It’s exciting to finally have the key to your first home in the palm of your hand. But now that you’ve made your down payment, paid your real estate agent, and closed on the house, chances are your bank account is looking a little worse for wear.

Fortunately, by being smart with your cash after you finally move in, you can find ways to get your house looking like a real home without busting your weakened budget. Here are a few ways you can decorate your first home and keep it in good shape without spending a small fortune.

Use your tax refund wisely

The IRS processed up to 155 million individual taxpayer returns in 2018. If you’ve already filed your tax returns for 2019 and you’ve qualified for your one-time stimulus check, make sure you use that money wisely. 

Your first thought might be to put that cash toward a small renovation if your kitchen countertops are bothering you or if your bathroom is outdated. But if your savings are depleted since buying your house or, worse, if you’ve racked up some credit card debt in an effort to save money, put your refund toward paying that off or saving it. Your new house isn’t going anywhere. You can always wait to revamp it.

DIY your home decor

The DIY movement has been so big in recent years that you can find cheaper ways to upcycle just about anything. From art decor to accent chairs, don’t be afraid to buy second-hand and get creative. You’d be amazed at what you can accomplish on a budget.

If you don’t have money for a bed frame right now or if you’re looking for furniture to hold your plants, wooden pallets are a big trend right now. Wooden pallets can handle heavier items up to 3,000 pounds and you can find them for free at pet food stores, bars and craft beer locations, liquor stores, and furniture stores.

Keep in mind that you have plenty of time to decorate your house and that you shouldn’t expect it to be perfect in the first year. Your furniture might not be ideal and your living room might not look the way you dreamed of, but making a home you’re comfortable with and fond of takes time.

Make sure to do regular maintenance 

Now that you’re a homeowner, you’re your own maintenance team. That means it’s up to you to keep small problems from becoming major, expensive disasters. The good news is that keeping up with regular maintenance isn’t too difficult. You just need to make sure to take the time out of your schedule to do it.

Regular maintenance tasks around the house include clearing out your gutter system twice a year, checking your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors, checking your sump pump to make sure it’s draining properly, and more. 

Regular maintenance also ensures that you’re not spending more money than you need to. Debris builds up fast in your ductwork, which can lead to a loss of up to 42% efficiency. That means your HVAC system works harder and you pay higher energy bills with a smaller payoff.

It can be tempting to spend a lot of money making your home perfect right after you buy it. But by hitting the brakes and taking it slow with your spending, you can build up your budget again gradually while still making your first house feel like home.

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