Friday, August 17, 2012

How I Decorate Without Debt

This is a copy of my original post from my blog Debt Free Decorating:

My Dining Room

We were blessed to find Dave Ramsey back when we first got married and had only a car and a few small credit cards to pay off. We haven't been perfect in staying out of debt (car wreck put us back $2500 in debt), but we've lived pretty much debt free for most of our 11 years together. For me, I don't think of decorating free of debt as anything unusual, but I know that isn't the case for everyone. I'm not all DIY, I'm really not a crafty person or a garage-sale junky, either. I just refuse to go into debt unless it's life or limb. This is how I stay debt-free while decorating our home:
  • Patience! This is a HUGE part of how I stay debt free. My first big decorating project was about 5 years after we married when we got a huge tax refund and bought our bedroom furniture with it. My favorite side tables came from waiting. I wanted a set of small round pedestal tables, but the ones at the Amish store were close to $600 and the one's I could afford for $150 looked cheap. I found my real oak ones for $40 each at a resale shop not far from my house. How does this stuff happen to people like me?? Because people like me WAIT. I can't over-emphasize the importance of waiting!
  • Prayer really works. When we were still in our townhome, I really wanted to start inviting people over for dinner, but we had this really tiny table that sat 4 if you could keep your hands in your lap. I was aching to be hospitable...but how? I prayed and asked God how I was supposed to be hospitable and open my home to others with such a small table. I asked, if it were His will for me to use my dining room to invite others over, that He provide me with a bigger table. It was answered the same week. The table that sits in my current breakfast room was given to us without ever letting it be known that I needed one. A lady my husband grew up with, who had never even been in our home to see that we needed one, asked Josh's mother if she knew anyone who needed a table. Wow. God really does answer and in some amazing ways. We also got this house after years of praying for one in a really unusual way. Read about it here. We paid close to $60,000 under market value and helped a friend out at the same time.
  • Seek and ye shall find. The best things I own have rarely been things I went out to buy, with the exception of my leather couches and my Pier One $50 pillow (that was so overpriced but I just had to have it--thanks Santa). Most of what I find I just have an idea of what I'm looking for. Say, for example my living room, I go out searching for things that feel cabin. I have always wanted a place that made me feel like I was in a cabin in the mountains. So, when I go places, whether the thrift store or an estate sale or Target, I keep my eye open for things that remind me of what a cabin would feel like. This chair is a perfect example, bought for $20 at a thrift store and decorated with a $2 fabulous hand-made treasure I also found at the thrift store. (I can't believe the things people are willing to part with sometimes)!
  • Paint. Seriously...the cheapest way to make a room look finished is to paint. You don't have to save for long to have enough to paint a room, and you can buy a little here and a little there (except the actual paint). Buy a good roller or two one paycheck, several plastic liners the next, etc. and store them in a plastic tub. When you're good and ready to paint, go buy the best paint you can afford and it still won't cost all that much if you have everything else on hand.
  • Decorate very small areas at a time. Think the top of your fridge or a shelf. Decorate just one side table or the top of a dresser, but think longer term then just right now. What do you want a room to feel like? Keep that in mind so it doesn't look miss-matched later.
  • Don't hire a decorator unless you truly have the money on hand and nothing better to do with it. I'll probably get a lot of scolding for this one, but when we live in a country where people are drowning in debt, I just can't imagine paying someone to do what you can do yourself. (There are exceptions to this, and I personally know people who fit in that category, so don't get too offended).
  • Educate yourself and allow for Evolvement. Buy yourself one or two home-decorating magazines and search specific topics online. Don't forget to search under images, too. Pictures, in decorating, can be just as educational as words. I also subscribe to my favorite catalogs, like Ikea and Pottery Barn to get ideas (sometimes catalogs can be viewed on-line, so if you're never planning to buy from them, opt for this route). Remember, these places are not there to print tons of pages just so you don't have to buy anything from them. Occasionally, very occasionally, splurge on something you just can't live without. One or two new things that cost you more than $1 at the thrift store will make the cheap things look more substantial. Just don't go into debt for these luxuries!! Save for them.
  • Buy your big things with tax money, bonus money, or let people who are going to give you presents anyway (like your hubby) know what you're dreaming of. Speak up about what you want. You would be surprised how many times I hear about people getting exactly what they needed from someone they knew who was getting rid of it anyway. One year we got recliners this way.
  • Rethink what decorating means. Some of the best things you can do to make your home look better don't cost anything at all. Getting rid of unwanted things, cleaning your toilet, making your bed and just tidying up are great ways to decorate. The best managed homes with very little decor look much better then the homes where people buy all the "right" stuff and overstock their homes with junk.
  • Don't shop until you're ready to find. Sometimes this one is hard, but try. If you already have what you need for one project, don't start on another until you complete the one you have. If you can declutter or clean up a space to make it look better, you may not be ready to buy for that room yet (unless it's just a few things to motivate, maybe). Don't go buy a bunch of supplies to refinish a dresser if it's nowhere in your near future. Sometimes you can overestimate how much you can finish in a set amount of time and you wouldn't have even needed that stuff until a month or two later. Don't buy storage containers until you know what's going in them. They could end up being clutter, as well as a waste of money.
  • Don't buy what you won't do. I'm not a crafty person, so this one's a big one for me. For me it would be cheaper to just go ahead and buy a decorative pillow from Ross for $20 than to buy a pillow I don't really like with project stuff to make it better for $10. Eventually, the $10 will turn into clutter and a bad feeling of failure, and I will then go buy the $20 pillow anyway. If you know you won't do it, save yourself the money and buy the one you really want when you have the money.

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