7 Tips for Decorating on a Budget + How to Pull Them Off

Ah, budgets. Budgets are evil little things but they allow us to save for purchases we can feel great about making, and they also force us to get creative. Rather than giving a list of places you can shop for knock-offs, this post is about how you can get creative to work around a budget. Then, once you have saved some money via your creativity, you can run far away from the knock-off sites and pay for the real thing when it makes sense to splurge.

Some of these tips might seem obvious, but I hope they will at least get you thinking creatively. And, on some of the more obvious points, I've tried to give some nuance or advice that takes it a step further.

Thanks to everyone who sent in tips. Many of them are reflected on the list!

1) Frame a Rug or Piece of Fabric

I'm very proud of this hack -- could I call this a DIY? -- of mine. I bought a small Turkish rug on Facebook Marketplace for $30 (which was a steal), then sent it into Framebridge to be framed. Thanks to some promotions, I was able to get it framed for around $160. That means this entire piece of artwork cost me under $200!

Similar framed rugs run for hundreds of dollars, if not more. The one linked below, which is similar in size to mine, is $1,150 from Lulu & Georgia.

This same project could be done with a scarf or another large piece of fabric. If you're interested, look online for some silk scarves, like this one. Keep in mind that Framebridge has limits to the sizes they can frame, so make sure you have a local framer in mind for any large-scale framing projects.

2) Thrifting

This one is obvious but it is my #1 tip and the #1 tip sent in by followers as well. I have saved thousands of dollars by visiting thrift stores and combing through a lot of junk until I found something awesome. Thrifting can sometimes backfire in this way because you almost feel like you have to take home every good thing you find after searching through so much "bad."

When thrifting, keep in mind a few key things that would be nice to find. It is difficult to go thrifting with one specific thing in mind because you truly never know what you're going to find. On a thrifting trip last summer, I was casually browsing when I spotted this runner for $15. It had a few minor discolorations on it but they were hardly noticeable. I asked the front desk for measuring tape, decided it would probably work, and took it straight home under my arm. There isn't time for hesitation when thrifting, either.

If you want to become a hardcore thrifter (and get to know what is real vs fake vs valuable vs trash), consider joining an informative and social group like Thrift with The Makerista, which is facilitated by one of my favorite bloggers. It is $35/year but worth it. The community members share their incredible finds and insight and oftentimes will ship items to other members.

3) Shop on Secondhand Sites

Yes, another obvious one, but not the same as thrifting. Facebook Marketplace is a beast of its own! There are plenty of other resale sites, but FB Marketplace is my favorite. After a couple of good years of buying and selling on the platform, I would consider myself to be somewhat of an expert. I'll probably do a post about best practices another time, but here are the high-level rules for buying:

-Check the home page often because people hop on good deals FAST and new items are constantly being added. When I'm on the hunt for something, I check 4-5x/day.

-If you want something that you know will go quickly, don't send the generic "Is this still available?" that pre-loads into the chat. Send a thoughtful message alerting them that you are very interested. It helps if you can offer to meet up/pick up that day and if you can Venmo in advance to hold or "claim" the item. I've even offered more than the asking price to beat out other buyers that had messaged before me.

-If you're not sure about something, ask for more photos or dimensions. If the seller is sketchy about it, you should probably walk away.

-There is room to negotiate but don't bother with this for something you know will be a hot item. The time to negotiate is if something has been listed for more than a few days.

I've really scored on light fixtures via Marketplace. I got this basket light for 50% of its retail cost and it was new in the box. The return process for light fixtures is cumbersome and, oftentimes, people purchase fixtures in advance of a home renovation, then don't like them when the home is completed and are past the return window.

4) Get on an Estate Sale Email List

Estate sales sound pretty intimidating -- and sometimes they are -- but there are ways to get into it without jumping all the way in the deep end.

Rather than showing up to an estate sale at an old mansion in the middle of nowhere, start smaller with an email listserv from an estate sale company. Usually, professional estate sale companies photograph what's in the house and email it out to the people on their email list. You can't bid on the photos but you can at least see what is available before investing in attending a sale. It also helps when the companies host sales in warehouses instead of at actual houses.

I got this framed painting at an estate sale for $150!

4) Paint Something Old // Recover What you Have

Before counting out an old piece, paint it an updated color! Painting an accent wall or entire room obviously is a great way to update, but we're focusing on "decorating" here.

This blog post inspired me to think outside-of-the-box when it comes to paint color.

In some cases, you can also recover a bench or chair instead of throwing it out. Go to your local fabric store and check out options online to find an updated fabric, then find a local upholsterer to complete the work. Quote everything -- including the upholstery work -- so you can decide if it is worth it before taking on the project.

5) Get Some Big Plants

Plants aren't cheap but they add so much to a room! I've always found great fiddle leaf fig trees at Home Depot. You can also find a lot of plants on Facebook Marketplace!

6) Refresh Your Throw Pillows

It is crazy how much of an impact throw pillows have! If you're dying for a room refresh that you just can't afford, start with the pillows to hold you over.

7) Change Out Your Hardware

Changing out hardware is a no-brainer way to upgrade cabinets or dressers. Painting plus upgrading hardware is the best combination, but either can be done alone.

Etsy and Anthropologie are my favorite places to shop for unique hardware, but don't count out stores like Lowe's or Home Depot for generic pulls and knobs.

Happy budget decorating! Send me photos if you try any of these out.