22 Upgrades Under $50 to Make Your House Look Awesome

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

Front door on old brick home
1000 Words / Shutterstock.com

Painting your whole house? That’s an expensive project that takes time. On the other hand, painting the front door gives the front of 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 free delivery of paint samples here.

In total, the project — including painter’s tape, a good paint brush, a quart of primer and a quart of exterior paint — should run less than $50.

The DIY Network offers tips for getting the best results.

2. Add a bird feeder

Perky-Pet 339 Squirrel Be Gone II Feeder Home with Chimney
Perky-Pet / Amazon

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. The one in the picture above by Perky-Pet ($33.78) 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

Enchanted Spaces solar yard lights.
Enchanted Spaces / Amazon

Add a little romance to your sidewalk or garden path with some solar-powered lights. The lights pictured here by Enchanted Spaces ($48.99 for a set of six on Amazon) got high marks compared with other similar products reviewed at Back Yard Boss.

4. Replace the porch light

Exterior barn-style lamp
1st Avenue/ Houzz.com / Money Talks News

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? The light pictured above is a shabby-chic barn style sconce that’s listed for $37.99 on Houzz.

5. Build raised garden beds

Raised garden beds
Jamie Hooper / Shutterstock.com

Raised garden beds look tidier and create tiers for gardening on a slope. They also hold the good soil and retain more moisture. They are easy to tailor to the space you have and simple to build — here are some instructions — 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

Pipe insulation
Wichien Tepsuttinun / Shutterstock.com

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

Andreas G. Karelias / Shutterstock.com
Andreas G. Karelias / Shutterstock.com

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. Some go for less than $30. 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

Ceramic cabinet pulls
Wings of Twisted Tapestry / Amazon

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 (including the ceramic pulls featured above) 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

Marco Poplasen / Shutterstock.com
Marco Poplasen / Shutterstock.com

For a fun project that delivers instant drama at a low price, install flexible LED ribbon lighting under cabinets or shelves. For less than $30, you can get an 8-foot length of Armacost RibbonFlex Pro RGB LED tape light. Armacost has installation instructions and project photos and ideas. Find how-to installation videos at YouTube.

10. Make a Mason jar lamp

Ezume Images / Shutterstock.com
Ezume Images / Shutterstock.com

Mason jar lamps are trendy. A YouTube video by TheSorryGirls takes you step by step through the process of making one. Krylon, the maker of aerosol spray paint, provides instructions for painting Mason jars for use as light fixtures.

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. Swap out your shower curtain, bath mat and towels

Elephant shower curtain
Lebather / Amazon

There are so many beautiful shower curtains to choose from on Amazon and Houzz, Wayfair and Overstock — functional bathroom art! Check out the Elephant Bohemian Print Design curtain pictured above, priced at $18.99 on Amazon.

With this inexpensive upgrade, consider also replacing those threadbare towels and the old shower mat. These few changes will improve the look and smell of your bathroom.

12. Install a front door kick plate

Bobkeenan Photography / Shutterstock.com
Bobkeenan Photography / Shutterstock.com

A kick plate is a broad strip of polished metal used 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.

13. Paint exterior shutters and trim

Serenethos / Shutterstock.com
Serenethos / Shutterstock.com

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.

14. Install new door handles

Interior door lever
Defiant/ Home Depot / Money Talks News

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 at Home Depot.

15. Make a new headboard

Everything / Shutterstock.com
Everything / Shutterstock.com

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. Martha Stewart tells how to make a padded headboard in nine steps (with video) using a hollow-core door, batting and fabric.

16. Rearrange bookshelves

Evgeny Karandaev / Shutterstock.com
Evgeny Karandaev / Shutterstock.com

“Style” your bookshelves with artistic flare. Better Homes & Gardens has inspiration and tips. 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.

17. Rearrange furniture

Alex_Po / Shutterstock.com
Alex_Po / Shutterstock.com

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.

18. Add container plants

photoiconix / Shutterstock.com
photoiconix / Shutterstock.com

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 sides of planters, for example. Your local garden store or nursery may have a half-price area from which it sells cast-offs. Often, watering and care is all they need.

19. Install kitchen utility hooks

gangis khan / Shutterstock.com
gangis khan / Shutterstock.com

For a quick kitchen upgrade that you’ll enjoy daily, install a wall-mounted row of sturdy utility hooks. Use them 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.

20. Install new house numbers

Frontier Sights / Shutterstock.com
Frontier Sights / Shutterstock.com

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

21. Give light switches new life

Anna Jurkovska / Shutterstock.com
Anna Jurkovska / Shutterstock.com

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.

22. Give your home a deep cleaning

Yuganov Konstantin / Shutterstock.com
Yuganov Konstantin / Shutterstock.com

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 really clean home are immense, and you’ll feel wonderfully virtuous for doing it.

What cheap, satisfying home upgrades have you done? Tell us in the comments below or on Money Talks News’ Facebook page.

Kari Huus and Marilyn Lewis contributed to this post.

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