Upgrade Your Home Decor for Less

Photo: Richard Giles

On our road to a life of frugality, there are many things we tend to ignore and go without in order to keep making ends meet. One area that we often neglect in order to keep the bills paid and food on the table is the interior of our homes. We may like to watch home makeover shows, but are resistant to actually working on our own homes.

Avocado appliances and ugly wallpaper patterns of yesteryear may seem like mainstays, but even if you don’t have a ton of spare cash lying around, there are still economical ways to update your home's look. Here are some tips for creating an updated look for your home without breaking your budget. (See also: 15 Home Decorating Ideas for Under $5)

Change the Wallpaper

A gallon or two of paint may be acceptable to your wallet, but if you want to update your home’s look with high-quality wallpaper, it can be harder to justify the cost. The way to still add style without overspending is to find a fabric mill that makes the wallpaper. These mills will typically offer wallpaper of all kinds for 40-50% off the wholesale price. Discontinued patterns from retailers may also be an option if you are willing to be more open-minded about the kind of paper or style you want.

You can also save yourself a lot of time if you can learn how to hang the paper yourself. Check with your local home improvement store to see if they offer DIY classes to get you started.

Upgrade Your Floors

There are many user-friendly options when it comes to flooring choices. Check first with flooring wholesalers by calling them directly to inquire about deals. Many wholesale companies also have websites that offer limited-time deals, especially when the amount of flooring you need is greater than 1,000 square feet.

If you are looking for carpeting, check with local carpet and home improvement stores for discounted or unwanted carpeting that is already cut. Several discount stores also offer great deals on carpeting. It may be difficult to get carpeting from such locations if you have an odd-sized room, but it can pay off to look or call around for the dimensions you need. If you are looking for throw rugs, keep in mind that those you find in retail stores are typically marked up as much as 600%, so consider shopping at second-hand or discount stores to score some more affordable ones.

Replace the Old Appliances

The first place you should look when considering new appliances is the clearance aisles at home improvement stores. You might not have a large number of options, but you can certainly find a deal on unused-but-returned items. If you keep coming back, you are likely to find at least one appliance you’ve been looking for, and you may be able to update all of your appliances for well below regular cost.

Another good idea is find a contractor you know and ask where they get their appliances. If they can recommend a good wholesale location, you may be able to get exactly what you are looking for at a reasonable price. Don’t discount second-hand shops either. There are many reasons why people get rid of items, and you might be able to find a diamond in the rough — or at least something more updated and more energy-efficient than what you currently have in your home.

Update Your Curtains

A few simple curtain and drapery changes can make a whole room look updated. Check online at sites like eBay for draperies and curtains. There are plenty of people who have buyer's remorse when it comes to these items, and they are apt to resell plenty that are still in the packages. In other scenarios, consumers make mistakes in sizing or colors and don’t feel like returning them to the store. You may find exactly what you are looking for, or even new ideas.

When it comes to updating a home, remember that the little changes can often make a big change too, so keep your eyes out for picture frames and other wall hangings that go on clearance throughout the year. But the most important advice of all is to, sit down and establish a budget for yourself so you’ll know exactly how much you can spend before you even make your first purchase. Once you get into the process of updating, it can be easy to get carried away. Establish your budget early on so you can be sure you can afford the upgrades and not have to rely on extended credit to cover your project costs. Work towards paying in cash for your purchases, and you’ll likely enjoy the completed makeover way more than if you get inundated with bills each month.

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Meg Favreau's picture

Some of my best budget decor finds have come from clearance at Target -- including a room-filling, stylish wool rug for under $50, and the curtains for my newest apartment.

Does anybody have other suggestions for places to find good budget decor or appliances?

Guest's picture

We spent a very modest amount on an interior designer / feng shui expert (less than every one of the ideas listed above). She helped us reorganize our furniture that has made a HUGE difference in the feel of our home. So, before spending money on stuff, consider paring down your belongings and reorganizing the flow of your rooms.

Guest's picture

great article! i'm actually interested in the deeeeep couch shown in the photo at the top of the article. Where'd you get it?

Meg Favreau's picture

Kahele, the image came from Flickr user rich115 -- http://www.flickr.com/photos/richardgiles/4763526174/. From what he says, it's a daybed being used as a couch. I'm totally jealous of it! It's the ultimate lazy-day furniture.