Ever since I moved to Florida, I’ve gotten the question over & over again- how are you affording decorating? Honestly, at first I thought “mind your own business”- lol! But then I realized that I LOVE hearing about the money behind other people’s projects! So here’s how I’m getting home decor on a budget & affording it after moving across the country with what would fit in our car.
First of all, in my life (and job- this blog is my full time job), decor is a priority. I think deciding where you want your money to go is the first step. What do you really want? What will make you happy? Be honest with yourself! And then sit down and write out a budget.
Pay all your bills and then actually choose where the rest of the money will go. Give every dollar that you will have coming in a name. That means you say how much goes to food, clothes, eating out, decorating, etc.
And then spend the budgeted money exactly how you decided you would. So for me, that looks like doing without in certain ways, spending smartly, and getting creative so I can then afford to decorate.
Side note, years ago my husband and I got out of our debt (everything besides our mortgage). That has proven to be a great foundation for everything else in our marriage. We know how to save money and how each dollar can make a difference. We know how to get on the same page and work together towards a goal. It was a pain getting out of debt, but I learned so much.
And now, I can use that information for saving in lots of parts of my life so I can decorate.
My number one tip for getting out of debt is to read the book, “Total Money Makeover.” I believe that the best way to make a big change is that it first has to be a mental change first. Reading this book will help with that and it teaches you doable steps to start. It works. I share how I got out of debt here and go WAY more into this subject.
how do you start with setting a budget?
The first thing you should know is that if you have never lived on a budget, it’ll take a few months to get it right. Just expect growing pains and keep working at it. Sit down, and start with how much money you make. Then make a list of expenses. See how much is left over and that is what you have to play with. Assign that money a place to go.
If you aren’t spending your money wisely, see where you can cut back. Which of your expenses can you make more affordable? Can you shop around for car insurance? Can you get a better rate on your credit card? I have way more budgeting tips here.
It might seem uncomfortable, but in the end, a budget is actually freedom. YOU are now choosing where your money is going. You aren’t just mindlessly buying a bunch of clothes and then wondering why you can’t afford groceries. A budget is simply a plan for where your money will go. Like, say decorating!
Right now, because I’m furnishing a new home, money is tight. For that reason, I’m scrimping in lots of little ways so I can decorate.
Here’s a short list of things we’re doing without right now- we rarely eat out at restaurants. We don’t have a TV or microwave or a mixer or vacuum (I use the shop vac for cleaning my rugs). Whenever possible, we ride bikes or walk to save money on gas. I need a haircut and haven’t gotten one. We try to eat simply to save on groceries.
The biggest thing we miss right now is that we don’t have a grill. That’s the number way my husband used to cook (he’s the chef in our family) and we didn’t bring our gill with us. That’s what we’re saving up for next.
The bottom line- there’s lots we’re slowly saving up for and trying to love our house as it is and as it slowly evolves. Sure it’s uncomfortable sometimes, but we have to do a little at a bit to not over extend ourselves.
how do you live without a TV?
I had a few people ask how I’m living without a TV. Well, I have a PC laptop that I bought for $200 a few years ago that I use only for video editing. So at night, we use that for watching Netflix or TV online while I blog. My son has a Kindle tablet he watches sometimes in the day. We miss having a TV and one day we’ll have one again, but for now, this is fine.
Since I’m a blogger with amazing people who follow me, companies send me items to share in my home. Sometimes those items are given to me in exchange for sharing with you and sometimes I’m also paid in addition to receiving products.
I just want to pause for a second and say how unbelievably lucky I feel to be able to decorate my house and have it be my job! It’s definitely a pinch me situation! This is my 5th year blogging and I work hard every single day to do fun projects and share them. I’ve never worked this hard in my life this consistently and it is not lost on my how amazing it is that it has paid off.
I’m not going to share how much I’m paid for sponsorships (that feels like TMI to me), but it does help with my decorating. The free products do too. Of course they do! And I am so grateful for every single partnership.
To be upfront- I choose the companies I work with and I 100% pick the products. So I only share what I genuinely love. I am very picky and only choose the best fit for my page. I’m so grateful to be in this position and to have your support as well. Thank you. A million times, thank you.
how do sponsorships work?
A bunch of people want to hear more on how sponsorships work. I’ll write a separate, detailed post for that soon since there is so much interest! I’m happy to share more about it! There’s a lot to cover so watch out for a post just on sponsorships. In the meantime, check out my post Instagram for Beginners that goes over my best tips.
As a brief overview, I find sponsors in a few ways-
- The company (or PR firm they hire) emails me
- I email them
- There’s 3rd party apps/ websites where I can apply for sponsorships
- I meet companies at blogging conferences
After making a connection, it’s negotiation time. There’s lots of details that need to be agreed on (rate, amount of coverage, dates, who owns rights to images, etc.). When both parties come to an agreement, we sign a contract. Then product is shipped, sometimes I submit posts for approval, I post on it, share analytics, and then invoice the company.
As you can see, it’s pretty involved and there’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes.
what do you consider to be splurge worthy purchases for a home?
Years ago, I made this graphic about what to splurge on and what to save on-
I still stand by this graphic 100%. The things I believe on splurging on the most are a sofa, mattress, lighting fixtures, and I’d add really special wallpaper. It makes a room! These are things that you’ll have for the long haul that’ll really add to the comfort and look of your house.
Things that I think are ok to save on are accessories, lamps, accent tables, art and throw pillows. These are items you’ll probably have for shorter term or they don’t get used frequently so it doesn’t really matter if they’re not high quality.
I’ve pretty much followed these guidelines with this house and I’m happy with how it is coming together!
Well, it depends on your budget and what you’re working on. When we redid our laundry room almost exactly one year ago, we spent around $6000 on the room in 5 weeks. It was mostly on a tankless water heater and redoing a rotted wall, but those made a huge difference to the space and needed to be done.
Right now I’m on a tighter budget, so I’ve been trying to do smaller $50 projects and I do a few of those a week.
When I first got out of debt, I’d budget $50 in a month for home decor.
As you can see, it really does depend on what you have to spend and what you’re working on. As long as it works with your budget, it’s fine!
Honestly, most of the time we DIY everything as it saves majorly on labor expenses. Here’s two exceptions-
- electrical. My husband can do most of it, but when we redo our kitchen, he’ll hire someone to add an outlet for the dishwasher and maybe move the fuse box.
- concrete. When we worked on our patio last year, we hired out the laying of the concrete pad. It made all the difference out there and was totally worth it!
Of course, doing it yourself isn’t always an option. In that case, saving up and hiring someone to help is great. Pretty much it depends on what you can do. Over here, we like to be in control of the timing our projects and how they turn out. For those two reasons, plus the fact that my husband is pretty handy, we rarely consider hiring someone.
Target, thrift stores (here’s the best ones), Etsy, Amazon, Walmart, eBay, H&M Home, TJ Maxx, Hobby Lobby, Ikea, Urban Outfitters, Overstock, Wayfair, Michaels, Joann, Grandin Road, and Anthropologie.
Some of these you need to shop sales to get good prices. But mostly, if you’re picky you can find cut stuff on a budget!
Lately I’ve been shopping a lot of thrift shops and it’s been so fun! I love the thrill of the hunt and it’s definitely the least expensive way to furnish a house. I’m mixing that with some more expensive furniture and wallpaper. The mix is looking really beautiful to me.
First off, DIY is my job. I get paid as a blogger by doing sponsored posts, ads on my website, and affiliate links. These three things help put food on the table as well as pay for my projects. I afford DIY because I need to make projects to earn my income. I know that’s not “normal.” Just know, I love making a house a home and would find a way to work on my house even if I wasn’t a blogger.
Second, I budget for DIY projects. I do without in other categories to afford decorating. Right now I’m doing smaller projects that cost $100 a week. This works with my budget and I love having fun updates to share with you!
do you use cash for everything?
Nope, but I did when I was first getting out of debt. For me, spending cash is more painful than swiping a card so I’d get cash from the ATM and physically put it in envelopes labeled “groceries” or “eating out.” I always used my card on gas though.
When I went grocery shopping, I’d keep a list of what I’d bought and how much it cost. Before I checked out, I’d add everything up and if the total was above my budgeted amount, I’d put things back.
Now, I use my card since we paid off our debt. But it’s a great way to be super strict on what you spend where!
I promise I’ll do a full update on my house in Utah shortly. In January and February we rented it out to a friend and pretty much broke even on it. So that house isn’t affecting our finances at all right now. It is listed on Air BNB starting next weekend (the last weekend in February). If you’re interested in staying at it, you can find it here.
do you create a budget for a room?
Not usually, what I do is budget projects in the room and then do them. For example, in our living room I know that I want to keep doing the Trelliage on the walls. That’ll cost about $240 to finish up so it hasn’t been done yet. Do I just want it done? Yes. But will I be patient and slowly watch the room come together? Yes. Once I have space in my budget, it’ll get done.
- Shop second hand. It’s the most affordable and sustainable way to shop.
- Paint. It’s easy to do and will transform a space quickly
- Rearrange Furniture. Aka free decorating
- Organize what you do have. I promise, every room will look better with less clutter
- Shop your own home. Move your decor around your home and freshen up multiple spaces
- Fresh plants. Go to the grocery store and grab $5 flowers for instant life. Or pickup an indoor plant.
- Create Atmosphere. Light a candle. Turn on happy music. Open the drapes. Little things do make a difference
- Change out accessories. Do you have something that bores you? Switch it out!
- Wallpaper. There’s lots of affordable wallpaper– put it up on an accent wall and you have instant character!
- Artwork. Use a thrift store frame and frame some creative art or a cute printable!
First of all, the biggest thing we did to save on the move is that we didn’t move any of our furniture. That all stayed in Utah so it can be rented out as a short term rental (which means it needs to be furnished). The reason that saved money is because we didn’t have to rent a Uhaul. Those are expensive $3000-$5000 to tow across the country plus they cost extra gas too.
So because we left our old house furnished, we didn’t need to rent a trailer or hire movers. Sorry that I’m no help with those tips. Everything we moved fit in the back of our truck (it has a bed cover on it).
If you are moving across states or the country, really consider how much your furniture is worth and if it actually makes sense to move it. If you have a bunch of second hand and Ikea furniture (which is fine), spending $3000 to move it, might not make sense. Maybe you can sell what you have and save $3000 in moving costs (get a quote to see what a moving truck or trailer will cost you) and start fresh?
The next way we saved on our move was by eating smart. We packed all of our food from home and had the accessible in the back seat with a big cooler. We ate 2-3 meals a day from what we had in the car. Not eating out saves tons of money! If we were sick of our car food we’d also stop by a grocery store for salads. It isn’t as fun as eating out, but it is also usually healthier too.
Finally, the last tip I have for saving money while moving is to stay in cheap hotels. Since we didn’t have a moving truck, this was less scary (another reason we didn’t bring one- worrying about getting broken into is the worst).
Because we got into hotels late at night and left early in the morning, it wasn’t a big deal to stay in affordable hotels. We brought our 2 dogs along on our move which can really add up on costs- some hotels charge and extra $25-$50 per dog! Or boarding them can cost up to $80 per night per dog.
Our solution is to stay in a Motel 6 since they let dogs stay free. Is it glamorous? No, but that wasn’t my priority. Moving and getting to my destination was. We weren’t on vacation (though we tried to do one fun thing per day for my son).
We made sure to read reviews and stay away from anywhere with bed bugs or in really bad neighborhoods. Luckily, we didn’t have any scary situations and it wasn’t a big deal.
why are you on a tighter budget right now?
Well, we moved from Utah to Florida in January. Moving is expensive as is buying and closing on a home. Then, since we didn’t move with much, we’ve had to buy almost everything for setting up this house. That all adds up. So I have to me more creative right now.
Although I’m not spending tons and tons of money on projects, I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing! Honestly, that just means I have to really get creative. I have to ask myself questions like “how else can I do that?” Here’s a few more questions I consider-
The last one- will there be a sale soon on this is a good one. For example, for President’s day I was able to grab a few things on sale and it saved me money. Below, you can see the common days that retailers mark things down in the US-
Here’s the thing I believe with my whole heart- not having a bunch of money to decorate doesn’t mean you can’t have beautiful things. You can have a pretty house and be on a budget! And I’m doing my best to show how. I won’t always be on such a tight budget, but while I am, I’m going to keep on making things. I’m going to get scrappy and find new ways to create my vision.
I actually think it’s magical watching someone with less resources work hard and create something beautiful. Yes, you have to do more yourself and it probably takes more time to track down something you love for less. But with some elbow grease and creativity, when there’s a will there’s a way. You can have your dream house no matter your budget. I just know it!
The last thing I wanted to talk is about my ebook- At Home for Less. I wrote it a few years ago when I was in the depths of decorating on a budget. We’d just spent 3 years paying off $43,000 in debt when every extra penny went to debt. The house hadn’t been touched in years and it desperately needed love.
The ebook is $9.99 and is all about every trick and tip I used to transform my house on a budget. I just re-read it and it’s so good. It leaves you wanting to decorate with a ton of actionable ideas. All the cute graphics in this post are from it.
When I wrote the book, it was after we’d paid off the debt and was right when I had my baby Don and cut back my hours at work. I wanted my house to be so cute for my sweet little family! I was determined to figure out a way.
here’s how my living room looked at that time- right when we were done paying off debt
So, I rolled up my sleeves and got working. I had NO clue what I was doing! I remember, I wanted molding in my living room so I bought a miter box and hand sawed trim that took forever to cut through. Then I nailed it up- not with a nail gun, but with a hammer and nail. Because that’s all I had. My baby would take amazingly long naps and I’d work my absolute hardest.
And it came together. Slowly, piece by piece, I transformed my little condo into the cutest sanctuary for my family. It was the sweetest labor of love.
Can you believe that’s the same space?! It really shows my favorite saying in practice- little by little, a little becomes a lot. I promise, a budget is not the worst thing to happen to a house. In fact, it can be the best excuse to get creative!
Here’s a few more posts on decorating on a budget if you want to dive deeper-