Lending Club Blog

The Three Frugal Strategies of Home Decoration

A good home improvement project takes time, perseverance, and patience.

Oh. And money. Lots and lots of money.

To replicate the designs seen on Extreme Home Makeover or Priced to Sell or insert-HGTV-program-here, you’ll have to do some renovating on your wallet and maybe even your savings account. To upgrade a kitchen or bathroom, you could find yourself downgrading a family vacation or graduate school. Home improvement projects do not come on the cheap.

But there are some alternatives to outright wall-banging and deconstruction. A new lamp here, a refurbished end table there, and you have yourself a new room. Redecorating, it seems, is the frugal way to flip the feeling of your favorite pad. Sorry, middle income Bob Vila wannabes. You might be out of luck.

Knowing the inexpensive way to go, however, does not solve all your money problems in one fell swoop. Simply deciding on redecorating over remodeling actually opens up an entire new world of possibilities and a whole new batch of money decisions. There are big box stores and mom-and-pop shops that specialize in helping you redecorate your home, and there are other alternatives for redecorating found online or even in your own garage. Which one is the cheapest way to go? Let’s find out:

1. Personal: DIY

Going the do-it-yourself (DIY) route would make Tim “the Tool Man” Taylor proud, but is it right for you? If you are a Mr. Handy McTool, then whittling a new coffee table out of an old shed might be the best option. But for those of us who can’t turn a beat-up bicycle into an artful dining room diorama, we might not find this alternative that easy.

Its cheapness can’t be understated, though. A lot of do-it-yourself projects begin and end with the stuff you have lying around. There’s no need to go out and replace yesterday’s clutter with today’s filler when you can jimmy-rig something you currently own to do the trick.

There is an intrinsic reward in completing a project by yourself, too. Working with your hands is one of the lost skills that our society has started to ignore. Getting back to the way our forefathers got by is a fulfilling experience, and it continues to be so every time you look at your new creation.

Intangible rewards are nice and all, but they don’t matter much when it comes to how much money is in your pocket. The nitty-gritty of DIY projects is how prepared you are to undertake a task. If you have everything you need lying around the house, then you shouldn’t end up spending more than few dollars on your finished product. If not, then you might find DIY rather NFM (not-for-me).

Raw material costs for something as simple as shelves in your garage could run you a pretty penny. And while wood from a lumberyard is not as expensive as pre-made shelves from the store, the costs can add up if you need to buy yourself tools or extra supplies.

2. Online: Craigslist

Like a glorious Internet flea market, community sites like craigslist.org (and community second-hand stores, for that matter) are a great place to find inexpensive upgrades for your current decor. Most of the people on craigslist are folks just like us – hoarders with too many of this and too much of that lying around the house and in desperate need to pawn it off on someone else.

Craigslist pros can find incredible deals on virtually any product you can imagine. The beauty of places like craigslist is that pretty much everything you could need for a redecorating project is somewhere in the site’s postings. You just have to be able to find it. And once you do, chances are good that it will be significantly cheaper than if you had gone to the store and bought the item brand new. Craigslist merchandise is pre-owned, so it should always come with a discount.

In the same vein, being pre-owned could mean trouble. A lot of folks are desperate to bum their junk off on others, and they will say or show whatever they need to in order to get their item sold. To find just the right product, you might need to commit to a one-on-one visit with that boudoir you’ve been coveting. You’d hate for it to be missing a drawer. Or smell like cats.

3. In-store: IKEA

There should probably be a distinction made when discussing shopping for home furnishings in a retail store. There are basically two different kinds of places to buy: the eye-gougingly-expensive, designer emporiums and the wholesale, big-box bargain shops. Let’s go ahead and assume that the former is not exactly a wise budget move, and we’ll focus on the latter.

IKEA, with its Swedish designs and sweet savings, broke the mold when it comes to cheap home furnishings. Everything IKEA makes was built with consumer savings in mind – from the assembly-required ethos to the affordable boxing and packing. Even better, the entire catalog of IKEA products is trendy, modern, and beautiful.

It is not, however, dirt cheap. IKEA items are inexpensive by comparison to expensive competitors, but they will still cost more than D-ingIY or surfing Craigslist. They’re brand new, so IKEA can’t just be giving them away. Finding the right product at the right price would be key to making an option like IKEA any sort of feasible.

Let’s recap: Remodeling a home is expensive. Redecorating is not. And if redecorating is your way to go, then you can’t do much better than by trying options like DIY, craigslist, or IKEA.

But which one is the best? That answer is entirely up to you.

If you are industrial and enjoy working with your hands, then a do-it-yourself project might be right up your alley. Plus, if you have most of the tools and materials at your disposal already, then you could get away with paying next to nothing for your new anything.

If deal-hunting is your thing and you don’t mind second-hand hand-me-downs, then craigslist might be your calling. Just remember to try before you buy and to learn how to sniff out the special deals.

If neither of the above are your M.O. and you’re simply in the market for affordable, fashionable at-home pick-me-ups, then IKEA is right for you. A word of advice, though: Don’t forget to keep your budget in mind when you’re in the store lest you run the risk of a Swedish shopping stupor.

Tuesday, November 25th, 2008 at 1:15 pm

Comments (2)

  1. Good post, I always find decorating very stressful and always skirm
    at the cost of diy. I will add this post link to my own blog to
    pass on to my visitors at http://www.frugal-living-tips.com

    November 26th, 2008 at 4:28 am

  2. MemoryFW:

    You mention some ideas that I haven’t thought of before.

    February 14th, 2010 at 1:55 pm

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