I’ll be moving into a new apartment next month, and as my first post-college, “grownup” living space, I want it to look the part.

There are two obstacles to that goal. One, I’m basically starting from scratch. An old futon and a collection of concert posters don’t exactly scream “mature.” Two, I have a very slim budget.

To some of you, this probably sounds like a nightmare. But so far, the task has actually been fun. And it’s a testament to the fact that anybody can be an decorator, even with just a few bucks to spare. Here’s how to do it.

Survey your stuff

Whether you’re planning on decorating a new place or you just want to change up a room, the best place to start looking for new stuff is your own house. Broken things can be fixed. Outdated things can be painted, reupholstered and given new purposes. Take a tour of Pinterest if you need some inspiration.

Get thrifty

The second place you should look for housewares and furniture is the thrift store. Many people use online classifieds, but that can be a slippery slope because you don’t always know what you’re getting. Thrift stores inspect the furniture they receive for things such as fleas, mold and other problems before they’ll sell them.

One thing I’ve started buying from thrift stores are the big framed pieces of art. I’ve found beautiful intricate frames worth $75 for about $5 each.

Shop sales

Many retailers are shedding their summer and spring collections to make room for fall merchandise, so the sale racks are loaded with marked-down housewares right now. Living room furniture, patterned curtains and wall art are on sale for up to 50 percent off at World Market.

I also try to make it to TJ Maxx and Marshall’s Homegoods for home accents such as candle holders and decorative mirrors.


If you’re on a budget like me, cut out the middle man and learn how to do all your own home projects. There are tutorials on YouTube about easy and no-sew guides to making curtains and pillows. Teach yourself how to reupholster furniture, which could save hundreds of dollars.

Don’t be afraid of “messing up.” Paint that old dresser a bright color. Combine fabrics that wouldn’t typically go to together. If you don’t like the outcome, then start over. Decorating on the cheap means you have to be willing to roll up your sleeves and take some risks.

Reach Abigail Darlington at charlestonsavvyshopper@postand courier.com.