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How to Afford a Nice House When You Didn’t Marry a Sugar Daddy

How to Afford a Nice House When You Didn’t Marry a Sugar Daddy

So before you get your panties in a wad over the name of today’s post, let me just explain that if title length were of no issue,  it would actually read: How to Afford a Nice House When You Didn’t Marry a Sugar Daddy AND You Are Still in the Process of Becoming a High-Earning Boss B*tch.

Of course I know we women run this motha, but to get your attention I just had to be a little sensational.

Now…for those of you lucky ladies out there who landed a sugar daddy and don’t have to hustle or save,  ain’t no freakin’ shame, boo!  Actually…I am kind of jealous. As for my personal situation however,  I didn’t land a sugar daddy and this blog of mine has yet to make it big. So until my business starts raking in the serious dough, I have to be highly intentional with my spending habits.

This is not to give you the impression that I  am some kind of finance expert, but I do feel pretty confident in the realm of home decor sourcing and home improvement budgeting.  So while I am definitely no Suze Orman, I do have a few hacks to share with you today.

Below, are some of the ways I have managed to attain a “nice house” (this term is obviously relative) on a middle class budget.

how i decorate on a low budget

Coming to Terms with reality

Before I get into some of the practical ways I have budgeted for home decor and home improvements, I wanted to elaborate a bit on mindset as this is typically the motivation for all practical action…

I remember the thrill of purchasing my first home. Once the papers were signed at closing, I remember rushing off to Homegoods to begin the process of furnishing and decorating my starter home.

It didn’t take long before the harsh reality hit me- home decor is effing expensive!

Despite limiting myself to bargain, big-box retailers , I realized that furnishing and decorating my home would be a process- I didn’t have thousands of dollars to drop all at once. It’s kind of like grocery shopping: a $50 lamp here… a $100 rug there.. while all relatively “affordable” as single items, add up fast!

I don’t care what anyone says…even if you are DIYing or thrifting or purchasing home decor from places like Target and Ikea, decorating an entire house (or just one freakin’ room for that matter) requires a considerable investment. To make a home feel cohesive and tastefully styled, you are going to have to make some sacrifices in other aspects of your spending.

This leads me to my next point…

Is Having A Nice House Worth it to you?

Once I came to grips with the fact that decorating would require a conscious investment, I had to determine if allocating a chunk of my income to my home was truly worth it to me.

Would I be willing to sacrifice dining out, name-brand clothing, new model cars and exotic vacations…all for the sake of living in a nice home? You see…that’s the b*tch of being middle class. You have to determine what matters most, and prioritize from those core values.

As one might infer, living in a beautiful home, at least in this stage of my very domesticated life,  is of incredibly high importance to me. After all, my home is where I work, where I raise my children, where I entertain friends and family and ultimately where I prefer to be (I am a shameless homebody who has a hard time taking her crazy kids out anywhere).

And while I have had to sacrifice many things I once took for granted (now I am not sure if I am referring to decorating or parenthood),  I know this phase is only temporary. Once my fixer upper is transformed to my standards, I am hopeful I can make way for more outlets that spark my soul ( I could definitely use a trip to Greece in the future).

how i budget to have a nice house

Be Strategic

Once you decide to commit to beautifying your home, I suggest you don’t make the same rookie mistakes I once did. Home decor shopping, if you are trying to adhere to a budget, should never be used as a form of therapy or escapism. You see..

Decor shopping from the motivation of I’m pissed. Let’s go buy sh*t!,   leads to bad design decisions and ultimately a whole lotta wasted money. When I finally became aware of this bad habit I had formed, I decided to try a new approach. I  had to start treating myself as if I were an interior design client (so I was the interior designer and the client all at once-confusing! I know!). Basically, I treated the decorating process with more of a formal approach.

I would gather inspiration from Pinterest and magazines, narrow-down my desired aesthetic, research price points on items needed and formulate a design plan from there- all before ever thinking of stepping foot into a physical store.

Before home decor shopping, I suggest you do the same. Determine your design plan and make a list of the items you will need to purchase. Be sure to take measurements for everything! Stick to the freakin’ list and if it doesn’t align with your vision or the required dimensions, don’t waste your money!

To stay laser-focused, I recommend designing one room at a time. Personally, I like to begin with the main living spaces first (this is what everyone sees).

Added Tip: In case of error (because we all make mistakes), be sure to hold on to your receipts. You don’t have to live with something you don’t love…just return that shiznit!

how to decorate and renovate on a budget

Practical Ways I  Save for Decor and Home Improvements

Remember the whole “sacrifices” thing I referred to earlier on in this post? If you are serious about living in a fabulous house, it is time you ask yourself a pivotal question: what are some current expenditures you are willing to scale back on?

As for myself, I have been able to allocate more money to home investment by making the following “sacrifices”:

  • I do most of my grocery shopping at Aldi (it’s not the most convenient , but I swear it has reduced my grocery spending by almost 50 percent).
  • Avoiding certain stores at all costs (I cannot be trusted at Target), by purchasing miscellaneous needs (like beauty/health products) online from my Amazon Prime Account.
  • Only eating out once a week.
  • Owning a minimal wardrobe of versatile clothing. (only occasionally will I splurge on a designer handbag).
  • Continuing to drive an older model car, so that I don’t have to take on a car payment.
  • Stopped getting my hair done at the “it” salon of my city. Instead, I now go to a newer hairstylist who is reasonably priced (but sill does amazing work!)
  • Got rid of cable television.
  • Breaking my old habit of emotional spending (retail therapy) by replacing it with Yoga and meditation (you can find free classes/ resources on Youtube!)

Downsizing and diy-ing

Given the premise of my blog,  this point may seem a bit redundant,  but it’s worth reiterating…

In order to afford a home designed exactly how I desired, I ultimately had to sell my new construction home for a fixer upper (you can read all about that journey here).

By down-sizing (and down-grading), I was able to apply the money saved from a reduced mortgage to home improvement projects. I was also fortunate enough to have made a decent profit from the sale of my first home which further supported the renovations of our fixer upper.

Unfortunately, two years into the renovation process we hit a major snag which forced us to exceed our renovation budget by over $30,000 (you can read about that drama here). From that point forward, we have decided to only approach projects that we can entirely complete ourselves. If it can’t be DIY-ed, it can’t be done (for now at least).

Just in case you haven’t noticed from my previous posts, DIY has been one of the most powerful tools in attaining a “nice house”. Thanks to the help of Youtube,  Pinterest, and all of my fellow bloggers,  my husband and I have been able to transform our home with our own two hands. (For some of my posts popular DIY tutorials, click here!)

In my opinion, the art of DIY is one of the ultimate f*ck yous to our consumer-crazed society.  I can attain the home I love without going into debt up to my eyeballs.

how i afford to decorate my house

 Financing Home Improvement

Speaking of debt (which I really recommend staying away from at all costs), sometimes the cash simply isn’t available up front. Occasionally, I have made the decision to finance big-ticket items (like furniture) or pressing home improvement projects. But with one major caveat…

I refuse to pay interest! Given I’ve always had a  healthy credit score, I have been fortunate enough to take advantage of some great financing offers(Paypal Credit was great for getting started and helped fund some of my home decor and furniture purchases ).

Because the idea of interest and debt stresses me out, I try to use these tools very sparingly…not racking up more than I can pay off.  Nonetheless, financing can still be a valuable tool when used with prudence.

As for larger home improvement projects (I have been dreaming of a master bathroom renovation and garage conversion), I have been tinkering with the idea of a home equity loan. Ultimately, it is a matter of priority for me…are these renovations worth such a financial commitment and further sacrifices? I have yet to decide. Nonetheless, home equity loans are always an option when considering  home renovations.

So there you have it, babes! These are some of the hacks I have implemented while transforming my own home, and I really hope you found it helpful for your own use.

Just remember….you don’t have to be a rich b*tch to live in a home you love. It’s a process that requires some sacrifice and elbow grease, but you are fully capable!

Now get out there and design some good vibes (and please also “Pin” or  share with a friend if you found this helpful…I would greatly appreciate your support)!

Practical tips and hacks to affording a home you love.



My journey in interior design and home improvement began with transforming my first fixer-upper home, all while managing a budget and raising two young boys. My work, a reflection of my passion for creating beautiful, uplifting spaces, has been recognized by top publications like Better Homes and Gardens Magazine, HGTV, and more. I invite you to explore my site and witness the transformation of my home and the vibes we've designed.Read more...

Janice Hanrahan

Tuesday 19th of March 2019

Hi Erica, just want to let you know I am enjoying your blogs. I appreciate your sense of style, your genuine personality, your use of pictures and your willingness to share ideas & inspiration. I know a lot of work goes into this... keep it up, your doing a great job! Wishing you much success!

Designing Vibes

Wednesday 20th of March 2019

Thank you so much for the sweet words of encouragement, Janice. I appreciate it more than you know. Wishing you a fabulous week.

ashley allen

Wednesday 27th of February 2019

Yes girl preach!! I have to admit I spit out my coffee a bit from laughing my ass off at the post title but you hit the nail on the head momma! Us middle class folk can totally have what they have we just have to be more creative in how we go about it and honestly how fun would it even be if that was just your life. Although it would be nice to snap your fingers and have your dream home I feel like the more you have of something the less joy/excitement it brings (for me anyway) and I can't imagine not being excited about decor, marble, nice kitchens etc. So i'll take my hard working middle class lifestyle any day....

Designing Vibes

Wednesday 27th of February 2019

I seriously adore you, Ashley. Thank you so much for making me feel less alone in my crazy way of perceiving life matters. haha!

Lara Cook

Sunday 24th of February 2019

I LOVE your blog, your home, your honesty and this post. So true. Less debt..more freedom. It is all always a give and take. Cheers to you!

Designing Vibes

Monday 25th of February 2019

Yes, girl! It's all about give and take for sure. Thank you so much for brightening my day with your kind words. It truly means the world. Wishing you a fabulous week! xoxo

Julie S

Wednesday 20th of February 2019

Ummm yes girl I am so on the same page!! Yes to quitting buying random stuff without a plan, yes to prioritizing home decor purchases over eating out, expensive beauty stuff, and impulse spending that wastes money. Yes to DIY, and to using cash because debt is stressful/foolish. I'm currently refreshing our 80's hall/daughters/guest/full bath for $600... I have had to get creative with the limitations but I have a plan and it's working and while I hope we can fully renovate it in a few years it is going to be worlds better!

Julie S

Wednesday 20th of February 2019

Oh and I am also looking forward to when this fixer upper is in a good-enough state that I can start to put the decorating money toward a vacation in Greece (or similar) lol! Our first house actually got to a good-enough state that I wasn't constantly noticing/planning for changes I wanted to make or decor to add, so I know it can happen.

Jessica | House Full of Summer

Wednesday 20th of February 2019

And this is why I love you, Erca!! I just could not relate to this more! Heck yes ALDI, heck yes DIY. xoxo

Designing Vibes

Wednesday 20th of February 2019

I knew you were my kind of gal, Jess. Aldi is freakin life-changing. lol

Jessica | House Full of Summer

Wednesday 20th of February 2019

I was typing overly excited....Erica* haha ;)