Money Month

I Swear by Keeping a Home Wish List — and It’ll Save You Time and Money When Decorating, Too

published Oct 1, 2021
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Laura Fenton's Kitchen
Credit: Weston Wells

October is Money Month at Apartment Therapy! That means we’re sharing stories about saving money to buy a home, hacks to help you stick to your budget, and more all month. Head over here to see them all!

I’ve made a career of writing about homes, but that doesn’t mean I am able to decorate my own with the ease of a pro. I hem and haw over every purchase and make mistakes just like everyone else. I have discovered a way to cut through the noise that helps me save money and invest in pieces that I truly love though. The secret is a home wish list. Actually, for me, the secret is home wish lists — plural. Here’s how I use them to my advantage.

First, I like to keep a running list in my notebook of things my home needs; these are genuine needs — not wants — like a vegetable peeler to replace the one that broke or more chandelier-sized lightbulbs to replace ones that have burnt out. My friend Ashlee Piper keeps what she calls a “need note” on her phone. “Having a list handy helps you anticipate your and your household needs so you’re not caught by surprise, suddenly standing in Target with a lemon juicer, inflatable kayak, Michael Bolton Christmas CD, and a wallet full of regret,” she jokes.

Credit: Laura Fenton

For the less-pressing longings, I keep room-by-room lists of my wishes. These lists are a combo of things to buy and DIY, like new curtains for my son’s bedroom or a better solution for storing our winter accessories. These are the someday-maybe things I’d like to improve.

Finally, there’s the digital daydreaming. In today’s world of Instagram, Pinterest, digital newsletters, and the like, it’s easy to feel bombarded by all the beautiful things you *might* buy for your home (at least, that’s how I feel!). Whenever I come across an object or even a room that fans the flame of home desire, I will pin it to my Pinterest boards or add it to my Instagram saves. I find that sometimes just the act of saving an object can cure me of that burning want. 

Credit: Laura Fenton

I even translate IRL wants into my digital directory of desires. For example, if I see something I like in a store, I won’t buy it on the spot. Instead I will take a photo and either upload the snap or find a digital image of the item online and add it to the relevant board, where I can mull it over for at least a few weeks.

The key here is to make sure those digital collections and paper lists are organized in a way that’s easy to get back to the things you love. For example, my Pinterest boards are hyper-organized into niche topics and specific rooms. When I go back to review my pins, if I see things that no longer appeal to me, I edit them out.

Of course, certain things also continue to tug at my heart when I browse back through my boards. After ogling Open Spaces’ shoe rack for a solid year, I finally clicked buy on that one (more coming on this soon!). On the flip side, I am so glad I pinned and eventually resisted the initial temptation to buy blush linen sheets, which I ended up feeling were too much of a passing trend (I did buy this linen duvet cover though because it was more of a need). I’ve had Utility Canvas’s coverlets pinned to my bedroom board for more than six years! When it’s finally time to replace my current quilt, I will feel totally confident splurging on one. The best thing about this running wish list and vetting process is that if you stick to it, you’re less likely to wind up spending your money on something that’s fleeting.