To have a good life it is necessary to have a comfortable and inviting living space. Even travelers have to come home sooner or later. But the things that make a home into a haven can be expensive if you aren’t willing to invest the time. This is one of those things where the tradeoff of time and effort for money is most apparent. If you are willing to do the work of figuring out exactly what you want and then take the time to find alternatives to throwing money at the project, you will wake up one morning in love with your home.
Interior decoration, like fashion, is a place to really let your personality and spirit shine through. But, unlike clothes choices that are a relatively small expense and change with the seasons, your choice of home décor will stay with you for a long time. So take the time to really learn what you like. Go to the library and look at a bunch of magazines to see if your tastes run more to the antique, the modern, or something else. Take out a decorating book or two while you are there. Peruse the online home furnishing sites. You aren’t going to actually buy from these sources; that would be way too expensive. This is just to learn about your own tastes.
Once you get an idea what really makes your heart sing, it is time to start looking—in second hand stores, discount outlets, on Craigslist, even in the odd antique store for something really special. If there are built-in elements to the design you are looking for, such as cabinets, try a local cabinet maker. Sometimes they are really reasonable, and most would be happy to have your business. The same goes for all the fabric elements. If you fall in love with the comfort and style of an older chair, see about having it re-upholstered. A seamstress can also make window treatments, throw pillows, and much more. You may be able to trade with a skillful friend or join a time bank and trade that way. Of course if you are handy at either carpentry or sewing you could certainly do it yourself.
Paint is another really inexpensive way to add style to a room. Don’t be afraid of a little color. You would be amazed at how the right shade can change your mood. If you can paint at all do it yourself, otherwise have a paint party and buy everyone pizza.
By the time you have all the fabric and wooden elements created and installed you should have a stash of nice pieces from your second hand shopping expeditions. Try to get the bread and butter pieces for as little as possible to have some left over for a couple of really special things where it counts. Every room should have a focal point. You may want to save your splurge for that, or, if you can create an effect with something relatively inexpensive like paint, or if you can use something already in the room like a fireplace as your focal point that will free you up to get that great lamp or slightly pricy desk.
All of these ideas can be adjusted up or down to suit your budget. If you are voluntarily frugal and your environment is an important value don’t be afraid to spend a bit to get what you want. This is one area where spending is not wasting as long as you think it through.
If you are forcibly frugal, don’t give up hope. As long as you have a home at all you will be able to slowly improve it, as long as you keep focusing and looking for the things you need. You might have to rely on friends with too much stuff, curbside foraging, Craigslist freebies and freecycle.com. But if you persist you will eventually be able to create tranquility, functionality, and beauty in your home no matter what you circumstances.