Style an outfit or a room without breaking the bank
“If only I had an endless budget…,” I daydreamed as I saw the incredible items our designer chose. And the price tag attached to each one. The whole vision was spectacular! After our several conversations and meetings, she had really nailed the look I didn’t even know I wanted. My heart squeezed tight in my chest as it sank into my stomach. Equal parts delight at the beauty and disappointment in the dollar signs.
Furnishing a home can cost as much as the home, I learned, if you let your imagination and budget run wild. As much as I would love to casually wave my hand and say, “I love it all! We’ll take it!” That’s just not possible. As fabulous as an Oprah-sized budget sounds, experts say it’s not as rewarding, and my experiences agree with that. There truly is a lot of joy in longing for something, waiting for it, working for it, and finally getting it.
Once we saw all the options, my husband and I reviewed them, weighed price, impact, and value as we made our choices. We want our home to be beautiful, and for the furnishings to match the quality of the home. AND we want to continue to live a life we enjoy.
It’s important to us to have the resources to put our kids in sports, do fun things as a family, travel (when that starts happening again), and not have to pinch and squeeze every penny because we are sitting on furniture we can barely afford. So we decided to go for the right balance to make every room look luxurious without the bank-breaking (or even bank-sagging) price tag.
Another Lesson Repeated
Anyone who has ever shopped with me (and my husband more than anyone) will tell you, if you put 10 identical items in front of me, I have the gift of ALWAYS choosing the very most expensive one. They call to me like sirens in the deep. We are kindred souls seeking each other.
The curse of champagne taste is real when you are on a budget. Beautiful things sing to me with their quality, details, and craftsmanship, all things I value. They are also costly.
Just like I have a monthly wardrobe budget I stick to, we have a budget for furnishing our home. Since we left most furniture behind in the move, we need to buy just about everything, and that adds up fast.
With some tips I’ve learned along the way, I’ve been able to build a beautiful, high-quality wardrobe on a budget many would argue couldn’t support that. Likewise, I’m furnishing my home to look beautiful and high-quality on a smaller budget than my taste calls for by using the same lessons. Can you tell which parts of my outfit were saves versus splurges?
Have a Plan
Before you start filling your closet racks or your rooms, it’s essential to have a plan, a vision for what you want it to look like as a whole. How will the pieces go together? What overall look are you trying to achieve? What is your style? If I had just started buying pieces for my home without a cohesive plan, I would have a very motley, disconnected look at the end, and it’s the same with your wardrobe.
It took me a minute to nail down what my home decor style is, and it took me YEARS to nail down my clothing style. I wish I had had some guidance to help me figure out what I LOVE, and not what others thought I should love. That’s why I created this free masterclass, 5 Steps to Find the Right Clothes for You, to help other women get started on figuring out what they truly love and feel fabulous in.
It comes with a free workbook to help you work through the steps at your own pace, and it actually works really well with figuring out your home décor style too!
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Choose Where to Invest
Just like with my wardrobe, I chose where to invest in our home furnishings and where to save. Some things are worth the splurge because they get a lot of wear, like a great pair of jeans that make you look amazing and are the foundation of half your outfits, or an indestructible, yet comfy and cozy sectional that will cuddle your family as you create memories you’ll cherish forever.
Other items go in the save category, like a trendy top you love right now, but know will end up looking dated and, “So five minutes ago,” in a season or two. Likewise, a trendy patterned or colored chair you are loving right now, but in a few years might feel tired and old.
The list of categories I choose to spend or splurge on in my wardrobe are similar to the ones I’ve likewise done the same with in my home. I consider the cost-per-wear, how often will we pile onto the sectional versus how often will guests perch on the chairs that flank the fireplace? For us the sofa is worth the investment, and the chairs, which are more ornamental than functional, are going to be a save purchase.
How many times will I wear those jeans versus the trendy top? How many outfits will I create with them? How fabulous do they make me look? The jeans are worth the splurge, and I’ll save on the trendy top.
When it comes to investment pieces, I stay neutral. Literally. Neutral colors are always classic and are the foundation of any look, whether it’s an outfit or a room. The items I’ve had in my wardrobe for 10, 15, even 20 years are almost all neutral, and that has added to their longevity.
Likewise, neutral colors also tend to look more expensive, so even with items I want to save on, sometimes the neutral version looks more luxe than the colorful or patterned version. You can go too far with this and make the whole space bland, but in general, a little color can go a long way in an outfit or a room.
Both this bag and the moto jacket were investment pieces that really show the quality and elevate every outfit, even a budget t-shirt and jeans look designer when paired with these. Buying them in neutral black means they are timeless and versatile.
In our home, I’m investing in the classic, foundational items that build the room, and keeping them neutral so they will last me for years and years and saving on the accessories I will change out with the trends. Pillows, throws, and shelf décor are what I’ll update to make our home feel fresh and to incorporate new colors and new looks guilt-free because they were inexpensive and we got the full value from them. It won’t feel like we are tossing out gold bricks.
I can swap out the inexpensive basket, throw, and pillow to update my otherwise neutral sitting area in my room guilt-free.
Invest in the Key Pieces
And remember, quality doesn’t have to be expensive. This bag is really nice quality leather. Full retail it was around $350, and I got it for $30 on Poshmark. I paid a third of the retail price for these beautiful flats on ebay.
Like we’ve talked about before, you can get high quality items for less by shopping around, shopping sales, buying pre-loved, and other budget-friendly tactics. I was able to get my rugs for half off by shopping a major sale.
Another lesson I learned while shopping for my home is that a lot of items are like canned vegetables. There are just a couple of manufacturers, and they label them for a lot of different brands. Same veggies, different label, different price point. I found the light fixtures I wanted for free shipping and half the price of the trendy store (which added nearly $150 in taxes and shipping on top of the price!), and the fireplace screen I wanted for one third the price!
While that doesn’t necessarily happen with clothes, though many brands use the same vendors for supplies and factories for assembly, you can find inspired-by pieces. Just about every handbag maker out there has a version of the most classic Chanel bags.
Are they identical to the double flap or the boy bag? Do they have the iconic gold C logos? No, that would be illegal, but everyone from Tory Burch to Michael Kors and Rebecca Minkoff make bags inspired by the same concepts. The bag on the left is the Chanel Boy Bag which retails for around $6,000. The one on the right is the Rebecca Minkoff Love bag, which runs $300. Similar elements and design, very different price tags.
Not only that, but different retailers will sell the same name brand item at different price points, especially rugs, and especially in independent stores that don’t sell online. Where you live can make all the difference in pricing. It could be worth a trip to a smaller town to shop the same items. I would have paid much more for the exact same rugs in Chicago or New York.
Look at the elements of the really expensive item you want and find an inspired piece that has the same elements that attracted you to it (unless it’s actually the logo, in which case you’ll just have to save up).
In your home, you may not need rugs, so what would you invest in to make everything else look high-quality? The leather items, like a sofa and chairs? The wood pieces? Where will quality really show and elevate the whole room? This is the rug I chose for the music room, and it makes everything in there look luxurious (the other furniture we ordered/invested in won’t be here until December, so I can’t show you those yet! Rugs for now!)
I have been hunting a particular item for my wardrobe for, I kid you not, 14 years. FOURTEEN. YEARS. And guess what? I found it last week! It will be here on Friday, and I can tell you the longing, waiting, anticipation, and finally getting this item is absolutely thrilling! That’s an extreme example, but I wouldn’t have been happy with anything else if I’d settled along the way. It was worth the wait, and you’ll see it in my next Style Snack!
Be selective about what you buy, and make sure you only spend your money on what truly makes your heart, wardrobe, and home sing. While the very item you want may be out of your price range, and you’d have to save an entire lifetime to buy it, there is something else out there that you will love AND you can afford.
It may mean patience. It may mean waiting longer than you’d like for THE ONE to come along. And it may mean a hole in your wardrobe or your room in the meantime, BUT it will be worth it.
Even without an Oprah-sized budget, you can have chic, elevated looks without breaking your budget when you know how to spend your money.