If you just bought your first house, you probably have dreams about how you’re going to decorate it and make it lovely and inviting. However, if you’re reading this post, you’ve probably realized, as I have, that buying home decor can get very expensive very quickly. And if you just forked over a big down payment and you’re now saddled with a mortgage, spending oodles of money is off the table.
So, what’s the answer? How do you start decorating a house on a small budget? This is a question I’ve been trying to answer myself over the last few years. As we’ve furnished our home and I’ve done my best to make it cozy and welcoming, I’ve learned some tricks for how to achieve the look you want without spending a fortune.
How to Get Started Decorating a House on a Small Budget
It’s easy to get overwhelmed, but if you focus and make a plan rather than acting from impulse, you can get your house decorated on a small budget.
Tip #1 Remember, Decorating is Not a Race
I remember feeling when we moved into our home that I wanted to get everything decorated just how I wanted it within the first couple of months. Ha. Ha. Ha. We were moving from an apartment into a house and it was a big transition. I quickly realized my goal was a pipe dream.
This idea of wanting to have everything done right away is fairly common. However, unless you’re scheduled for an upcoming photo shoot with a big magazine (not likely for most of us), there’s no reason to rush things. Plan out your spaces. Decide what furniture you want to hunt for, or what kind of decorative shelving you want to put on the wall. Take some time to live in the space and figure out what makes sense before you rush around trying to grab stuff and fill up every wall and corner.
In addition, there may be some pieces you decide you don’t want to buy used and you’ll need to save up for them to pay cash. This takes time, and there’s nothing wrong with waiting to get what you truly want.
Tip #2 Focus on Decorating One Room at a Time
If you’re like me, you may want to jump in with both feet, start taking stock of every room and then just go for broke, planning and decorating the whole house at once. It’s possible, but definitely not recommended.
Look at your kitchen from top to bottom. What does it need? What have you seen in someone else’s home, or in a store, or on Pinterest that you’d like to try and replicate? How much money do you have to spend in the space? Evaluate your home room by room and make a plan for that specific room. To help, you can download my free home decor planning worksheet to get you going.
Tip #3 Actually Set a Decorating Budget
We talk about decorating our homes on a budget, but often when it gets right down to it, we don’t actually set a budget! This can go sideways quickly, because you either feel like you can’t spend a penny for fear of overspending, or you just start blindly spending, thinking you’re doing things on the cheap and suddenly, it adds up. Another common story? Your idea of “on a budget” and your spouse’s idea of “on a budget” are completely different. 🙂
Early on, my husband and I put a line item in our monthly budget specifically for home decor. It’s not a ton of money, but it’s a dedicated line item, so I know that I can spend from that pot and I’m not spending grocery money or toilet paper money or gas money. It has worked wonderfully for us.
Where to Shop When You’re Decorating a House on a Small Budget
Here are my favorite places to shop when decorating a house on a small budget:
Go in with a list, but be open to what you might discover. Have an open mind and think about how you could paint something, take it apart, add on to it, etc. Thrift stores can be a treasure trove of great home decor.
Picture frames, furniture, beautiful dishes…you can find it all at a garage sale. And if you’re a good haggler, a garage sale is the place for you! Sometimes you can get lucky going in at the end of a sale, when the seller is eager to clean up and get stuff gone. I’m not a great natural haggler, but you never know unless you ask! You could get an awesome deal.
Craigslist and OfferUp
I’ve used Craigslist primarily for furniture, but I’d imagine you could find other good pieces of home decor on there, as well. OfferUp is the same type of idea, but it’s definitely a more mobile-friendly experience. You can download the app and it’s super easy to use.
True confessions, I’m not as experienced on Facebook Marketplace (I’m not a big Facebook fan in general), but I’ve been looking into it more lately and it’s a GREAT place to find stuff. If you’re not already using it, jump on the bandwagon. It’s worth it.
Your Own Stuff
It sounds ridiculous, but it’s not. When you start looking among stuff you already own, you’ll realize you have more to work with than you thought. The decorative shelves in our living room are made out of old pieces of wood that were languishing in our backyard. The DIY rock garden border I made came from a pile of rocks the previous homeowners left in our garden. You’d be surprised at what you already have on hand when you start looking!
Inspiration for Decorating a House on a Small Budget
If you need inspiration for how you can thrift and use what you find to decorate, I highly recommend the blog She Holds Dearly. Sarah (a professional interior decorator) has a great video series on YouTube where she thrifts various items each week, then shows you how to style it as home decor. These videos really inspired me.
To me, the coolest thing about decorating a house on a small budget is you end up creating one-of-a-kind spaces filled with unique stories. You didn’t just go and grab a bunch of cute-but-generic cheap stuff at the local box store. You found things, you hunted for things, you were given things, you sanded, painted or stained things, and you created a space you truly love. And to top it all off, you didn’t spend thousands of dollars to do it!
Again, if you want a framework to get you started on planning your home decor by room-by-room, download my free home decor planning worksheet. Enjoy!