You pull into your driveway, glance at the yard, and a wave of disgust sweeps over you. The yard is a mess and you can’t stand to look at it another day.
And that’s just the beginning. A tap of the garage clicker reveals a cluttered chasm of chaos, and quickly reminds you why you’re forced to park in the rain and parade your way to the front door. To make matters worse, the interior of your home isn’t much better. You’re bored with the layout and tired of the décor, and prefer to spend more time away from home than inside of it.
This was exactly how I felt a few months back upon returning from a relaxing weekend getaway. As we pulled into the driveway, I thought, “Why can’t I achieve that same relaxed feeling in the comfort of my own home?”
You may be thinking that it’s totally possible: Just fork over some cash to the landscaper, contractors, and interior designer to fix things up and create your dream home. That’s true, but it’s an unrealistic option for most people. And if it were that easy, all the online DIY guides and home renovation shows wouldn’t exist — we would all just pay someone to do the work for us and worry about more important tasks in our super busy lives.
But most of us don’t live in a world with an abundance of cash floating around waiting to be spent. (And even if I were loaded, my frugal side would quickly kick in and get the better of me.)
Here are some simple ways to give your entire home a pick-me-up for less than $500:
Rearrange the Furniture: Free
Before you spend a dime on items to spruce up the living room, have you tried just moving things around? It may be all you need to give the entire room a completely new look and feel, especially if the décor is in good condition. In fact, I’ve done so on several occasions in the past when money was tight and it worked like a charm.
Paint the Walls and Ceiling: $30/gallon
When all else fails, add a new coat of paint. At least that’s what I always do when the interior appearance of our home no longer appeals to me. Depending on the size of your living room, a couple of gallons should do the trick, with some left over for other projects (we’ll get to that in a bit).
While it’s tempting to skip the primer, keep in mind that it’s cheaper than paint — so a good priming coat can actually be more cost effective, especially if you’re painting over something other than white walls, which will require multiple coats of paint. And if you really want to cut costs, only paint one or two walls to make the gallon stretch.
Wall Art: $30 to $50
Are your bare walls crying out for hangings? Try oversized wall art, which can be purchased at your nearest discount retailer, such as T.J. Maxx, Ross, or Marshalls, just to name a few.
Or if you really want to cut costs, head to an arts and crafts store, such as Michael’s, pick up a canvas, paint, and a few paint brushes, and do it yourself. Not artistically inclined? No worries — there are a variety of ideas on Pinterest to help you get started. (Tip: Michael’s typically offers a 40%-off coupon in the Sunday paper, so be sure to take clip one out before you go.)
Décor: $40 to $50
Once you’ve hung some wall art, snag a few decorative accessories to complete the package. Throw pillows and an accent rug should be sufficient. (Quick note: if you already have these items on hand, find a piece of wall art that complements them to save money instead of starting from scratch).
Ceiling Fan: $50
Not only will a ceiling fan help cool off the room in summer and circulate heat in winter, decreasing energy consumption — it will also add a little definition without breaking the bank. The fan will cost you around $50 at Home Depot or Lowe’s, and installing it is a straightforward DIY project.
Vibrant Décor: $50
Now, let’s tackle the kitchen. Is yours fairly dull and lacking any visual appeal outside of the cabinets and appliances? Set aside $50 or so to invest in a vibrant-colored rug, picture, set of dish towels to hang on the oven door, and a few inexpensive flowers to brighten up the countertop.
More Paint: $30
Still wanting a bit more? Slap a fresh coat of paint on a few, if not all, of the walls to finish off the vibrant look.
Refinish the Cabinets: $10 to $30
To refresh dirty or worn cabinets, you have two cost-efficient options: Polish or refinish the surface. Both products are affordable and which one you select will depend on the condition of your cabinets. Since I have wood cabinets in fairly decent condition with the exception of a few smudges from my children’s hands, I went with the wood polisher and it made my cabinets look shiny and like-new in a matter of seconds. Plus, the cleaner also dispelled a pleasant aroma for a day or so after the initial application.
Fruit in a Bowl: $8 or less
I’m in love with fresh fruit, so you’ll always find fresh bananas, grapes, oranges, and apples lying on my kitchen counter. One day, I spotted a fairly large glass bowl at Ross for $8, and figured it would be a great way to organize my healthy snacks. So of course I made the purchase, dropped some fruit in it, and was surprisingly pleased at the look it gave to the kitchen counter.
Add an Accent Wall: Free
Do you recall that leftover paint from the living room? Now’s the time to put it to good use in the bedrooms to add an accent wall. Or you can purchase a different color and use it to accent the walls. Neither option should require much paint, making them easy on your limited budget.
New Comforter Set: $30
The last time you visited your favorite hotel, how did you feel each night when it was time to rest your head? If the feather bed ushered you off into paradise for 8 hours (or more) and left you well rested the following day, invest in the same comfortable padding at your local Walmart. Discount retailers also sell all-inclusive comforter sets, which I’m a big fan of, at steeply reduced rates. With enough persistence, you can score a h designer set for $30 or less.
Hang Pictures or Awards: Free
Are there any cute pictures of your significant other or children lying around? Dust them off and hang them on the wall to fill a little space. For a child’s room, certificates, medals, and other awards make for great wall décor. Our boys have sports-themed rooms, so the awards and medals fit right in.
No desire to hang a ceiling fan or fancy lighting structure? A standing lamp will suffice and IKEA, Target, and Walmart have plenty of affordable but stylish options to choose from.
Depending on the size of the room, a well chosen throw rug can be placed at the foot of the bed or in the center or the floor to make the paint on the wall stand out.
Modern Shower Head: $20
Your guests won’t necessarily notice this addition as much as you do, but a new shower head will make an immediate impact on your life, and you’ll be looking forward to your daily water-jet message. Online sites such as and have a variety of low-cost options to choose from.
Accent Wall: $30
Once again, paint is on the list of ways to add a new look to your bathroom because it has the ability to give any room in the home a completely different aura. For a calmer mood, aim for softer colors, such as baby blue or light green.
Install a Fabric Shower Curtain: $25
Retire your cheap-looking, plastic shower curtain for a more upscale fabric curtain. For around $25, Target has a plethora of stylish options to choose from. It’s the first and probably biggest thing you’ll see when you enter the bathroom, so ditching the clear liner for something more visually appealing will make an immediate difference. (You can layer a fabric curtain with the vinyl liner for added water protection if you wish.)
Decorative Candles: $5
No need to head to the Yankee Candle Company or other fancy candle stores to cross this item off the list. Candles from Walmart or Dollar General will work just fine.
Bath Rug: $15
Give your feet the royal treatment they deserve after an exhausting day at work, rigorous workout, or good night’s rest with a memory foam bath rug. As soon as you step foot into the bathroom, your feet will be in heaven.
Stow Away Toiletries: Free
Take a quick peek at your shower and countertops. Are the surfaces clear or are they inundated with soap, shampoo, lotion, perfume, cologne, razors, nail polish, or any other toiletries you may use? How about the towels and washcloths? Are they all over the place? If so, clear out the cabinets under the bathroom sink and neatly stow away your toiletries. And if space is limited, combine or purge any excessive items.
The interior’s all set, so let’s head outdoors to add the finishing touches. If you live in an apartment, a home with lawn service, or do not have a garage, reallocate those funds elsewhere.
Kill the Weeds: $15
For larger weeds, a tug should pull them right up out of the ground. But applying a weed killer such as Roundup — or even vinegar — is much more efficient, though you will have to wait a few days before they are gone.
Give it a Mow: $10
Assuming you already have a lawnmower lying around, fill up the gas tank and put it to good use by mowing the yard. Once more funds are available, fill in the gaps with sod or grass seed, or plant flower beds and fill them in with stone or mulch. Be sure to lay landscape fabric ($10) around the flowers, under the stone or mulch, to keep weeds from popping up.
Skip the flowers for now and fertilize what you do have to finish it all up. You’ll see a noticeable difference in just a couple of weeks, and some fertilizers come with weed preventer to snuff out dandelions or crabgrass without having to spray weed killer.
Host a Garage Sale: Free
We all tend to accumulate unnecessary stuff the longer we live in the same spot. Clearing out clutter will make your home feel roomier and neater, and likely even lessen your stress. Once you’ve collected enough unwanted junk, host a garage sale, or piggyback on a neighbor’s if you only have a few items. Not only can this be done free of charge, but you’ll actually make money that can be used on other household items or to beef up your emergency cushion.
Flea Market: $25
If you lack the space to host a garage sale at your home, or simply prefer not to have shoppers in your front yard, setting up a table at a flea market is an option worth considering. The nearest flea market to my home is 30 minutes away, but for the low entry cost, the volume of foot traffic makes the trip worthwhile. For tables and chairs, I typically spend no more than $25 for the day, and profit at least $200. Not bad for four or so hours hanging out in a covered booth selling unwanted belongings.
Consignment or Thrift Shops: Free
Are there any consignment or thrift shops in your area? Give them a call to learn more about their policies. When I was through having children, I consigned all my maternity clothing to a consignment shop and made $300 off the sales. To date, I still use these stores to generate revenue from clothing and toys my children no longer use.
Donate or Discard Leftovers: Free
The items that don’t sell should either be donated or discarded to ensure the clutter actually goes away. Give away whatever doesn’t sell to your local Goodwill, and get a receipt so you can deduct the donation from your taxes. Refrain from setting this stuff aside for the next big sale because it may be several months, if not years, before your schedule permits another yard sale. And in most instances, the piles of clutter will eventually expand before they shrink again.
Garage Hooks and Shelving: $25
A garage too cluttered to fit a car not only defeats the purpose of having a sheltered parking spot, it’s depressing to look at. As I mentioned in a prior post, hooks and shelves are the easiest and most budget-friendly ways to give your garage an organizational makeover. Bicycles and garden tools can easily hang on the hooks, and what remains can be neatly packed away in storage containers and stacked on the wooden shelves. Not only will you clear up floor space and be able to park your vehicle in the garage once again, you’ll save money otherwise spent on storage space.
With a little effort and determination, you can give your home a makeover in no time — at a fraction of the cost the professionals demand.