For every client I have that has an extremely generous budget and is ready to make every purchase for their home, I have a dozen (two dozen?) that are ready to make significant changes but need to prioritize their purchases. Most people are not billionaires, and have some kind of budget in mind for their home decor. I am the same way in my own home, so I get it.
It is worth noting that even if you don't have the capacity to make every purchase at once, I still strongly recommend having a plan in place for the room in question. A decorator can help with this. Saying "we need a vintage dresser on that wall, about 40 inches wide and in a natural wood" can help shape the rest of the room even when you aren't even planning to source that piece for another 3-6 months. And in the meantime, you can make the purchases that you've prioritized as more important.
But how do you know what items or decor elements are the most important? I'm facing this dilemma now, trying to make the smartest purchasing decisions on a budget that doesn't accomplish my entire apartment wish-list. I've identified a few factors that help me decide for clients and for myself.
1. Does the function have an immediate impact on my happiness? If adding this item fulfills a "functional need" then it moves up the list. Things like a desk for a computer you use daily, a mattress, a dresser, a sofa, a dining table, a storage piece, etc fit into this category. For me an item like a headboard, though fulfilling an "aesthetic need", is not essential to my day-to-day living.
2. Is this a once-in-a-lifetime item that I won't be able to get later? Reserved for amazing vintage or antique purchases and seasonal items.
3. Is the price too good to pass up? At the moment, I have a little decor budget set aside, but since none of the items are "functional needs," I'm able to wait for a great sale to come along on the products on my list. When the price is right, I'll be ready to pounce (the key is to be prepared, sign up for email coupons if possible, and check the price regularly). Though I may want an end table a little more than an entry mirror, if the mirror drops to an amazing price, I will prioritize it over the full-price end table.
4. Is it "low-hanging fruit" as my husband says? I think of them as "immediate gratification purchases" ; usually they are lower priced items like accessories. If it will help your decor-psyche to make some of the smaller purchases then go ahead and scoop them up - just don't get sucked into too many impulse buys. Make sure these items are in your plan.
5. What's the best bang-for-my-buck? For the same amount of money, I could buy one headboard OR buy a console table, lamp, and mirror. If all of the other factors have come up equal up to this point, I go for the multiple purchases first, and start saving up again for the headboard.
Do you have any tricks for how you decide when to make home purchases? Would love to hear them!