I have to admit that I love all things interior design. I spend my days writing about personal finance, but in my spare time, I read design blogs and magazines in search of house decorating ideas. I prefer HGTV over CNBC. And I would redecorate my home every year if I could afford it.
But that's the thing: Decorating your home can get expensive. As a financial writer, I know better than to blow all of my money on home decor. But I also don't want to fill my house with just flimsy, cheap furniture and cast-off items better left on the curb for the garbage man.
So I've figured out how to get the look I want without breaking my budget. Follow these strategies I've used to outfit your home without spending a fortune.
Buy Furniture Store Floor Samples
Often, the items that are displayed in furniture stores are samples, and you have to order a new model to be shipped to your home. But stores will sell their samples as they try to clear their showrooms for new furniture and accessory lines.
If you don't mind something that might have some fading or a few nicks, you can save a lot buying floor samples. I recently bought a large armchair and ottoman in great condition from the showroom floor that was marked down to $408.88 from $749.98. Over the years, I've saved at least 50 percent on rugs, a sectional sofa and a dining table that were floor samples with a few signs of wear. So, before buying new ask whether a store has any floor models it will sell.
Decorating after a home remodel can be expensive, so use floor samples to avoid a sneaky expense of renovating your home.
Shop at Consignment Stores
I've found plenty of cheap home decor by buying used instead of new at consignment stores. Typically, these stores sell items that are in good condition for up to 50 percent off their original retail price. I recently bought a table and four chairs for $149 at a consignment store so my kids could have a place to do crafts and homework. The table wasn't in perfect condition, but I didn't mind because I was aiming for a rustic look. Sometimes it's OK to buy used instead of new.
In addition to furniture, you'll likely find art, accessories and lighting at consignment stores. If you have more than one store where you live, shop around because the selection and prices can vary greatly.
Check Out Estate Sales or Auctions
Search online or check your local newspaper for estate sales and auctions in your town, which can be a great way to score cheap home decor. When my husband and I needed to furnish our first home, we attended an auction for a house and its furnishings. We scored a mid-century modern dining table with six chairs, a console and a leather loveseat for about $400.
At another estate sale, I bought a vintage steamer trunk that I use as a coffee table for just $50. You also can bid on items in online estate sales at Everything But The House. Most items purchased on the site can be shipped.
Accept Family Hand-Me-Downs
One of the biggest sources of furniture for my house has been my family. I have accepted tables, beds, dressers, mirrors and other items from my parents with open arms — or, more precisely, with an open trailer or moving truck.
Most of the things that have been passed onto me have been antiques or decades-old solid wood furniture that would be well above my price range if I were to buy something similar. But I mix the hand-me-downs with new purchases I can afford to achieve a more updated look in my house.
Yes, it's OK to mix and match styles. You can paint older items to make them look more modern or to better match your style. And you can reupholster that plaid sofa from grandma's house at a fraction of the cost you'd pay for a new one.
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Try Your Hand at DIY
You can upgrade your home decor with DIY projects. Whether it's adding a fresh coat of paint or making furniture, you can save a lot by doing it on your own. Using step-by-step instructions he found online, my husband made a large farmhouse-style dining table and benches for less than $300 (including the purchase of a sander for about $50). A similar table sold by Pottery Barn costs about $2,000 — and that doesn't include benches or chairs.
We also recently saved about $5,000 during a home renovation to boost our property value by opting to do the painting ourselves rather than pay our contractor to do it. We spent about $400 on paint for the ceilings, walls and trim in four rooms and spent a few evenings and a weekend doing the work. With an abundance of DIY tutorials online, it's easy to find ones that will help you execute projects around your house.
Don’t Overlook Big-Box Retailers
If you're a fan of Target, you probably already know that you can find great deals on home accessories there. I've bought plenty of decorative pillows, bedding, frames and lamps there for at least 50 percent less than the price I'd pay for similar items at a higher-end furniture or home goods store.
Believe it or not, Walmart has stepped up its home decor game and now offers more trendy accessories and furniture. I recently bought several decorative storage baskets for about $10 each at Walmart. I also bought a bunk bed for my son that looked similar to one I found in a Pottery Barn Kids catalog, but cost less than $200 instead of $1,500. Guess what? It's still holding up. And the comforters on the bed come from Target but look similar to ones I saw for twice as much in the Land of Nod catalog.
Take Advantage of Your Warehouse Club Membership
I keep my eyes open for home decor deals wherever I shop, including the warehouse club. There are lots of tricks to optimizing your warehouse club membership. When I was looking for a TV console, I shopped around online to compare prices. But on a shopping trip to Sam's Club, I noticed a console as I entered that was just what I wanted — and cost about $100 less than similar ones I had found online.
I also picked up a large throw blanket for $15 for my kids to snuggle in while watching TV. It matched the color scheme of our TV room perfectly, and cost less than what I'd have to pay at a home goods store.
Wait for Sales
If you can exercise some patience, you'll save a lot by waiting for the items you want to go on sale. For example, if you need outdoor furniture for a porch, you'll likely find it marked down 30 percent or more at the end of summer.
For years, my husband and I slept on a mattress and box springs on a simple metal frame — no headboard or nice bed frame. I was waiting for the perfect deal, which I found at West Elm. A king-size metal bed that originally was priced close to $1,000 was put on clearance for $100. If you have your eye on something, don't be afraid to ask the sales clerk when the store typically has sales or how long it takes before items are put on clearance.
Get Affordable Artwork
Art on the walls can add a lot to a room and personalize your space. But don't assume you have to settle for posters or mass-produced pieces you'd find at a big-box retailer or furniture store.
I've found inexpensive original art at craft shows, university art department sales and small galleries (skip the ones that feature well-known artists). Check consignment stores and yard sales for artwork. Or visit a site such as Etsy to find original pieces at affordable prices.
I also have framed photographs taken by my husband, who's a pretty good amateur photographer. I've hung my kids' artwork in their rooms. And I've even done some paintings for my house.
Don’t Be Afraid to Haggle
One thing I'm not afraid to do to get cheap home decor is to negotiate. Haggling can save you hundreds of dollars on items for your home.
When buying a rug that was a floor sample, my husband and I pointed out that it showed signs of wear and tear. So the salesperson knocked $50 off the already marked-down price. And I got the owner of a small furniture store to take 10 percent off the price of a sectional sofa by letting her know that I really liked the sofa but wished the price were a little lower.
Using all of these strategies have helped me save thousands of dollars over the years on home decor.