Decorate Kids’ Rooms on a Budget

Kids change their room decorations as fast as they develop. My oldest son is now eight years old, and the cutesy prints of race cars that I hung on his bedroom walls a couple of years ago have recently been replaced by his drawings of Spongebob and baseball trophies.

I delight in my son’s opinions as he continues to grow up and express his preferences for how his room is decorated. I’m also, however, very aware that these changes can cost a lot of money over the years. The following tips are those I use to save money each time my kids want to change how their rooms are decorated.

Discuss Options With Your Child

First, I like to narrow down the themes and colors my kids are interested in and go from there. One of the easiest, cheapest and most dramatic changes can come from a simple coat or two of paint. It’s fun to go to a hardware store and have my kids pick out paint chips of colors that we can both agree on. We hang these on one of the walls of the bedroom to see how the colors look in the natural light, and for my kids to pick their top three, then their top two, and finally their favorite color.

Next, we look at bedding themes, which includes comforters or quilts, sheets, shams, rugs, and curtains. If your kids are younger, they might be interested a special theme while older kids might be interested only in specific color palettes. We also take a look at prints, posters or personal photographs that might go along with the theme. For example, my youngest son had a jungle theme at one point, and we framed and hung pictures of animals that we had taken on a recent trip to the zoo.

After we’ve seen what’s available, it’s time to figure out the budget. Share the budget with your child and discuss what could be included in it – paint for the walls, a new bed set, prints or posters, any furniture? When my oldest wanted to redecorate his room in a race car theme, we agreed on new bedding but that the paint color would have to be spontaneous, depending on what discounted mis-tints were available. We also decided that we could buy two prints, and we would work together to create any additional decorations.

Take Inventory

Don’t buy anything before taking a look around your house and garage. Do you have supplies, paint or furniture that will work or could be repurposed for this project? If there’s enough leftover paint in your garage from a different project to use in the room, or a couple of colors to combine that would also work. Maybe there’s an old small table that could be painted and used for a nightstand, or there are personal photographs that could be enlarged and framed.

Look in storage closets for lamps, frames, and other decorations that could be put to good use. As you’re looking around, make a list of what you’ve found as well as how you need to improve it, if at all. Then make a list of supplies that you may need to purchase, like paint brushes.

Start With Thrift Stores

The picture on the left shows some of the redecorating we did a couple of years ago for my youngest son. My husband made the headboard, and I found the wall decorations at a local thrift store for about five dollars total.

Take a couple of weeks and visit thrift stores around town. Look for for furniture that can be painted, wall art or other decorations along a theme, or items – like the racquetball racket in the picture – that can be used as a decoration.

Don’t limit your searching to just thrift stores. Garage sales are great places to find awesome deals on random items for your redecorating purposes. For this bedroom, I happened to find a brand-new lamp in a sports theme for under ten dollars. It was worth the time and effort!

Not Your Typical Paint

Instead of painting your walls solid colors, consider using quart-sized cans of mis-tints to create a wall mural. The picture on the right is a mural my husband painted over the course of a few days. One of the ways I’d do it differently now is to make the decorations three-dimensional – since it was a jungle theme, it would have been fun to find silk tropical plants and attach them to the wall as part of the mural.

If your kids are older, they can participate in the creation of the wall art. A friend of mine expecting a baby enlisted the help of her kids in painting a portrait of the family on one wall of the nursery. If painting isn’t for you, there are also removable wall decorations that you can buy in a variety of places, from the local dollar store to the hardware store.

Use Your Child’s Own Art Work

My oldest created a variety of different pieces of art in the last year that can be framed and hung in his room as well as around the house. Maybe your child has already brought home an art project that will go along with the room’s theme. If not, consider allowing your child to create artwork on inexpensive canvas from a craft store or on pieces of white paper using watercolor paint. Hang these pieces in your child’s own “art gallery” in frames of different sizes, shapes and colors.

Whatever you and your child decide, these tips will make the decor changes over the years easier for your budget to bear.

Kelly Wilson is a busy mother, freelance writer and author of Live Cheap and Free! Strategies to Thrive in Tough Economic Times. You can read more about her and how to save money at

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