When Frank and I first got married, we were doing everything on a budget: Paying for a big Italian New York wedding, moving into our own apartment, buying furniture for that apartment. Everything seemed to come at once. We received help from our families, who were very generous with us, but it still wasn’t enough for us to pay for everything with a clean slate. To be really honest, we took out loans from our retirement, we took out personal loans, and we wiped out our savings account.
By the time it got to the point for us to decorate, we decided we wouldn’t. We would live in our apartment with furniture, and that was enough. But, the bland simplicity of a super-minimalist space just wasn’t our thing; a house isn’t a home until you add your own finishing touches. So, we got to work searching for the cheapest way we could create our space.
Tip #1: One of the first things we realized was that Rome wasn’t built in a day, and we could make the space our own over time, and that’s key to budgeting – take your time and don’t feel like everything has to be done at once.
Tip #2: Check the clearance section in your local pharmacy. I found this awesome battery-operated plant-light fixture in our local Duane Reade for $8 in the clearance section. It was a little piece that really “lit-up” our living space.
Tip #3: Use nature. As you can see behind the lit-up plant, we have a giant bamboo plant. Frank bought that bamboo plant for me about five years ago; it cost him about $10. It started in one of those little pots, and just kept growing. We went to our local Ikea, bought the giant vase for about $30, and the thing shot up into a small tree. Beautiful, clean, and a constant reminder of what we are growing together.
Tip #4: Create your own art. A Pinot’s Palette opened up on Staten Island less than two years ago. It’s such a great concept – for those of you who are unfamiliar, you book a “paint-night,” and they teach you how to create a featured painting, so you walk out of the session with a painting you created. It cost me $40, I had the chance to spend the night with my Mom, my Aunt, our close family friends, and I came out with this awesome mermaid painting for our bathroom.
Tip #5: Art is everywhere. I love mermaids; I always have. When The Little Mermaid by Disney came out in the theater, I made my Dad take me about 7 times to see it. My Mom gave me this beautiful postcard of a mother mermaid and her baby when I went off to college. I kept it because I loved how beautiful it was, and what it meant to me. I went to Home Goods, bought a frame for about $5, and hung it in my bathroom, too.
Tip #6: Create a theme. Decorating can easily be overwhelming when you don’t know where to begin. As you can see, I created a mermaid theme for my bathroom, but then I focused on my spirit animal for our living room and kitchen – the owl. After shopping around, I found these pictures in Home Goods for about $8 each, and the owl clock on Amazon for about $12.
Tip #7: Candles! (Of course, candles!) Candles are a great way to decorate your space because they are inexpensive, attractive, and they also create a scented ambiance. I have two of our own candles burning, Giving Thanks and Lunch Break, but I also have three battery-operated candles. The battery operated candles light-up and change colors with a remote control! My parents bought them for us a side gift, but they found them in Lot Less, which is a local discount store, for $10.
Tip #8: Avoid “trends,” unless you truly love it. Trendy items will always be more expensive because of basic supply-and-demand rules. If you stay true to what you really love, and take the time to find it, you will build your own beautiful empire.
Tip #9: Shop Indies. For those who don’t know what “Indies” are, they are independent small-businesses. You will find beautiful items for far less than you could imagine if you’re shopping in the right places. Check out the Indie Business Network Handmade Gift Guide for more ideas.
Share your own decorating on a budget ideas below!