Everyone deserves to live in a beautiful space—even people who are living on a budget. Decorating can be one of the most expensive aspects of furnishing a home, but it doesn’t have to be. This isn’t like buying a bed or sofa, where even the cheapest options will still cost an arm and a leg. If you’re willing to get creative, decorating can be dirt cheap.
Scour yard sales, flea markets and estate sales
Yard sales often have a reputation for only selling items that no one wants, like old toys, beaten-up furniture, and rusty tools. But you can often find treasure in the middle of that junk. Four of the large posters that hang in my house came from yard sales, where I paid between $5 and $30 each.
The key is to do research and be patient. Look up yard sales on Craigslist and search listings for decor, art, and home accessories. Don’t be surprised if you strike out your first day—the key here is persistence and patience.
Yard sales aren’t the only place to find used furnishings on a budget. Liz Abunaw from Open Mouths Get Fed said she found her artwork through estate sales, which she finds on EstateSales.net. Estate sales typically last two or three days, and she recommends going on the last day to save the most money.
“The selection will be much more picked over, but you can find some great deals,” she said.
Flea markets are another good source of cheap artwork and decor, although it might take hours to find what you’re looking for. Be prepared to haggle at flea markets, as vendors are used to buyers who negotiate.
Potted plants are an easy and inexpensive decoration that can liven up any living space. Even a simple clay pot with a generic house plant can look warm and inviting. Most plants cost between $5 and $25.
If you have a history of killing plants, try cacti. They only need watering once every two weeks, and are notoriously hard to snuff out. Go to a nursery if you want specific suggestions for hardy plants that can’t be killed easily. You can find cheap pots at thrift stores.
If you still don’t trust yourself with live plants, fake plants are good enough to fool your guests.
Feeling like your furniture looks too drab and boring? You don’t have to throw out your big pieces to transform your room. New pillows, curtains and throw blankets can create a different vibe for less than what you’d pay for a new couch.
Even adding funky door knobs to your existing furniture will completely change how they look. Try switching out your accessories and see how different your space looks. Make sure to pick complementary colors so your new aesthetic will match.
Family photos are one of the cheapest ways to add more art around your house without paying more than a few cents for printing. Use picture frames you already have or check out thrift stores for inexpensive options. Don’t like the frames you find? Spray paint can fix that in a few minutes.
You can also print vacation photos or even your latest Instagram posts. You’ll have the added bonus of feeling nostalgic every time you walk by.
Decorate with postcards
Buying unique art is expensive, and posters lend more of a college vibe than a sophisticated atmosphere.
To reconcile the gulf between original art and affordable pieces, buy postcards from local artists and display them together in a gallery wall. Postcards are almost always inexpensive and usually around the same size. You can also hang them individually for pops of color in small spaces, like a bathroom or hallway.
Create a collection
Anything looks good when it’s bundled with the right items. Gather all your collections and find a way to display them together. If you have a set of crystal glass decanters, make them the focal point of your bookshelf. If you have a stamp or coin collection, get it framed and hang it in a spot of honor.
No collection? No worries. Stop by a Goodwill, Salvation Army, or a local thrift store and find a few similar pieces that would look good together. Other ideas include empty wine bottles, mason jars, or ceramic plates. In this case, the kitschier, the better.
Hang record albums
Ever see a record with the coolest cover? Nowadays, you can find cheap frames that perfectly fit vinyl albums. Plus, since the quality of the record doesn’t matter, you can look for these at consignment stores or thrift shops where they’ll only cost a few bucks.
A set of five records mounted together will create a vintage feel that can’t be replicated. Switch out your albums every few months to switch up the vibe.
Buy thrift store art
The art you can find at a Goodwill or Salvation Army is often pretty laughable—the kind of bland pieces you’d find in a model home or a dentist’s waiting office. But if you have the itch for a more refined decorating style, you can absolutely find interesting paintings mixed in with the trash.
Be patient as you shop around the thrift stores in your area. It may take a few trips to find what you’re looking for, but even one or two quality pieces of art can be enough to turn a drab space into something with personality.
That’s not the only thing you’ll find at thrift store.
“A cheap way to get high-quality frames is go to donation centers like Goodwill or Salvation Army,” said R.J. Weiss of The Ways to Wealth. “The prints or art inside the frame may not be your type, however, you can easily replace what’s inside with something you like.”
If you have good credit, and can pay off your purchases in a timely manor, consider opening a credit card with a 0 percent introductory APR offer. Some cards offer sign-up deals that give you typically between 15 and 18 months of a 0 percent APR on purchases. Only open a card if you know you can pay off the purchase in that time frame, or else you be slammed with a high interest rate after the introductory period ends.
Here are a few of the best cards for home improvement projects: