Art on a Budget

by Kay Lynn

budget art

By the looks of the walls in our home, you might think we just moved in.  We did….almost three years ago.  We wanted to upgrade our living room decor but haven’t been proactive about it.

One of the goals I set at the beginning of the year was to address the plain walls.  Repurposing ideas are great, but I’m not artistic. So, when hunting for artwork that won’t break our budget, I found several options.

Garage Sales

I bought the framed picture above for $10 at a garage sale last weekend. It is large enough to take care of the wall above our larger sofa.  I figure at that price it doesn’t have to be something I live with forever.

As a side note I use Yard Sale Treasure Map to plan the stops saving time and gas.

Swap Meet

Around here swap meets are popular and are like attending 100 garage sales at once.  You pay a small admission fee and walk around seeing what’s offered.

The prices can be higher than your neighbor’s garage sale but you get one stop shopping.  Ours is a combination swap meet/farmer’s market so it’s a good place to pick up locally grown fruit and vegetables.


I don’t mean Sotheby’s when listing auctions.  Auctions with good art buys are estate or storage business sales for example.

Everyone is going and usually there is no minimum bid.  Most buyers won’t be there for these items so little bidding competition (unless there is something of large value).

Local Art Institute

Your local art institute may be a good option for bargain-priced works.  No, you won’t find garage sale pricing but you can find original art at good prices.  Plus you’re supporting the local artist community.

The San Diego Art Institute has an event twice a year where you can buy pieces right off the wall for as low as $100.  Check out your local art institutions.


This site is an online marketplace of artists from all other the world selling their wares directly to the buyer.  By cutting out the middleman and overhead of a brick and mortar location the prices are often quite good.


To avoid shipping fees or gas to find your treasures Craigslist is the best option.  In my city many artists are selling signed, original works for as low as $25.

If you haven’t used Craigslist before be sure to read their information on scam and use common sense.


We’re happy to have one more blank wall taken care of that was light on the wallet.  Where have your found inexpensive art?

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Jeff @ sustainablelifeblog June 2, 2010 at 7:36 am

While I dont spend that much on things that I dont need to live (like food) or bills, art happens to be one of my downfalls. Usually when I’m on vacation I see one of the pictures of something in the area that I really like, and although the picture costs like $40 (which I find reasonable) it’s the framing that really gets me. I dont mind spending the money on pictures (or other art) when I have it. It’s something that I like to look at.
I have never checked etsy for anything, I’ll have to look into that, but most of the others are unfortunately not likely to produce fruitful results as I live in a smaller town.

Bucksome June 3, 2010 at 4:13 am

Jeff, I also think $40 is reasonable. What a great idea to do it on vacation and have a reminder year round. My mother lived in a small town (7,000 people) and most people there handle estate sales via auction.

Kevin June 2, 2010 at 11:50 am

Every couple of months there is some kind of festival downtown and there’s always someone selling cheap art. I really think I need to start hanging some art in my place, so I might buy some when the next festival happens.
.-= Kevin´s last blog ..The Best Thing you Can Do For Your Life =-.

Bucksome June 3, 2010 at 4:15 am

Kevin, festivals are a great idea. Since I live in touristy area we have artists downtown in the public area selling their work every weekend.

Mysti June 2, 2010 at 12:41 pm

Have you ever tried your hand at making your own? Canvas is pretty inexpensive, and you can paint, use paper, whatever…..and it is 100% original, and you know the artist personally!

My other cheap trick…..Calendars. Most calendars go on super sale just after New Years, and they have beautiful pictures. You can cut them out, mat and frame, and they look more expensive than they are. Another idea that I used in my bathroom… bags. The bags cost me about $2 in total, and look wonderful!
.-= Mysti´s last blog ..A Light Bulb Moment =-.

Bucksome June 3, 2010 at 4:17 am

Mysi, I never thought of making my own because I’m not very artistic in general. But I can frame pictures and gift bags! I really like the calendar idea because sometimes it kills me to throw them away at the end of the year if I’ve become attached to the pictures

Jackie June 2, 2010 at 9:46 pm

Hm, most of our art has either been a gift (so no cost to me, at least) or else kind of pricey. But then I am the type who can instantly pick out the most expensive piece in the room — just because it’s the one I like the best.

However, one good source for inexpensive art is to make it yourself. If you have a photo that turned out well, you can have it printed on canvas and it will look very artistic. Or you can make modern art by picking up a blank canvas at the local art store and splattering it on or putting it on in creative swaths.
.-= Jackie´s last blog ..Don’t Forget the Third Option =-.

Bucksome June 3, 2010 at 4:20 am

Jackie, the next two pieces I’m hanging were given as a gift and painted by a family member who is well known in our family for including a barn in every work. Living 1500 miles away from her and most of our family, it reminds me of home.

Len Penzo June 3, 2010 at 9:45 pm

The Honeybee and I have been lucky to find some really good art and deco wall hangings at the Orange County Fair. Great prices and some really cool stuff!

As an added bonus, it makes for a fun way to kill a Saturday.


Len Penzo dot Com
.-= Len Penzo´s last blog ..Drive-By Movie Review: A Simple Plan (A Movie on the Ethics of Found Money) =-.

Bucksome June 4, 2010 at 5:44 am

Len, I didn’t think about the fair. I haven’t been to the Orange County Fair and will have to check it out. It’s hard to beat the San Diego County Fair at Del Mar.

It’s another opportunity to eat just about anything deep-fried.

Squirrelers June 4, 2010 at 9:09 pm

I have found my most inexpensive art abroad, outside the U.S. Granted some of this was a long time ago, but I bought some things for a song, in China many years ago (ok – 22 years ago!) while on an academic trip with school. Quality work that I put up on walls, and that I gave to my folks who did the same. I remember paying about $0.75 U.S. for some items that look just like things I have seen in stores here for over $80. Yep – 100 times more expensive!

Not sure what kind of bargains may present themselves these days when traveling globally, but you could probably get some opportunistic deals if you happen to be elsewhere:)

Bucksome June 5, 2010 at 5:32 am

Squirrelers, items bought abroad would also have the benefit of reminding you of the places you’ve visited. The only concern I would have is in shipping costs and making sure it gets home undamaged.

Monroe on a Budget June 15, 2010 at 5:18 pm

Poke around your storage bins and boxes in the attic or basement. When we cleared out my grandmother’s stuff, we found many of her original drawings for theater costume class in the 1940s. I did pick some out from the collection although I haven’t framed them yet.

Bucksome June 15, 2010 at 7:57 pm

We don’t have many boxes stashed away but I’m sure my mom does. Thanks for the idea.

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