How to Decorate on a Tight Budget – like when you literally have almost no money!

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Inside:  10 fantastic ideas to create a unique and beautiful home on a VERY small budget!

Does decorating on a budget make your mind whirl? I mean… who really wants to be budget decorating?

Money, money, money.  We can’t get enough and we never, ever have enough.  And how do you even decorate when you’re just trying to keep the lights on? amiright?

Let me tell you, I’ve been there… I am pretty much still there.

It’s so hard to justify spending money on things like lights and decorating walls and knick-knacks when you’re struggling to put food on the table and pay for those boys that love scouting and swimming and reading and wearing clothes.

All the while, I sit here and just want to surround myself with beauty.  I’m here all day and I want my home to sing to me.

So, how do you do any budget home decorating when you literally have almost no money?

How?

Do you want to create a beautiful home but money is tight? Here are 10 great tips for How to Decorate on a Tight Budget. You can make a beautiful home on a small budget.

Well, I don’t have all the answers, but here are a few things I’ve done and tips to help you create a beautiful and meaningful home.

How to Decorate on a Really Tight Budget

Below, you’ll find actual projects that I have done over the years to make my home unique and beautiful… on a budget!

1. Use paper.

Do you want to create a beautiful home but money is tight? Here are 10 great tips for How to Decorate on a Tight Budget. You can make a beautiful home on a small budget.

Paper is one of the cheapest things you can use!  I made the giant wreath in my den out of copy paper and this gorgeous heart wreath out of coffee filters.  I also made this Fun Garland out of Tissue Paper. Did you know you can get metallic tissue paper, too?  It’s breath-taking!

2. Draw on the walls instead of buying expensive wallpapers.

draw-on-the-walls

The day I realized I could use Crayola Dry Erase Bright Crayons to draw on the wall was a day I’ll never forget.  It took one whole white crayon to stencil these two walls.  That was about four years ago and it’s still as beautiful as the day I did it.

And yes, it washes off.  I tried it about a year after I did it and it came off just fine.

Then I got really bold and used a Gold Sharpie Paint Pen on the walls in my Office to create these Gold Geometric Walls.  It took 2 pens to decorate above the board and batten.  I think that cost me about $8 total.  What a bargain! If I’d tried to price wallpaper to cover that area, it would have been way out of my budget.

3. Be patient and wait for sales.

Do you want to create a beautiful home but money is tight? Here are 10 great tips for How to Decorate on a Tight Budget. You can make a beautiful home on a small budget.

This might go without saying, but I can’t tell you how much I’ve saved by just being patient. I always wait for the sales at Sherwin Williams before I paint.  They have them about twice a year usually between 30-40% off.  That saves a ton of money.  TONS!

I painted my entire family room and kitchen with their Moody Blue paint and it cost me so much less because I waited for the sale. Cha-ching! And if you use this little gem, it’ll take a bulk of the pain out of the job! I mean, magnetic brush holder?  Brillz, baby.

Tip #3 1/2

Use your craft store coupons. Did you know that Michael’s takes coupons from your Smart Phone?  Yes.  So if you forget one at home and your at the store, check the weekly ad!  I have it bookmarked on my phone for quick reference.

4. Make your own wall art.

Do you want to create a beautiful home but money is tight? Here are 10 great tips for How to Decorate on a Tight Budget. You can make a beautiful home on a small budget.

Have you priced wall art these days?  Even if you go to TJ Max or Marshall’s, it’s still going to cost you $40-50!  So, just make your own.

I made this DIY Pixel art for less than $20 and this Geometric Heart Wall Art for even less.  All it takes is a few supplies, but mostly just some time.

5. Thrift it.

Do you want to create a beautiful home but money is tight? Here are 10 great tips for How to Decorate on a Tight Budget. You can make a beautiful home on a small budget.

Scour the thrift stores, but be smart!  Our Goodwill has caught on and they’ve really increased their prices on furniture.

Also, check and see if your local area has a Facebook Yard Sale Group. I’ve found two awesome pieces of furniture for a song… as in FREE. They just needed to get rid of the stuff.  I scored this awesome mid-century dresser  that I painted with chalk paint {total $30 just for chalk paint} and this AMAZING Mid-Century desk {which I painted with leftover paint from my Stenciled Stripes Wall and some chalkboard paint a friend gave me: ZERO DOLLARS!} .

6. Grift it.

Do you want to create a beautiful home but money is tight? Here are 10 great tips for How to Decorate on a Tight Budget. You can make a beautiful home on a small budget.

Huh?  What does that mean?  Grifting mean getting it as a gift! (at least that’s how I mean it here)

This Sunburst Console?  Grifted.

The columns for this Reclaimed Column Buffet? Grifted.

If you are looking for something in particular, don’t be afraid to put the word out. Your family and friends who know you’re on a tight budget are usually willing to help, especially if it mean they can lighten their load at the same time!

7. Repurpose it.

Do you want to create a beautiful home but money is tight? Here are 10 great tips for How to Decorate on a Tight Budget. You can make a beautiful home on a small budget.

When you’re roaming around the thrift store or the ReStore, think outside the box.  These vintage drawers I found for ONE FREAKING DOLLAR became some much needed Rolling Under-bed storage. You have to go see the before… what a huge difference!

They are super cute and purposeful, which is doing the double duty of decorating and storing.  Bonus.

I had one left over and it became a shelf in our bathroom.  There is no end to what you can come up with if you just squeeze your brain a bit.

8. Use plywood.

Do you want to create a beautiful home but money is tight? Here are 10 great tips for How to Decorate on a Tight Budget. You can make a beautiful home on a small budget.

Using plywood is a great way to save money. It’s relatively inexpensive and you can have the store cut it for you if you don’t have the tools at home.

You can even ask friends for their scraps.  Free is always better.

I’ve used plywood for my DIY Colorcord Light Pendant, Shazam String Art and this Geometric Heart Wall Art.  They are all fun pieces that cost next to nothing to make because I opted for the natural look of plywood.

9. Make small inexpensive things for little touches.

Do you want to create a beautiful home but money is tight? Here are 10 great tips for How to Decorate on a Tight Budget. You can make a beautiful home on a small budget.

Decorating doesn’t have to be full on in your face.  Sometimes, it’s the little details that make it look finished and add a bit of fun!

These little glitter heart magnets were super cheap and make me smile when I look over to my little locker console.  You can practically glitter anything and make it sing… like pencils or thrifted wooden holders.

10.  Frame Free Printables

Do you want to create a beautiful home but money is tight? Here are 10 great tips for How to Decorate on a Tight Budget. You can make a beautiful home on a small budget.

Free is always, always good!  And if you don’t have time to make your own wall art, then free printables are the way to go.  Just find some very cheap frames {Ikea Ribba are my fav!} and go to town.

I have a ton of free printables… like this Gold Foil Triptic using Gold Foil Geometric Heart, Love Always, Always Wins and Climb Every Mountain.  Put together, these three printables make such a beautiful mini-gallery!  And it cost me next to nothing.

So, how do you feel now?

I hope these ideas for decorating on the cheap have helped mute the feeling of overwhelm you might be having.  And remember, you don’t have to do it all at once, just pick a room and start slowly.  It will evolve over time and that’s how it should be.

You can create a beautiful home on practically nothing as long as you are patient and resourceful.

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86 Comments

  1. I can’t tell you how giddy I feel finding your blog/website/place. You think like I do….paint is a necessity!

    1. Thank you so much, Laura! I love your name, but I’m totally biased. My mom’s name is Laura!

    2. Giddy, like the title of this post – which is SO grammatically wrong but there is just NO grammatically correct way to capture that meaning – Iknow EXACTLY what she means!

        1. Totally – not exactly a “need” but a sort of desire with that TEENY TINIEST element of desperation!

  2. Great tips! Thanks!! Your use of the word “grifted” surprised me though. To grift is to swindle… By definition, a grifter is a con artist: someone who swindles people out of money through fraud. So it seems like you’re saying to just steal stuff, haha. Yeah, that’s definitely a cheap way to do things. πŸ™‚

    1. Haha! No, I’m using it to mean a combination of “gift” and “thrift”. To basically ask someone if you can have something… nicely, of course!

      Thanks for reading, Beth! πŸ™‚

  3. Don’t forget the use of the outside. Branches glued to frames or cans or just uniquely arranged in a vase is always a cool and free home accent.

    1. Of course, Kellie! That is a GREAT addition! We don’t have any real trees on our property, so I didn’t think to include using natural elements. πŸ™‚

  4. This is amazing !! My room is painted the way Iwant it but as far as decorations go , I don’t have many because I can’t afford them , but thanks to your tips I can’t wait to decorate my room !! Thank you so much !

    1. Yay! I’m so glad these tips helped, Tifani! There is so much you can do even when money is tight!

  5. I applaud your ingenuity! I raised two kids w practically no money and we still lived in pleasing decor. Excellent ideas, Laura. Your home expresses your exquisite creativity. Outstanding.

    1. Thank you SO much, Louise! Raising kids is not cheap, is it? My boys have really gotten into swimming and it’s taking a chunk of our budget to suppor them. But it’s totally worth it!

    1. lol just don’t let your toddler/preschooler see you drawing on the walls or else they might think, if mommie can than I can too! πŸ˜€

  6. Great! I was searching for ideas on how to decorate on a budget, but all the ideas seemed to be “This is so cheap, I only cost 1000$”………
    THIS is what I was looking for. Thank you :-).

  7. Extra tip on #3 with the Sherwin Williams sales: If you know you’re going to paint soon, but haven’t decided on the color yet, you can buy the un-tinted paint when it’s on sale, and then go back and have the store tint it whever you’re ready, for no additional cost. They were having this sale when I closed on my house, but I hadn’t picked out colors. So I bought paint for the whole house at the sale price and went back and had each room’s paint tinted when I was ready.

    1. YES! I totally forgot that, Elaine! I did that when I wanted paint for the downstairs. I bought several gallons and then went back later to tint it. Thanks for reminding me of that great tip!

      1. Most stores that sale paint have an “oops” section where you can buy paint that was mixed but for one reason or another the customer didn’t want it. You can get a gallon for as little as 5.00 if you don’t have a specific color in mind. I was patient and kept my eye open for an oops paint around the color I had in mind and found just what I needed for only 6.00.

        1. That is a great tip, Raye! I’ve occasionally found “oops” paint as well!

          Thanks for sharing!

          xoxo

          Gwen

    1. Thank you Brandy! Thrifty Decorating is my middle name! πŸ™‚

  8. i love the way you share those information. Very clear and straightforward . Help a lot. Thanks Gwen !

  9. Gwen, I clearly enjoyed your tips. Now, to get down to doing some of your ideas! Since, my apt is so darn clean, also your ideas… I was SO jazzed about my toilet for so long. Thanks for the insight & motivation. U R A sweetie.

    1. Thank you SO much, Michele! I love a clean space. I’m going to work on my closet next! I helped my mom this week in hers and it’s amazing how much lighter you feel when your space is decluttered! <3

  10. I think you’re simply amazing! I love your personality and this list is awesome. I’m still laughing at grifting! As a 23 yr old upcoming freshman, my budget is pretty much non-existent for decorating. Everything usually go to bills, bills, and um…bill! lol. Most of my decoration comes from thrifting and re-purposing old items and to be honest, I wouldn’t have it any other way πŸ™‚ There’s something awesome & empowering about watching an old piece on its last leg being transformed into something beautiful and new! Thanks for sharing πŸ˜€

    1. Thank you so much, Christal!

      I totally agree with your outlook on decorating. It’s so much fun to thrift and repurpose!

  11. that chalk wall is fabulous! I don’t think that could look better for any amount of money; that is sharp!

  12. I like to paint tables and shelves with chalk paint, however the chalk paint is much more expensive… so I make my own. Just mix regular paint (whatever color you are working with) and baking soda. It dries very quick and is great for repurposing and antiquing projects.

  13. I look through a ton of decorating on a budget sites and this is fantastic – you really have shown how to use your creativity and little or no money. Fantastic!!!

  14. Great tips, Gwen! I didn’t see it mentioned in previous comments, but a great way to score awesome furniture for cheap is to go to estate sales and local auctions. You can find local auctions and estate sales on auctionzip.com and estatesales.net. In fact, I just scored a mid-century secretary desk/dresser, made in Denmark, for $22.50 and I found the exact one on 1stdibs for $1800!

    1. Wow, Cassie! That’s an amazing find.

      I agree. Auctions are so awesome. I used to go to one in GA, but just haven’t sought any out here. Thanks for the reminder!

  15. great ideas! Luv the encouragement and positivity!, As a DIY Diva from way back, I just luv what you are doing, with inexpensive everyday supplies!, great blog!,

    1. Thank you so much, Tracy! DIYing is not just a great way to save money, it’s so much fun, isn’t it?

  16. I’ve been married 48 years and raised a very large family and frugality was important and
    there were times when buying decor was not in the budget. I often would take cardboard from old boxes paint
    them and put a cute border on it and gather pictures from old magazines given to me from family and friends and cut pictures of gardens, animals and vacations spots and create collages and hang in children rooms. It also became a family project where children would create their own. Some of these collages were used as goal setting
    boards including fashion, design, careers and dreams.
    My husband would take scrap wood cut letters out with his jig saw and children would paint to change or set their initials or names on walls and tables. No Hobby Lobby here. Many of these things make great to just have some family time which is so needed in todays world.

    1. I couldn’t agree more, Judith! Creating together is a great way to spend time with family.

      You are a true decorating on a budget genius! You were creating vision boards before they became the thing to do!

      Bold hugs,

      Gwen

  17. These are great tips! That paper wreath is gorgeous, Gwen. You are so right that it deoesn’t always take a bunch of money to make your home just a little bit nicer. I hope it encourages even one of your readers to do something nice for their home -affordably. One thing I do when money for extras is super-tight (even tighter than usual) is to tidy, rearrange or organize one area of our home. It makes me appreciate my home even more and occassionaly I come across something that I no longer need that I can sell on our local online free classifieds. I have made lots of money that way, to go towards bills or towards decor/furniture. Also, our town has ‘big item day’ once a month Spring to Fall where people can put large items (furniture, metal shelving etc.) at the curb for waste pick up. Lots of people are out looking a few days and the evening before looking for finds (it saves on our landfill too.) I have scored some really great pieces that way.

    1. Hi Elizabeth! I love your tip about tidying and organizing! Getting rid of clutter and dust always makes a room feel happier. You are so lucky to have a “big item day”! I’m want to live there!!!

      Gwen

  18. In our previous home my daughters bedroom window had a dismal view (overlooking the trashcans with no place else to store them). I decided a colorful approach would be best, she was five at the time and loved rainbows. I took a pastel multicolor package of tissue paper, cut out heart shapes in all of the various colors and using plain old school glue, ‘painted’ them on the window in a rainbow shape. I saved one blue sheet for behind the rainbow and painted white clouds on the blue sky. Her bedroom window was the star of her room, her little friends loved it when they came occasionally for a sleepover and no ugly view of our trash cans! It was easy decorating around it, she loved pinks but we could have gone with blues or greens or peach because all of the colors were represented in the rainbow window art. It was a fairly large window 30 x 36 and the entire project cost me less than $3.00. We hung simply blue valance and her window treatment was complete. Added bonus: No window washing, just a light dusting when I cleaned her room. (Also, when we moved, just add water and it peels right off with a sponge.)

    1. That is awesome, Barbara! What a creative and VERY thrifty way to add some fun to a room!

  19. How about reuse? I have an ugly painting I did in -well 45 years ago.! Spring cleaning came one day and I want to toss it. My Beloved loves it, re rfamed it, and put it on a top shelf by the front door. It gets raves now ! Who knew

  20. Could you make the DIY Pixel Wall (https://www.theboldabode.com/diy-pixel-wall-art.html) Art to sell? I would be interested in buying one of these from you if you could give me a set price? Right now I am juggling a lot of things and unfortunately don’t have the time and space to make my own. Please let me know when you are able to. It’s a beautiful piece of work you made-great job πŸ˜‰

    1. I’m so flattered, Lauren! Unfortunately, I’m not painting for the public at this time. But I really appreciate your asking!

      Gwen

      1. Gwen,
        I loved your ideas but I am not that great in decorating…I live in the northern Virginia area…if you livd in my area, I would invite you over to help me with your great ideas..

        Louise

        1. Oh, you’re so sweet, Louise! I have to say, I’m really not that great at it either, but that’s the fun part… Just trying something new!

          Gwen

          P.S. I’d totally come help you if I did! <3

  21. I will use some of these ideas for decorating my school locker next year!! Thanks!

  22. Thank you for this! It’s super helpful! I just moved into a tiny studio loft and am really trying to add some charm and personality to it…but I’m ballin’ on a budget! I love the idea of framing the free printables! My mom gave me a few frames and I haven’t figured out what to do with them…Loving that idea! Thanks again!:)

    1. You are so welcome, Sari! Thanks so much for leaving such a sweet comment. πŸ™‚ Framing printables is one of my very favorite things to do! Did you sign up to get my 10 weeks of free printables yet?

  23. Hi I’ve just found your blog. We have also been there, bought a house with no money and it needed a total decor overhaul. I got cheap paint and teamed it up with a patch work feature wall in the bedrooms in my son’s room I used pages from dinosaur reference books from the free bookshop in our town. And in my and my daughter’s room I used a collection of wallpaper samples based around a colour theme. They look great. I’ve also done this in the kitchen, where I re used my mum’s old kitchen cabinet doors. I also needed a backslash in the kitchen so used slate chippings with a natural stone tile adhesive and grout . all in all its cost me less than Β£70 to decorate the majority of my house

    1. Wow, that’s awesome Jane! You really did a great job with very little money! Way to go!!!

      Gwen

  24. Great tips! I have been decorating my home this way for years, spending almost no money on it all! I am kust now getting to the point, financially, where I am ready to do a few things that cost a little more, like renovate the kitchen. But, up to this point, I feel my home has been very beautiful on almost nothing. Also, I feel like anyone could design a beautiful home with lots of money. It takes time and creativity to do it for nothing! πŸ˜‰

    1. I agree, Lisa! Nessesity is the mother of invention, so they say, and I think that is very true when you are trying to decorate a home without a lot of funds. And how fun to renovate a kitchen!

      xoxo

      Gwen

  25. I love your ideas! I have been decorating on a next-to-nothing budget for awhile now. I have done several thrift store upcycles and I made some of my own wall art. They are some of my favorite pieces, just because I have a hard time picking out decor when it has a price tag on it πŸ™‚

  26. When you are on a home decorating budget, creativity is the key! I usually overlap a few of your suggestions. You can find great things at yard sales and re-purpose or even refurbish them if you have the skills. I’ve done this with wood furniture where some sanding and paint/stain does the trick.

  27. cute ideas and you are so correct about Good Will, too pricey any more. Check out your local Salvation Army on facebook, ours has sales every week. I purchased an older sewing cabinet recently for $24, spray painted it, and it’s so cute for my entry way. Wish I could show a photo. As for ladies who say they don’t know how to decorate, I get Pottery Barn catalogs and go from there. btw check your local yard sales also, a few weeks ago I scored 10 photo frames for less then $5, spray painted them and used our travel photos, now I have a unique gallery

  28. Just an FYI, grifting means swindling or getting something dishonestly, it doesn’t mean getting something as a gift.

    1. Yes, Jamie. I know that is the traditional term for it, but I’m using it in a more modern sense combining gift + thrift.

      Thanks!

      Gwen

  29. Omg, I appreciate this post so much! I’ve just moved houses and trying to get everything all at once on zero budget. Even still, making a home, a home is difficult when you dont have money to spend but I feel like all the little hacks and DIY projects is what makes it your own! These are some really great ideas that I’ll need to try. I also like the tip of waiting for sales.. I waited for black friday sales last year to buy my large appliances and electricals and I saved sooooo much money!

  30. Hubby and I check the city bulk pick up schdule, then go in search of freebies left on the curb. It’s a great way to score some perfectly good decor items (both indoor and outdoor) and it keeps reusable items out of the landfill. Some items may need a bit of paint or minor repairs, but free is free.

  31. You forgot the most obvious. Shop at your parents and grandparents house! LOL. Honestly I have so many hand me downs but I love them more because they are family hierlooms at this point.

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