Improving Your Home Space on a Budget - A man on a ladder holding a paint brush

Improving Your Home Space on a Budget

Lauren Compton
May 18, 2023
May 12, 2023

This blog post was written by Lauren Compton, Financial Coach at Nivati. You can see more of their content on the Nivati platform and on the Nivati blog. If you want to learn more about Nivati, click here

I slowed down to turn into the parking lot of my apartment building. Another week of work was done, but all that I could think about was still not having enough money for rent. How was I supposed to go in and face my family knowing that while I did all that I could, it still wasn’t enough? I sat in the car, lost in thought, with the engine idling. I finally decided that I couldn’t avoid it any longer and cut the engine off. I took a deep breath and grabbed the car door handle to make my exit. I shifted my shoulder toward the door, but instead of the familiar feeling of a moving door, I felt like I had hit a wall. As I looked at my hand, I saw a familiar but out-of-place piece of plastic. How did the door handle come off of the door? My mind tried to understand how this happened, and then quickly turned to “How on earth am I going to pay to fix this?”.  

If this sounds familiar or relatable to you, it is not surprising. Things break, and our spaces need to be improved to suit our needs or help reduce stress in our lives. But the ability to improve your home space on a budget has never been more important. According to the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, Americans are spending on average 3-5% more time at home now than pre-pandemic. This extra time at home has made many of us want to update our spaces to make our homes more useful and comfortable.  This has become difficult with inflation rates at a 40-year high, meaning your hard-earned dollars aren’t stretching as far as they used to. 

Read on for six DIY updates you can make around your home that may help you relieve stress and improve your overall well-being without breaking your bank account.

A Note Before Jumping In

For these improvement ideas, a little cash is needed to get started. The easiest way to quickly save the money you need for most of these tips is to temporarily skip some of the extra things that you may spend money on. For example, instead of having a delivery service bring you a meal, perhaps cook a couple of times at home, or pick up take-out yourself. The delivery fees alone for many services quickly add up. Another option is to add temporary income to allow for some added expenses. Perhaps taking up extra shifts at work, or a side gig, will allow you some additional cash to cover the cost of improving your space.

Now for the tips!

1. Open the Shades 

One of the easiest ways to improve your space is to introduce as much natural light as possible.  According to recent studies, natural light has a positive impact on overall happiness. Natural light has also been shown to be related to overall activity level and the ability to sleep soundly and wake easier.  

Windows and doors serve well in keeping out rain and helping regulate the internal temperature of homes. However, shades or blinds are often kept closed all day for privacy and security reasons. When possible during the day, make a habit of opening your shades to let in the natural light.

2. Be Selective With Your Light Selection 

Another way to improve your space is to select a shade of light that has been shown to positively affect mental health. Anyone who has worked in an office with fluorescent lights knows how grating those are on your nerves. For apartment dwellers, those same lights are often installed in kitchens and may be one of the only sources of light that are built into the apartment. 

To help you improve your space, find an affordable lamp at a discount store or even a second-hand store that may fit your style. For the light bulb itself, look for neutral warm light, a bright cool light, or perhaps a green tone. These color lights have been shown to help a space feel more comfortable. Bright warm tones should be avoided, except at short intervals.  

Another option to help brighten your space is by purchasing a sunlight lamp. These lights are designed to mimic sunlight indoors. The lights themselves produce the most light out of any of the bulb options that were discussed above. The light tends to be focused in a small area as they are intended for therapeutic purposes.  

3. Add Some Color To Your Walls 

Wall colors have a dramatic impact on the feeling of your space. Some colors help recharge your energy and provide a serene home environment. Shades of blue and green help stimulate a calming environment. While reds, oranges, and bright yellow are known to be full of energy. Choose a color that fits your needs.

Once you have selected the appropriate colors, it's time to head to the hardware store. Painting is a great way to update your space on a budget and is a great way to get into DIY. Buckets of paint are relatively inexpensive, and basic brushes and drop clothes are readily available at your local hardware store. Be sure to remove the faceplates of electric outlets and use painter's tape to prevent painting any baseboards, cabinets, or doors that you do not want to cover with your new color.  

For renters, be sure to check your lease and with your landlord about changing the color of your apartment walls. Many apartment buildings have rules around what can and cannot be changed in the apartment.  

4. Decorate With What You Value 

Decorating your home can be one of the most expensive parts of maintaining a home. Custom artwork can cost hundreds of dollars for one piece. Instead, here are a few ideas for custom decorations in your home.  

Photos make great decorations. Take some of your favorite photos from over the years and have large print made. Photos of friends, family members, pets, and scenery from your town and your vacations all make beautiful decorations. The best part is that these are all unique to you.  

Another great decoration is to frame and display different accomplishments. Letters from job offers, graduation letters, degrees, and payoff letters are great options. If it matters to you, frame it and hang it up. Like the photos above, these will be unique decorations that only you have. These types of decorations go a long way towards making the space that you live truly your own. 

Shadow boxes are another great decorating option for 3-D memories that cannot fit in a frame.  They are great for safekeeping and decorating with medals or challenge coins. Shadow boxes can also be used to showcase and protect cherished art projects.

5. Get Organized!

Have you ever circled your home multiple times looking for your sunglasses, only to realize they are on your head? Or worse yet, you didn’t realize they were on your head so you quickly ordered another pair on your phone? It happens to all of us and is extremely frustrating. One of the best ways to cut down on this stress is to get organized.

One way to organize your home is to think through your daily routine and start moving items that are commonly used to the place where the item is used. For example, leaving your home in your car requires you to put on shoes, and pick up your keys and wallet. So, move those items closer to the door. This way, you are not constantly searching for each of these items every time you leave the house.  

For high-use items that you do have a habit of misplacing, it may be worth looking into Bluetooth tracking tags. These tracking tags can be attached to your items, and when they are misplaced, you can use your phone to help you trace where your items are. Other tags can make an audible beep for you when activated to help you find the item quicker.  

Another organizational technique is to put like items with like items. In this instance, an example is putting all your shoes in one place. Instead of having a pair under your bed, another by the door, and your boots in the closet, put them all in one place so that you go to one area to pick out shoes. Shoe racks that stack behind the door or on the floor of your closet are a great way to get multiple pairs of shoes neatly in one area. This also allows you to see all of your options at one glance. This is preferable to putting all your shoes in a tote. While they are all in one place, you cannot see them all at once.

6. Fix it Yourself 

You may never have a car door handle break off in your hand, and I hope you never do, but you will certainly have common-use items break over time. Learning to make minor repairs yourself can save money in the long run versus hiring a repairman or paying to replace items. Living in the information age, learning to repair things on your own has never been easier. Popular video websites like YouTube have countless professional repairmen that show users how to make common home repairs.  

Popular first-time projects include replacing door nobs that no longer latch or lock or even replacing the flapper on a leaking toilet tank. All the parts needed to complete these projects are readily available at your local hardware store or even big box stores where you may regularly go buy groceries or clothes. The packages for repair parts often list the tools necessary to complete the repairs. Many of these repairs often require little more than a screwdriver to complete, so there is often no need to purchase expensive tools to complete your repairs. 

Each of us has a moment that helps us feel more empowered to start making changes in our surroundings. For me, it was the door handle breaking off of my car. In the days that followed the breaking of the door, I got quotes from mechanics in the area, none of which I could afford. Broke and frustrated, I searched the internet for another solution and stumbled on mechanics forums that would change my mental response when things break for the rest of my life. A seasoned mechanic wrote step-by-step directions on how to replace a door handle on my vehicle and included a parts and tool list. The part ended up costing me $8 and 15 minutes to swap out myself. Since then, I have learned to fix far more complex and challenging issues around my house. I would never have thought myself capable of making those repairs if it wasn’t for that fateful day when a door handle broke on the way home from work.

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Lauren Compton
Lauren Compton
Lauren Compton is a Financial Coach at Nivati, a leading employee mental health platform. Lauren believes that each person's relationship with money, personal values, and long-term goals are unique. These factors have a profound impact on the choices individuals make related to money on a daily basis. Her coaching focus is on providing financial education and empowering individuals to make well-informed financial decisions.