Do you have an “unfinished” room in your home?

There are lots of reasons decorating projects get derailed.  One of the most common reasons is the burst of the budget bubble.

You have big plans for your room and mentally add up the costs, figuring it is totally doable.  But, quickly reality sets in as you actually start spending money on the space.  You overspend in a few areas, thinking you can save in others.  You realize you forgot to budget for a few things.  You figure you can spread the costs out over time.  But, usually the room never gets done.

It might surprise you, but it is not the furniture that causes the biggest sticker shock when decorating. It is all the other things that add up fast. 

5 Biggest Decorating Budget Busters |

When you mentally budget for a space, you generally earmark a decent amount for furniture, but then you figure you can do the rest for some small slush found amount.  The problem with this kind of budgeting, is when all is said and done, you run out of money before you feel the room is really complete.

The other stuff, the stuff that adds up fast, is what gives the room all its personality. To do it right, you need lots of those smaller ticket items to really pull the room together.

Let’s look at an example for a living room makeover.

You need a new sofa, a pair of chairs, and a coffee table. The ones shown here would run you about $2000 total.


Pictured (affiliate links): Moss Logan Chair, Henry Grand Sofa, Plank House Coffee Table

The room is off to a good start, but it needs a little more oomph to make it awesome.

After spending $2000 on the big pieces, you think you are in good shape. With a budget of $2500, you still have hundreds of dollars to spend on the pretty stuff. Good deal, right?

To finish off the room you need an 8×10′ rug, 4 curtain panels, decorative pillows, a pair of lamps, and art for above the fireplace. You could get all these “budget-friendly” items for $975! Gulp… that is way over budget (remember, you only had $500 left).

5 Things That Blow Your Decorating Budget |

Pictured (affiliate links): Moss Logan ChairHenry Grand SofaPlank House Coffee Table, Indoor Outdoor Fretwork Rug, Etched Grid Curtain Panels, Elegant Peacock Art, Teardrop Luxe Lamp, Cane Navy Embroidered Pillow, Knotted Yarns Pillow, Floral Embroidered Pillow, Steven Alan Abstract Crewel Pillow

If you look at each individual item, the prices seem reasonable, and trust me these are on the lower end of the price spectrum. But, all together it adds up…fast!  And, you’ll notice we didn’t even get to all the small accessories.

5 Biggest Budget Busters

  1. Rugs
  2. Lighting
  3. Curtain Panels
  4. Art
  5. Decorative Pillows

So what do you do?

Always plan for all your decorating costs. Don’t assume the “little” things can be taken care of with money leftover after you buy the big things. It rarely works out. Tweet this!

What should you budget?

Well, decor prices vary as widely as decorating styles, but here are the absolute minimums I recommend. On a rare occasion, you may find a better deal, but I wouldn’t plan on it. And, the prices go up from here depending on the quality and materials you want.

Rugs – $250 minimum

This will get you an 8×10′ rug,  either an indoor/outdoor rug or a rug ordered from an online discount retailer.  To get started, see my favorite sources for rugs.

Lighting – $75 lamp, $150 pendant, $250 chandelier

For $75 you can get a big box mix and match lamp base and lamp shade.  To get started, see my favorite sources for gourd lamps.

For $150 pendant lights are a great budget friendly alternative to chandeliers.  To get started, see 45 of my favorite pendant lights for under $250.

For $250 you can get a basic chandelier.

Curtain panels – $30-50 per panel minimum

For an 84″ unlined panel budget a minimum of $30 per panel.  Add $10-20 for 94-96″ length or for any sort of black out lining.   For the best look, always opt for 94-96″ panels to go floor to ceiling and make a standard 8 ft. ceiling look taller.  To get started, see my favorite sources for curtain panels under $50.

Art – $100-200 minimum

This is the most nebulous of them all.  The bare minimum would be a $100 for a piece larger than 24×36 from a big box store, and it will likely be an unframed printed canvas. This is why DIY art and wall decor is so popular.

Decorative Pillows – $20 minimum for cover, $15-20 minimum for down insert

For $20 you can get an 18×18 pillow cover only in home decor weight fabric (Etsy is an ideal source for pillow covers).  For an extra $15-20 you can get a down insert (see my secret to getting pillow inserts for even less). If you can sew a straight line, I recommend making your own pillow covers (watch my video to see how). You can make two 18″ pillows with a yard of home decor fabric (which you can get for as little as $10 a yard).

Yikes, What If You Have No Money?

These minimums basically make a $500 makeover sound impossible, I know.

So, what do you do if your budget is less than $500?

Shop around…a lot. Consider DIY and second-hand.  Then, prioritize what you really need to make the biggest impact in the space.

For example, in a dining room where privacy isn’t an issue, you might skip curtain panels in favor of a great rug and art. In the bedroom where you have wall to wall carpet, skip the rug in favor of curtain panels and decorative pillows for the bed. In the living room, make some DIY art so you can splurge on a pretty pair of lamps.

You have to learn to make tradeoffs.

For more examples, see my secret recipe for low budget makeovers to find out where you can get your biggest bang for the buck.


  • One Heaping Spoonful of Pattern
  • A Pinch of Bold Color
  • A Dash of Fun Lighting
  • A Handful of Fluff (optional)


  • Spread the pattern out on a large surface like a rug or duvet cover.  Sometimes curtains work, too.
  • Drop in a pinch of bold color on art and decorative objects.  Don’t add to much, but use it in at least 3 places around the room.
  • Add a dash of lighting with a fun task lamp, table lamps, or candle sconces or holders.
  • Optional: Sprinkle on a handful of your favorite fluffy decorative pillows.

When you are planning out your next decorating project, don’t forget to properly budget for all the pretty things including a rug, decorative pillows, curtain panels, lighting, and art. Remember the minimums I recommend here are pretty much the lowest you can get away with. If that is still out of the budget, make trade offs or look for DIY ideas.

What is the one thing you always forget to budget for?


21 Responses to 5 Things That Will Blow Your Decorating Budget

  1. Missy says:

    I love your style and your blog was the first I decided to follow regularly! I’m trying to follow your tips on how to “finish” a room–but I’m at the starting line in our new house. Can you tell me the source for the sofa in your photos? It looks like the Henry from West Elm, but I’m not 100% sure. It would pair nicely with the orange Quinn chair from R&B that definitely needs to find a place in our new living room. I love the modern furniture style you showcase so often!

    • Jackie says:

      Missy, Thanks for the sweet comment! You have a good eye, the sofa pictured is the Henry Grand Sofa. I can’t believe I forgot to include my sources. I went back in and added links to everything pictures. Love the lines on the Quinn chair and agree it would pair well with the Henry. I love the simple lines of the Henry, but it is still really comfortable.

  2. Ashley says:

    Oh man, SO true!!! This just came true for me (for about the millionth time, if I’m honest) this week, as I *thought* I was done spending money on our new home, having bought all the big stuff, but a couple trips to Home Goods for wall decor and similar accessories, and to Sherwin Williams for paint for a couple of rooms, and BAM, I’d spent $300 without even planning on it! So thanks for this succinct reminder!

    • Jackie says:

      Ashley, I know those little costs sneak up on us fast. It is not too late. Take a little spending break and plan out what you really need to “finish” your rooms. Then, plan when you can spend to get it done. Good luck!

  3. Gwen says:

    I always learn from your post. I think my biggest mistakes over the years was never getting the big project complete. Just a bit over three years ago I got my “great room two love seats and chair”, then after our daughters wedding…just a few months after the furniture, all of our flooring was redone, and we purchased clearanced PB rugs and pads to anchor our furniture in our open concept space, then six months later we got matching cabinets from PB to use for entry (and storage I can reach) and to hold our TV –fits the TV hole built -in popular add on feature for homes when i built in 2001–so perfect do these pieces play off my personality. Then through your drape suggestions I got my daring drapes –Suzani print–from World Market-I think last year–maybe 18 mos ago or so–and last fall had all painted but two bedrooms (we no longer can do this easy for me in my past life DIY project). BUT there it ends. The cabinets? Not updated. Not even painted from that color I’ve had since a new custom home in 1984!!! Still in in 2001!!! Not in in 2014!!! AND I have tile and no upgrades in kitchen look. So my advice? I don’t know. Would I have wanted to have not done all we’ve done these past three years? No. My tile is fine. My cabinets are not shabby. Just even tonight a friend I have not seen in 15 years was here. She’s moved and moved and now lives in a very exclusive part of town. Yet she entered my humble abode and said, oh my! Your home is decorated so lovely! I say have a few pieces you are using as you wait for the money, but do what you can. I made do with my older panels for several years and now that I know Ikea has plain linen type very reasonable, I’d like to invest for a change during the holidays. But your outline is the best. Start with the basics first. Oh!! And figure in for a good rug pad. It really makes our rug more comfy in our entry area and under our feet in couch area.
    I also think how you combined DIY and very nice accessories makes your house look upscale and not cheap nor home-made. Keep your tips coming for it reminds me to keep my ultimate goal of “kitchen cabinets” and “counters” and sink –faucet in focus–not more plates to display–(but I did get one so perfect from Anthropology last weekend, a rare splurge!!! )

    • Jackie says:

      Gwen, I think all the work you have done so far sounds amazing. Sounds to me like you already knew the budget and time needed to make your dream spaces doesn’t materialize overnight. I love the story of your home. You’ll get to those kitchen cabinets when you are ready!

  4. Brie says:

    Reading this made me smile … because I definitely fell into the novice homeowner’s trap of under budgeting! The upside is that we’ve saved for and invested in a few quality basic pieces. I liked your reassurance in past posts to only buy things you truly LOVE, even if some of the “budget-buster items” are really great deals, simply because it’ll save money in the long run. Our space is still very much a work-in-progress, and I appreciate the budgeting tips you recommended as we continue to figure out how to make our home feel like us!

    • Jackie says:

      Brie, Such a good point. This post is not meant to encourage anyone to rush through a room. I still believe you should take time and buy only what you truly love…just give the budget and timing some forethought, so you aren’t feeling down when your dream room isn’t done in a hurry. Transparency of how much and how long it will take is always better. Best of luck as you continue on your path to Make It Home, Make It You!

  5. Renae says:

    I love this post. I always have the big pieces but get stuck finding room in the budget for the pillows, lamps, shades, accessories, etc. I’m currently living with what we have (our sofa is almost 12 years old) but we’re getting new this year and I will most definitely be using your hints while planning my room.

    • Jackie says:

      Renae, Just remember these tips aren’t meant to make you rush through the decorating or buy cheaper items, but rather to encourage you to thoughtfully plan for what you really want and to be realistic with the time and money it will take to get there. Meanwhile, Yay for the new sofa!

  6. Diana says:

    Holy cow, that peacock picture is amazing! And I totally fall into this category- hence not sending you “after” pics yet:). I would also add that shipping costs usually aren’t factored in…:(

    • Jackie says:

      Diana, Very, very true…shipping costs for online purchases can add up fast. As much as I am eagerly awaiting your after pics, I totally understand :) It definitely takes time to pull a space together!

    • Jackie says:

      Oh, and you could totally rock that peacock picture in your living room…or bedroom!

  7. Joy says:

    This a great reminder that I have been watching too much HGTV where it all looks so seamless and I forget the expense of the “little pieces”. I love this post! It is anchored in reality. :)

    • Jackie says:

      Joy, The magic of HGTV…where one designer can’t paint an entire room in under an hour, too. I wish that was the world we lived in, but the truth is it takes more than 24 hours to do a proper paint job, and more than we think to fully accessorize a room :)

  8. jessvii says:

    Regarding the one thing I always underestimate for in terms of costs, it’s probably framing. A mat and frame can add up fast, and that’s if I don’t “splurge” on UV-resistant glass or plexi and on acid-free backing.

    I wish there was a simple, cost-effective website to buy such things. Most frame stores make you go to the actual store, and in my congested car-dependent area, that’s like a six hour mission (to survive traffic there and back, not including the return trip to pick up the actual item after it’s ordered).

    • Jackie says:

      Jess, That is a good one to keep in mind. Really any type of custom services like framing, upholstery, professional installation (electrical, plumbing, etc.) are hidden costs that we often forget to plan for. I am sorry I don’t know a great online framing resource to recommend to you…it gets pretty cost-prohibitive from a shipping standpoint.

  9. Kristan says:

    This is a great post, and something I’d like to show my husband. He just doesn’t get it. He’s notoriously “frugal” to begin with, so trying to get him to agree to a purchase to get our home looking less like a dorm room is awful. I am a born bargain shopper and pretty crafty, so I know where I can save money, but sometimes you just gotta spend $300+ on rug (and that’s after finding a great deal!).

    • Jackie says:

      I totally get it. It definitely helps to get everyone on the same page with what things really cost. I hope this post will help with that. The one thing it won’t help with is convincing your husband you need these things, that he may feel are unimportant. Of course, I believe the look/feel of your room is just as important as the function. But if all your husband sees is dollar signs, that might be hard to get past. I would suggest sharing inspiration images that have the elements you want and show him how those things help create the feeling you are after. Then, start with a small, but impactful change to show him in person. Good luck.

  10. Love your tips! I find good deals on drapes at Sierra Trading Also you can sometimes find great art at resale shops or at art sales at your nearby community college or high school. I like to make my own too! Side tables and coffee tables are great items to get at resale shops or garage sales. They are easy to paint to refresh the look.

    One thing that I find helps is to not buy little tchotchkes (spelling?) that just add clutter. Instead I look for interesting pottery or hand-made items that have lasting value as art. They cost a little more, but about the same you’d pay for a bunch of little stuff that you’ll get tired of after a while.

    The big area rug is usually a good investment and you can take it with you if you move!

    Thanks for the great ideas!

  11. Just wanted to add that you can often find great deals on lighting at IKEA if you have one near you. Also their “as is” room has super deals on end tables, etc. Check it out!

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