Tips On Where to Save or Splurge During a Home Makeover

Shannon Quinn - December 12, 2020
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23. Save on Graphic Artwork, Posters, and Prints

Stores like Target, HomeGoods, and Ikea have plenty of graphic artwork options for you to choose from. Compared to fine art that costs hundreds or even thousands of dollars, they are relatively affordable in the $20 to $50 range. However, if you’re buying art for your entire apartment, all of these $20-$50 pieces will quickly add up. Most of these pieces are also purchased because you need something on your wall, rather than being art that you truly have your heart set on. If that’s the case, it’s best to save money, rather than splurge. Take your time to find art that truly resonates with you.

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If you go on Etsy, there are a lot of people who sell their graphic art as a digital download so that you can get it printed yourself. These downloads are usually only $1 to $5 each, and you can get posters printed at Walmart for around $10 to $15. This way, you can find something that actually resonates with your interests instead of picking whatever was available in Marshalls that week. If you’re artistic, also consider making your own artwork. Or, buy something second hand at a thrift store. 

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22. Splurge on High Quality Kitchen Cabinets

When you do a home renovation, it may be a good idea to splurge on the kitchen cabinets. If at all possible, try to stay away from buying your cabinets at the big box stores like Ikea, Home Depot, and Lowes. These affordable cabinet sets often only last for a few years before they start to fall apart. This is especially true when they’re made out of some sort of particle board, rather than real wood.

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Real wooden cabinets can last a lifetime. And even if you get tired of the style of the cabinet doors, you can always repaint or replace the doors and keep the shelving inside. Cheap cabinets, on the other hand, can sometimes buckle and become completely unusable. 

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21. Save by Skipping Personalized Luxuries 

One of the worst things you can do to your house is make it way too personal to your specific taste. Yes, your house is your home, and you should do whatever you want with it. But if you ever plan to sell your house someday, you need to always keep that future buyer in mind. Are other people going to see your personalization as a positive, or negative thing? For example, one woman in England has been trying to sell her house since 2014, but no one wants to buy it, because painted her entire house in rainbow colors. She is an artist, and loves to be surrounded by color. After spending decades in the house, she now wants to sell it, but her floor-to-ceiling artwork scares buyers away. All of this time, money, and effort was worth it for her. But now it means not being able to sell it at all.

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Another famous example of spending too much on a luxury household item is Donald Trump’s golden toilet. Yes, maybe it was expensive for him to buy. And maybe it was important for him to have a golden toilet. But that doesn’t mean that it adds to the value of his home. In fact, it can become a turnoff for a lot of people. You might as well save the money by getting a normal toilet. 

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20. Splurge on the Dining Room Table

If you have a formal dining room or large dine-in kitchen,  it would be wise to invest in a high-quality table. Wooden tables can last a lifetime, and can even be passed down to the next generation. When you have a table that’s actually high quality, it should be able to blend in with a variety of different decor styles whenever you want to redecorate. Try to pick something classic, or a piece that will easily be re-sanded and stained if you ever change your mind about the color later on.

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Or, if you do splurge on a table that’s trendy, at least pick a popular style like farmhouse or mid-century modern, as well as something high quality. This way, you can always resell the table later to someone on Facebook Marketplace who wants to redecorate their kitchen in that style. Great tables tend to hold their value for a long time. On the flip side, a table from somewhere like Ikea will easily get damaged and need to be replaced in just a couple years. 

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19. Save on Paint

When you go to places like Home Depot and Lowe’s, you’re going to see that gallons of paint cost upwards of $40 to $60 each. They’re also going to be a lot of different expensive luxury paint brands that claim to be superior. It’s difficult to tell if these expensive pants are actually worth it or not until you actually start to use some in your home. Sure, there are some benefits to using certain paints, like using mold resistant paint in a bathroom. But in most circumstances, you can get away with buying a cheaper brand.

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Believe it or not, many Walmart stores have a paint section in the back near the hardware section. Their gallons of paint are only around $20 to $30 each. And if you find something that was returned by a customer, it may be even cheaper. You might assume that since it’s half the price of Home Depot, it would be half as good. However, the quality is actually great. I painted my bedroom with Walmart paint around five years ago, and it still looks fantastic. 

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18. Splurge on Your Bed Frame

Earlier on this list, we already mentioned how it’s worth the money to get a good mattress. Same goes with your bed frame. Depending on the type of bed frame, it can make a big difference in how comfortable your mattress actually is. Flimsy bed frames can also fall apart within a couple years if you’re not careful. Sometimes, bed frames might look fancy, but they’re actually cheaply made. If you plan to buy something online, always read the reviews first. And if you’re trying to save money, you’re actually better off buying a used wooden bed frame from a thrift store, because it is higher quality.

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For example, I bought a bed frame on Amazon for about $300. It looked beautiful, because it had the fabric covered headboard. However, the center of the bed uses one of those roll-out bamboo wood slats, similar to what you find in Ikea beds. The bed isn’t strong enough to hold both a heavy box spring and a mattress, and the legs tend to buckle over time. So I’m stuck using thinner, lighter mattresses that are actually terrible for my back. And we’ve had to re-bolt the legs multiple times to stop them from moving. After going through this bad experience, I understand now why some stores want over $1,000 for a bed frame. This is actually worth the money if you can be confident that the bed will last for decades. 

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17. Save on Coffee Table Books

Coffee table books are a fantastic thing to use as decor items. You can really express your interests through books. With just a quick glance, your guest can tell a lot about you by what titles you choose. However, some people go way overboard with buying coffee table books. You can easily find yourself spending hundreds of dollars building your collection, when you really don’t have to.

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In reality, you can find coffee table books for just $1 each at Goodwill. Even Dollar Tree sells coffee table books, if you’re lucky enough to find them at your local store. Most thrift stores also have a big book section. These are also great to ask friends and family to give you as a gift for your birthday or the holidays. It’s far easier for people to give you a book than a piece of furniture! 

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16. Splurge on High Quality Plumbing Fixtures 

If you plan to remodel your bathroom, it may be a good idea to splurge on high quality plumbing fixtures. When you go to Home Depot, there will be plenty of options to choose from on clearance. But when you buy something that’s too cheap, they could break after years of use. In the best case scenario, you need to buy a new fixture in order to fix the issue. But in the worse case scenario, you’ll end up with flooding in the bathroom, and paying for a plumber.

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Things like a shower head also make a huge difference in your day, whether you realize it or not. I went most of my life using a very cheap shower head. But the moment we switched over to a rainfall shower, the difference was so huge, it was incredible. The water pressure was better, it dispersed more water, and the showering experience was amazing. We spent around $50 for that shower head, verses $20 for the other. Financially, there isn’t that big of a difference, but it truly made the experience far better. 

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15. Save on Vintage and Antique Pieces

When you look up vintage and antique pieces online from places like Etsy and eBay, the price is always going to be a lot higher than what you’d pay for the same items in a thrift store, antique mall, or flea market. Same goes for antique auctions. Antique dealers will do the legwork to find great pieces in these cheaper places, and bring them to the places where high-end clients are comfortable going. For example, a well-to-do housewife might not be willing to dig through the $1-per-pound bins at the Goodwill Outlet. But she’d happily sit in a clean, organized auction house or browse Etsy listings. I know from first-hand experience, because I used to be a full-time vintage and antiques dealer. Once you get in the habit of thrifting, it becomes easy to find high quality vintage pieces for next-to-nothing.

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Before investing hundreds or thousands of dollars, do some research to see the average price for the items you want. Also look on Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace, because there may be people giving things away for free or cheap. For example, I found a 1950’s rattan couch for free on Facebook, and the antique website 1stDibs is selling the identical piece for $3,000.  I also purchased a leather Eames chair for $300 at my small local antique store. Brand new, these chairs cost $5,500. On 1stDibs, I found the identical chair in far worse condition for $1,300, which means mine is probably worth around $2,000. To be fair, this took me years of being in the habit of thrifting professionally to find deals like this. But if you’re looking for a new hobby, it can be an incredibly fun and satisfying way to decorate your house. 

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14. Splurge on Ceiling Light Fixtures

Light fixtures are like a piece of art. They’re one of the first things people look at when they walk into a room. So you might as well give people something beautiful to look at. The lighting of the room can also make a huge difference in your mood. If it’s too dark, everything immediately feels dreary. Yes, it can be a big splurge to buy a nice light fixture. However, it’s usually cheaper than you think. You can take two almost identical fixtures from two different stores and pay $100 on one, and $500 on the other. So always do your research before buying.

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I believe that your home should reflect what you want, and not necessarily worry about what others think. However, part of the joy of decorating your home is knowing that guests will come over. Subconsciously, your guests are going to judge the rest of the room based on how these light fixtures look. For example, I had a very generic light fixture from Home Depot for most of my life. Every time I walked into someone else’s house with the same light fixture, all I could think was that they got it for $10 on clearance. Do you want people to think that? Or do you want people to think, “Wow, that light looks great in the room.” 

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13. Save on Table and Floor Lamps

In the last bullet point, I talked about how important it is to have really beautiful light fixtures on your ceiling. However, people aren’t going to pay as much attention to your table and floor lamps. Another thing about these lamps is that they are often nearly identical to one another. You can get an affordable lamp somewhere like Target or Ikea and have very similar styles selling for double or triple the price at high end stores. And if you’re really looking for a certain style, it should be able to find the newest trends for affordable prices at Home Goods.

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Sometimes, light bulbs actually matter a lot more than the lamp itself. Take some time to figure out what type of lighting you currently have in your house. Figure out if it’s time to switch out your bulb for a cooler or warmer tone. You might also want to get a dimmer, or a smart light connection to Amazon Alexa or Google Home. 

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12. Splurge on Tailored Window Treatments

In general, curtains don’t have to be expensive to look great. However, you want to make sure your curtains are tailored to the size of your windows, as well as the length from floor to ceiling. Or, in some cases, you might need to pay someone to create custom drapes if you have windows that don’t fit the standard curtain sizes that you can find in a store.

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To some people, the thought of paying a seamstress to make custom drapes is something that only rich people do. However, it’s going to be worth it in the end. Alternately, you can learn how to sew and do it yourself. A woman named Stephanie Jarvis runs a YouTube channel called The Chateau Diaries, where she chronicles her daily life owning a castle in France. She learned how to sew specifically for making drapes. With so many windows in the house, it would have cost a fortune if she paid a professional to get these custom sizes done throughout an entire castle! 

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11. Save on Wooden Dining Room Chairs 

People seem to disagree on this next point, depending on which blog you read. Some people believe in investing a lot in your dining room chairs, while others think it’s best to save. Personally, I believe they belong in the “save” category. Most people who have a formal dining room rarely sit in those chairs. They’re reserved for special occasions like Thanksgiving. So I personally believe that it doesn’t really doesn’t matter if they’re the most comfortable chairs in the world. However, if you’re using your dining room table as a daily eating or work-from-home space, I would say it’s okay to splurge on better chairs.

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Another reason to save on these chairs is that they’re easy to find in thrift and antique stores. Some people also like the idea of mixing and matching chair styles, which makes it unnecessary to find a perfectly matching set. If you have a certain type of wooden chair in mind, it can be fun to go on a search for these at auctions, yard sales, and Facebook marketplace. Over time, doing something like this can save hundreds of dollars. 

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10. Splurge on Real Wooden Floors

There is a lot of vinyl flooring out there made to look like wood. While it might look amazing in the first six months to a year, there are a lot of issues that crop up over time. For example, humidity can cause the vinyl flooring to buck. Seams between the vinyl slats are unattractive, and can also crop up from air pressure. And once a vinyl floor is scratched up, there’s really no way to fix it except to replace the boards. By the time you’re ready to move out, the person who buys the house is most likely going to have to rip up the vinyl flooring and do something new.

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 Real hardwood, on the other hand, is designed to last a lifetime. If you’re lucky enough to live in a house with hardwood floors, it could be over 100 years old, and it still looks beautiful. Many home buyers also get excited about real hardwood, and it can be a real selling point for the next buyer. Unlike vinyl, real wood can be sanded and stained to fix up and scratches. Sometimes, scuff marks even give more character to real hardwood floors, and can be seen as a good thing, rather than a tragedy. It might cost more up-front, but it adds value to your home in the long run. 

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9. Save on Wooden Dressers

One of the most common pieces of furniture that I see on Craigslist Free, Facebook Marketplace, and donated to thrift stores are wooden dressers. These are often passed down from parents and grandparents. For whatever reason, a lot of people don’t see the value in a high quality wooden dresser. Instead of taking up floor space, they want to have their clothes tucked away in a closet.

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Since these are so commonly found for free and cheap, it doesn’t make sense to spend a lot of money buying one brand new. You might even have luck asking family and friends if they have any pieces they’re trying to get rid of. If you are comfortable with buying something second hand, do a quick search in your local area. Remember that real wood can be sanded and repainted. So it doesn’t matter if it’s the wrong color, so long as it’s the right size and style that you need. Knobs are also easy to replace, and it can totally transform how a dresser looks. 

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8. Splurge on High Quality Statement Pieces

When designed well, statement pieces can make a home value skyrocket. And it can be the difference between having a home that sits on the market for a long time versus one that’s sold almost instantly. Even if you plan to stay in your house for years, it’s still something that people are going to see when they first walk in a room. Just like a painting, their eyes will go to the statement piece first, and then move their way around the room.

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A statement piece can be a piece of art on the wall, a statue, light fixture, doors, stained glass windows, and so much more. You’ll know it when you see it. In some cases, statement pieces can easily be sold later on, because they might hold onto their value. Sometimes, they can also increase the value of your home. 

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7. Save on Kitchen Backsplashes 

If you’re trying to do a kitchen renovation on a budget, the good news is that there are a lot of cheap options for you to make an attractive backsplash. One of the most popular go-to items is white subway tiles. These are incredibly common, and can be found in most hardware stores. It’s also a look that’s timeless, and your next buyer will most likely want to keep it the same.

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There are also a lot of peel-and-stick tiles that are incredibly affordable. Believe it or not, even Dollar Tree sells self-adhesive wall tiles! This is easy enough for you to do on your own as a quick fix, and you can always replace it later when budget allows. 

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6. Splurge on Investment Artwork

Earlier on this list, I talked about how it’s easy to save money on graphic artwork for your walls. However, it’s a completely different story if you’re looking for investment pieces. The process of buying investment artwork is something that you should receive an education on before you dive in. Or, work together with a professional art dealer who can accompany you to an auction. However, once you get into buying great art, it becomes part of your investment portfolio. Wealthy people get in the habit of investing in up-and-coming artists who have their work displayed in galleries, because they are banking on the fact that one day, the value of the painting might double.

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Sometimes, with a trained eye, you can find investment art pieces for very cheap. For example, I once found a large original oil painting in a gold frame for just $12. There is a signature, which was from a local artist. The painting is a scene of a beautiful mountain, with a cottage nestled in the valley. Even though this artist wasn’t famous, this piece is still worth well over $100. The value comes from the fact that it’s not a print of reproduction, but rather an original piece of art that took an artist hours upon hours of work.

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5. Save on Table Accessories 

A big aspect of interior design is the little accessories that people put on their tables, dressers, and mantle pieces. Vignettes are a common way to display your interests or the style of your space. Many high end stores want to sell these accessories for a few hundred dollars each. In case it wasn’t obvious, you don’t have to spend that much money to get a cool looking vignette on your table.

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The best places I have found for buying affordable table accessories are Home Goods and At Home. Don’t be afraid to blend old and new items. You can use objects that you already have in your home, or that you’ve inherited from your parents and grandparents. Thrift stores in affluent areas are also another great place to go to find some stylish accessories. 

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4. Splurge on High Quality Sheets and Bedding

Getting a good night’s sleep is one of the most important things you can do for your mental and physical health. And when people go to stay in a hotel, one of the things they comment on is how comfortable the sheets and the bedding is. While high-quality bedding might be expensive, it’s actually worth it in the end. You’re going to feel better when you go to sleep, and it’s going to be a more comfortable experience.

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High quality bedding will also last years longer than something that you get from Walmart.  Over time, the number of times you need to re-buy cheap sheets and bedspreads will add up to the cost of one expensive set. Great bedding can also be something you share and pass down in the family. For example, my brothers and I have taken bedspreads that belonged to our parents into our new apartments, and were able to return it to them when we moved out. But the cheap bedding I purchased on my own from Target or Walmart always eventually needed to be thrown away, because they would pill, stretch, or rip.

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3. Save on Mirrors

Everyone needs a mirror in their home so that they can see themselves when they get ready in the morning. However, mirrors are so common, that you don’t need to spend a fortune on one. A lot of people will even take cheap $10 mirrors from Ikea or Target and transform them into something that looks far more expensive. Check out our Ikea Hacks article for more examples on how people have taken cheap mirrors and made them into something cool.

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If you really have your heart set on a mirror that is stylish and trendy, check out places like HomeGoods, Marshall’s, and At Home. These stores usually have overstock from various high-end home brands for a fraction of the price you would pay in fancy showrooms. 

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2. Splurge on Structural Changes to Your Home

On YouTube, you can find video tutorials teaching you how to fix almost anything. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you should. Certain structural things in your home are best left to the professionals. People study engineering for a reason. It takes a lot of time and experience to know when a home is being built correctly, and what it’s not.  If you make a huge mistake doing something DIY, it could actually cost more money in the long run. And a cheap DIY job will make it more difficult for a professional to do their job later on.

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Whenever you pay a professional plumber, roofer, electrician, or any other construction person, it’s money well spent. They often have a license to work and make sure that all of their changes are up to code. You can also hire an inspector to make sure everything was done correctly afterwards. These men are usually part of unions as well, which means that they have to stick to strict codes when they get a job done. 

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1. Save on Anything That’s Easy to Learn on YouTube

In my last point, I say that you should hire a professional for a huge structural projects in your home. There is actually a lot you can teach yourself on YouTube. A lot of people hire a handyman for projects like mounting a TV on the wall, hanging a shelf, or painting a room. When in reality, you can just look up a tutorial on YouTube and get it done by yourself.

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With that being said, know your limits. Or, you just might be so busy, it’s worth the money to pay someone else, anyway. However, don’t always assume you need to pay someone for every little thing in your home. If you learn how to do a bit of DIY, you can save a ton in the long run.