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10 ways to decorate without debt
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7. Reface, don't replace. If your new home has boring kitchen cabinets that don't fit your style, it may be tempting to toss them out and buy new ones, but consider cabinet refacing to save money. "Instead of ripping out the entire cabinet, you just put up a nice front, and you're done," says Daryl Coley, owner of a Kitchen Solvers franchise in Tulsa, Okla. "Most of the time it takes a week to two weeks. You can save 30 to 40 percent (over the cost of installing new cabinets)."

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8. Network with neighbors. Simply getting to know the people in your new community can help you save on decorations. "My son and daughter-in-law heard that one of their new neighbors was moving and needed to get rid of a dining set," says Lewin. "They bought it and got a good deal."

Don't forget about the "neighbors" who sell through consignment stores, online auctions and garage sales. Many include pictures with their listings. Research first, and then make arrangements to visit only if you find something that's on your priority list. That way, you'll be less likely to waste money on knickknacks you won't use.

9. Look for bargains at big-box retailers. And don't be afraid to buy bargain lighting. "Not every lamp has to be an antique," says Greenberg. "Get away from the stigma of not wanting to go to a home-improvement center to buy a lighting fixture. A lot of the items there are very good quality, without the extra cost."

The best-priced light is sunshine streaming through windows, of course, but Greenberg says that buyers sometimes get into trouble when buying window treatments too soon. "Invest in paper shades until you are able to determine the look and feel of your desired window treatment," she says. After living in a home for a few weeks, owners may decide that a window needs more privacy -- with heavier window treatments -- or vice versa. During this decision-making period, it is better to put up temporary paper while saving for high-quality window treatments. The operative word is "temporary," though. "Don't think that a room looks finished without a window treatment," says Greenberg. It's just that this is one piece of decoration that takes time to find.

10. Invest in an interior decorator. At first glance, hiring a design pro might seem like a sure way to bust your budget. But independent designers can help you stick with your financial plan. If you have a friend with design talent, recruit him or her. "I know a couple of people who are just so clever when it comes to color and putting things together," says Lewin. "When you can find a friend like that, they're worth their weight in gold."

Before calling a professional decorator or a talented friend, be ready to explain how you you're going to use the space. "Exhaust your imagination first, then call your decorator," says Greenberg.

Buying a home is an expensive process, so don't add to your expenses by financing your furnishings. By crafting a budget and looking for good deals, it is possible to decorate your abode without borrowing.

Bankrate.com's corrections policy -- Posted: July 14, 2006
 
 
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