How To Make Room For Redecorating In Your Budget

After living in apartments with white walls for most of my adult life, I was excited to become a homeowner when my husband and I got married. Paint options! Landscaping! Curtains! My house was a blank canvas, just waiting for me to decorate it. Well, the decorating buzz wore off quickly after I found out how expensive everything was. I thought, naively, that asking my mother-in-law to sew some curtains for me would be a cheap alternative…until I priced the fabric.

And that trend continued. Landscaping plants? Yee-ow! New flooring? My wallet felt pinched again. Despite the sticker shock, we have accomplished a lot in the six years since we've moved to our current home.

The first check I always need is a reality check

I love reading DIY blogs and magazines, though their ideas of inexpensive kitchen remodels are usually different than mine. But I have to be careful: When I flood my brain with picture after picture of fantastic home makeovers, my house with lots of character seems in need of a major face lift.

For instance, when we moved in six years ago, the kitchen was my least favorite room in the house. Dark, peeling cabinets, atrocious drawer pulls that caught every bit of flour that drifted off the counter, chartreuse counter tops, lots of very shallow drawers, and more unpleasantness welcomed me every morning. Such a room practically begged for some TLC, and I had ideas of how everything, even the layout of the appliances, could be improved. But I didn't want to do anything at all, until we had saved enough money to do things exactly the way I wanted to do them.

We planned to do most of the work ourselves which would have saved a bundle. But with the average kitchen remodels nearing $20,000 (and I think that's kind of conservative), it would have been expensive.

Anyway, somewhere between adopting our children and quitting my full-time job, we decided that a full kitchen remodel was not a responsible use of our money. Instead, I allowed my husband to do what he had wanted to all along: paint the cabinets and walls and replace the drawer pulls and handles.

For less than $400, we went from dark to for-$400-this-is-a-major-improvement. It's not really impressive, but we saved a lot of money. Even though we still deal with shallow drawers and no range hood, I don't even think of making other improvements. I am also happy we don't have tens of thousands of dollars wrapped up in a kitchen. I think I will cook here happily for another decade or two, beating eggs on my formica chartreuse counter top. (If you spent money on a kitchen remodel, don't read this as a condemnation. We just did what was best for us.)