21 Home Upgrades That You Can Do Yourself for $50 or Less

Are you dreaming of improving your home, but you don’t have the budget to do major remodeling? If so, there’s still plenty you can do to scratch the home-improvement itch — and make your home look great.

Here are some cheap ways to spruce up your home for $50 or less.

1. Paint the front door

Painting your whole house? That’s an expensive project that takes time. On the other hand, painting the front door gives your house a fresh, new look in one afternoon. Choose a fun, contrasting color, and don’t agonize too much over it. If you decide you don’t like the new color, paint the door again next summer, or next month.

If you want to try out a few colors before committing, Home Depot offers you free delivery of paint samples, with thousands to choose from.

In total, the project — including painter’s tape, a good paintbrush, a quart of primer and a quart of exterior paint in your favorite color — should run you less than $50.

2. Add a bird feeder

Add a bird feeder for your feathered friends to visit near a kitchen or living room window. You will find a range of options and price points. Amazon sells one by Perky-Pet that promises anti-squirrel features — and that is key. After all, if left to their own devices, squirrels will consume all your bird feed.

3. Add path lighting

Add a little romance to your sidewalk or garden path with some solar-powered lights, and make the walkway safer for visitors in the evenings. You can find path lighting at Amazon.

4. Replace the porch light

Has your affection dimmed for the porch light that came with the house? Or maybe it’s time to install an additional exterior light out by the back door or garage? Houzz sells a shabby-chic barn-style sconce.

5. Build raised garden beds

Raised garden beds look tidier and create tiers for easier gardening on a slope. They also hold good soil in place and retain more moisture. They are easy to tailor to the space you have and simple to build for the cost of a couple of boards, fence posts and some chicken wire. But you can also buy them assembled or ready-to-assemble in a variety of shapes and sizes like these at The Home Depot.

6. Insulate water pipes

Admittedly, this upgrade is boring. But it’s easy, and it will save you money.

Insulate pipes that carry hot water through a cold basement or crawl space with pre-slit, hollow-core, flexible “sleeves” made of polyethylene or neoprene foam. Before shopping, make sure you know the diameter of the pipes you are insulating.

7. Dress up an old sofa

Give the couch new life by pulling a slipcover over its tired old self.

Wayfair.com has dozens of slipcovers in different shapes, sizes and patterns. If you can’t find a fitted slipcover that works on your sofa, don’t worry. Done well, a loose fit is timeless. Check Overstock and elsewhere for machine-washable cotton duck covers in many colors.

With any remaining cash, jazz up your new couch by making or buying some fun accent pillows.

8. Update cabinet hardware

If your kitchen and bathroom look dated but you can’t replace the cabinets, replacing the cabinet hardware gives rooms a new look.

Here are shopping tips:

  • Remove one handle or drawer pull to see how many screws each uses and how far apart they should be. Your new hardware will need to have this same configuration.
  • Before shopping, take stock of your room’s style. To avoid being overwhelmed by all the options, first browse home decorating magazines to identify the look of the hardware you want. For example, do you want pulls or handles? Sleek and modern? Old world? Recycled and eclectic?

There is a huge selection of pulls on Amazon and on Houzz. If you are looking for a vintage look or trying to match the hardware on an older house, check out building salvage stores in your area.

9. Add dramatic lighting

For a fun project that delivers instant drama at a low price, install flexible LED ribbon lighting under cabinets or shelves. Amazon sells LED tape light.

10. Make a Mason jar lamp

A YouTube video by TheSorryGirls takes you step by step through the process of making a Mason jar lamp.

If a single-jar lamp isn’t enough of a challenge, and you have plenty of Mason canning jars, look for instructions online for making a Mason jar chandelier. Stick to using found materials to keep your costs down.

11. Install a front door kick plate

A kick plate is a broad strip of polished metal placed horizontally along the bottom edge of a front door to protect it from scratches, kicks and dog paws. Kick plates are decorative as well as functional. Brass is traditionally used, but popular finishes now include antique brass, pewter, antique bronze and black.

Change your old kick plate for a new one, or install a kick plate if you haven’t used one before. After choosing a metal finish you like, use the same finish on all of your exterior hardware.

12. Paint exterior shutters and trim

A fresh coat of paint (or two) on shutters and trim provides a quick, easy shot in the arm for your home’s exterior. Paint all the trim or just the window trim. And if you are short on time or materials, repaint only the front-facing trim. It’s safest to use a color that’s already part of your home’s exterior color scheme.

13. Install new door handles

Put attractive new knobs or handles on interior doors and closets. For family members who are aging, arthritic or disabled, make life easier by replacing knobs with easier-to-grasp door levers like these from The Home Depot.

14. Make a new headboard

Craft a new headboard for your bed or refurbish your old one. If you scrounge for free and cheap materials, you can do it for less than $50. DIY Network has 15 ideas and photos for upgrading headboards.

15. Rearrange bookshelves

“Style” your bookshelves with artistic flare. Better Homes & Gardens has inspiration and tips on this topic. This is a fun, creative project, so spend some time and enjoy it. Among BHG’s tips:

  • Treat each shelf as a display, and then stand back and make sure all shelves work well together.
  • Position some items off-center on a shelf.
  • Place some books in horizontal stacks and use the stacks as bookends for books shelved vertically.
  • For a designer look, cover the inside of a bookcase with fabric or wallpaper.
  • Don’t pack treasures and collections on every shelf.
  • Pieces of pottery make nice, solid bookends.
  • Stack a pyramid of books and put one of your favorite objects atop the stack.
  • Use bookshelves as a gallery for framed photos or art.

16. Rearrange furniture

Ask someone whose home styling skills you admire to help you see your home and possessions in a new light. Stay open to change and new ideas.

17. Add container plants

New plants dress up your home’s porch and garden and create great curb appeal. You can start plants from seeds in the spring.

In autumn, dig a few of the more vigorous and prolific perennials from your garden and install them in pots. Ivy, a pest in gardens, looks terrific trailing down the sides of planters, for example. Your local garden store or nursery may have a half-price area where it sells its cast-offs. Often, watering and care are all they need.

18. Install kitchen utility hooks

For a quick kitchen upgrade that you’ll enjoy daily, install a wall-mounted hanger. Use it for everything from dish towels and pot holders to utensils and measuring cups. You might even slip a recipe you’re using into a plastic ring-binder sleeve, add a ring clip and hang it for ready access.

19. Install new house numbers

Change your old house numbers. Find some new ones with an online search or at hardware stores. Or, shop for handmade numbers at Etsy.

20. Give light switches new life

Here’s how to give grimy old light switches new life: Toss the old covers out and treat yourself to new ones. For a fun project, cover some of them with decoupage.

21. Give your home a deep cleaning

If you’re stuck in a rut, try using Oprah.com’s checklist, timeline and instructions for deeply, thoroughly cleaning your home in eight hours. Oprah.com calls it “spring cleaning,” but don’t let that stop you from doing it now.

The psychological benefits of a clean home are immense, and you’ll feel wonderfully virtuous for doing it.

Kari Huus and Marilyn Lewis contributed to this post.

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