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How to decorate your home on a budget

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By Andrew Housser

The first part of the year is a classic time to take a fresh look at your surroundings, which may mean redecorating your home. Or perhaps you are among the 10-15 percent of people who move every year, and you are thinking about how to decorate a new home or apartment. Either way, it is important to find a style that will let you feel at home while also avoiding going into debt. Here are a few tips on how to create a stylish home base while keeping your credit score comfortable, too.

1. Make a list and a budget.
Before you start decorating, start planning. Make a list of the items you believe you need to purchase, and how much you expect them to cost. Organize the list room by room. Save for design purchases, just as you would save for a down payment on a home.

2. Prioritize.
Decide which rooms or items are the most important to you. You might want to invest in the rooms that the public sees, like living and dining areas. Perhaps your family room is most important, because you spend the most time there, or a mattress for the best sleep possible. Or maybe you want to spend more on major items, such as a sofa or dining table.

3. Seek out bargains.
When they consider furnishing an entire home, many people think of a shopping spree at a large furniture retailer. You may, however, discover great bargains on higher-quality furnishings by buying them used. Check estate sales or select secondhand stores for good values. Find out when consignment stores receive new items, or ask if they keep a list of customers looking for specific pieces. Inspect used items for damage. As a bonus, many used purchases must be made with cash, making it impossible to go into credit card debt when shopping.

4. Use what you have.
Take a fresh look at what you own. Are there hardwood floors under the carpet? Can you repaint or reface kitchen cabinets instead of replacing them? Might that hand-me-down dresser work as a dining room buffet if you sand down the glossy finish? Spend a few days considering whether your belongings can take on a new job.

5. Recover, refinish and renew.
Old items do not have to remain as-is. Consider reupholstering a quality sofa or chair to match your new look. Not only might you save money, but old items also are often made from better wood. A coat of paint, new hardware or an updated finish can make a big difference in an item’s look.

6. Do it yourself when you can.
Some tasks require an expert, but some things you can do yourself to save money. Painting your own walls, applying a fresh coat of wax or polish to a table, framing a photograph collage for a wall or even updating lamps with new shades can make your home your own, for less.

7. Save on expertise when possible.
If you decide to call in an expert, inquire about how to get the most value. An upholsterer may offer fabric at wholesale prices. An interior design student might offer advice at bargain rates. If you know how to design websites, perhaps you can barter with a carpet installer. Be sure to put agreements in writing to ensure fairness on both sides.

8. Plan for the future.
Plan your purchases with your future goals in mind. If you think you will move houses in a few years, avoid spending a fortune on customized window coverings that you cannot take with you. Similarly, do not buy a huge sectional that might not fit into another property. Instead, keep nicer items flexible, and scrimp a bit on things you will only use for a short time.

9. Do not go overboard.
Think about keeping, or purchasing, only what you need and what truly brings you happiness. Having fewer items not only costs less up front, but you’ll have less to upkeep and clean. You can focus on investing money on repaying debt, saving for your future or accomplishing other goals instead of accumulating objects.

Homeowners looking to decorate a new home or change up the style of an existing home have a range of smart, cost-conscious ways to do so. There are plenty of ways to decorate without breaking the bank – and without falling into debt.
 

Andrew Housser is a co-founder and CEO of Bills.com, a free one-stop online portal where consumers can educate themselves about personal finance issues and compare financial products and services. He also is co-CEO of Freedom Financial Network, LLC providing comprehensive consumer credit advocacy and debt relief services. Housser holds a Master of Business Administration degree from Stanford University and Bachelor of Arts degree from Dartmouth College.
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