It’s easy to feel like you will never have the home you dream about, but there are plenty of ways to create a beautiful home, that are better for the planet and your pocket. Budget is one of the top barriers people mention when it comes to their home. However, by taking a more sustainable approach to designing and decorating, you can create a lovely place to live – whether you own your home, rent, or share – without breaking the budget.
Here Are 20 Budget Hacks For Decorating Your Home
1) Stop Comparing!
Constantly feeling like your home is not good enough, can be in direct correlation with how often you engage in social media. It can also lead you to feeling like YOU are not good enough. If you are always watching renovation shows, reading home magazines, scouring social media and visiting home stores, it’s easy to start believing you need more, more, more. And, you really don’t.
Considering there are people out there who don’t even have a home, if you do have a roof over your head, stop and be grateful for what you have, and consider what you can do, with what’s already there.
2) Buy Vintage
Whether buying vintage is something you are already doing or not, it’s important to remember that vintage does not mean daggy, or out of style. In fact style is a very subjective thing and if you love it, then it’s in fashion!
It’s amazing what you can find at vintage and second-hand stores. It does mean being open minded, because you can’t open the catalogue and pick your sofa from the current season. You need to go with an idea of measurements and style, but be prepared to think outside the square. Always look at the bones of a piece, rather than the finish, as you can repair, redo and upcycle.
3) Go to Garage Sales
When was the last time you went to a garage sale? Now that things are reasonably steady here in Australia when it comes to covid-19, it’s a brilliant way to both sell and buy items for your home. Be aware of social distancing and hand hygiene, and if you are holding a garage sale, consider a sign-in sheet for your visitors.
Garage sales are a fun day out and you often meet people in your local community. Plan ahead – look for them online and in social media groups, such as council and community pages. Be prepared to barter.
4) Re-use What You Have
Many years ago, everything was re-used, mended and recycled. Happily this is starting to become popular again. Look for glass in the supermarket rather than plastic, for example for sauces, jams and honey – so that you can re-use the jars. Some stores will take jars and bottles back to refill. Anything made with glass or ceramics can be used for another purpose, such as storage in the pantry and bathroom.
You can also get crafty with fabrics and make something new – such as a crochet doily bunting, or a tea-towel cushion cover. Avoiding plastics is part of this, so it’s a win-win situation.
Head here for the pattern for this great tealight project below.
5) Swap With Friends
If you want a new look, why not hold a swap party with friends?! You could even set one up via a Facebook event. Each person brings along items they no longer want or need, and picks some items to take. You could include furniture, homewares and textiles. A great way to get a new look for zilch!
6) Join a Buy Nothing Group
The Buy Nothing Project began when two friends, Rebecca Rockefeller and Liesl Clark, created an experimental hyper-local gift economy on Bainbridge Island, WA, in July, 2013. Since then, it has become a worldwide social movement, with groups in 44 nations, including Australia. You can join the Buy Nothing groups on Facebook – it is a great way to swap items with other people in your local community. Find your group here.
We recently joined our local group and have been enjoying seeing families (especially the faces of the children lucky enough to inherit our son’s toys!) taking items we no longer need. We have also been gifted some items we needed for our home and met some lovely people.
Upcycling is a great way to decorate without spending much. Look for quality items and things that don’t require much to fix, unless you have the skills to turn them into something new. Upcycling traditionally means taking an object and turning it into something better. But nowadays, it can mean a simple coat of paint on a chair to bring it back to life.
By the way, if you have a tired old chair or sofa, you can totally make it over with chalk paint – This post takes you through all the tips about using chalk paint to upcycle a fabric chair.
8) Save Up!
Yes it’s true, in the old days people would save money for a major piece of furniture, or home renovation. Instead of buying cheap items that will break quickly, and which have often been made in dodgy conditions, if you really covet a piece of funiture, aim to save enough money to buy furniture that’s made to last. I have found second-hand the way to go here. I bought a genuine 1950’s Danish leather couch many years ago and a Danish 1960’s wing-back chair more recently – both from a second-hand store, both high quality, with a beautiful patina.
It’s easy to get tricked by all of the ‘take now, buy later’ plans – trust me I have been caught out. But in the end, you spend far more than you really have and end up with things you probably didn’t need. I have cancelled all of these sorts of accounts, and am concentrating on only ever buying new if it is really necessary.
9) Use Paint
Paint is one of the cheapest and most effective ways to change your home and furniture. Look for no VOC paints and wallpapers with eco friendly inks. There is a lot of great information here about choosing these.
10) Be Mindful
This is about noticing what you already have, considering what you really need, seeing the world around you, and letting go of the idea that you need more all of the time. We are driven to consume and this is not doing any of us any good. Take small moments each day to be grateful for your life, the people in it, and focus on the good.
11) Be Brave!
Don’t be afraid to use unusual objects in your styling and vignettes around your home. You can include items such as old bottles, industrial pieces and fabric, to create layers of stories and textures. These are cheap or free and make a big impact.
12) Bring Nature Indoors
Organic materials such as leaves and fresh and dried flowers, make a beautiful statement. Look for seeds, branches, and interesting pieces of bark when you are out walking. Then bring them home and create a feature with them that reminds you of your time out in nature.
13) Shop Local
Add some new pieces from local makers to create that perfect blend of old and new. If you are able, buying from etsy for example, is a great way to add artwork or decorative pieces, which are affordable and ethical. Markets are perfect for buying directly from maker, although these might be affected by covid-19. However, many are on Instagram – just beware the seduction of images on Instagram, leading you to impulse buy!
14) Get Creative
Think creatively when it comes to how to re-use items. For example, you can use old suitcases, boxes and crates, for storage. Turn crates on their side and hang them as a shelf, stack for a side table with built-in storage, build a coffee table from a series of crates with casters for feet, or a stack a group of old cases together. We even have an old timber tool-box as our bathroom shelf and towel hanger.
15) Hang It
As far as I am concerned, a blank wall is a waste of space! I have art all over the place – some of it I painted myself, some is our children’s work, some is from Australian artists and the rest is all vintage. Whether like me, you hate a blank wall, or just want a statement piece, Art is brilliant for decorating impact and often easy to find in op shops and vintage stores. You can find lots of local artists, again at markets and online via places like Instagram.
16) Did I Mention Flowers?
Flowers, flowers and more flowers! Always add flowers to your home whether picked roadside, from your garden or bought. Always consider the source of your flowers though, because sustainability and fair trade are important. I like to always have something flowering in the garden and often pick flowers that are on the footpath or verge. You can have some flowers, even if you don’t have a large garden – a few pots will brighten up your home.
17) Mix Things Up
Contrasts work really well in decorating – mix rough with smooth, square with round, and old with new. Add pattern and colour – be sure to have neutrals as well, to balance the look. By using natural materials, vintage pieces and reinventing things, you will end up with a range of these kinds of contrasts, which do not cost a lot.
18) Consider Design and Layout
Rather than adding on or doing major renovations, you can create nooks in your home that encourage people to linger. Rearrange to get a new look and feel, rather than buying new. I regularly move furniture around a little bit, change artwork to different rooms, and look for opportunities to create new little areas in our home. My family joke that they never know where they live when they walk in the door!
19) Learn New Skills
If you learn to knit, crochet, sew, weld, or paint, you can get started making your own cushions, curtains, tablecloths, throws (even a crochet bike!), make your own furniture and shelving. By learning new skills and doing it yourself, you will also have a sense of achievement and pride in your gorgeous and unique home.
20) Forget Trends
Finally, following trends makes you want to change everything, each season. Buying things that are designed to last, not just in their longevity, but also in their style, really helps you to keep them long term and saves the planet as well as your pocket.
Don’t ever be sucked in by trends. Don’t feel ashamed or compare your home with other people’s homes. Don’t think that stuff will make you happy.
In the end, when you are old and looking back on it all, the things you will think about and remember will be the people who have been in your home, the conversations, the laughs around the table, the time you played cards all night long, the birthday cake you made, the creeping in to watch your children sleeping, chasing the dog around the yard, sleeping cuddled with your partner or your cat, growing something with your family and friends. It definitely won’t be the time you made your lounge room look like the one on the television or some celebrity Instagram feed. Remember that and let go a little bit. You’ll find your home looks just that little bit more beautiful, while you get on with the important task of living your life.
**updated from an article originally posted in 2016