The biggest expenditure I have ever made on any one item in my house is the washer/dryer because it was a necessary evil, but besides the necessary appliances, I would have to say it is the $80 I spent for my daughters twin sized mattress, a close second is the $60 I spent on a couch.To say we are frugal may be the understatement of the year. When you add my husband’s impossibly practical cheapness and his lack of decor savvy to my frugality, you have basically end up with no decor budget. Of course, our priorities are paying off our house by the time we turn 32, having college funds for our 3 kids, and we’ve spent the last 9 years of our marriage paying off college and cars so we could be completely debt free. These goals have been much more important than purchasing new furniture when hand-me-downs suffice, or putting money into purely decorative items. So yes, for the past 9 years I have been lucky to spend $30 per month on household goods, and I choose to live with hand-me-downs, mismatched dishes I scored off of freecycle, and do without many niceties.
That being said, I ADORE a beautifully decorated and organized space more than most. So finding the pennies to create my dream home is an ongoing challenge I am willing to work hard to achieve. How am I doing it? Slowly and carefully, pinching every single penny along the way. *grin*
That’s what this blog has been about, creating a beautiful house little by little…patiently growing a home.
Here is my key to decorating on a non-existent budget…
I’m always excited when I find a consistently good thrift shop. However, thrifting isn’t the only answer. Often you can find a discount center or warehouse that will sell brand new items at a fraction of the original cost! But I’ll tell you more about that in the next post… click here to read.
Then of course there are methods to get discounts at the dream stores themselves: such as signing up for floor (display) models, shopping discount aisles & racks, using discount codes & coupons, price matching, and more depending on the policies of that store. It is still a pretty penny (at least where my budget stands), but for those big ticket items it is worth the wait to invest in a sturdy as well as lovely piece of furniture. Lol! I’ll let you know when I finally get one of those!
Couponing for Decor & DIY
I am such a huge advocate of couponing, and clearly not just for groceries! There are often printable coupons for many products I use for organizing and decorating. I have used brand coupons for paint, plastic storage, command strips, hardware brands, glassware, fabric, etc. etc. etc.
I recommend shopping at fabric/craft stores and hardware stores that accept competitors coupons. I recently bought a gallon of Martha Stewart (Glidden) paint from Home Depot on sale and used a 40% off coupon from Sherwin Williams! I also use Michaels store coupons that include sale prices at Jo-Ann Fabrics so that I can combine a coupon with Jo-Ann’s sales. Jo-Ann Fabrics do produce their own coupons, but they exclude sales.
I do the same for organizational products at office supply stores such as Staples and Office Max. I wait to purchase until I have a coupon from them or from their competitors, then I use it on a sale or combine it with their rewards programs and coupons. You can find coupons in the Sunday papers, search online (codes, or printables), or by signing up for their rewards programs and store emails.
Here is the thing about couponing, or saving for that matter: When you are sticking to a budget, it isn’t the total amount saved that counts, it is the total amount spent. Don’t get excited that you saved 70% if it means you had to go into debt for it or blew the rest of your budget. I’m not saying there isn’t a time or place to use your budget on one “investment” item, but that means you have to be willing to sacrifice and consider your spending done for that period, and fyi, this should never be the rule.
My favorite time of year for couponing is the Thanksgiving to Christmas season when stores such as Kohls mail out coupons for $10 off any $10 or more purchase. Every time they send me one of these, I score a nearly free item… just look for a $10 item and only pay tax! If you can combine these types of promotional gift-card coupons with sales or other coupons (when allowed) you can score expensive items nearly free. See that picture of the receipt at the beginning of this post? That was a nice white dish from Kohls I had been eyeing that cost $24.99. I waited for it to go on sale at 50%, then used my $10 promotional coupon. My final cost after taxes was $2.66.
Saving money is the obvious strategy when decorating, but not the only strategy! There are many reward programs that pay you to get bombarded by ads from their sponsors. My preferred program is MyPoints. They will give you points for every email/website you open, every search you do, shopping online, using their coupons, etc. Honestly, I do the bare minimum, things I ALREADY do… I use their search engine from time to time, and I print coupons for groceries…that’s it, and amazingly I make enough points to redeem a $10-$25 gift card every 4 months or so. I get a few extra bucks to spend guilt free wherever I feel a whim, usually at my beloved Target. If I’m being diligent I save up my points and get a $50 gift card to some snazzy home goods store a few times a year. Let these gift cards do triple duty by combining them with coupons, and sales, and if you are smart about it, those $25 gift cards can get you $50+ worth of home goods!
There are other point based programs out there. I’d love to know if you have discovered one that works well for you.
Repurpose, Reuse, UpCycle!
I have a love-hate relationship with upcycling, more accurately an adore-despise relationship. When every major piece of furniture you own is either a hand-me-down, or found on the side of the road, you learn to adore upcycling, it becomes the saving grace to the ugly and mismatched. So while it is a lot of effort and creative energy to make the ugly amazing, it is well worth the effort! Sometimes you have to have a little vision and revamp something entirely, but other times all it takes a is a little sanding and paint!
I admit I’m a little shy about looking at someone’s thrown away furniture sitting beside their trash can…but it is a shyness worth over coming! Not only have I found many wonderful pieces of furniture that just needed a little TLC, but occasionally I will stop and raid a piece of furniture only fit for the trash so I can salvage hardware from it. I also love Freecycle.org for scoring items to repurpose or salvage goods from without having to sit near someones trash can. It is a network made up of (your local) groups, where people post things they no longer want/need, or things they are looking for! It is fantastic!
I have also purchased thrift store items at a few dollars because it had really great castors (wheels which are really really expensive!), or to salvage the drawer gliders (also adds up when purchased from a hardware store).
Start a small collection of useful salvaged hardware (bolts, castors, gliders, pulls, etc.) so you can build or revamp things yourself. That will save you a huge wad of money!
When push comes to shove, make it yourself! I may not have the skills for big building projects, but the way I figure it, after 10 years of trial and error I will become an expert. “I don’t know how” just isn’t a good excuse in this information age. My whole world opened up with websites and blogs, and online video tutorials that share all the how-to’s! DIY’ing makes for a healthy hobby worthy of pursuit, and skills worthy of teaching your children.
Remember that frugal decorating means patience. We won’t get the same satisfaction of seeing a room go from ugly to amazing in a weekend. It will become a labor of love that may just take a while. I’m still waiting for all the elements to come together in…well almost every room. In the meantime I make do with what I have, and make it look its best!