Posts Tagged ‘budget’

This post is a partnership with Quicksales.

 Buy online with Quicksales

I love second hand shopping. When we need a new piece of furniture the first play in my game plan is generally to look for something pre-loved. You can find some great bargains – certainly a big plus when you’re on a decorating budget – but what I really love is layering our home’s interior with pieces with character and history.

While I sometimes visit local second hand shops in person, you can’t beat browsing Quicksales from the comfort of your couch in your trackies, glass of wine in hand, amiright? My idea of a good Friday night.

Our first home was dotted with pre-loved furniture that have now become favourites. The only reason we didn’t have more is that we literally ran out of room for more! Happily, I can now indulge my vintage shopping desire again as we furnish our new (much bigger) home. Yippee!

As I compile my furniture shopping list (mid-century entertainment unit… extra seating for the lounge… oo and how ‘bout a cute console for the entry?) here is my approach for finding the perfect pre-owned pieces for your home.

Buy online with Quicksales

Know what you want

Going into shopping blind is a recipe for ending up with something that doesn’t work for your home, taste or lifestyle. Decide exactly where in your home this piece will live, consider what will fit with the overall style of the room and measure, measure, measure!

…But have an open mind

Wait, isn’t that contradicting the previous tip? Nope, what I mean is that while the right size and practicality of the piece are non-negotiables, if you have an open mind in terms of the style you could end up with a piece that is a surprising feature for your room. If you only searched for chairs for your dining table, you might never have discovered the incredible antique church pew that would work perfectly instead.

Imagine if

Similarly, have a second glance at items you may have passed over due to condition or colour. That worn armchair would look fab with new upholstery and that timber dresser just needs a good sand and refinish. It’s amazing what a little TLC can do!

Buy online with Quicksales

Cut some slack

Remember the sellers are just your average person down the street, so don’t be expecting catalogue-quality photography. But by all means, if the photo is out of focus or has inaccurate colouring, just politely ask for a better photo or go and take a look at it in person.

Ask questions

If a seller hasn’t listed an important detail such as the dimensions, simply get in touch with them to clarify. There’s no sense in schlepping across town only to find the entertainment unit will obstruct your doorway.

Potay-to, potah-to

Before you’ve given up hope of finding that retro dresser (zero search results, what?) try a few synonyms. Think: mid-century buffet, 60s sideboard… you get the idea.

Check seller profile

Have a look at the user reviews before meeting anyone in person so you can buy with confidence. Also check out their other items, as chances are they’re selling more than one item. You could buy a few things at once to save some driving… and maybe even negotiate a better deal.


There’s something so rewarding about giving a new home to an unwanted item, particularly if you restore it to its former glory or put your own twist on it. It’s an environmentally- and budget-friendly way of creating a home that’s uniquely yours.

I’ve shown some of our favourite pre-loved furniture throughout the post. Now, tell me what are your most treasured second hand pieces?


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High/low design

It started with a Facebook conversation I started the other day about a potential sponsor offering me a $165 cushion. I had declined it on the basis that it was not a good fit for this blog since I am all about affordable decorating.

A quick straw poll revealed that most of you would typically spend about the same as I would on a cushion, but industry pros Jen and Fiona raised the big question of quality, conditions and craftsmanship.

I don’t usually get too ‘deep’ here but for some reason I feel like I want to dive into this particular can of worms (now there’s a mental image for you).

I want to make one thing clear from the outset: this is not about how businesses choose to price their products. I have no doubt that the manufacturer in question priced their goods appropriately given the quality of material and labour involved. I am a producer of high-end goods myself through my invitation business and – even though it’s sometimes uncomfortable – I know my prices are exactly where they need to be.

Design-wise, we can’t compare these kinds of handcrafted items with their mass-produced counterparts. Yet for us as consumers, they need to be compared because they are both competing for our dollars. We all have finite resources so of course we are weighing up the product that costs the same as a takeaway baguette with the one that costs more than my entire weekly grocery budget.

I would love to buy proper designer furniture to compensate its creator. I would love to know I’m putting food on the table of an independent designer. I would love to know my money is supporting sustainable and ethical business practices.

And then there’s the reality. I can’t afford to drop a month’s mortgage payment on an armchair. The pesky budget has me bypass the handmade for the machine made. A higher price is no guarantee of ethical production (and vice versa).

High/low design
Mid-century chair (roadside find), hand-me-down Kartell side tables, Freedom sofa, Etsy cushions, Target lantern and faux flowers, handblown Eamonn Vereker glass bowl. In background: antique oak table with replica Eames chairs.

So what’s a design-loving, budget-conscious (possibly over-thinking) girl to do?

Buy handmade/independent

It’s harder to do this on a budget but it can be done. Keep an eye out for newer designers or those who produce goods that are not so labour-intensive or that use simpler materials (not that that is the sole factor in price, but it’s a good starting point). And of course there’s Etsy, which caters for every price range.

Buy second-hand designer

If you love designer furniture but feel squeamish about knock-offs, consider second-hand. I’m lucky enough to have inherited my parents’ original Kartell tables and Planet lamp, but eagle eyes can find affordable originals (or at least authentic smaller brand names) on Gumtree or Craigslist.

Buy vintage

Most of our furniture is vintage (or even antique), partly for aesthetic reasons but also because the craftsmanship is far superior to the majority of comparably-priced modern buys. We have picked up some beautifully made pieces for a fraction of the cost of quality new furniture.

Invest in the right pieces

You will need to invest in some quality pieces even – or perhaps especially – if you are on a budget. I say especially because it will be even more important to ensure your purchases last so you don’t have to constantly replace them. These are the items that need to be kind to your body (mattresses, couches, desk chairs) or make an impact in a room (area rug, entertainment unit, feature artwork). Look for quality items that give you the most bang for your buck and will stand the test of time.

Buy what you love

Go easy on the impulse purchases – yes, I’m talking about the all those innocent $20 purchases, they add up. Instead, give yourself a 30 day delay on purchases; if you still keep coming back to it, go ahead and buy it. It’s not about deprivation, it’s about quality vs quantity and making sure your hard earned cash goes to something worthwhile that you will enjoy for years to come.

Do a trade

I have a jeweller friend who regularly trades her pieces with other designers in her community. You don’t have to be a professional – perhaps you have a crafty friend who would sew you a set of curtains or knit you one of her beautiful scarves in exchange for some lawnmowing or babysitting.

High/low design


I admit, I am equal parts lazy and naive when it comes to ethical production (I know, I know), so I won’t comment too much on that complex topic. Mine is not an extreme standpoint, rather an uneasy balance between cost vs quality, ethical vs unknown.

It’s a continual challenge but the above approach is what helps me strike as good a balance as I can for me right now.

There is no easy answer (and it will be different for every person) but first we need to be aware of the questions.

How about you: Do you largely buy independent/ethical/designer or is budget a more crucial criteria for you? If, like me, you find yourself in the middle, how do you find a balance?

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Spring collection poster by Peanutoak Print 

In keeping with this month’s penny-pinching theme, I’ve dedicated my July Houzz guest picks to 20 bargain decor finds.

Read & enjoy!

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So far during Budget Month we’ve been mainly chatting about ways to make your house a home on a budget. What we haven’t talked about is how to organise the money itself.

Now, this is a bit of a sticky topic, so take this post in a ‘here’s what works for us’ way rather than ‘here’s what everyone should do’.

Bank accounts

The Man and I manage our money in the following accounts:

  • Transaction account: This is where all our income goes and from where we transfer money to other accounts and pay for all our everyday expenses using a debit card. 
  • Billing account: After each payday we transfer enough funds to cover all our bills for that period, including the house payment, insurance and utilities. (All online, no debit/credit card.)
  • Savings account: For short-term, long-term and ongoing savings goals (more on that below). (Ours is actually offset on our mortgage but a separate online account will do the trick too.)

If you’re not into micromanaging (we are – ha!), I reckon simply setting up billing and savings accounts with automatic transfers is the one thing you can do that will make a big difference. It’s a weight off knowing that our bills (including those pesky big ones such as annual car insurance) are always covered and you’re working towards savings goals without having to think about it.

Savings funds

For some people a single savings fund is sufficient, but we like to break it down into smaller funds (see comment above re: micromanaging).

We have these ongoing savings funds:

  • Emergency fund: Currently for things like busted appliances and unexpected major car repairs but ideally it would be large enough to cover more serious emergencies such as a medical crisis or job layoff. 
  • Christmas fund: We put aside a very small amount each week but by year’s end it will help with the costs of gifts and family occasions.
  • Domestic travel fund: For weekend getaways and interstate holidays (usually a couple a year).
  • Overseas travel fund: For big trips such as our US/Europe adventure last summer. Currently saving for New Zealand this spring and Hawaii next year – woot!!
  • Car fund: We’ve actually just got a new car leased through The Man’s employment but neither of us ever had a car loan for our previous cars.
  • House fund: For furniture and home improvement projects that aren’t covered by our regular decorating and maintenance budget.
  • General fund: For purchases that are bigger than the regular budget, but aren’t big enough to justify their own fund (such as replacing my dying GHD).

At any given time we also have a handful of specific goals we’re saving for, some short-term (hello, bathroom renovation) and some longer term (dream house… sigh!).

Again, what you choose to save for and how specific you want to get is up to your own goals, but at the very least I would suggest an emergency fund plus a separate general savings account for things like holidays and furniture.


The dreaded B-word! Not sexy, I know, but still important.

To manage our budget we use:

  • Xero: Online budgeting software. 
  • Evernote: A paperless way to keep track of receipts for cash transactions and tax deductions.

I admit we fell off the budgeting bandwagon after completely losing patience with our previous system (Quicken). But since we started up again with Xero (which I was already using for my business finances and loving) we’ve been much more in control. It’s not necessarily about spending any less, it’s more about knowing whether we can/can’t make a purchase rather than totally guessing.

We used to have uber specific categories in our budget which made things way more complicated and time consuming than it needed to be. We’ve now done away with all the subcategories which has streamlined the process a lot.

95% of the transactions we do are electronic, which makes it a lot easier to keep track of than using cash. Especially since I am so hopeless at processing receipts and jotting down cash purchases. So by no means am I perfect but overall we have figured out a pretty good system that works for us.


So there you have it. That’s our method of keeping the wolf from the door.

What are your best budget tips or burning questions? Share in the comments!


Maybe you could write something about “blogging envy”?! I always find myself reading beautiful design and DIY blogs and then having the urge to go out and buy whatever has caught my fancy at that moment. Like, it’s sometimes hard to stop yourself spending because “everyone has it” or someone styled it so beautifully, you want it as well. Or am I the only one this happens to? Also, knick knacks – knick knacks are the devil when it comes to sticking to the budget!

– Johanna (Dear Life We Need To Talk)

Fantasy image: Amy Butler‘s  home.

Firstly, Johanna, you are not alone!!

This is something that has always been around but has come to the forefront since the advent of blogs and sites like Pinterest. Not only are All The Things more in-our-face than before (when you only got your fix from a monthly decorating mag) but with DIY bloggers such as yours truly it now seems as though it’s not just a unrealistic catalogue image but that there’s the pressure for everyday folk to have incredible ‘pinnable’ homes.

Being the decorating-obsessed and somewhat impatient person that I am, I know that I would find it frustrating to go about creating our home in a slow and sensible way regardless, but being immersed in so much inspiration does increase the challenge.

Here’s how I deal with my own green-eyed monster…

Stop comparing

You don’t know what’s going on in someone else’s life. Perhaps they forgo other luxuries like travel, eating out and clothes so they can pour everything into the renovation that has you swooning. Maybe they’re in credit card debt up to their eyeballs to afford the ‘perfect home’. They could be miserable because they’re tied to a job they hate but at least it pays for the latest must-have.

Or maybe they just live in an area with a different cost of living to you. I know that whenever I see US makeovers and they list the prices I’m like well no wonder they can afford to do more projects than me, when furniture and paint is half the price that it is here.

See past the things

I get a lot of inspiration from my fellow bloggers – in fact it’s one of the reasons why I started my own blog in the first place, to give back. But seeing a full-on before & after doesn’t necessary mean I then think I need to rip out my kitchen or redo my entire living room.

It might be something much smaller that I take away, like the brightly coloured front door, or the furniture arrangement, or the vignette or the way the family photos are displayed. These are cheap or even free projects that  you can achieve in a weekend.

Focus on what you can do

Focusing on the fact that you don’t have the money for your dream kitchen right now or that you can’t paint because you’re in a rental is only going to make you feel frustrated and jealous. Instead think of all the things you can do.

You could put a rug over those ugly rental carpets, switch out cupboard door handles, bring in an indoor plant or update your bathroom with new towels. A small change that you have achieved is better than a big change that you are only dreaming about.

Find the real reason

Sometimes it’s not even anything to do with the inspirational home image that brings out pangs of envy. Seeing (seemingly) perfect home after perfect home might simply be making me frustrated that I’ve let clutter get out of control or I am working too hard to actually enjoy our home.

No amount of cute new Etsy purchases is ever going to solve those problems.

Does it work for you?

One easy test to keep my coveting under control is to ask myself: if money weren’t even an issue, would this item even work for me? I mean, why feel bad that you can’t buy a piece that wouldn’t even work with your home or lifestyle anyway? I don’t fall in love with bookcases / bar stools / armchairs  because I have no space or need for them.

Instead, I focus my energy on the things that my home does need, such as some window treatments, a front porch/yard makeover and a new bathroom.

Be selective

Okay, strange advice, I admit, coming from someone who has 7,941 pins. But they are by no means my must-haves or must-dos, it’s simply my way of finding my style.

By doing this, I can keep track of which ideas I keep coming back to time and again and which were passing obsessions. Then when I do the next project on our home or make plans for a future home I can be confident that I’m making choices based on what I truly love, not on the latest trend.

Avoid the knick knack trap

Of course, it’s hard to resist the latest in-thing when all you can see is gold lamps, honeycomb vases and geometric print cushions everywhere. Whenever I’m tempted by a piece like this, I ask myself if I want it because I really love it, or because everyone else has one.

Sure, I want our decor to look fashionable, but not in a tragic fad-obsessed kind of way. I prefer to keep the majority of our homewares as meaningful items such as special gifts, souvenirs from our travels, original art and handmade pieces. From there it doesn’t cost a lot to mix in a couple of key trend pieces to bring the look up-to-date.

You can’t have everything

No really, if you had everything, where would you put it? If you actually had everything you ever wanted, your house would look like a complete dog’s breakfast of styles. Not to mention the clutter!

By realising that you don’t actually want everything, you can be more comfortable and less envious that you can’t buy everything.


I hope that’s answered your question, Johanna, and helped anyone else who has struggled with this.

Anything to add? Leave your own tips and thoughts in the comments!

If you have a question that you’d like answered in a post, please email


kitchen wicker baskets

When a lot of people think of ‘organising’ they picture heading to a big storage shop and shelling out lots of cash for specialised storage items. But creating a well-functioning, organised home can be done on a budget and in fact some projects may even be free.

Here are some of the ways I like to make sure my organising frenzies don’t turn into spending frenzies:

Declutter it

Why organise more than you have to? Once you’re done you may find that all you needed was to clear out some junk and that you don’t actually need to do any organising after all. As a bonus, you’ll have less to maintain and put away in future, plus you might even make a bit of pocket money if you have good quality items that you can sell.

Cover it

Wrapping paper, contact paper, leftover paint and fabric can turn your less-than-trendy storage into something really cute. Clipboards, trays, memo boards, boxes and tins are all prime targets to receive a colourful makeover.

Reuse it

Before you head to the shops to buy new storage, peek your head in the recycling bin. Cereal boxes, tissue boxes, soup tins, yoghurt containers, coffee jars and sauce jars all make great free storage. Cover cereal boxes in paper and turn them into magazine files and use empty coffee jars to store your pantry staples.

Rethink it

Hunt around your home for items that could be repurposed into storage. Think: old muffin trays to store jewellery, your favourite mug with the broken handle becomes a pencil holder and that cute bowl that you never use for serving becomes a great place to toss your keys.

Shop it

Stop! Don’t head straight for the storage aisle, as it’s full of ultra-specific tools with boring and utilitarian looks. Head to your favourite second-hand shop to source rustic crates and wire baskets and try homewares stores for bowls and trays. Other great places to try are bargain shops for your basic storage gear such as plastic drawer organisers and storage tubs.

Label it

Labels don’t need to be expensive. Fancy up some coloured paper scraps with corner punches or paint some cheap archive boxes with chalkboard paint and let your kids label and decorate them.

Un-specify it

There’s not much you can do with a key rack that says ‘KEYS’ or a jar that says ‘PASTA’ after you’ve decided you longer need it for that purpose. Opt for versatile storage pieces that can be used in various rooms in the home for various purposes. Floating shelves, baskets,  over-the-door hooks, magnetic strips, shoe hangers and drawer dividers are all great multi-purpose options.

Add your budget organising tips or questions in the comments!

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new kitchen light
Our kitchen after its budget makeover.

Yesterday we went through some no-cost ways to refresh your home. If you want to go one step further but still have a modest decorating budget, here are some project ideas that won’t cost an arm and a leg.

Share your budget-friendly renovating and decorating projects in the comments!

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I have a pretty much permanent decorating itch. But how do you scratch it when the piggy bank is looking a little lean?

Here is my strategy for sprucing up the nest without spending any money:


When you’re feeling blah about your space, it’s easy to blame the decor when often it’s simply that clutter has crept in. Start by clearing visual clutter (anything on floors, shelves, tables or benchtops that shouldn’t be there) for an instant makeover. Then move onto cupboards, drawers and closets – the contents may be hidden but if the’re overflowing the mess will spread into view.


A house that functions well is a much calmer place to live than one where you can never find the keys. Organise and develop systems and routines your newly-decluttered abode, starting with the problem areas. Oh and you don’t need to buy expensive storage containers to get organised! Look around your home: you probably have plenty of boxes, trays, baskets and jars that would make for excellent storage. (I’ll do a full post about affordable organising later on during Budget Month.)


Any time of year is good for a spring clean! Next time you’re doing the cleaning, take a few extra minutes and wipe down those forgotten spots like window sills, skirting boards and tops of cupboards. Not only will you be rid of all those cobwebs, everything will smell fresh and clean.


Little things like scuff marks, broken handles and chips in paint don’t seem like such a big deal but if you leave them to build up I find they can really bring a room down (not to mention cause unnecessary frustration every time you see them!). Most minor repairs such as touching up paint, polishing furniture and fixing leaking taps can be done with items already on hand, but if not you’re short on supplies you should be able to sort it out with a $10 note at the hardware store.


Our compact floorplan does limit our ability to move furniture around on a whim, but I can still rearrange decor and art between different rooms to freshen up the space. I also don’t have everything on display at once. Rather, I have a small stash of spare decor items that I will rotate into use periodically or whenever I feel like shopping but don’t want to shell out any cash.


I have a whole stash of postcards and old greeting cards with beautiful designs that would make awesome free art. Perhaps you also have some fabric scraps that could be made into a cushion (if you’re handier with a sewing machine than I am!) or a piece of furniture that could be given a new lease on life with a coat of paint?

This approach may not sound like it yields big results, but I find it never fails to make me more content with our home. Even if you do end up spending some money on decorating, you’ll at least have laid the foundations and made sure your hard-earned cash has been spent wisely.

What are your favourite no-cost decorating tips? Leave them in the comments!

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Why don't you... start a Christmas savings fund

“Christmas?! What the hell, woman, it’s barely the middle of the year!’

To that I say, YES I am talking about Christmas now – for good reason.

The Man and I recently added a Christmas fund to our variety of mini savings accounts. We put in $10 a week, which we don’t miss at all, but will net us $520 by the time Santa shows up. Even if you start mid-year you’ll have $260 which is a big help.

Gifts are the most obvious expense but there’s also travel, entertaining, activities, Christmas cards, extra groceries, perhaps new party outfits, the list goes on… All these expenses at once can turn a fun time into a stressful one (or worse, one that you’re paying off well into next year).

Just a few dollars a week – whatever you can spare – will have you on your way to a relaxed and fun holiday season.

So this weekend, why don’t you start a Christmas savings fund?

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Loyalty cards before

After yet another trip to Mitre 10 and not being able to find my customer discount card, I decided it was time to organise our loyalty cards once and for all.

A little while ago I had the genius (ahem) idea to punch holes in the corners and loop together on a split ring…. until I realised that it would render useless all the cards with magnetic strips.

Loyalty card book

So in a more predictable (and happily not completely counter-productive) approach, I picked up this cute stripey business card holder on sale at Target (no, this isn’t a sponsored post, I really do shop there!).

We still keep the frequently used cards in our wallets, but this is great to keep together all the rarely-used items such as interstate public transport cards and library cards.

Loyalty card book

I tucked it in the gift card storage box on the side of the fridge so all of our penny-pinching resources are together.

Do you keep all your loyalty cards on you at all times or just the frequently used ones?

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A collection of pretty meets practical ideas to inspire a happier home

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