12 Cheap (or Free!) Ways to Upgrade Your Home

Over the past eight and a half years of blogging, I’ve shared home projects, big and small. But lately, I’ve focused on a lot of big projects – lookin’ at you, backyard and nursery. Not everyone wants to invest a ton of time or money into huge home projects right now, so I thought it would be fun to share some free home upgrades, and some inexpensive ones, that you can work on today, to inject a bit more life into your space!

12 Free Home Upgrades

Adding a chandelier over the bathtub

Jan’s Main Bathroom Reveal

Usually, when I’m done with a big project, I have zero desire to work on more home projects. Instead, I often find myself making small changes, here and there, to keep me happy and refresh our spaces. Here are 12 of those ideas…

Shop your Home

My new nursery shelves

Nursery Shelves

I love the phrase “shop your home”. For this, there is no need to spend any money; instead, just go room by room and move things around. For example, I recently styled the shelves in our Baby Boy’s nursery and all I bought was a new frame for the shelves. Everything else came from other parts of the house. I found accessories from Rory’s room that no longer worked in there and a planter that was unused, and I put everything together to create a fresh display. So, before you run to the store, shop your home! I keep extra decor, that I’m not using, in the closet in my office. It’s all in one spot and I can easily grab what I need when working on a new area.

Restyle an Area

2021 home goals to organize our office built-ins

I love a good styling session, but I sometimes find that I’ll style a bookshelf or console, and then I don’t make any changes for a long time. I haven’t done a re-styling of our built-ins since we first installed them, and I’m itching to take everything down, dust the heck out of everything, and then restyle every single cubby. Little projects like this are always fun and they infuse a sense of life and purpose into the space.

Use a Tray

The cost to decorate your home

A good tray just might be my favorite home decor accessory. I probably have one in every single room. I love them because you can corral smaller items together to create a statement. Small pieces don’t look like they’re floating. Instead, they look purposeful.

Whether it’s rattan, a large tray with handles, or a cool round tray, they all work to make a statement with your decor. Find one from your house, or buy an inexpensive one, and have fun displaying your favorite items on a table, console, or bookshelf. I’ve also been into little wood pedestals lately and I scooped up this one for fall. (It’s shown below with the candle.)

Light a New Candle

Fall decor that I bought in September 2021

Scent is such a big part of how a home makes you feel. I have my favorite candles (you can see them in this blog post), but I love trying out new scents during different times of the year. Right now, I’m enjoying this fall candle as it makes our home smell so cozy and inviting.

Swap Pillows, Blankets, or Bedding

My overall thoughts about our main bedroom makeover reveal

The fastest way to transform a bedroom is to upgrade the pillows, blankets, or bedding. Personally, I’m a big fan of investing in quality bedding (usually a white duvet and white sheets ) and then I’ll add color with the throw pillows and blankets on the bed. I talked through how I display pillows on a king-sized bed in this blog post and I’m all about the two large throw pillows and a lumbar. Plus, a nice throw is always a good idea too!

Rearrange Your Furniture

Free home upgrades - rearrange your furniture!

This is one that I don’t do nearly enough…rearrange furniture! Finn has done it quite a few times in the basement, as he has tweaked the room to figure out his favorite office furniture arrangement. Pull your couch a bit off the wall (you don’t want every piece of furniture on the perimeter of the room), move a side table from here to there, and try that accent chair in your living room. Your space will feel reinvigorated with a new layout.

Paint a Room

Painting our bedroom gray blue

I truly believe in the power of paint. Often, you only need one gallon (roughly $45) to paint a room, and it can transform the way a room feels and looks. For instance, take a look at my main bedroom. Before, it was painted Benjamin Moore “Ballet White” which is a very pretty off-white. However, it just felt a tad blah. I ended up painting it Benjamin Moore “Boothbay Gray” and the room now feels cozy and packed with personality. When in doubt, paint!

Organize a Drawer or Closet

What we charge in our charging drawer

Charging Drawer in the Kitchen

You can’t beat the high you get after a good organizational project. I’m not telling you to go take everything out of your kitchen cabinets and spend an entire weekend organizing. Instead, start small. Take one drawer that bugs you and spend 20 minutes organizing it. This always makes me feel better and it often motivates me to tackle something a bit larger. Here are some of my best tips for purging and organizing.

Print (& Display) Family Photos

Framed photo of Rory

This is one that I can work on, myself. We have family photos around the house, but I don’t take the time to update them with new pictures. Walk around your home, jot down the sizes you need, and then comb through your phone to find some favorite snapshots. I just use Walgreens for my prints and it’s quick and inexpensive. (Use a coupon code…they’ve always got one!) You can read more about my tips to organize and display family photos in this blog post.

Clip Outdoor Branches

Finding beautiful clippings outside

Now that fall is here, I love gathering pretty branches from outside to display in vases around our house. We don’t have any good greens to snip on our property (we’re getting there), but there are lots of overgrown trees, near our park, that are just begging for a snip here and there. I clipped the pretty yellow leaves from a tree in our neighborhood last fall, and they looked fantastic in the vase on our dining table. (The vase was a thrift store find, btw!)

Sell Something

Hanging shelves in a bathroom

My Mom’s Guest Bathroom

Whenever I’m starting a new room makeover, I sell the items that I no longer need for the space. In the past, Finn has handled most of the selling, via Craigslist (his best tips are in this blog post), but lately, I’ve had a lot of luck on Facebook Marketplace! My best tips? Take good pictures, include dimensions in your description, and price it right. I’ve made hundreds of dollars selling furniture and decor we no longer need, and then that money goes into the budget for the next room makeover!

Check Your Light Bulbs

Free home upgrades - change your light bulbs

Lighting in a home is KEY, yet so many people overlook it. Personally, I don’t love the look of light bulbs with too blue of a hue. Instead, I often opt for 2700 Kelvin and try to keep it the same all around our home. This blog post goes into depth about how to choose the perfect light bulb for your space. Review the bulbs you use and make sure they’re a good color temperature and that they match throughout a space. It will completely transform the way a room looks and feels…trust me!

12 free home upgrades

So there you have it, lots of free home upgrades! I urge you to implement just one of these ideas this weekend. I promise your home will thank you!


The Year of Casey

Hey there!

I’m Casey Finn, the voice behind The DIY Playbook. I’m married to Finn & mom to Rory and Ellis. Together we’re creating our dream home in Chicago, one DIY project at a time.