Let's all contribute our money-saving decorating ideas. Of course what constitutes a budget is subjective! Also, everyone's tastes are different and even though there are no-hardfast rules, any rule in decorating is made to be broken!
Some ideas in no particular order - perhaps I'll organize our ideas eventually:
One of the cheapest ways for any space to look great is for it to be clutter-free, clean and organized. Many people find that hotel rooms look relaxing - why? it's organized and there isn't any junk laying around. That doesn't cost any money!
Often less is more, it's better to have a blank wall than to fill it with something less than desirable just for the sake of filling the blank space.
Be careful about knick-knacks - they need to be maintained - dusted and washed every so often. If you can't maintain them, get rid of them.
I bring these things up because in many homes that I've seen there is a lot of visual clutter and stuff laying around - papers, shoes, clothes thrown on furniture etc. Obviously this needs to be realistic for your lifestyle - I have young kids and a slob husband so my house is never completely tidy, but it makes a HUGE difference. You can spend a fortune on interior decorating but if your place always looks like a disaster, why bother? Also everyone tolerance to 'visual clutter' is at a different level.
If you have a very small budget pick a style where you don't need to spend as much. Some styles where you can get away with spending less are: modern, cottage, country, eccletic. Don't try to do Art Deco, Colonial etc.
Don't pay full price for furniture and home decor whenever possible. Most places have sales. Here in Michigan we have a store called Joann's where almost every week in the paper they have a 40% off coupon and it can be used for a single cut of any fabric! You can also buy fabric, blinds and wallpaper from internet sources such as American Blind & Wallpaper. I have saved a lot buying Levelor blinds through them. Be creative - don't pay full retail!
Don't be impulsive! Start with the basics and build from there. You can waste a lot of money buying things on impulse.
Buy the best mattress you can afford - your back is worth it!
Paint is cheap! Many things can be painted. If you have a bunch of mismatched furniture - pain it! A mix of wood and painted furniture can look nice especially in a cottage or country theme. Watch out - spray painting is harder than it looks IMO. I have painted A LOT of furniture and accessories in my life and this may be my #1 'decorating on a shoestring' tip. There are really cool paints that can give a textured effect - leather, stone, marble etc. I sprayed some plastic flower pots now they look like stone!
Learn to sew window treatments. If you must use ready-made, dress them up. I added a row of pompoms to some ready made Laura Ashley curtains in my daughters room - everyone thinks they were custom made. Cost about $5 (with my JoAnn's coupon!).
It maks a HUGE difference if you properly prepare the walls before painting - fill cracks, small holes etc. , mud, then sand. Use a proper primer, then paint. Tape off doors, floors and trim. It will look much more professional.
Houseplants are very nice - if you know how to take care of them. It's better to have none at all than sad looking brown ones. If that's the case, try silks or flower arrangements. Actually good looking silks are expensive
If your upholstered furniture doesn't match find a color that goes with all your mismatched pieces and buy accessories in that color. Then spread these accessories around the room - will help tie things together. For example - you have a sky blue sofa and a burgundy chair. Buy gold pillows and put a couple on the sofa and one on the chair. Buy a gold throw with a little red in it and put it on the blue sofa.
Find some handy friends to help you do projects!
That's it for tonight. I could write a book. Much of this might be super-obvious, is there anything in particular you want to know about?