8 tricks for when you’re decorating on a budget

Everyday Homes

February 13, 2020

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photo by: @shelbygoodman

I love getting new pieces for our home and making home updates—I mean really, who doesn’t like picking out something that comes in perfect condition neatly shipped to your front door?

But let’s face it: unless you have an endless supply of cash, it’s just not doable to continuously update all the things in your home with brand new items.

For me, this is where thrifting has really come in handy. I can make updates more regularly when I’m not paying a high dollar price tag every time, and save up for those pieces I really want to purchase new.

But decorating with thrifted pieces isn’t just about affordability—it’s about aesthetics. Honestly, some of my favorite items are things that have come to our home secondhand in some way. I love that these pieces often have a story to tell and character you can’t find anywhere else. There’s just something special about them that makes a space feel beautifully cozy and well-loved!

So today I’ve decided to share a few tips on how to make home updates on budget and some ideas from a few Instagram accounts that decorate with secondhand well. I’m always inspired by the simple changes these ladies are able to make with a little creativity and vision.

If you’re in need of some inspiration, look no further:

01. Sell what you have first.

Try selling some items on Facebook Marketplace BEFORE purchasing that new item you really want—it’s a great way to create an incentive for purchasing that piece of furniture you really want to own.

If you really want a love seat but have a couple sitting chairs instead—sell them! Sell anything and everything that you either don’t need, don’t use, or don’t really like all that much. You’ll make a little money to put towards an item you really want, and you have the added benefit of decluttering.

“Turns out Facebook Marketplace is hiding some really pretty gems for crazy low prices if you do enough digging through all the posts. 😍 We brought this pretty cabinet home last night, and it really makes our bedroom feel complete. Maybe I’m slowly turning into a cabinet hoarder, but hey, at least they’re pretty AND functional.” —Megan, @_meganalexandra

02. Check local estate sales and auctions.

Yes, Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist and local thrift stores are usually the main places where you can find great deals. But have you thought about checking out local auctions and estate sales? 

We’ve seen some amazing things come from finds at local auctions. Chelsea from @life_in_the_yellow_house is an expert at shopping auctions. She’s scored a wingback chair at an auction for literally $1. You can use the websites estatesale.com and estatesales.net to find local sales going on in your area.

03. Know where and how to spot quality pieces.

Since the Marie Kondo craze has encouraged everyone to declutter, there’s definitely been a surge in donated items nationwide. So now is the time to find some great things you may need! In terms of major thrift stores, Goodwill tends to carry more furniture where as Salvation Army is better for inexpensive kids’ books and toys.

Not sure what you should look for when you’re out thrift shopping?

Keep an eye out for things like: candlesticks, pitchers and vases, vintage art, mirrors, end tables, coffee tables, baskets, wooden kids tables, chairs. Generally speaking, seek out wood pieces that could be refinished with some paint or a little stain. And look for labels identifing the manufacturer or designer—that can help indicate quality.

“Shopped my house for a little change of scenery – always good for a fresh perspective + gratitude for what I already own.” @shelbygoodman

04. Shop your home.

Get creative with what you have! Try to envision a piece of furniture, art, or decor in a new spot in your home. I’ve done this for storage units, shelving, baskets, art, etc. It’s surprising what a little rearranging can do to revitalize a space. That shelf in your office? Maybe try it in a bedroom. Tired of the console in your entryway? Might be a cute accent table in your living room.

Sometimes just moving the furniture around—even within the same room— can prompt new ideas for decorating a space. 

“I was wanting my dresser to feel a bit fancy for Christmas, but I didn’t want to spend more money since this is an expensive time of year, so I grabbed this thrifted mirror from another room and set it on my dresser with some candles. It dressed up the place and I didn’t spend any extra money.” Liz, @thequickjourney

05. When in doubt, paint it.

A can of paint (or wood stain) can be your best friend when it comes to updating a piece of older furniture (or changing a wall color, or even flooring). Adding a new splash of color can make SUCH a difference in revitalizing the spaces they’re in. 

Recently I’ve stained the top of a dining room table, painted my daughter’s dresser, a bedside table, and the outer rim of a mirror to give it a facelift. I chose to paint these pieces white because the rooms they were in had little natural light and I wanted to brighten up these spaces. A little paint did the trick!

“One of the first things I pinned as inspiration for the foyer was a gilded French-esque mirror. Well turns out I could LESS than afford one. Duh! So I found an old beat up mirror on Craigslist to refinish.” @francois_et_moi

06. Bring the outdoors in.

Look outside for shrubbery you can cut and place in a pretty pitcher or vase. This is a free, easy way to breathe life into a space. Who doesn’t love gazing at a fresh stem of greenery?

If you don’t happen to have any shrubbery, most grocery stores carry stems of greenery for just a couple dollars.

“Lately I’ve tried a few different pieces of art over that bookshelf, left them up for a few days then took them down… I haven’t found anything that I love as much as this vine that I picked from our backyard and stuck in a vase. Simple, free, and lovely.“—Chelsea, @life_in_the_yellow_house

07. Keep an eye out for items people are giving away. 

Don’t be afraid to pull over if you see something someone’s getting rid of. They might just not have the space anymore or simply aren’t using it.

Recently, my neighbors were moving and getting rid of some extra things, so I picked up a great 9-cube storage cubby that now stores my kids play toys, and it didn’t cost me anything! 

Also, try joining your neighborhood’s Nextdoor group. In my experience, neighbors will sometimes share items they are looking to freely give away here.

“I found this FREE 4 billion pound desk, hauled it home with the help of my patient husband, stripped down the old finish and somehow manhandled in here where it fits perfectly.” —Jessica, @househomemade

08. Check out Amazon Warehouse.

If there’s an item your really love and you just HAVE to have it new—definitely check out Amazon Warehouse. I know so many people who don’t realize this option exists, and it’s a great way to get pieces a discounted price.

Recently, I purchased this Tot Tutors wooden table and chair set through Amazon Warehouse—it regularly sells for $90 new, but I paid only $60 for it.

If you’re unfamiliar with Amazon Warehouse—this is where Amazon sells refurbished items, returned items that are in good condition, and even some items that are in new, “opened box” condition. If you want to know more about it works, you can read more here.

It may take a little time, but if you have a plan for what you’re looking for and goal for what you’d like to spend, keep looking until you find a piece that fits within your budget! 

Megan Alexandra says it best: “Wherever you are, home renovations and decor that you dream of don’t need to cost you an arm and a leg. Some thrifty thinking, patience, research and a whole lot of elbow grease can truly go a long way.” 

All photos in this article were used with permission from the original photographers. If you like their work, give them a follow on Instagram!

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