repurpose all kinds of things and I have also learned the value in spending wisely, investing, and saving. Now I was never "bad" with money, but I was never "good" with it either. I didn't understand the value in buying things discounted or saving for the future. I am still not a big proponent of keeping the purse strings so tight that you never open them because that means you are living in fear. I don't want to live in fear about money, I just want to be smart, give generously, and think ahead. 

On to my point. I started really getting in to decorating in college. I moved into my very first apartment with no roommates during my junior year and it was also at this time that I had just discovered Pier 1. This is not a good combination: college kid + retail shopping. Do not do this at home kids! I have grown and adapted a lot since then and I would not consider myself materialistic as I can be very content with what I have (or don't have). I also prefer to be generous or spend my money on experiences over things. However, I do like a neat, pretty, and welcoming home. Do I need this? No. But I do think you can make your home pretty even with a small budget. You just need to be resourceful and practical. 

I have moved a lot in my life. I once added it up and so far I have moved 35 times in 30 years. How is that possible??? When we moved into this house in January I told my friends and family to question my sanity if I said I was moving again any time soon. I wasn't kidding. Granted a lot of this moving happened in my young adult life as I moved to and from school, moving cities for school or work, and getting married (although we did move quite a bit as a child too). All these moves were stressful but they did mean I got to try my hand at decorating over and over and over again. And if you know me, you know anything that allows me to be creative is a happy place in my books. Read below on just a few ways I have decorated my home on a shoe string budget. 

Keep Your Home Neat + Tidy

The first step in decorating any space is keep it neat and tidy. I don't care if you have the nicest house on the block, if you are a complete slob it will look like a pig pen. Think of inexpensive storing options or having a yard sale to get rid of things you don't want or need. My rule of thumb: if I haven't used it in a year and it's not sentimental, chuck it. Nothing is as distracting in a space as clutter. 

Utilize Your Local Thrift Stores

I know this one is not earth shattering; we do live in the era of thrifting, DIY-ing, and repurposing. Thrift stores are amazing, especially if you have a taste that leans more on the vintage or nostalgic side like I do. However, you have to know which ones to go to. If it has the word antique in the name; chances are the prices will be very high. Keep in mind, antique (unless it's a car) means 100 years or older. Vintage can be as new as 20-25 years old. We have a local thrift store called Class and Trash that I have gone to for everything from shopping for furniture to styled shoots. I found this couch for $95 during our last move and the owner said she believes it's from the 1930's (insert game show bell and eye heart emoji here). The key is going to stores that are constantly getting in new inventory, have an established reputation and online presence, and are willing to negotiate. The nice thing about Class and Trash is that they can even custom build furniture like farm tables and benches if you can't find what you're looking for. I would like to add one thing here: never underestimate a good yard, estate, or garage sale. You honestly never know what gem you may find hiding. As long as something is sturdy and has good bones, you can always make it what you want later.

Repurpose Your Own Decor

Remember what I said earlier about getting rid of things? Don't do this with neutrals or classic patterns. For example, I have a white throw pillow that I bought in 2007 when my style was more earthy, warm tones, and Asian inspired. However, I held on to it, and it still works in my home even though my style has evolved into cool tones, classic, and vintage inspired. Whites, greys, blacks, browns, and even certain shades of blue can work with a variety of different styles and color palettes. Don't be afraid to cut up, take apart, and reuse items. I have a bunch of old windows I got from a house that was in the process of renovating. I just stopped by and asked what they planned to do with the old windows out front and they said they were planning to throw them away. I asked if I could have them and they just gave them to me; 17 of them! I have repurposed (and even sold) some of them into art. I have one hanging in my office that was made out of craft paper, Modge Podge, and wall decals. The whole thing cost maybe $12 and it's perfect for my office space!

The cans were old tin cans that I repurposed for the back of our "getaway car" at our wedding and the filing cabinet was a $9 find at Goodwill. I added a little craft paper to the front and Voila! Now it matches my office and it didn't break the bank! 

Garden on a Budget

I have just recently gotten really, really into gardening. I find it to be quite therapeutic and healing, and it allows me to tap into my creative side with something that is living and organic. I am quite fascinated by it truthfully! But let's be honest. It can be expensive. Very expensive. It could be easy for me to spend a lot of money on gardening because I see it as more of an experience than a thing. However, since we don't have an unending supply of money (and I'm guessing you don't either) and since spending too much money on myself prevents me from being generous, I have discovered a few ways around the expense. One of my favorite flowers growing in my garden right now is a variety of succulents that has beautiful flowers that open and close each day and night. I have honestly never seen some of these colors growing naturally anywhere before and they were only $1.99 for a 4 pack. I planted them in small ceramic pots that I painted and decorated myself which saved tons of money. I also have them sitting in an old palette that was just laying around at a nursery and was going to be thrown away. Go to places like Lowe's, Home Depot, nurseries, even and maybe even junk yards, and look for items that are going to be thrown away. Ask if you can use them, and most people will probably say yes (I've have only been turned down once but that was because the item didn't belong to the store and they had to give it back). You can get really creative here! Think of planting your spices and veggies in an old tire or whiskey barrel. Also, I just discovered that Lowe's has old flowers that haven't been very well taken care of and in need of a little TLC. They have them in the back of the store in their Clearance section. I have found plants for $1, nine for $3, and so on. All they need is a little love and you can bring those babies back to life! 

My mom gave us old black Adirondack chairs from her garden and I threw a little spray paint on them and it added instant color to my backyard!

Embrace Your Unique Style

It can be easy to see images of spotless, beautiful homes and a style that seems sophisticated and flawless and think that discounts your handmade-DIY-thrift-store-stylin design. FALSE! This was something I had to come to terms with recently. Because of my profession, I constantly see images floating around the internet of beautiful spaces, perfectly put together homes, and design that is eye-popping; and as women we don't really need to look for reasons to be insecure right? Don reminded me recently that the people with these designs also have something we don't have: money. Decorate for what your budget will allow and them embrace your style and authenticity! Don't try to live or look like anyone else! Be uniquely you! 

So there you have it. This is just a tiny little bit of what I've done to decorate on a budget but you can see that there's no need to spend a fortune if you are willing to get creative! It may take a little extra time, planning, and effort but your wallet (and peace of mind) will thank you!

As always, thanks for stopping by!


~Maggie ♥