Call us optimists, but we think everyone under the sun can, and should, have a beautiful home.

If you’re pinching pennies, there’s plenty you can do to create a stylish and inviting home for yourself and your friends.

The first step (and this is true no matter where or how you live) is to clean your home and get it organised. Doing those two things alone will drastically improve the quality of your space.

Then, on to decorating. With years of budget decorating behind (and in front of!) us, we’ve amassed a few helpful tips for ‘making house’ with a slim wallet.

  1. Paint an accent wall
accent wall

STAND OUT: This one wall, in the home of Melbourne designer Miranda Skoczek, brings something extra-special to her bedroom without going overboard. 

Painting your walls is one of the most cost-effective decorative updates you can make to your home. But if you’re on a shoestring budget, the two cans of $30 paint it may require to paint your bedroom could very well put you off.

Instead, consider painting an accent wall. One litre (which will cover around 9 square metres) or a 2.5-litre can (which covers up to 24 square metres) is likely all you’ll need to cover a single wall, which can make just as much of an impact.

2. Get rid of unsightly items

fence skirting

FIRE THE WIRE: This clever little picket fence, designed by Karl Zahn, provides some fun inspiration for ways you can tidy up all those wires that often dominate the modern day living room. 

Before you start worrying about what you can and cannot afford to buy, consider what you should get rid of, or unsightly items that you need to hide.

Dated, worn or damaged items could be doing the look of your home a disservice, and if they’re non-essential, removing them can give your home a clean slate.

One of the worst offenders common in rental apartments is vertical blinds. Or how about those not-so-stylish college posters you’ve been holding on to? Let go, or at least put them in storage.

3. Do it yourself

coffee mugs

HANGING AROUND: This mug rack is an easy project for even the most DIY-challenged – follow the step-by-step guide on One Little Bird.

Making your own furniture and decor can earn you a great savings. But that said, the DIY revolution of the early 2000s unleashed a whole lot of not-so-chic craftiness on this world, and it’s easy to feel you can’t pull off a stylish DIY project unless you’re majorly creative. 

There actually are a remarkable number of sophisticated projects out there to take on, though; you just have to hunt for them and of course Pinterest is the ideal place to get plenty of inspiration.

4. Set up sales alerts

NOW ON: Sometimes there is just something you have to have. 

If you’re dead-set on something that’s out of your price range, first look for it on Trademe, and if that fails, try to buy it on sale.

You can subscribe to, and to set up sale alerts for products from a variety of major brands/stores. 

5. Customise

RAINBOW: This very cool look from A Simple Kind of Life is so easy to achieve at home with a few cheap pots of paint. 

As lovely as custom curtains or a reupholstered sofa may be, they are not for the decorator on a shoestring budget. Instead, consider customising what you already own.

Add some iron-on trim to basic white curtain panels; paint the edge of a simple black end table in gold; wallpaper the interior of a bookcase; add washi tape to a cupboard or shelf; dip your wooden utensils into colourful paint – the options are endless and the online world can supply an incredible amount of ideas. 

6. Get eclectic


MIX NOT MATCH: Not much in this lounge from Vintage Revivals matches in terms of colour or style, but the eclectic look works so very well. 

On the spectrum of home decor styles, eclectic designs are often the easiest to replicate. Why? The look is all about mixing and not matching.

There’s no need to find that side table, or an exact shade of blue, let alone a lofty antique, as there often is with traditional interior design. Succumb to your bohemian self and shopping for furniture and decor will be much more affordable.

7. Make a garage sale map

garage sale

BEFORE AND AFTER: See, above and below, how Poppy Talk transformed this bargain-bin find into something stunning.     

Garage sales are great places to score cheap home decor and furniture, but stumbling upon one is a rarity. You have to know where they are and get there early to have any chance at scoring the good stuff. But these days with smartphone maps, working your way around garage sales on the weekend is easy.

When I was young and broke and needed to furnish an entire studio apartment, on Friday nights, I would make a map of all the Saturday garage sales happening in my area that were listed in the paper. I would wake up early Saturday and add newly listed sales to the map, and then tackle them all in order of proximity – with sneakers on and cash in hand!

Back then, I literally was drawing on a printed paper map, but now you can find them online, drop a pin and your smart phone will direct you. Ahh, technology.

Here’s the after from Poppy Talk;  

table thing

8. Shop the house

plates display

NOT IN USE: Got some pretty plates stored away that you’re saving for a ‘special occasion’, or some odds and sods? Why not hang them to create a cool feature wall – we love this one from Domestic Fashionista. 

The cheapest way to decorate is to ‘shop’ what you already own. Take a walk around your house and think about how you might be able to repurpose objects and accessories in different rooms. 

You might even have some things stored away that could provide a refreshed/renewed look in your home – like styling a tray with a vignette, or fabric that could be put to good use

Thanks to Stuff for these great tips!