living room

Budget is an unfortunate reality when doing any type of home project. No matter what your budget is, there are always going to be places where you weigh the budget option versus the pricier option.

We’ve managed to complete a number of home projects on fairly tight budgets. If you’re wondering how to blend less expensive items with investment items and keep the look elevated, check out my list below to see where we usually save or spend.


Curtain hardware – No one sees your curtain rods. I refuse to spend $150 on something that’s entirely hidden by draperies. $18.99 Target rods, please. If it’s properly supported by the correct number of brackets, you’re not going to encounter any sagging. As far as finials go, there are nice options for $50-60 at Pottery Barn or Crate & Barrel.

Picture frames – I think every single blogger and IRL friend I’ve ever spoken to about picture frames uses the budget option. Of course I’d like to have things professionally framed – I remember going to the framers as a kid with my mom – but there are plenty of perfectly good picture frames out there for under $100. So, if it’s between picture frames and the items in the ‘spend’ column below, picture frames are never going to make the cut.

Rugs* – *for now, anyway, considering the young child and the large amount of building and painting we still have to do. Down the line, I would like to invest in genuine Turkish or Persian rugs. That said, my go-to store for rugs at the moment is actually Wal-Mart! My living room rug was under $125 and looks lovely in the space.

Artwork – we’re fortunate to live in a community with a tremendous local arts scene. It’s been very easy for me to find affordable and beautiful work at galleries and festivals. Etsy also has an amazing range of digital images – you can buy a high-quality image file or pack of files for less than $7 and have it professionally printed on archival paper or canvas.


Paint – Just put down the big box store brand paint. Don’t color match your favorite high-end paint at Home Depot. You will never regret buying Farrow & Ball, Sherwin-Williams, Benjamin Moore, etc. The colors are more vibrant and resist fading. The paints don’t chip as easily. They hide the brushstrokes. I could go on for days. A thing I dislike is when people call themselves an *insert item* snob, but I might be something of a paint snob.

For example – I used Behr Premium Plus to paint the accent wall in our dining room. It honestly does look fine in the dining room. Their color was the closest match to the wallpaper. I used the leftover paint on the upstairs hallway, and then proceeded to paint every room adjacent to the hallway with Farrow & Ball. The hallway color now looks…dead? It’s just not quite right. It’s hard to describe or even photograph, but long story short, that hallway is about to become F&B Lulworth Blue.

Lighting – I can’t count the number of ‘Save vs. Spend’ posts I see on Instagram with Amazon dupes of Serena & Lily lighting. No, no, no. Please save elsewhere. The Amazon lights look much prettier online – in reality, they are gold-toned plastic. I fell into the trap of buying one and meh. Would not recommend. It’s also a pain to install lighting or to have it installed, and budget lighting doesn’t last. Toward the end of our kitchen reno, with very little budget left, we ended up buying a $30 light from a big box hardware store. It didn’t last a year (thank you, warranty!). Lighting is also a big focal point and draws the eye like nothing else. Draw people’s eyes to the good stuff!

Building materials (decking, wood, etc.) – This feels like a no-brainer, but that might be because we’re constantly buying building materials. For our built-ins like the living room bookcase, we go to a lumber yard, not Lowes. For the backyard, we invested in Trex composite decking, which lasts anywhere from 25- 50 years with no maintenance required. Higher quality materials will also raise your home’s value. Our privacy fence is nearing the end of its days, but we’ve been waiting to replace it until we’re able to use vinyl. These materials make a huge impact on the visual feel of your home and the lifespan of your project, so this is not the place to save.

Pillows – This is a weird place to end, but I think cheap throw pillows just look like cheap throw pillows. For us, our downstairs furniture was neither a save nor a spend, so the right accessories are pretty critical to elevating it. You’ll notice in my pictures that the living room lacks throw pillows entirely, and that’s because I’m waiting for the perfect ones (and let’s be real, saving up for them). The bare look bothers me, but not as much as cheap, stiff throw pillows do.

Where do you spend and save when decorating your home?



  1. Sara ~ Great information! Your home reflects your suggestions.

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