Laura Rennie

Decorating on a budget // A season of (mostly) saying no

DecoratingLaura RennieComment

Last fall my husband and I noticed we were spending a lot of money on fun things. Eating out, playing golf (him), getting pedicures (me)... it was all adding up. Our savings account wasn't suffering much, but it wasn't growing, either. We decided to go back to a budgeting method we had used in the past: "play money." We both receive a set amount of cash each month to spend on things we do on our own. If I want to get coffee with a friend or take a barre class, I have to spend my play money. If Andy wants to hit the driving range or get a snack at Taco Bell, he has to spend his play money.

In addition to our play money system, we both agreed it would be best to watch our spending in all areas of our budget. I "shop" our pantry and freezer before heading to the grocery store so that the bulk of our meals come from items we previously purchased and need to use up. Knowing I would receive birthday and Christmas presents, I didn't purchase any shoes or tops for the winter season. (I did buy these jeans, which I truly needed. I love them.) I even tried to cut our dog's hair by myself to avoid a visit to the groomer! Bad idea.

Our decorating spending has been affected, too. I had big plans to purchase new lighting for our main floor, but the timing hasn't been right. There are so many things I would love to buy that I have to say "no" or "not right now" to. Most things are not a need, and I cringe to think of the many times I've told myself or others I NEED wedges or I NEED a new chandelier or I NEED a new yoga mat.

Can you relate?

I recently discovered the website "Our Freaking Budget" (great title, right?) and think their post "Budgeting Means You Don't Like Nice Stuff" is genius. (The post addresses how this concept is not true at all.) Joanna writes, "We save because it’s the right thing to do (not, contrary to popular belief, because it's the [most fun] thing)." Amen, sister! We are not tightening our purse strings because we are poor. We want to be good stewards of what we've been given, grow our savings account and increase our generosity. Let me tell you, I would go bananas in West Elm if I could do so with a good conscience! In fact, one of the best things I can do to avoid the temptation to spend is to simply not go to stores where I am tempted. (*cough* Target.) I stupidly browsed Craigslist yesterday even though I don't need anything, and I discovered a gorgeous pair of black lacquer cabinets that I 1) really really really want 2) can't afford and 3) don't have a space for. Get a grip, Laura!

While I've been working on spending less, I haven't given up spending altogether. I've used gift cards, Christmas money and occasionally some of our shared money for decorating purchases. I keep my decorating goals in mind when I shop and try not to purchase things that don't line up with my list. I'm also strict about filing receipts and returning items I don't love, which is why I'm making a trip back to IKEA this week to return the curtains I bought for our master bedroom.

You guys. Let's talk curtains. This is a great example of what can happen when you don't rush a purchase:

Nearly all of the curtains and curtain hardware in our home were left by the previous homeowner, and I really don't care for them. As in, I HATE THEM. Curtains and hardware can add up, though! Plus, switching out curtain hardware would require patching wall paint, and our efforts to color match in the past didn't go well. Long story short, I'm choosing to live with the hardware for now. The rooms that bother me the most curtain-wise are our master bedroom, which has maroon curtains that aren't my style at all, and our living room, which has curtains I picked out for the room four years ago when we moved in. I used to LOVE those living room curtains! I got compliments on them all the time. Then, last fall, we got rid of a solid blue rug and brought in a new rug (we went with option 1). The new rug looked fantastic, but the room overall suddenly looked very ivory/beige. I realized the curtains were no longer my style and I began looking for affordable thin white curtains with a touch of color to tie into the colors of our rug. I looked and looked and looked, but nothing was quite what I wanted. I thought these would be fun and brought home both the tan and teal versions, but the thick stripes overwhelmed our narrow living room and blocked too much of our precious light. 

Last week I was at JCPenney's doing a return and decided to wander into the home department. As I walked over I thought, Where are you going? You never shop here for home items. You aren't going to find anything. Why are you tempting yourself? I can't explain it, but it was like a magnet drew me to the window treatments department. Guess what happened? I found THE curtains, people!

oh hey cute new curtains!

They're white, they have navy trim, they were on clearance... I had to try them. Happily, they look right at home in our living room. My husband (who normally could care less about decor) likes them too! These were a great purchase to say "yes" to.

You might notice I arranged the curtains so the trim would face outward instead of inward. Also, my fiddle leaf resides in a random spot on the floor because it likes it there. Fiddle leafs are fiddly little things!

Knowing I'm returning the IKEA curtains made purchasing these panels for the living room an easy choice. I'm going to continue using the ugly maroon curtains in our bedroom for now. Even though I don't love them, they do a great job of keeping our room dark and private at night and during the day their color isn't as noticeable because we open them up.

I'm glad I took my time and waited until the right curtains came along (five months later). This whole budgeting situation has been a good lesson in patience and willpower. It's hard to say no! It's hard to wait! But I'm choosing to appreciate items I already own while making careful purchases slowly over time. Maybe we will never replace our main-floor lighting, or maybe that purchase is just around the corner! (One can hope.)

Are you decorating on a budget, too? What budget-friendly purchase are you most proud about? What's on your dream buy list? I'd love to know!