Ten Tips Series

Seven Steps to Decorating on a Budget

  7 steps to decorating on a budget

Since Jeremy and I have only been out of college for a year, we have a pretty tight budget. Jeremy is really wise with our money, so in order to reach long term savings goals and be able to enjoy little pleasures like a beautiful home, I have had to learn how to be wise in my spending.

1. Stay On The Hunt

Good finds are out there, but you have to be willing to stay on the lookout. You might visit a thrift store 5 times over the course of a month, and 4 out of 5 you walk away empty handed, but that one amazing find on your fifth try makes it all worth it. It can be really hit or miss, but you can't give up after a few misses.

Same goes for online shopping, sale bins, Home Goods, Craigslist and antique stores. I believe beggars can be choosers, but you have to make it a routine to look for good deals. Scroll through Craigslist every few days to see if there is anything interesting. Stop by your local Goodwill on your way home from work every couple of weeks. Roll past the home decor clearance aisle at Target when you are picking up toothpaste. Hunting doesn't just happen when you are looking for something specific. Sometimes the best finds are those you weren't looking for at all.

Unlike box stores or expensive furniture stores where you can expect to find something wonderful at each visit, the places that offer the best deals must be hunted.

In addition, make mental notes for the future. Go into that discount lighting store on your lunch break and take a look around even if you aren't looking for a ceiling light so that when you are looking for a new light for the guest room in a few months, you have made a mental note, and you know exactly where to go.

2. Look For Potential by Knowing What You Love

Some pieces are diamonds in the rough, but others are just rough. It takes time to learn to distinguish between the two. I believe the key to seeing potential is knowing what you love. If you know you love mid-century modern furniture, and you find a great mid-century end table that is painted an ugly shade of purple, you can see that you love the structure and imagine what it would look like painted another color. If you've been looking for a two toned coffee table, buy that basic oak table from IKEA and make it your own.

As I have become a follower of many other bloggers and started to pay close attention to styles I love at places like West Elm, Crate & Barrel and Restoration Hardware, it is easier to see potential in things because I notice similarities between a thrift store find and a piece I love at an expensive retailer, so I can fill in the gaps of what it would take to turn the former into the latter.

7 steps to decorating on a budget

3. Know When To Invest & When To Pinch Pennies

Some things are worth a splurge. If you can afford it, allow yourself to buy pieces that you really love if you know you can't make it or find it at a cheaper price. The homes I love the most are a combination of old, DIY, and new.

4. Know the Market

It helps to know what a good price is for something so you can budget accordingly. Do your research and know the market so that you don't budget way less than is feasible or spend way more than you need. For example, you might set aside $50 in your budget for a couch, but for that price, you will most likely end up with a gross, stained, lumpy, ugly piece of work because it really is nearly impossible to find a couch for $50...unless maybe your Aunt Betty decides to bless you with her old couch. In which case, take it and run. But if not, put that money toward a nicer couch that will last you longer and be a wise purchase.

If you are looking for a kitchen table for four, do your research and find out what your dream table retails for and also what some cheaper alternatives might cost. That way, when you are shopping at an antique store and you see the table of your dreams, you can use wise judgement about whether it is a good buy.

Where you shop often shapes your idea of a "good deal," so it is important to learn when something is just too expensive. Haven't you noticed that when you are at Goodwill, a dress for $15 seems like a rip off, but in the mall, a $15 dress would be an unbelievable steal? Same goes for your home. A set of book ends on sale for $75 might seem like an amazing deal at Pottery Barn compared to all the prices you see around it, but you have to remember that you could probably find that same set of book ends for $30 at TJ Maxx. Walk away. 7 steps to decorating on a budget 5. Be patient.

You are most likely to splurge when you find yourself in a hurry. Sometimes you are in a hurry. Maybe you have the contractor coming in two days to install that new lighting and you have to pick it out now. In that case, you may have to just go with what you know. But with a lot of smaller purchases, you can take your time and wait for the best deal. This goes along with all the other points, don't settle for expensive if you think you may be able to find affordable (unless you have the money to do so. In which case, maybe this isn't the article for you :-)).

I'm preaching to the choir here. Sometimes I get fixated on what I want for a space, and I just buy the first thing I see.

6. Don't be afraid to buy...if you can return it.

Sometimes when you find something that is crazy amazing, it's worth forking over the cash if you know you can take it home, try it out, and return it. This doesn't apply to thrift shopping (although sometimes if something is dirt cheap, it's worth buying even if you just add a coat of paint and resell at a profit).

I mostly use this method at Home Goods. I probably return almost as much as I buy, but then every time I return something, I buy something else. Oops.

But it does take off some of the financial pressure to know that if you find something you love, you can take it home, try it out, and then return it. Also, I have been known to take home something that is too expensive to see if I like the style, but then I always return it and look for a cheaper alternative...but at least I know that the style is what I want (or don't want).

In the same breath, always get fabric samples and paint samples before purchasing. You will save yourself a lot of money and stress!

7 steps to decorating on a budget

7. Use Your Resources

You are more creative than you give yourself credit for. Spend time on Pinterest, and you will see what all you can do with a can of paint, a tool kit, and some creativity. Google, Pinterest, and HGTV have the potential to make design stars out of all of us. So, have faith in your ability to shop cheap and make your home beautiful, and take advantage of creative friends, the internet, and your local hardware store to make a masterpiece out of your home!

7 steps to decorating on a budget

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5 Things I've Learned In One Year After the Cap & Gown

One year. Can it really have been a year since I donned that black cap and gown and walked single file with all of my classmates to accept a diploma that officially ushered me into adulthood? photo 428429_4046212924401_413770630_n_zps2ef906e7.jpg

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In one year, I have gotten married, gone on a honeymoon, moved into our first apartment, started my first "big girl job," and bought our first home. I have made new friends and kept old ones. We have learned to balance a budget, pay bills, and make wise purchases. I have had identity crises and questioned my purpose. I have had days where all seems right with the world.

I heard someone say that "the days feel long, but the years feel short." Never has this felt more true. In some ways I feel like I am still a college student on a long, arduous summer vacation. In other ways, my time at Belmont University feels like another lifetime.

To all of my friends graduating this month from your respective universities, the knowledge I have gained over a year is meager, yet the glimpses of wisdom God has given me seem to beg to be shared. I'm sure in fifty years, ten years, even one year from now, I will look back on this and laugh at how little I knew at 22--just like I do now when I read through the journals of my adolescence, but this is where God has me now, and I am thankful.

Dear one-year-ago Chandler,

Here are a few tips of the trade I've picked up in a year out in the world.

1. No one really knows exactly what they want to do when they graduate from college.

My English professors would have told me not to make a universal statement, but for the sake of impact, let's just say that it's true. We enter college wide eyed and fresh out of high school. We barely know how to make easy mac in the dorm room microwave without burning it--much less what our forever plan looks like. We spend four years honing our skills and narrowing down our interests, and then we expect to graduate with a clear image of our dream job and exactly what we want to accomplish with our lives.

I am beginning to realize that I only touched the surface of my journey to self discovery in college, and all I can do right now is serve the Lord with my current circumstances and allow His plan for my life to unfold. I also realize that it will probably be years before I truly know what my "dream job" looks like. If I did have my life planned out for the next 25 years, the plan would probably be shot in five years anyway.

I am in a job that I love with work that challenges me and people that care about things that matter. I am grateful, and I'm taking one step at a time.

2. Twenty-somethings are really diverse people.

After college graduation, everyone changes out of their matching cap and gown, packs up the car, and moves on to the next stage of life. Jack and Jill get married and settle down in a nice suburban neighborhood. Jane moves home to save money. Jim goes to graduate school. Jen gets a 9-5 job downtown, lives with a roommate, and invests in her first tailored suit. John picks up odd jobs, couch surfs, and parties while he's young. Joe takes a year off to backpack across Europe barefoot and gain life experience. As I have witnessed my friends' transitions into this next phase of life, I have watched in amazement at the way that God's plan differs for everyone. Maybe I'm wrong, but I feel that by the time people hit 30, the playing field begins to even. More people are married with kids, have purchased their first home, have found a job they plan on keeping for at least a few years, and have begun to establish stability. There are of course exceptions to every rule, and there is diversity among every age group, but for the young and the restless, there are so many paths to choose. It's okay to do your own thing.

3. I Still Have So Much To Learn

I make little mistakes and I don't understand things. I work so hard and try to do everything right, and then I find I left a trail of errors behind me. It is humbling and frustrating and embarrassing.

I spent 17 years of life actively learning. I listened to lectures, wrote papers, read books, and took tests to prove my knowledge. I scored well on my standardized tests and maintained a high GPA in college. I knew how to work the system.

Well the system changed, and now I am in kindergarten again at the school of life.

I am thankful that so many people are older and wiser than I am and can teach me what I need to know. I pray God gives me a teachable spirit and that I never think I am too old to learn a lesson.

4. Adult Friendships Take More Effort But Have Great Reward  photo 297524_10200173890340684_1281024255_n_zps36e6dedc.jpg

The flexibility of college schedules, frequency of social activities, and close proximity of living make for easy socializing in college. I have such good memories of late night study groups, spontaneous Waffle House runs at 2 a.m., lazy afternoons on the lawn in the quad, and deep theological discussions at the cafeteria. Socializing hardly took effort, and friends seemed to come naturally.

In the "real" world, friendships take cultivating. You must plan times to spend with friends and coordinate schedules. Intentionality is key. Especially for those of us that got married right out of the gate, relationships with people other than your spouse are easy to push by the wayside (and certainly ought to take second place).  photo 380602_10200256411123652_1400914135_n_zps16e17849.jpg

Despite the change, I have had some of my sweetest times with friends in this year. I have developed new relationships and started to realize who the deep friendships are that will last for years to come. As so many people I know navigate the uncharted waters of complete independence simultaneously, we find a common bond. Also, as I have moved into adulthood, the age gap between myself and those ten years older seems to have narrowed.

5. Growing up can be fun.

Peter Pan would certainly disagree, but I believe it. There are new responsibilities and stresses I have never experienced before, but I have loved the experiences I have had and the joys of figuring out what I believe and what life is going to look like. So, younger self, don't lose heart that your years of school are over. I believe the best is yet to come.

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