Real Life on a Budget: Lauren's Money Saving Tips & Ideas for Home Decor

While I wouldn't say I'm a big spender in general, my major vice is buying pretty things for around our home. It's probably no surprise considering that I write for Apartment Therapy in addition to my personal blog, and am more than a bit addicted to Etsy and Pinterest. I think that they say the first step to kicking an addiction is admitting that you have one, and I am well aware of mine! Here are a few things that I do to get my decorating fix without breaking the bank...

1. Keep it simple. Just because I like to decorate doesn't mean that my home needs to be full of expensive tchotchkes. In our master bedroom (above), for example, I went for a very simple, peaceful look with white bedding and a fluffy white rug so that my toes aren't landing on a cold floor in the morning, While I wouldn't mind eventually adding a headboard and maybe a little bit more artwork, this look works for me for now.

2. Get thrifty with the artwork. Artwork can really make a space feel more personal and finished, but it can also cost a fortune. I like to support small, handmade shops on Etsy, but I also have quite a few DIY pieces in my home, like the birch veneer artwork above and no-sew banner below. They're both based off of other pieces of art that I loved but couldn't afford to purchase. I also love using my daughter's artwork throughout our home, as I wrote about in this post. I also love to use calendar artwork (also in the above photo) because you can get a great grouping for a fraction of the cost of buying prints.

3. Get creative. When I was decorating my daughter's room, I really wanted to use Julia Rothman's Daydream wallpaper, but it just wasn't in the budget. So instead I decided to use it as inspiration and painted a mural on her wall. The cost was free as I used some extra paint from a previous project and she loves it just as much.

4. Add personality with accessories. Since our decorating budget is small, I tend to purchase furniture that is relatively inexpensive from places like IKEA or local furniture stores, or find thrifted pieces and then "splurge" a little on accessories. You can see in the photo above that our daughter's bed is from IKEA, as well as the bench in the photo below (with a cushion that I made myself), while the dresser below is an inexpensive Craigslist score. All of the color and fun comes from the books, artwork, toys, and a couple of throw pillows:

In our nursery we used an inexpensive $103 Jenny Lind crib, a glider that we purchased for $15 at a neighbor's yardsale, and a hand-me-down oak veneer dresser that we revived with a little bit of paint and some new knobs. We added the personality with another hand-painted mural, some pretty patterned (and inexpensive) curtains and a few other inexpensive accessories.

(P.S. The above photo was taken back in 2010 - since the new bumper recommendations have come out we've removed the bumper for our new baby girl.)

And while our sofa isn't the most stylish one in the world, it was the right price at one of our local furniture store, fit into our awkwardly shaped living room, and is super comfortable (and practical) for curling up with our kids. To dress it up a bit we added a few pieces of art that we've collected to the wall above (some I painted myself, one we purchased on our honeymoon from a street artist, and one was painted by my husband's grandfather) and found a few colorful pillows.

4. Work with what you have. The kitchen is still our biggest work-in-progress. We've been saving up to eventually add wood flooring, butcher block countertops, and a farmhouse sink, but for now we're working with the dated cabinets by adding a little bit of paint and sprucing things up with a few well-chosen accessories:

5. And, of course, if you can: do it yourself. If you have the skill set, the biggest thing you can probably do to save money is to do projects yourself, even if it's something simple like painting a room or removing some old carpet (which is pretty much what I'm limited to). I'm lucky to have a handy husband to do things like gluing hardwood floors over top of green asbestos tile and a dad who knows how to do electrical work, but for jobs that were over our heads like removing a load-bearing plaster wall, we definitely contracted out.

Our home is definitely never going to be on the cover of House Beautiful, but it feels good to us, and we're not up to our eyeballs in debt, and that feels great. What about you? How do you handle your spending vices?

And if you'd like to see more of our home, you can visit my personal blog, A Lovely Lark.

(Image credits: Lauren Hufnagl; A Lovely Lark; Lauren Hufnagl)