These Are the 31 Smartest Ways to Save on Decor This Year

published Jan 18, 2023
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Collage of woman painting a canvas, a potted plant, and a piggy bank
Credit: Photos: Shutterstock; Design: Apartment Therapy

We’re almost three weeks into the new year, and maybe you’ve taken these early days to pack away holiday decor, organize and declutter, and part with a few things you don’t need anymore. Perhaps you’re even following our January Cure program to freshen up. Or maybe your home already feels comfortable, but you’re just looking to make a few key decor purchases this year. No matter the reason, I’ve got you covered.

There are so many ultra-affordable (and even free!) ways to zhuzh up your home, so it’s easy to make this your best decorating year yet. Here are 31 ways to make it happen:

1. Forage in your backyard.

“Shop” your yard (if you have one!) for beautiful blooms, branches, and more to display on your mantel, nightstand, or kitchen table. If you don’t have a lawn, take a walk in a park or the woods instead and collect a few things to display, so long as there are no rules against said “souvenirs.”

Credit: Erin Derby

2. Frame artwork at home.

Buying ready-to-hang art prints can add up, but you can design a custom gallery wall by framing images from a used book, notes designer Jodi Morton of 2 to 5 Design. “Picture frames from IKEA keep the cost down,” she adds. Designer Callie Rippolone is a fan of framing magazine pages, posters, and more, and has a framing hack of her own to share: “Custom matting and framing can add up quickly, so consider matting the piece of art with cardboard and use plywood to create the frame,” she shares. “You can then carve into the frame for extra detail and add a layer paint or stain.” If that DIY feels a little too ambitious, shop dollar stores, big boxes, and craft stores for inexpensive, readymade frames instead.

3. Sign up for cash back apps and services.

Companies like Rakuten make it easy to get cash back for purchases you’re already making, no strings attached! When you sign up, you’ll also see which of your favorite retailers are offering special deals and bonuses. That means you can plan your shopping accordingly, making larger purchases when cash back percentages are higher. You can also refer friends (who are new customers) to the site for a small cash incentive. Every little bit adds up — and can also be the way you finance your next small decor splurge.

4. Visit estate sales.

Spend a Saturday morning estate sale hopping. You never know what you might score, whether you’re in the market for new tableware, linens, wine glasses, or something else entirely. Find sales in your area using EstateSales.Net.

5. Become a plant parent (again).

There’s no such thing as owning too many plants, especially if you’re looking to add color and charm to your home on the cheap. “Greenery is a great way to bring the outdoors in while adding to the decor,” shares designer Sherrie Suber of House of Interiors. “Fresh plants are an inexpensive way to liven up your decor. Visit your local greenhouse for options. They can educate you on low-maintenance plants if you’re a beginner.”

6. Forgo a traditional jewelry box.

There’s no need to splurge on a fancy, expensive jewelry box when you can repurpose household items to hold your baubles. Champagne coupes, vintage ashtrays, and teacups are all excellent receptacles for rings, earrings, and dainty necklaces. Whether full or empty, all of these pieces and will look super charming on your dresser or nightstand, too.

7. Collect matchbooks.

Make a habit of picking up matchbooks at your favorite bars and restaurants over the course of the year. Better yet, you can fill a glass bowl with all of your finds to create a colorful coffee table display, which becomes an instant conversation piece. This is a fun way to commemorate travel or special occasions, too. You could even frame a few of your favorites one day.

Credit: Tara Carney

8. Accessorize with secondhand books.

You don’t need to buy titles brand new to make your bookcases or built-ins shine. “Fill in bookshelves with books purchased at thrift stores,” offers designer Yoselin Castro of Mackenzie Collier Interiors. “You can try getting them for $1 to $2 each and see how $100 will go a long way to fill those empty shelves.” You’ll also be building your own personal library in the process. Look for a variety of volumes, from novels and non-fiction to coffee table books, so your books will not only provide decoration but also design inspiration and endless entertainment.

9. Join a local “Buy Nothing” group.

Buy Nothing Facebook groups exist in neighborhoods all across the country. These community boards make it easy to scoop up new-to-you items without spending a cent or traveling far. You can offload your own goods there, too.

10. Install extra lighting.

‘Tis the year to brighten up your space! “Many people underestimate the power that lighting can bring to any space,” says designer Mina Lisanin of ML Interiors. “One tip to refresh any space is to add peel-and-stick closet lighting to your open shelving or below surfaces such as floating vanities. It gives a high-end, custom look without the high price tag.”

11. Turn fashion into art.

Not sure how to fill that empty corner? Display your favorite purses and scarves on a freestanding coat rack, like what you see here. This decorating move will add color and personality to a space while making some of your items easier to grab on the go. Coat racks can be a little pricey if you’re buying them new, so try to thrift one like this charming wood design, which will also warm up up the room with its honey-colored finish.

12. Host a decor swap.

It’s time to start a group text with all of your design-minded friends for a gathering where you’ll all leave with a few *free* gifts. Pick a date to host a get-together where everyone will bring three-to-five items they’re no longer utilizing — think small art, accessories, coffee table books, and the like. Then, engage in a good, old-fashioned exchange! You can draw numbers to determine who gets the first pick, if you’d like, and keep going until all the wares change hands. Then enjoy styling your new goodies in your home.

Credit: Sophie

13. Thrift a lamp base.

Thrift stores often have a wide selection of lamp bases on hand. Even if you need to order a shade when you get home (or borrow one from a different lamp you’re ready to part with), this solution is way cheaper than buying both pieces brand new. Take it from me, table lamps can be pricey.

14. Think reusable, but make it cute.

Lisanin offers a simple hack for making your bathroom appear a bit more chic. “Tired of the ugly shampoo and shower gel bottles cluttering up your shower and the aesthetic of your bathroom, but don’t want to pay an arm-and-a-leg for expensive products for pure design aesthetics?” she says. “You can purchase cute reusable bottles for all of your shower needs on Etsy.” Many of these vessels even come with customizable labels, too. “Refill the bottles with your favorite products, and customize the label to read ‘Hotel ___,'” Lisanin suggests. “Fill in the blank with your last name, or come up with a cute saying such as ‘Rise and Shine’ for your citrus body gel.”

Credit: Reid Rolls

15. Make your own vases.

Who says you have to purchases vases brand new? “I recycle wine bottles or other drinks that come in beautiful glass jars and vases, remove any labels really well, and wash thoroughly,” Castro says. “I keep a cabinet filled with flower vases in the garage, and whenever I host dinner or a get-together, I pull out a variety of bud vases, add water, and drop in a bloom.”

16. Skip hardwired sconces.

Enjoy the beauty of sconces without calling in an electrician. “One quick, affordable way to get the look for less is to buy battery or rechargeable lights that can be applied with a 3M peel-and-stick application,” Lisanin shares. This kind of project is feasible for renters, too. Add lights bedside, in a hallway, or by your entry for a hit of warm, task light without the professional price tag.

17. Look out for floor models.

If you’re eyeing a particular piece from a big-box store, keep an eye out for sales. “Many times, at the end of the season, large furniture stores are ready to bring in new inventory and start to tag their showroom furniture with awesome discounts,” Castro explains. In the meantime, take a look around the store for other marked-down pieces. “Stores or showrooms usually keep a clearance area where they have all the products customers have returned and are selling for a discount on the original price,” she adds. “This is the best way to give these pieces a home and avoid having them end up in a landfill while saving some money, too!”

18. Scour church sales.

Churches and other houses of worship often host rummage sales once or twice a year, and you truly never know what you might find there. Keep an eye out on Craigslist, or look for flyers in your neighborhood to stay informed about when these events will take place.

19. Grab some dried flowers.

Eliminate the need to purchase a fresh bouquet each week by picking up an arrangement of dried flowers that speak to you. They’ll last for months — if not years — while still brightening up your space and adding a natural touch to it.

20. Shop in the off season.

Shopping for Christmas decor in May certainly isn’t a bad idea. “This is a great way to come across lucky finds without breaking the bank,” Castro says. “Try to stick to things that are timeless and not too trendy to guarantee you will still like them in the years to come!”

21. DIY an abstract piece.

Abstract art is stunning, but can retail for quite a pretty penny. Why not try your hand at a piece of your own this year? Head to the craft store to pick up a large canvas and some paint. Limit your purchase to $50 and see what you can do for that amount. I bet you’ll be surprised!

22. Try this pillow insert hack.

You don’t need to shell out major cash in order to own luxe-looking pillows. Designer Andi Morse of Morse Design shares a simple trick for making affordable pillows appear a bit fancier. “Purchase ready-made pillows from places like Target or HomeGoods that are less expensive and buy a down insert to go inside of them,” she suggests. “The down insert will make the pillow look and feel more custom.” Another styling hack here? Sizing up when it comes to inserts, so your cushions will look fuller in their cases.

23. Frame travel photos.

Why purchase a print of a tropical destination when you can frame a shot you took at the beach? You’ll save major cash all while being able to look back fondly on a favorite vacay. That’s a decorating win-win!

Credit: Talia Taxman

24. Find a reversible blanket.

A blanket with two distinct patterns on each side offers double the fun. Switch things up over the course of the year, rotating the blanket from the sofa to the bed to the basement and son on, alternating which side you display in each new spot.

25. Go big with decor (where possible).

“Scale your artwork, vases, and mirrors up, so you can reduce the need for a bunch of small pieces,” Suber suggests. For example, pick the 90-inch-wide sofa instead of the 78-inch-piece, if space allows. “You could also opt for a chair-and-a-half instead of two armchairs. By simply scaling up, you not only save money, you eliminate clutter, too.”

26. Cover an end table with fabric.

Grab a blanket, scarf, or piece of fabric and place it over an end table that has seen better days. It’ll camouflage stains and scratches while making the piece appear entirely unique.

27. Make your own drapes.

If the cost of curtains and other window treatments is getting you down, Morse has a solution. “Use either tablecloths or quilts for actual drapery,” she offers. “You can buy clip-on hooks to hang them; they are much better priced than custom drapes.”

28. DIY a travertine table.

Enjoy one of 2023’s biggest trends at home without digging into your savings. “Instead of paying thousands of dollars for a trendy travertine coffee or side table, you can DIY it for a fraction of the cost by buying two-to-three travertine pavers,” Lisanin notes. “Arrange the pavers to your desired layout, and then apply very strong glue. Let the glue set for 48 hours, and you have a brand new tale for the fraction of the cost!”

29. Paint a patterned wall.

Save big on printed wallpaper but get the look with a fool-the-eye paint treatment. Grab a paint brush and the hues of your choosing, and go to town adding some pattern to your walls. Polka dots, stripes, and squiggles are all easy to freehand.

Credit: Erin Derby

30. Display your favorite plates.

Take that china out of your kitchen cabinet and display it on your walls. The result will be timeless, and add a bit of pep to your cooking space. You could also try hanging decorative plates in a dining room, bedroom, or even as a part of a gallery wall arrangement.

31. Reuse those candle holders.

Instead of throwing that pretty glass candle vessel into the recycling bin once the wax is burnt down, repurpose it! Candle holders are excellent for housing makeup brushes, pens and pencils, and even small succulents or cacti.