Buying your first home is exciting. Maybe you’ve been saving up for a while, or this is your first time getting approved for a loan. Maybe you’ve had a “dream home” in mind for a while, or you’re buying a fixer-upper with the hope of making it your own.

When you own a home, you have that opportunity! You can be as creative as you want with your interior design, making your living space a true expression of who you are.

Unfortunately, buying a house is expensive. The starter median home cost in the U.S. was over $233,000 in the first quarter of 2020. With a traditional downpayment of 20%, that means you’ll spend over $40,000 right away. Most first-time homeowners don’t have a ton of disposable income. Millennials, for example, are waiting longer to buy houses or opting to rent because of the high cost of housing and student loan debt. So, while it’s important not to buy more house than you can afford, it’s also important to know how you can make that house your own when you’re on a budget.

Let’s cover a few interior design tips for your first house that won’t break the bank, and will make your new space feel more like home.

Calculate the Costs

Before you get started on any interior design projects, figure out your budget. There are many budget calculators online that can help you determine where you’re starting and what you can afford. A standard budget includes things like:

  • Mortgage
  • Groceries
  • Utilities
  • Transportation
  • Insurance
  • Loan payments
  • Extras

Once you create your budget, you’ll be able to see areas where you can cut back. For example, you might not need more than one subscription service for your TV. Or, you might be able to limit how often you go out to eat.

From there, you can calculate how much certain design projects cost. A good rule of thumb is to work from the top down. Does your ceiling need patching or repainting? Do the light fixtures need to be changed? What can be added to the walls? Should you refinish the floors?

It’s also important to calculate the cost of bigger ticket items, like furniture. Knowing what will work in the size and space of your home can make a big difference in how you shift your budget for the rest of your design projects.

Start Small

You might be surprised at how many small design changes can make a big difference in the look and feel of your home.

If you don’t currently have the budget for major renovations and redesigns, choose projects that don’t cost a lot of money but make a big impact.

Painting is one of the best ways to change an environment without breaking the bank. If you ever plan on selling your home in the future, you might want to choose a neutral color that’s appealing to almost everyone. You can also take advantage of color psychology and try to evoke certain emotions in each room. For example, blue tones in the bedroom can make you feel calmer so you’ll fall asleep easier. Every color is meant to bring out certain feelings, including:

  • Red – passion and energy
  • Yellow – happiness
  • Orange – fun and energetic
  • Green – stimulates focus and creativity

Even if you don’t have the time or money to paint every room, you can add pops of color and intrigue to your home by investing in throw pillows, blankets, and pieces of art. Not every color needs to match. In fact, colors that complement each other, rather than match exactly, will create more intrigue in a room while showing off your true personality.

You’ll save the most money if you can DIY as many interior design projects as possible. So, if you don’t think you’re ready to paint a room on your own or install new curtain rods without help, tackle the things within your skill level. All you need is an eye for design and a basic idea of what you want your home to look at. The other projects will get done over time, whether you enlist the help of a friend or eventually hire a professional. There are things you can do right now to make your house feel more like home without having to wait on someone else and without spending a lot of money.

Be Practical With Your Projects

When you look at your house and see a dozen projects that need to get taken care of, it can feel overwhelming. You might even be thinking about how much those projects will drain your bank account.

But, if you’re willing to get creative and practical, you can handle a lot of design projects on your own by finding inexpensive solutions.

Not sure where to get started?

Look at the areas of your home you would like to change or upgrade, and think about how you can achieve the same effect on a budget. For example, if your kitchen cabinets are outdated or even scratched up, you can give them new life and express your creativity by painting them and attaching new hardware. Don’t be afraid to use a bold color to make your kitchen look completely new.

Want to change the atmosphere of a room? Switch out the type of lighting you’re using. Changing the hue of the lighting can add a warmer effect to each room, while brighter lights can change the environment to a happier, more energetic one.

If a room seems stale and boring but you’re not ready to paint or change out the furniture yet, consider adding a live plant or two. There are plenty of benefits to indoor plants, including improved air quality. But, they can also make a room feel homey and more comfortable.

No matter your age, buying a home for the first time shouldn’t be overwhelming. You should be able to hold onto the excitement of homeownership as you decorate it to fit your needs and wants. So, keep these affordable interior design tips in mind, and you can enjoy every room in your new house without putting yourself under financial stress.

Luke Smith

Luke Smith

Luke Smith is a writer and researcher turned blogger. Since finishing college he has been trying his hand at being a freelance writer. When he isn't writing you can find him traveling, hiking, or gaming.