My Number One Tip For Decorating “On a Budget”

I received a question this morning about how I practically decorate on a budget. My husband and I don’t have “home” as a line item on our budget, but we do each have a monthly “fun budget”. If I want to go to a thrift store or buy something off of Facebook marketplace, I take it out of my “fun budget”. So when I use the words “budget decorating”, what I really mean is “decorating and furnishing your home for as CHEAP as possible”. Cheap doesn’t mean you have to skimp on quality though.

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Here is my number one tip for small decorating budgets (we’re talking “not even a line item” here). If you are looking for a specific piece of furniture or decor, I’d recommend NOT buying the first new thing you see.

If you’re patient, determined, and keep your eyes open, you can probably find something secondhand that is higher quality and a lower price. Example: this leather ottoman I got yesterday. I wanted one for functionality and looks for this chair, but couldn’t afford a new one. The new ones I could maaaybe save up for were still $100+, and probably wouldn’t have been real leather. I waited and waited and searched, and got lucky to find a real leather ottoman on Facebook marketplace for $20! Is it super modern/trendy/perfect? Nope. Is it a leather ottoman that has the same general aesthetic as the fancy high end ones for a fraction of the cost? You bet!

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We’ve taken this approach for most of the furniture in our home. A handful of our furnishings were purchased brand new, but we saved so much money overall by waiting to find the right pieces secondhand. Our tiny home budget couldn’t have afforded anything fancy if we bought everything new, but we’ve found a few high quality pieces for a fraction of what buying new furniture costs. If you have a general idea of what you’re looking for, and the patience to not impulse buy the first thing you see at Target or HomeGoods, you can decorate and furnish your home with pieces that will last (and won’t break the bank.) The key to decorating on a budget is not buying cheap junk- it is being thoughtful about the purchases you want to make and then having patience for the right piece to come along.

I wrote more about shopping secondhand in my HomeMade series. You can find helpful decorating tips and guidance in my post , HomeMade: Does Your Home Have A Recipe? .

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HomeMade: Does Your Home Have A Recipe?

You walk into Target for toilet paper and mascara. You spend an hour and $15 in the home section but you get to your car and realize you forgot the toilet paper and mascara. (again? crap. maybe next time.) You get home and realize that the thing you bought for your home doesn’t really fit with your decor, but it was at Target so it must be trendy… right?

Does this sound like you? I know I’ve been there way too many times. My friend Briee and I both love Target, but we live in rural Iowa and the closest one is over an hour away. One time we drove there to just wander around. To walk through every aisle. To breathe the sweet Target air. (That last one was a joke… kind of). We don’t even really like Starbucks, but we bought drinks to walk around with while we shopped aimlessly. I don’t remember if I bought anything on that trip, but if I did it clearly wasn’t something I remember, and it probably cost more than $15.

$15 at a retail store can buy you a fraction of a pillow. (Or maybe something from an end cap, or the mascara you came for, but probably not both). Sure, you can guarantee these things will be trendy on some level, but your dollars won’t get you very far. This photo is what $15 at a thrift store looks like.


A floral tablecloth that could be in an Anthropologie catalog ($2), an iconic framed “Grace” print ($3), an ORIGINAL framed oil portrait of a woman named Mary ($1), two vintage metal canisters ($5), and four coupe cocktail glasses ($4).

(Important Side Note: Did I need any of these items? No. This post isn’t about shopping for your home’s basic needs like food and toilet paper (and mascara 😉 ) You don’t need to decorate your home, but you probably do. I want to encourage thoughtfulness and resourcefulness in all areas of homemaking, including decorating. If we’re already going to be doing certain things (like decorating and meal planning and dressing ourselves), we might as well be doing them as thoughtfully, intentionally, and frugally as possible.)

$15 is on the higher end of what I would usually spend at a thrift store. I don’t go thrifting super regularly, but when I do I try not to spend more than $5-10.

I was a little hesitant at first to spend $15 at the thrift store, but then I thought about how easy it is to drop $15 at Target like it’s no big deal.

You put one pillow and some nail polish in your cart and suddenly you’re out $40. My husband, Ben, came up with a brilliant analogy as we discussed this strange phenomenon last night.

He said that retail stores are like restaurants. You go there and pay more for the convenience of a meal that is already prepared, when you could buy the ingredients for much less at the grocery store.

The struggle with grocery stores is that you have to know your ingredients beforehand (and how to combine them when you get home). A trip to the grocery store requires intentional planning and thoughtfulness in order to create the meal you want to make. You can’t go to the grocery store to get the ingredients for a Caesar Salad and come home with M&M’s and bread.

I thought this was brilliant.

This might make restaurants look more appealing. There is a menu full of diverse options that are guaranteed to be prepared and presented with no effort on your part. Sure, it’s more expensive than a trip to the grocery store to make the same meal, but you’re paying for convenience. Someone else is doing the planning and the preparing for you.

Walk into any big-box store and you’ll get your home styling already prepared- for a price. You’ll find new, trendy, curated collections of home decor that are priced for convenience.

Walk into a thrift store and you’ll find aisles of “ingredients” that require discernment and thoughtfulness to put together, but for a fraction of the cost you’d pay for retail.

I think the convenience and trendiness of big-box stores are why some people struggle to find their style. “I wanted a Caesar salad, so why does my home look like M&M’s and bread?” It doesn’t go together. It doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t taste good.

This analogy gave me an idea for a new perspective on thoughtful homemaking and resourceful decorating. To get your wheels turning… if the way your home looks and functions is a unique recipe, what are your ingredients? And can you source your ingredients from thrift stores for a lower cost and the same result? Have you been buying meals instead of ingredients? And if so, do these meals belong in the same restaurant?

Decor trends change as quickly as retail stores can get new products on the shelves.

It’s how they keep you coming back for more, more more. Example A is the farmhouse trend. A year ago, you would find chippy white knick knacks and “simple farmhouse” decor on the shelves of any retail store. But now? Women that have entirely redecorated their homes in the “farmhouse” style are coming to me and asking how they can “get out”. The trend is over, and women are stuck with decor that isn’t their style.

The number one question I get from readers is, “How do I know what my style is? I like so many different styles. My house feels like a crazy mess.”

I’ve thought about how to answer this question so many times in so many different ways. This analogy of restaurants vs. grocery stores and retail vs. thrift stores has given me clarity in my answer.

I think that women don’t know “what their style is” because they depend on retail stores to have style for them, and retail trends are always changing.

This is why your home might feel like a crazy mess. Last year it was “farmhouse”. But the year before that it was “industrial”. Maybe the year before that it was “boho”, but this year everything is “minimal modern”. If you exclusively decorate your home with trendy big-box ingredients, it’s going to feel dated and crazy really fast.

Maybe you’re thinking, “There has to be a better way!”

I’d like to suggest that a better way exists, and is accessible to everyone.

The “better way” is filling your home with things that make you smile, instead of following pre-packaged trends.

I’m not suggesting you scrap everything in your house and start over. I never want to promote unhealthy consumerism or “buying” your way out of a design problem. I don’t think it’s wise. I don’t think it’s good stewardship of resources. And frankly, it’s just not as much fun. Your home is about so much more than “things” from stores.

How your home feels and functions is more important than how it looks, but how it looks is inevitably part of how it feels

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing posts with tips and questions to help you find your unique home style (and guidelines to shop accordingly.) The goal is not to go on a shopping spree when we’re finished. The goal is to make more thoughtful and resourceful decisions as you inevitably encounter opportunities to purchase “ingredients” for your home. We will work together to write our “home recipes”, and talk about how to go “grocery shopping” at thrift stores. We will talk about when to pay extra for a “restaurant” experience, and when to opt for the “grocery store”. We will explore examples of common “home style recipes” that can be tweaked to serve your family’s unique “dietary needs”.

Thanks for following along with me here on Holland Avenue Home. This blog is an invitation to thoughtful homemaking, and it is my goal to encourage resourcefulness and good stewardship in all areas of home life. I want to use my love for design as a way to serve others, and your support of this blog makes that possible. Thank you.

If you want to be notified when new posts go live, click the “follow” button on the sidebar under the “Brighten Your Inbox” header. You can also follow Holland Avenue Home on Instagram for post announcements and daily encouragement toward thoughtful homemaking. 

With so much love, 

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One Woman’s Trash… Is Another Woman’s Chair

“The Trash Chair” (as we are now calling it) found a home in our kitchen nook today.

It was lovingly named “The Trash Chair” because we picked it up off of the curb on our town’s junk day! My husband spotted it on his drive to work and then came back home to pick me up and go see it. (Our town is only one mile wide so turning around on a drive isn’t that big of a deal 😂). I saw it and immediately started reaching to put it in the car.

It is surprisingly comfy! This is the fourth mustard yellow armchair in our house, but as far as looks go, she might just be my favorite. Dainty, yet strong. The perfect shade of mustard yellow. Not too green, not too orange. Just pure mustard velvet goodness with a side of tufting.

I can’t believe someone was throwing it away!

I witnessed the garbage men coming around to collect furniture on my street yesterday. They pick up whatever is on your curb with a giant scoop, and dump it into the back of a giant trailer, then smoosh it down with the blade of the scoop. Large recliners and wooden furniture were coming apart like they were a house of cards! It was kind of amazing to watch, but also very sad to me. Sure, some of it is actually “trash” that can’t be rescued. But a lot of things I saw on the curb could either be used by someone in need or repurposed and given new life in another home. Barely any of our furniture is brand new, because I see the value in repurposing and restoring and adding value to things that are “pre-loved”. (Unless it smells funny. Always leave it behind if it smells funny).

I’m glad we rescued The Trash Chair from its impending fate of being smooshed.

It adds the perfect pop of color and vintage goodness to this corner of the kitchen. You know what they say… one woman’s trash is another woman’s new favorite chair! Er… something like that!

Do you have a favorite piece you’ve repurposed or rescued from a landfill?