17 Ways to Decorate on a Dime

With decorating, as with clothing, it's not so much what you have as what you do with it.

from Penny Pincher's Almanac

15. Plants
Few things add more beauty to a room than plants. Put them in eye-catching pots to double your visual pleasure. Select plants that are right for the light available in the area where you want to display them. Some easy growers that don’t require a lot of extra care include:

Boston fern (Nephrolepis exaltata bostoniensis). This parlor plant with arching fronds flourishes in a north light.

Cast-iron plant (Aspidistra elatior). This low-care evergreen has broad, shiny leaves and prefers porous, enriched soil.

Ficus or weeping fig (Ficus benjamina). This popular shiny-leafed evergreen can thrive for years, then suddenly die.

Grape ivy (Cissus rhombifolia). Gorgeous dark foliage with bronze underleaf tints, this plant thrives on moderate sun.

Jade plant (Crassula argentea). This excellent houseplant has a thick trunk, fleshy leaves, and tiny pink flowers.

Philodendron (Philodendron oxycardium). With heart-shaped leaves, this trainable vine can take a lot of neglect.

Spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum). This evergreen has soft, curving leaves and little miniature plants on long stems that can be cut off and potted. Grow in a well-lit window.

Wandering jew (Tradescantia; several varieties). This fast-growing, long-trailing plant is great for window boxes.

16. Learn to Do It Yourself
A great way to save money on creating a designer look is to learn to do many of the installations yourself. There are any number of books you can borrow or buy to learn techniques, but sometimes a class can make what you want to do really clear. Check with your local home center; home centers often offer regular classes (free or for the cost of materials) in laying tile, planning a xeriscape garden (xeriscaping refers to landscaping methods that reduce water requirements), painting techniques, and more. The parks and recreation departments of many cities also offer low-cost classes in slipcovering furniture, the art of feng shui, raising herbs, and more. You can even check with a university nearby to see what kind of extension classes it offers.

17. Trunk Tricks
A trunk — old or new, footlocker style or hope chest — can be one of the most versatile things around your house. New footlocker trunks can be had year-round at discount stores, but often go on sale during back-to-school months as parents ready their college-bound kids for dorm life. You can pick these trunks up for around $20 or less. But if you hunt through the attics and basements of older relatives and friends, you might find some wonderful old steamer trunks or wooden chests that can add charm to any room and provide terrific storage space.

Set a trunk just inside your back or front door as a convenient place to sit and remove muddy shoes (and store out-of-season shoes, boots and sandals).

Put a trunk at the foot of a bed to store extra blankets, comforters, pillows, or even sheets for that bed.
For a handy patio coffee table, use a weather-resistant or weatherproof trunk to store pool toys, towels, extra seat cushions, games, picnic linens, table ware, bird food, or just about anything else you’d rather have outdoors.

A good-looking wooden trunk makes a beautiful and useful coffee table or end table and adds storage space to your living room.

Old-fashioned steamer trunks — the kind with drawers and space to hang clothes — make eye-catching armoires for a guest room or a little girl’s room.

Keep an old footlocker next to your fireplace to store firewood.

A trunk or footlocker is a natural for a child’s toy box, but be sure it has a brace or device to keep it from slamming on little fingers.