Making Do On A Very Tight Budget (And Learning To Have A Thankful Heart)

Last Updated on February 11, 2019 by Kristi Linauer

Today’s blog post is a bit different from most. Because I’m a visual person (and this is an interior decorating blog) I generally like to fill blog posts with lots of pictures. But not today. Today I just want to write what’s on my heart.

It’s no secret that I’m doing my condo remodel/decorating on a very tight budget. And while some people decorate on a tight budget simply because they enjoy it, that’s not quite the case with me. Oh sure, I’ve come to love hunting for bargains, but the fact is, I started doing this out of necessity.

The past 14 months have been some of the hardest of my life. But interestingly, they’ve also been some of the most wonderful. It’s as if Charles Dickens’ classic words “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” were written specifically as a narrative for the last year in our lives.

It has been a year filled with joblessness and medical problems for Matt, a year of me learning how to truly be a “helpmate” for my husband (which does NOT come naturally for me), and a year of truly…TRULY…learning to rely on God to meet our needs. It has been difficult, yet wonderful…agonizing, yet joyful…painful, yet extraordinary.

In the beginning, it got to me more than just a little bit. I’d work with clients who seemingly had endless piles of cash to spend on their homes, and then I’d look in my wallet and see that I had MAYBE $20 to “splurge” on something for my own home. Then, inevitably, a very tearful pity party would ensue.

But in the past few months, I’ve really tried to focus more on the positive. I’ve learned to be thankful for what I have (rather than being frustrated with what I don’t have). I’m thankful that God has given me the creativity, the know-how, and the desire to make and create things myself (rather than having to rely on others to do things for me). I’m thankful that I have a husband who, even though he can’t help me with the condo because of his physical disabilities, is absolutely a gift from God–my biggest cheerleader, my biggest supporter, my biggest encourager. I’m thankful that Matt and I don’t have even one single credit card, and we pay for everything in cash as we go along.

I could go on and on, but the point is that I’m just THANKFUL.

I look at my little condo today, and see how the remodel is progressing, and it just makes my heart sing. Sure, it’s taken a lot longer than I had hoped or had ever imagined, but I love knowing that the progress was done by my hands, the design came from my imagination, and that everything I’ve purchased for my condo belongs to us, and not a bank or credit card company.

Every time I’m scouring the stores for treasures, and I find a bargain that would be perfect for my condo, I feel like it’s a little gift from God–my wonderfully perfect Heavenly Father who loves to give gifts to his children even more than my own father loved to surprise me with little gifts that would make my eyes light up. Every time I come across one of these “gifts”, I can just picture God in my mind, with a glint in his eye and a smile on his face, because he knows he’s just made his little girl’s eyes light up.

So why am I telling you this?

Because I know times are tough right now for many people. I know there may be some of you who read this blog and think to yourself, “Wow, it must be nice to have the money to remodel. I wish I had that.” Believe me, I know how that feels. It can be discouraging, and the last thing I want people to feel when reading my blog is discouragement.

But I also want to encourage you to be thankful. No matter where you are in life right now–whether you are the owner of a huge corporation with piles of money in the bank at your disposal, or whether you’re struggling with unemployment and wondering how you’re going to pay next month’s mortgage or rent, or whether you’re some place in between–a thankful heart is a powerful thing in life.

This isn’t a lesson I have completely mastered. It’s a lesson I’m still learning day by day.

I hope each of you has a wonderfully blessed weekend, and I’ll be back Monday to show you the latest on my kitchen/eating area “budget” design!

Funny story: I was sitting here writing this blog post, just so blessed by God’s goodness and faithfulness, with tears in my eyes. Matt looked up at me and said, “Kristi, are you crying!?” I said, “Yes, I’m writing my blog post for today.” He responded (with a sympathetic tone in his voice), “Oh, what happened? Did a lampshade die?” 😀 I’m thankful that I have a husband who makes me laugh…continually…every day.

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  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    February 19, 2010 at 8:08 pm

    just fantastic. loved hearing your heart.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    February 19, 2010 at 8:14 pm

    Kristi, I love your blog. It has become my favorite. Thanks for sharing this today. I needed to hear it.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    February 19, 2010 at 8:20 pm

    I am thankful for your blog!
    This past year has been very close to yours in a way. The job that brought my family back to CA from TX and allowed us to buy our dream cottage (that I said they would have to take me out on stretcher to get me to move from) just one day was gone. We were blessed that they put him in another job, half the pay, but allowing us to keep our house. Then his new boss decided he did not like to have someone "dumped" on him and so that job too was gone with an excuse once again of down sizing.
    We tried for unemployment , fought for it in court, the old boss had lied as a reason for the dismiss and my husband did not even know about it till that day in court. We were draining our savings and cleared out our investments to hold onto the house. We continued to fix it up too, and like you, on a budget…sometimes 20.00 seemed like a huge amount, but if it could buy a gallon of paint….we were just thankful to have our home and we wanted to continue to make it just right.

    We held onto hope we could get a loan modification, but had to wait till we were in the house 2 full years. When that date came, nearly all the homes on our block were in foreclosure, and we were broke. Our friend, also our broker said find an apartment, remove what cash you have left ( just enough to get into one ) and do it now. By the end of the month, what was just two weeks past our two year point we were ,for the first time in what I refer to "the beige box" .

    We sold or gave away all that we owned to finance the rest of the move and to buy things that would fit in an apartment, and also pull double duty. So we start again. Things look like we are collage students from what we have in the cupboards to what we have as furniture. My decorating budget is hit and miss, depending on what is left after all the bills and rent are paid and menu shopped for. Sometimes just a new candle to light is what I can afford or some fresh flowers or perhaps if very lucky a new goodie from Home Goods or even a clearance item from ZGalleries gets to come home with me.

    YES I said home, cause to me that is where ever you and your loved ones are together. So I may not like where we are, and I may not be able to go past just dream decor at the moment, but it is home. I have a husband that works super long hours, then takes care of me when he is home (I have fibromyalgia and arthritis and am in chronic pain.) We have food to eat and a warm place to sleep and we have abundant love the fills the space even if pretty decor does not.God is providing and I can see that, even when things got worse this month as there was another job change and more unemployment(hubby sells cars….a far cry from teaching others to do so in a corporate job as trainer)and more times with no money and no safety net …our tax return came and we know we can make it another month…so I know we are blessed….and like you I am thankful and grateful for that…and for all the lessons this past year has taught me and the ways it has made me change and re-evaluate my life and ways, and the new discoveries and rediscoveries I have made about myself and my life and my family and I am thankful for knowing that I am not alone, not in what has happened to us or how we are becoming stronger because of it, as you have.


  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    {The Classy Woman}
    February 19, 2010 at 8:33 pm

    Wow! Thank you for sharing what was on your heart. It is a well written post.

    It's like you were reading my mind. I was just thinking about this very thing this morning as I stood in our living room and looked around me. The last two years have been a real struggle for us but I was observing all of the little changes I've made with virtually no money in the various rooms in our home. I also am blessed to have a hubby that cheers me on, even though he isn't interested in the physical work of painting, decorating or adding to the home.

    Like you, I run a design business where I get to work in some gorgeous and expensive homes on a daily basis. I love the projects I work on and how I'm able to create dream rooms for my clients. Some days I'd come home and cry because I'd spend all day making someone else's dream become a reality but I didn't have any money to decorate our own home, nor do we live in homes like those.

    Clients would always compliment me and say, 'Your home must be gorgeous', and I'd just smile and thank them. The truth is, our home is outdated in some respects, built in the 1950's, has some needed repair in several areas and is filled with a lot of my husband's grandparent's items from whom the house was left to him by many years ago before we married.

    Today I was reminding myself about loving what I have and what I have accomplished, to be thankful for the home that we do have which provides protection, saftey, comfort and our basic needs. I too am thankful for the little affordable treasures that He puts in my path.

    I truly believe that if we are faithful with little and appreciate what God has given us, he will entrust us with more. Like you, I light up when I find the perfect thrift shop or yard sale items. Just today, I came across (4) large wooden frames for just $1.99 each! I am so thrilled and know they were put there just for me! 🙂 The ones I wanted to buy from Ikea would have been $80 total, so I saved 90% which fits into my budget, I just need to but some white spray paint!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Kristi @ Addicted 2 Decorating
    February 19, 2010 at 8:55 pm

    Ruby and Classy Woman, thank you so much for sharing your own stories. I read through each of them with tears streaming down my face. Your own stories of God's faithfulness in your lives has truly encouraged me today. As we've all learned in our own ways, God's faithfulness doesn't always LOOK like we think it should look. But He is faithful nonetheless.

    Thanks again for sharing.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    February 19, 2010 at 9:24 pm

    What a wonderfully honest post, Kristi. I have been following you for a while, and I have to confess I sensed your struggle, but was and am always so impressed by how you keep your chin up and your blog posts positive. You know as well as I that all the money in the world cannot buy talent or happiness or creativity. And you are right to be thankful for those things. I know decorators with more money and waaaay less ability!

    These times HAVE been tough, and it also bothers me when people pretend everything is golden. The fact that two others came right out with their stories immediately is proof. Today's headlines speak of more record foreclosures, and that hurts us decorators terribly. Your "making do" is the REAL decorating story. And I can see it being a bestseller! Keep writing it, Kristi.

    I don't believe as you do, that god grants gifts, or gives struggles for the lesson. But I do believe that your post will be an inspiration to others. Thank you for sharing it.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Azra Momin
    February 19, 2010 at 9:54 pm

    Kristi, what a lovely, lovely post. Thankfulness and gratitude are the cornerstone of faith, and surely God provides to the grateful.

    We have economic worries too, and who doesn't, really? Jeff and I sometimes tell each other we are thankful for having LESS, because who knows what me might have done with excess, and how would we later justify it to God?

    Our baby is not yet three, but I never cut a fruit for her without inviting her to admire its perfectness, its color and texture and the incredible experience it's about to provide, and to thank God we can indulge in this magical piece of creation, an unknown luxury for for thousands of hungry homeless brothers and sisters…

    We may appear to have little, but if we began to count our blessings we'd not know where to stop!

    Thank you for sharing this beautiful message.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Kimm at Reinvented
    February 19, 2010 at 10:57 pm

    What a beautiful post, one that rings true of so many of our personal stories. Thank you for sharing.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Liz in Texas
    February 20, 2010 at 1:56 am

    Hi Kristi,
    First of all I LOVE your blog! We too have had our share of humbug…Rich (mu husband) lost his job almost a year ago but did find one with in 2 weeks but makes less than 1/2 of what he previously did. He just felt he had to take anything he could find as we are not "young" anymore. Still we are so blessed. I often tell Rich why do I seem to always "want"…he swears that is just human nature just as it is to feel others have so much more. I read this quote somewhere although I cant remember where….."Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you have now was once amoung the things you only hoped for." Epicurius
    I printed this on scrapbook paper and then framed them. There is one at my office and one at home. I made several for Christmas gifts just this past year. Somehow when I read this quote it seemed so profound to me…like it was written just for me and about me! Your post is both real and beautiful, thank you. (I adore what your husband said about a lampshade that died, that would be something my husband would say!!)
    With Blessings,

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Down Pillows
    February 20, 2010 at 6:04 am

    I must tell you that your posts always prove to be of a high value and quality for readers.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Kimberly Ann
    February 20, 2010 at 10:14 pm

    What an inspiring blog post! Thanks for sharing this personal message with us today.

    Decorating on a budget can be tough… but so much more rewarding in the end. There's an extra bit of pride when you can look at a wall/kitchen/bookshelf and say that looks awesome… and it only cost me $!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    February 21, 2010 at 6:49 pm

    Great post – thanks for sharing your heart and God's provision!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    February 22, 2010 at 1:38 pm

    Such a beautiful testimony of your faith! You probably did so much good for people writing this- and you wouldn't have written it if you weren't struggling! God has his purpose for everything that happens in our lives. Learning to be content and thankful is a great gift from God. Having a ton of money does not bring happiness-being thankful does!I pray that you and your husband may continue to trust in God for all things, and that He will bless you!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    February 22, 2010 at 1:43 pm

    the only reason I am anonymous is because I don't know which profile to pick!!!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Kristi @ Addicted 2 Decorating
    February 22, 2010 at 3:19 pm

    Thank you to all of you for your sweet and supportive comments. You truly bless me. 🙂


  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Ben and Amie
    February 22, 2010 at 4:31 pm

    Thank you Kristi so much for writing this blog! This is exactly what I needed to hear today. I read this blog crying like a child. How easily I have forgotten how much God truly loves us. He blesses us daily and I have been so consumed with what I don't have that I couldn't see what I do have.

    I've been struggling with the fact that I'm almost 30 years old and still renting. Just recently, my neighbors and very best friends just bought their first home. While I'm extremely happy for them, it's hard knowing that I'm not in a position to buy right now. I feel that at my age I should own my own home. These past couple of weeks I have definitely felt sorry for myself in ways that I know I shouldn't. I'm not going to keep focusing on what I don't have but focus on what God has blessed me with! I have no credit card debt and I pay cash for everything. I have a boyfriend who loves me unconditionally and an apartment that is rent controlled!

    Just the other day I found some vases and candlestick holders on sale. I was looking at them but put them back. My mom was with me and asked me why I wasn't buying them. I told her because I was renting and I didn't want to decorate until I owned my own home. She reminded me that home is what you make it, not where you live. That's when I realized that this whole time I've been waiting on the 'one day', instead of enjoying the now. I bought the vases and candlesticks and they look amazing on my mantle.

    God Bless-

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    February 24, 2010 at 1:36 am

    What an inspiring post! Even the comments that follow are such a testament of God's presence in our country. As a country, we are probably ALL headed for tough times…….that's easy to see! But you and the others are an inspiration for all of us to remember that every good and perfect gift comes from God! It's true that we seem to appreciate more when we have less. We are a retired military family and have lived with next-to-nothing and then with more than enough, so I can speak from both sides and honestly, some of our best family times have been shared when we had very little and learned to just be grateful and appreciate those little things in life! One year while living in a tiny Japanese apartment and our furniture consisted of a papasan couch and lawn chairs, we had to make homemade Christmas cookies to decorate our tree. That night the humidity got to them and they all fell on the floor by morning! It was quite funny and memorable, but the following year when we couldn't wait to go and buy a beautiful big tree and lovely decorations and have all of our comforts of home back in the USA, we soon realized that the Christmas spent in Okinawa with very little was one of the most special holidays ever! God is so good to us all and He is all we need!

    Thanks so much for your encouraging words….my prayers are with you all! God Bless America….the land that I love!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    November 21, 2010 at 12:00 pm

    This is very niche and excellent content love to see more post like this..keep posting. Thanks for information ..bravo…

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    January 31, 2011 at 3:09 am

    This is very niche and excellent content love to see more post like this..keep posting. Thanks for information ..bravo…

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    interior decorator
    February 23, 2011 at 3:18 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing your inspiring article. I love the message and i love hearing your thoughts and your heart. Please write more coz im looking forward for your next blog.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    July 20, 2011 at 7:10 am

    If you can do wonderful work on a tight budget, you're truly a good decorator. I came across this decorating page because I likewise was feeling, sure anyone can be a great decorator if you have a million dollar budget. Try doing it on almost nothing. This was after watching Martyn Lawrence Bullard on Million Dollar Decorator. No disrespect intended, but money sure can change things. Anyway after feeling this bitterness and coming across your blog, I was quickly reminded that I too had been trying to remember to love and value the real beauty in my life; my children, husband, and family. Thanks for sharing 🙂 It is because you have the ability to see this beauty that I bet you can do anything. Thanks again, Me in California