7 Tips for How to Shop for Your Home on a Budget

By Melissa Michaels, The Inspired Room

We all crave a comfortable place that welcomes us home, yet most of us don't have unlimited cash to spend on decorating or furnishings. If you're short on funds or hesitant on style, not to worry! As a designer and home decor expert, I'm here to help. Knowing a few secrets to styling and second-hand shopping will help you furnish the place you call home without putting a huge dent in your decorating budget.

1. Hunt for quality construction

Quality construction will have an impact on your overall enjoyment as well as the longevity and functionality of a piece of furniture. Ask the seller for details, or turn the piece upside down and open any drawers to determine if it is constructed with real wood and with quality before you buy. Look for dovetail construction on dressers or cabinets with drawers. As you open a drawer, you'll see interlocking square "teeth" connecting the drawer front to the side of each drawer.

Spending a little more for real wood rather than laminate or plywood might seem unnecessary when you're on a tight budget, but it pays off! You'll end up spending more in the long run replacing cheaper furniture that doesn't wear well. The trick to spending less overall is to shop for quality pieces second-hand. There are plenty of places to find second-hand furniture that will last for years. Frequently check both online and offline second-hand/consignment stores, social media groups, and local garage or yard sales, etc.

2. Go for impact

One secret to great style on a budget is to invest in fewer pieces but focus on items that add more visual impact to the space. For example, a few standout items on a mantel will make a more significant style statement than several smaller tchotchkes. If you find a lamp you love and there's a second available, consider buying the pair for the most impact.

Likewise, a large or eye-catching piece of art can become the only focal point on a wall, keeping you on budget at the same time. One of my personal favorite finds is a gorgeous Impressionist-era painting that hangs in our home. It was actually in a closet at our old house before we moved in! The minute I saw it, I knew it would make a great statement in our home. It’s been an attention-grabbing conversation starter ever since!

3. Be second-hand savvy

Ever wonder how other people seem to find the best deals? Here are a few shopper's secrets to keep in mind.

Take notes! I recommend keeping ideal measurements in a notebook or saved on your phone so you don't hesitate when you see something you really like.

Browse often and be ready to buy. You'll likely have to scour resale websites and visit local flea markets or thrift stores on a regular basis to find exactly what you want. When you finally see the thing you've been waiting for — don't hesitate! It's so disappointing to miss out on a deal, so set aside a second-hand shopping budget for items you're looking for. You'll be so glad you have the funds available when the right piece comes along!

Make friends with shop owners. If you have a neighborhood flea market or second-hand store you frequent, get to know the shop owner! They just might give you a courtesy call if an item you're looking for comes into the shop.

4. Refresh and renew

I find it really pays to be open to unexpected possibilities. Don't pass something up just because the color or upholstery doesn't suit you. If it is a quality piece in a classic or traditional shape that you'll enjoy for years to come, it might be worth the investment to re-cover, refresh, or repaint. One of my favorite ways to update furniture is by using chalk paint. It’s super easy to use and eliminates a lot of the usual prep work like sanding or stripping.

5. Mix your textures

If you ever feel like your room is lacking something in the style department, additional or contrasting textures will bring more interest to your space. Make a game of hunting for affordable textures by pairing up opposites such as shiny with dull, rough with smooth, rugged with soft. Add style with a mix of wood, metals, painted pieces, woven or rattan items, upholstery and fabrics, glass, and mirrored pieces.

6. Make it about memories

Original pieces collected over time always have such interesting stories to tell! Best of all, when you bring meaningful art and decor into your home, they help tell your story, too. Whenever shopping second-hand, I always keep my eyes open for original artwork that I feel a personal connection to. After remodeling my kitchen last year, I was hunting for a small piece of artwork for the wall. After months of searching local shops and leaving empty-handed, I finally stumbled upon a beautiful framed seascape, which reminded me of my years growing up near lakes. Now this painting brings back a lifetime of wonderful memories and always sparks fun stories when friends visit!

7. Be selective

Before you shop, look in magazines or online for both budget and higher end rooms for a broad spectrum of styles and inspiration! Take photos of pieces you love and keep notes in your phone on favorite design elements. Now rather than walking into a store overwhelmed and without a plan, you'll will be prepared to shop on a budget for what you really want.

I once flagged a magazine photo featuring a pretty painted secretary desk and hutch. With lots of patience and the inspiration photo in mind as I shopped, I eventually found one just like it (and within my budget!) at a second-hand store. Now it's a focal point in my office.

Happy shopping and styling!

Melissa Michaels is the creator of The Inspired Room, one of the most popular home decorating blogs on the web. She is also a bestselling author of six home decorating books.


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