Let’s face it: Home improvements cost money. Sad , but true. Also true is that I have a very limited budget to spend every month. But no need to get all teary-eyed – just one more reason to get creative. Here is how to make home improvements happening on a tight budget:

1. Set a budget! Duhh! That’s kind of given. My “budget” is usually pretty general: Get everything for as cheap as possible. Cannot exceed $100 a month on total expenses. Other folks probably swear by setting a specific cost for a specific project, but in reality you never know how much things are gonna cost, or what additional materials you need, etc. So I am just trying to accomplish as much as possible on my monthly budget and anything that exceeds it has to be delayed until later. Absolutely necessary big ticket items (like a mattress for the guest bedroom) will go on the credit card and have to be paid off within 2 months.

2. Do it yourself! If only it was that easy. Have I mentioned before that in addition to little money I also have very limited amounts of time left over? I know, the most logical approach to life would be to work hard, make lots of money, and then spend it on finished products and hire contractors to do the work. Or the other way around: Work little, have more time, do everything yourself. Well, I guess I got the best (or worst) of both worlds. Here is how I squeeze home improvements in my weekly routine: Expect one room makeover to take up to a month. Break the project down into 2 hour chunks of work and complete 3 chunks on 3 evenings of the week. If something takes longer than 2 hours (like painting a wall or something), set the renovation scene up so that you can keep your tools right there, but out of reach from kids. This way you don’t have to waste time to put stuff away and get it back out, but can get straight to work every time you have a few minutes.

3. Become handy! Doing stuff yourself for the first time can be intimidating, but usually turns out relatively simple if you got the right instructions. Just don’t attempt to do anything without instructions, even if you think you know. You know, like trying to assemble that IKEA bed without reading the instructions and in the end you have some screws left and the whole things wiggles profusely? The only thing I ever figured out entirely without instructions is my iPhone. Other than that: Ask Dr. Google about tutorials. Search Youtube for videos. Have all tools that are required and get the right materials.

4. Reuse and repurpose! There is really no need to buy expensive art or decorative objects, when you already got almost everything you need to make home decor yourself. There are really great ideas on Pinterest on how to make great art out of simple things like toilet paper rolls or magazine paper:

5. Buy used! Obviously some things you have to buy, unless you are becoming really really handy and can build lamps and tables from scratch. Whatever possible, I buy used. The only exception are items that would be gross coming form someone else (like a mattress) or that are expected to get a lot of use and last a life time. Other than that there are some great resources out there to find treasures that someone else doesn’t need anymore: Goodwill is good for decorative items. Vases, candleholders – anything that can take a coat of spray paint and look brand new. Yard sales are tricky, because you never know what they have. I usually check Craigslist every Friday to see the postings and go only to sales that post specifically the items I am looking for. Multifamily sales or moving sales are usually the most fruitful. I also check Craigslist every day for furniture in Columbia. The iPhone app allows to save searches, so it’s really just one click every day and I got some good scores like this FREE dresser and those yard sale finds for the guest bedroom for $30 all together:

There you go – home improvements on a budget. Do you have any additional tips to share? What deals did you get recently? Did you do any projects on your own and saved tons of money? Share your stories!