How to Design Your Home on a Budget
Just a Head's up
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For those who don’t know our story, my husband and I had a tiny wedding in 2015. After shooting over 30 weddings, and being a bridesmaid in 6, I knew it wasn’t for me. My parents gave us the option to have a wedding with the money they saved or we could use the money as a downpayment for a house. We took the house.?
I was so excited to start designing our home! Sadly due to mold & humidity issues, we did have to get rid of many of our items from the apartment, but in an odd sense it began the minimalism approach we wanted to take…
Here’s the Living Room Before & After:
Now, I don’t want you to see our house and think, “Wow, they must be doing really well! Their house looks like they spent a ton of money”. ?Jon and I are NOT in the best financial position in this season of life. He got his Masters in Counseling which has currently led us to $60K in student loan debt. With an intern’s pay in FL, little benefits, and even combining my freelance income, it’s not enough to make much of a dent after we pay all our bills, put food on the table and bless people (we’re firm believers in tithing 10%). Living on coupons, groupons, flipping items & selling is what we do and I know many of you may be in the same season as we are. I’m here to say it’s possible to make your home look awesome and expensive even with a small budget and I’ll show you how.
Note: The Ethan Allen Pixar chair was a gift from my family. We were going to save up to purchase it down the road after other renovations, but that was a complete surprise. The most expensive part of the renovation was the flooring ($5K~)?
1.Sell items you don’t need
Before you even begin decorating, I highly recommend going through your house and finding things you no longer need (you’ll be surprised how much crap you may have laying around!). When we were getting ready to move I made 3 piles: things to donate, things to sell, things to toss out. Go room by room and do the same. One you take out the trash pile, and drop off your donations, sit and begin to figure out how to sell your other items. I used?Craigslist and OfferUp. To be honest, OfferUp was much better for me (and I met super awesome people!). Between items we no longer needed & some items left around the house when we purchased it, we made over $2K in cash to help pay for renovation costs! You’ll feel great cause you now have cash AND you’ll feel a bit lighter mentally knowing there wont be as much crap around.
2. Bargain with Cash
At least once a week I browse Craigslist & OfferUp. We found many of our cool items through these methods. Items that would have cost us hundreds of dollars, we were able to get 50%-80% less. Remember: Cash is King. Most people are willing to work with you if you have cash, especially around the holidays when they need it most (Black Friday + Christmas to be specific). My favorite thing about OfferUp is that you can bargain with people via app so you & the seller already have an agreement before you pick up your item instead of trying to bargain in person. Though I haven’t had much luck with Garage Sales in town, I’ve been able to snag some deals using the cash only bargaining.
The only time this very rarely works is with smaller antique/vintage stores, however, what I do is follow them on social media and wait till they run a sale. In *some* cases, if you go in often and talk with the owner, if they’re in need of moving items, they may offer to take what you have on hand (this has happened to me several times!).
3. Watch for Corporate Deals Online & In-Store
Anyone else love getting Bed, Bath, & Beyond coupons? When you move to a new house, they send a 25% off your entire purchase coupon. At least once a month we get either $5 off $15 or $10 off $30 coupons. We save them up and use them in several translations to save money there. Even though they don’t quite sell “decor” you can find some useful items for your home.
Most of our items outside of the craigslist/offerup ones are from either HomeGoods & Ikea. HomeGoods has a constant flow of items coming in so I venture there at least once a month to see what’s in store. Their clearance section can have some goodies. The only downside with HomeGoods is if you see it and it’s in your budget, don’t wait. Their items tend to sell & move quickly.
Ikea is of course another great option. For our gallery wall, most of our frames are a mix of discounts from Michaels, Walmart, & Ikea. Ikea offers coupons every once in a while for their “family” members.
And of course, Amazon is everyone’s best friend. We often buy many things on here instead of hitting the malls because 9/10 it’s cheaper to purchase online and have delivered via?Prime Discounted Monthly Offering.
Pretty much, join their email lists, use coupon codes online (if they have some) and always check the clearance section. Some things they are putting in clearance may be a really quick fix.
4. Join “Give, Buy, Trade Groups”
Facebook literally has hundreds of these groups. I’m in 3 in Pinellas County alone. Sometimes you may get lucky and find someone giving away items they no longer want but require you picking up. However, these groups are also full of criminals & scam artists, so when making transactions do them in a safe place and make sure to do your research before purchasing. These groups are pretty good for calling scammers out, but you still want to be careful.
If you have a career or hobby that is desirable, you may also find people to trade with. I traded photography services to cover moving costs. Don’t be afraid to ask if people are willing to trade. The worst they will say is no.
5. Ask Friends & Family
When we bought our home we knew a few companies to help with electric work & plumbing work, but we didn’t know who to use for flooring, painting, & some construction. We asked our friends and family for recommendations which really helped because these were people we trusted so we knew they had some good sources as well.
Our realtors recommend their go-to guy for handy work, Cliff, who not only did quality work, but also saved us so much money compared to a larger company! Those beautiful barn doors? They cost us $1K~ in total (which other companies quoted us $3.5-$5K for the same thing). Because we had such a large entrance, the railing even being on sale cost the most (Home Depot $600~ total). The wood, labor, and installation with Cliff was another $600. If you have a smaller space you probably wont spend as much as we did.
Not only did he do our doors, he also put a window in our kitchen for $300. We simply sold more items around the house to cover that. Jon and I tore down the kitchen, I made the shelves, and Cliff cut out the space & put the shelves in for me.
Our Kitchen Before & After:
We eat fresh and try not to do processed, so we kept our shelving super minimal. The black piping is what cost the most, but thankfully we received a few housewarming gift cards to Lowes & Home Depot to cover the costs. Supplies were about $40.
Our painter Danny was also a referral from our realtors. He gave us a deal simply for being good friends with our realtors!
After 3 landscaping fails, we found Curtis with Tampa Lawn Sharks, who was a referral from some people in the neighborhood. We were completely upfront & honest about our financial situation and he’s been working with us on a payment plan to fix our backyard and cut the front when needed!
We also were honest with our friends online and asked if anyone was giving away items that we could furnish the house with because we did have to get rid of many things from the apartment. We didn’t accept everything. We only accepted things we needed & knew we can use with our style. Our family donated some of their furniture as well which we one day will donate to someone else in need to keep the good going.
6. Small Changes can make a Huge Difference
A simple paint job can go a long way. Our master bath was outdated. We eventually want to do a whole bathroom remodel but until we pay off more student loan debt, we wanted to use what we had around. So we used leftover paint from Jon’s room, and purchased tile paint to give it a completely different look. We found an outlet behind the vanity mirror so we sold that, fixed the outlet, and we’re making a new space there instead (work in process photo below).
The owners left a set of black patio chairs & a table which we spray painted teal to give our tiny porch a bit of color. Quick $5 fix!
We bought cheap plants from Home Depot & placed them in old bowls, planters that were left behind, and popcorn buckets.
For artwork, we used digital prints from Etsy that we could print from home. Printing at home saves on the cost of shipping & fees. Instead of paying $15-$30 for a print & frame, you can pay $3, print it at home and frame it yourself for less than $10 or if it’s a larger size, have your local Staples, Office Depot, or Kinkos do it for you. I sell some digital prints for homes here: Printable Wall Artist
7. Spend a little more on items that will last longer OR have a purpose
Something my parents taught me a while ago was to invest in items that will last a long time. We have a few pieces in our home that have been with us from my college days and even from Harvard when my dad went there! Our Restoration Hardware couch has been the most expensive piece we have purchased (even though we got a discount on that for knowing an employee) and still looks great and is comfortable 2 years into owning it.
Our doorbell has saved us the headache of dealing with solicitors, alerting our neighbors to shady activity, and funny things like our dog misbehaving (view below). It’s $30/yr for their pro subscription which will save recordings up to 60 days for you.
The Nest automatically detects the weather and will learn & adjust the temperature accordingly. We can run it on a schedule and put it on “going away” mode when we’re out. Summer in the apartment (1000sq ft) would leave us with a bill over $200, this summer our highest was $165 (1700sq ft).
Keep It Simple
You don’t need items in every corner of every room, or every ounce of your walls covered. I’m convinced people love our space because of it’s simplicity. We mask clutter in organizational & storage pieces. We make sure our items have purpose & function. We make sure our style fits our personality (if you noticed we have very geeky items around the house). If we don’t need it, we donate it or sell it. You don’t need a ton of money to have a space that looks like a million bucks. Use what you have & get creative, and you too can achieve what we did here 🙂
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