Decorating on the Cheap

{ My $23 Goodwill chair and $10 estate sale mirror in the bedroom }

Hi everyone!  I wanted to supplement my Home Decor flickr post with a post about shopping for home decor cheaply.

Decorating your home can get expensive, even if you’re just renting.  When I got my first job out of college and moved into my first apartment, I wanted to keep my costs low but still have a nice space to come home to.  Of course, Ikea was the cheapest route but I took a step further into frugaldom…  Everything I bought except my mattress and bedframe was Craigslisted Ikea!  Honestly I think Ikea gets a bad rap.  I really like modern design elements and Ikea definitely has it!  Sure, some of the quality isn’t so great, but taste in decor can change over time so I don’t stress over how long my Ikea items will last.

Accessories can really make a space yours.  Just because you can only afford Ikea or Craigslist doesn’t mean your space has to look like a dorm room.

Here are a few ways that I’ve saved on furniture and decor.

  • Find out your decorating style.  Use Pinterest (or some other method, like an inspiration board or file) to hone in on your own decorating style.  Knowing this will save you from costly mistakes in the future… you don’t want to lug a piece of furniture home and then realize that it doesn’t mesh well with your current design plan.  Here’s my Home Decor inspiration board on Pinterest.
  • Search Craigslist!  There are a few ways to browse:  You can use the original site (not too user friendly IMHO), or perhaps a smartphone app.  Or…

Use the Craigseasy bookmarklet, as I described here.  This bookmarklet will open up an image-friendly search results page so you don’t have to click on each listing to see its images.

Another way is to subscribe to a customized Craigslist RSS feed in Google Reader!  This is relatively new news to me (SO SMART)!  Bill Weye did a nice tutorial on this here.

Or check out Apartment Thereapy’s Daily Scavenger posts (USA only.)  Everyday, AT scours through Craigslist posts for some interesting decor deals across the country, segmented by the east coast, west coast, the south and midwest.  Its a place to start if you’re not sure what to look for.

{ My coffee table and white console (Discontinued Ikea) have been with me since the beginning!  I got them off of Craigslist for less than $50 each.}

  • Go thrifting! Or shop home consignment!  If you’re in the US, try searching on Yelp or The Thrift Shopper to find local thrift stores near you.  I personally like Goodwill, The Salvation Army, and Savers.  The merch at thrift stores can vary depending on location.  Try to thrift at stores in wealthier areas or neighborhoods with a lot of history.  (This will help in your clothing/accessories thrifting as well)  I’m lucky enough to have Goodwills that stock Target salvage merchandise, and I’ve had a few nice Ikea finds from a Goodwill that’s close to Ikea!

{ A thrifted Korbel champagne bucket holds my kitchen utensils!  I think I found this one for under $10 at Goodwill }

  • Visit local antique and vintage fairs for unique vintage finds!   If you’re not sure your nearest antique fair is, try Google.  I’ve tried going to “regular” flea markets in my area, but I’ve always been disappointed in the quality of the items.  Try visiting a fair where there are selling regulations (the Alameda Antique fair requires items only 20 years or older, for example), or with a separate “vintage” booth section, like the Rose Bowl.

{ A $60 bamboo chair bought at the Alameda Antique Fair, spray painted black.  It is currently my home office chair }

Make sure to bring a lot of cash and a van in case you want to buy furniture or other large items.  Also, bring a friend to help carry things or help you decide whether the item will be a good fit for your home.  Don’t be afraid to haggle a bit!

Just note:  Going thrifting, visiting antique fairs and home consignment centers takes time.  I go thrifting at least 2 times a month, and maybe 6 out of 10 times I leave empty handed.  But the beauty of it is that the merchandise will constantly change.  So don’t give up!  On your search you can end up with a cheap find that will make all that time spent window shopping worth it.  It’s these kinds of special finds that keep me coming back for more!

  • Visit estate sales!  I’ve just recently gotten into estate sales, by way of sharpie markered neon posters on the street!  From the estate sales that I’ve gone to, most price the items VERY inexpensively compared to thrift or vintage flea market prices.  Items are priced to sell FAST, thus the deep discount.

You can find estate sales via Craigslist (a RSS feed using the search “estate sale” would work), or GSALR (garage sales, estate sales, tag sales and multi-family yard sales), or  The vintage mirror in the first pic (above) was my very first estate sale score! 

  • Scour the clearance areas at Target!  Over the years Target has upped their game with really nice decor and a few designer collabos along the way.  I always make sure to give the the decor clearance sections a quick once-over whenever I’m in the store.  I do the same at the clearance sections at Anthropologie, Urban Outfitters, TJMaxx, Ross, and Marshalls.
  • Shop after Christmas sales.  This is the prime time to get non-holiday themed accessories, especially glittery or metallic accents.  If you’re not into so much bling, there are also a lot of rustic holiday accessories to be found (I’m thinking of wicker and wood trays, bins, and baskets.)  Try Michaels, Target, and Walmart for some cheap deals.  Quick Target tip:  When the after-Christmas sales start, ask a Target employee when the sale prices will roll down to 50% and then 70%.  After that time, Target will take any leftover items off the shelves to “salvage,” meaning they get sold to thrift shops like Goodwill.  Choice stock will run low but the deals are much better!  And, if you buy something at 25% off and it later goes down to 50% or 70% off, make sure to keep your receipts and return/get a price adjustment!

{ The two metallic apothecary jars above were both after Christmas clearance items at Target a few years back. }

  • Purchase big ticket items with retailer gift cards at Smartypig!  SmartyPig is a  savings program designed to save for specific monetary goals.  It’s not a bank, but your funds are held by their banking partner, BBVA Compass, an FDIC insured bank.  First, set a monetary goal, and add money to that goal.  Once the goal closes, you can redeem your funds through a retailer gift card… The best part about Smartypig is, with certain retailers, you can receive up to a 11% cash back savings.  For the full list of retailers (including Macys, Pottery Barn,, Bath and Body Works), click here.

By using Smartypig I bought 3 Parsons desks from Overstock:  two desks for the home office, and one for my vanity.  I really love the West Elm parsons desk.. but since I wanted to buy 3, I just couldn’t do it at their prices.  Anyway, I funded my Smartypig account with money, used my funds to redeem some Overstock gift cards with 7% cash back, and applied a high percentage Overstock coupon.  (Compare this to Ebates’ 3% cash back with Overstock) When I was done, I transferred all of my money back into my regular checking account.  I saved $42 with the Smartypig 7% cash back, and another $50 using the Overstock coupon code. $92 savings!

  • Buy some paint to make some DIY art!  The acrylic paintings in my bedroom are DIY and I love them!  You can also create fabric wall hangings if you don’t want to paint (great tutorial here).  I’m also getting into spray painting figurines for display on my console, or in a bookcase.  What’s great about spray painting is, you can always paint over with a new color once your taste changes.

{ Or create your own photo canvas using sites like the Canvas People!  I did their “free” 8 x 10 deal and made this photo canvas of Buddy for $15 shipped }

  • Use Etsy as a resource to decorate.  Etsy is chock full of amazing artists and collectors.  I like to buy art prints there, as many artists price their prints competitively and you’re not likely to find it anywhere else.  Ashley G is one of my favorite print artists on Etsy.. be sure to check her shop out!

{ Exactly 8 Etsy prints are hanging in my living room right now and I love every single piece.  If prints aren’t your thing, try photographs!  Print your own photos on photo paper at home, or buy photo prints on Etsy! }

♥ E&I