Is home decorating on a budget possible?

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Answered by: Zoe, An Expert in the Frugal Living Basics Category
In a climate where your house is probably worth significantly less than you paid for it, and any salary increase you might have been hoping for has been capped for several years running, changing your surroundings by simply moving to new ones is no longer an option. The costs are huge - even if you are in a position to take on a new mortgage, it is unlikely that the outlay on solicitors' fees, removal costs, and other sundry expenses will be easy to meet.

That's the bad news. The good news is, it takes very little money to completely revamp your home. It will, however, take imagination, effort, and time. But since you're already looking for ways to improve your living space, those three things are in place, and you're good to go.

A word of warning before talking about the fun stuff - there are things that you absolutely must leave to the professionals, and are worth the cost. Anything to do with utility supply, rewiring, or structural changes, such as knocking down walls, or building into the loft must be handed over to an accredited workman. It's likely that you will get an extended guarantee with their work, which can put money onto the value of your home.

However, decorating on a budget is a different matter. Don't rush in to elaborate designs without a great deal of thinking time - what styles can the space take? What are your personal tastes, and how can they be adapted to fit your home, and your purse? You may be a fan of shabby chic, but it's easy to make a modern home with little inherent character look like a squat if the style doesn't suit the space.

Working through the following checklist may be useful to you:

1) When was my home built? What colours and fittings were in vogue then?

2) What is my own personal style?

3) What do I need to buy, and what can be purchased second-hand rather than new?

4) What tools do I need, and what can I borrow from others?

5) What can I do myself, and what do I need help with?

Your major outlay is likely to be paint, wallpaper, and any decorating tools you require - buying these new can be expensive, but if you make purchases online, you can take full advantage of cashback sites, and save the time you would have spent shopping. Don't forget to ask around friends and family for any odds and ends they may have left. Also, don't feel that you have to have several different kinds of paint - an eggshell or chalky matt finish will work on wood as well as walls and ceilings, and using a single colour and finish on all surfaces gives your living space a very modern and stylish look.

Flooring can be another huge outlay - what's under that outdated carpet? You could be surprised with beautiful floorboards in excellent condition - floor sanders can be hired reasonably cheaply, and with a bit of research and a lot of preparation, this is one job you can definitely do yourself. Your finished floorboards can then either be varnished or painted, and you will be left with a hard-wearing floor that will just look better with wear and tear.

In terms of finding furniture, fixtures and fittings for your home, second-hand shops and skips are your friend - one only requires a small outlay, and the other is completely free. Recent personal skip finds have included a new kitchen door, and a gateleg table! Many of the larger charity shops have dedicated furniture outlets - some may even be prepared to do a straight swap on furniture items if you have things that are in a good state of repair, but just no longer work for you, or for your home. Beware when bringing wooden items into your home, that you don't also invite woodworm, which can be exceptionally costly and inconvenient to eradicate. Check items carefully for signs of infestation, and no matter how appealing the item is, if you're not certain, walk away!

Finally, make sure you plan and prepare properly - although there are lots of wonderful and inspiring books out there, support your local library by borrowing them, and making notes, or do your research on the internet. If someone else knows how to do something, you can be certain that they've shared their knowledge online somewhere. Rushing in to things can be costly - that paint colour may be lovely, and just what you want, but will it then make you hate your sofa and your curtains? A small compromise on shade can make all the difference.

Decorating on a budget may seem daunting, but lists, a sharp eye for a bargain, and bit of planning will get you professional results that you will love.

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