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Decorating on a Shoe String Budget

Follow these helpful ideas on how you can spruce up your home on a small budget.

Years ago, a friend and I spent a day wadding up Saran Wrap, dipping it in paint, and painting a faux finish on the walls in my stairway and hallway. The finish is beautiful and it cost me just $15 for the plastic wrap and the paint. Painting is not my most favorite project to tackle, but the finished job was worth the effort.

Over the years I’ve watched creative friends use everyday materials to add color, warmth, and a fresh look to their homes. I’ve taken notes along the way and have learned there are some very simple, low cost ways to improve the appearance of our homes.

My friend, Shawn, invited me over to see how she had decorated her preschool son’s room. I was amazed at the simple creativity she had used!

Shawn wanted to decorate Nathan’s room with a jungle theme. She visualized all kinds of animals painted on the walls: a lion, tiger, elephant and monkey. Shawn found some pictures of the animals she had in mind. After turning the pictures into overhead transparencies (a service offered at any teacher supply store or print shop), she used an overhead projector to project the figures on the bedroom walls. 

The next step involved tracing the projected figures with a pencil. After that, the figures were painted and details added using the pictures as a template. When the room was finished the animal figures reached from floor to ceiling in the one-of-a-kind bedroom. It just took a little creativity.

My friend and former neighbor, Rita, also has a creative flair with decorating. She makes a hobby out of finding old and often discarded furniture and bringing new life to it. I’ve seen her take iron bedframes, old chairs, and discarded tables and make them into useful pieces of furniture in her home. With the wide variety of paint products and special paint effects that are available to us, this type of creativity can be accomplished by most anyone.

Creative decorating can happen when we use pieces of furniture outside of their designed use. Several years ago we moved dressers around in our children’s rooms. After Mark and I were given a dresser for our bedroom, we passed our dresser to one of the kids who really needed more room for their clothes. That child, in turn, passed their dresser on to a younger sibling. I ended up with a small extra dresser that I first thought I’d try to sell in the newspaper. 

At the same time, I had been trying to figure out how to reorganize our wrapping supplies: wrapping paper, gift bags, ribbon, scissors, and tape. It occurred to me that we could move the dresser into the dining room, top it with a potted plant, and place all of our gift wrap supplies in it. It worked better than any other organizational system I could have purchased or created specifically to organize a gift wrap center.

How can you decorate on a shoe-string budget? Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Watch what other people are doing. Use their ideas to get you started.
  • Ask for help. If you have a neighbor or friend who successfully faux painted her living room ask her if she would teach you how to do the same and help you get started.
  • Watch for unadvertised clearance aisles. Recently I found $40 candlesticks marked down to $5 on a clearance aisle. In the same shopping trip I found a $100 frame for $12 and it fit a family portrait I’d been hoping to display!
  • Become familiar with the variety of paint finishes. A simple visit to the paint department of your local home store will acquaint you with dozens of spray-on specialty finishes.
  • Be creative about how you use your furniture. An old wood crate turned upside down can become a unique coffee table. A large basket can be used to store throw blankets in the family room.

I have found when I invest some time into our home, my family benefits. They feel valued as I prepare a place where they can relax and entertain their friends. When I take time to invest in my home, I benefit too. After all, my home is my office—it’s where I spend the majority of my time!

Decorating on a one-income budget is not impossible…just let the creative juices flow!

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