These cheap home upgrades look so good, you'll wish you knew about them sooner

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by Christina X. Wood
Originally Published: 

When your kitchen hasn’t been updated since before you were born, the bathroom is as stylish as your outfits from middle-school, and your budget is responding with a hard no to everything you want to do about it, you need to think outside the box. You can’t do a complete remodel. Tearing out the ugly is not in the cards. But I’ll bet you can still do some strategic upgrading. Sometimes the careful, clever, and surgical updates are the best of all because, instead of lamenting your tight budget, you can brag on your cleverness and skill at making massive aesthetic changes without spending much money. These cheap home upgrades look so good, you'll wish you knew about them sooner.

In the kitchen, for example, do you really need new cabinets? If there’s nothing wrong with them except the way they look, you can probably get away with a cosmetic change and save yourself a lot of money. In fact, often just switching out the cabinet pulls is enough to change the look and feel of the room and costs nearly nothing. The same is true of a backsplash, which can make an enormous visual difference and can be updated in an hour for less than the cost of a night on the town. There are so many ways to approach this task, and many of them are ultra affordable. Read on for more ideas.

1. These peel-and-stick tiles for a fast, easy, affordable backsplash

Adding a backsplash to your kitchen is a huge improvement that not only brings a beautiful design element but also makes high-use areas easier to clean. With these easy-to-install peel-and-stick vinyl tiles in 12-inch square pieces, it’s so easy you can do it on a Sunday morning after brunch. “I was a bit apprehensive,” said one reviewer. “But these are fantastic. They're easy to cut and install. In about three hours I installed 37 square feet of backsplash. It looks amazing and I expect it to last quite a while.”

2. A pair of pillowcases to bring a pop of color to the bedroom

Turn the bedroom into a calm and comely place of rest simply by unifying your color scheme with these deliciously soft and easy-to-afford microfiber pillowcases. The thin threads of microfiber make for a very soft and breathable texture. The internal flap keeps your pillow from sliding out. And the color options let you design a look that works for your space.

3. These stick-on hexagonal mirror tiles that create chic wall art

These 32 pieces of hexagonal mirrored tile can be arranged however you like to create an art element or surface for furniture. Just peel off the backing and stick them where you want them. Each tile is about 10-by-8 inches. “I used these to add a cool design to our kitchen island,” said one reviewer. “They look fantastic. I get tons of compliments and nobody can believe the entire job only cost me $16!”

4. This 10-pack of wooden hangers for an elegant, orderly closet

Hanging your clothes from quality wooden hangers that don’t drop your clothes on the ground or irritate you with their flimsiness is more affordable than you imagine. These 10 wooden hangers — in six color options — have a quality metal hook that rotates 360 degrees. The hanger is notched to keep garments from sliding off and they look so expensive.

5. A 10-pack of cabinet knobs for an instant update

It only takes a few minutes to exchange the cheap or ugly cabinet knobs in your kitchen for these brushed brass knobs. But the impact is huge. Not only do they change the look of the entire room and modernize the cabinets, but they’re also a touchpoint in the kitchen so they change the whole feel of it. Choose from 13 styles to fit your aesthetic and your cabinets.

6. This complete socket organizer kit for a tidy toolbox

When knee-deep in a project, it’s not the time to dig around in a cluttered toolbox for the right size socket. These socket organizers make it easy to store sockets in order by size so you can easily grab the one you need when you need it. There are six color-coordinated and clearly labeled socket trays that fit a wide range of sizes. They fit into your toolbox, on a workbench, or can be hung from the wall.

7. A stylish switch cover to level-up the look of your space

All it takes to transform the look of your room is two minutes with this antique, brass-style switch plate and a screwdriver. It might be the easiest upgrade ever and is simple to reverse when you move out. This brass paisley gives a classic vibe to your place, or you can choose the satin pewter if that fits your design scheme. There are matching outlet covers and plates for multiple switches as well.

8. These strip lights for improved home lighting

Peel and stick these LED strip lights under your bar, on the back of the TV, behind the furniture, or in shelving units to create stunning lighting anywhere in your home. You can cut this 10-foot strip — with 360 LEDs — to fit any situation. The lights are bright, 530 lumens per foot, and you can choose warm white, neutral white, and cool white.

9. This flexible trim molding that’s simple to install

If the wall paint doesn’t meet the ceiling as well as you might like, use this slightly ornate molding to solve those issues while bringing some elegance to your room. Just cut it to length and peel off the backing and you can stick it to any non-porous surface. It’s a clever way to create frames around posters or mirrors, too. It comes with white, silver, and gold accents.

10. This industrial-look light fixture for a subtler chandelier

This industrial-look light fixture has a low profile on your ceiling so you don’t have to worry about clearance, but it brings chandelier-style lighting to the room. It’s super versatile and could be used in a small bathroom, grouped in a line in a hallway, or in the kitchen. “Easy to install,” said one reviewer. “I was a little nervous about the wiring but I twisted the black wires together and the white wires together and it worked. Comes with all the hardware and mounting plate.”

11. These flameless candles for quick & safe mood lighting

Blanket your home with a candlelit glow — without the hassle of lighting them, or the fire hazard of untended flames — with this collection of nine flameless candles in a variety of sizes. Instead of lighting them and blowing them out, just push a button on one of the two included remotes to turn them all on or off at once.

12. These interlocking tiles that create a patio anywhere

Snap together these interlocking Acacia deck tiles to create gorgeous flooring on your porch, patio, deck, or wherever you like. This is a 10-pack of tiles that are each 1-foot square. They are weather-resistant and slightly elevated so that water runs through and under them, but they’re thin enough for your patio door to open. There are nine finish options.

13. These lights that turn any mirror into a vanity

Stick these bright, white vanity lights to any mirror and transform it into the perfect lighting for doing hair or makeup without shadows or guessing. Each bulb is two inches in diameter, throws a bright white light, and connects to the others so that you daisy-chain them around the mirror and plug in the last one. They are dimmable and cling to the glass with a stable, sticky backing.

14. A lighted cherry tree that emits an ethereal glow

Set this beautiful, lighted cherry tree in a corner of your living room or on the porch to create a decorative lighting element. Each cherry blossom has an LED light in it — there are 208 LEDs altogether — and it stands over six feet tall. The branches are bendable so you can create the tree you want, and it plugs in for continuous lighting.

15. A tiered bamboo shoe rack that makes a solid entry bench

Set this 3-tiered bamboo shoe rack in your entryway so everyone has a place to leave their shoes, sit down to tie them, and drop a bag or sundry as they walk in the door. It assembles easily, comes in black, brown, and natural bamboo, and got over 9,000 five-star reviews.

16. These covers that protect patio furniture from the weather

Tired of sitting on wet cushions every time it rains? These waterproof, weatherproof outdoor chair covers will put an end to that while protecting chairs from the damage of sun, wind, and rain. They are easy to throw over the furniture before the weather hits, cinch tight — with a drawstring and snap buckle — so the wind won’t pull them off, have air vents to prevent mold, and remove easily with the built-in handles.

17. An adjustable bamboo coat rack for people of any height

This simple bamboo coat rack is not only a slender solution to the dilemma of where to hang coats and bags, it’s a solution for kids and adults alike because the height is adjustable from 3-feet to over 5-feet tall. Reviewers report that it is easy to assemble in a few minutes, looks terrific and minimal, and takes up very little space.

18. This modern pendant light with a vintage vibe

This three-light pendant light has vintage flair with thoroughly modern lines, and creates terrific lighting for a dining area, reading nook, or kitchen island with very little cost or trouble. Each of the cord lengths is adjustable so you can set it to your own preference, and the sockets are standard so you can use the bulbs you have on hand or ramp up the vintage look with Edison bulbs. It comes with everything needed for installation.

19. This shower head that’s simply luxurious

When it comes to $30 home upgrades, there is unlikely to be one that beats this shower head for pure pleasure. It turns your shower — however weak or otherwise unsatisfying — into a full body spa treatment. By forcing the water through small, silicone jet heads (lots of them) it amps up the water pressure while dousing you with a deluge of rain. Getting into the shower will be a highlight of your day. Getting out may be a challenge. It comes in six finishes.

20. These salt & pepper shakers for chic seasonings at the table

These pretty salt and pepper shakers are also high functioning. You can dial up exactly the pour setting you want so that they deliver the quantity you’re hoping for right to your plate or dish. They also close completely to keep the spices fresh. Fill them with the ground salt and pepper you like best — they each hold 1/2 cup — and upgrade your table setting.

21. This faucet that will transform everything you do at the sink

Sure, this kitchen faucet is minimalist and easy on the eyes. But it’s the functions that will make you love it. The pull out handle extends so you can reach the counter to fill a pan or the edge of the sink to clean it. At the press of a button, the water shifts from stream to spray to pause. The faucet head swivels 360 degrees and dialing up water volume is precise. Nearly 30,000 people rated this 4.8 stars.

22. This waterproof mattress protector that breathes & doesn’t crinkle

If you’ve slept on a waterproof mattress protector that ruined everything soft about the bed with its plastic feel, you’ll be happy to know that this bamboo mattress protector is not like that. It’s soft, breathable, and silent. But it will keep everything from body fluids to bed bugs from getting into your mattress. It comes in six sizes and gets almost 3,500 five-star reviews.

23. This neat little fridge to keep things cool at home or on-the-go

Whether you need a spot to keep skin care or medications cold and within easy reach, or you’re looking for a lunch fridge for your desk or even car, this clever mini fridge is here for you. It can hold six soda cans, has a removable shelf, and plugs into a standard outlet or your car’s lighter. But it’s not just a fridge. It will also warm foods up to 150 degrees — just flip the switch to warm. A handle on the top makes it easy to take with you, and it comes in five colors.

24. These shower curtain hooks that hang a liner & a curtain

If you want to hang both a shower curtain liner and a decorative shower curtain with ease, you need these two-sided shower curtain hooks that have beads to make them glide on the curtain rod. They make it easy to hang and take down each curtain separately and create the right drape. They come in six finishes.

25. This handheld bidet sprayer for easy cleanups

Install this handheld bidet sprayer so that it taps the supply line to your toilet and lets you clean yourself, the kids, the pet, or the toilet with very little effort. The spray adjusts from gentle to jet, and the spray handle can be mounted to the side of the toilet tank or to a wall nearby. “I adjusted the flow just right and now I'm clean as a whistle!” said one reviewer. “Great for spraying down the tub or anything being cleaned in the tub. Highly recommend!”

26. This clever trap that gets rid of fruit flies & soil gnats

When you’ve fought the good fight against fruit flies or soil gnats with other methods, bring in the big guns. The Katchy insect trap uses a clever system to lure and trap those flying pests. First the UV light draws the bugs near and, when they get close enough, a fan pulls them into the trap’s vortex. Once inside, a sticky glue board snares them. All you do is change out the sticky board occasionally until their population is decimated.

27. A simple shaving mirror that won’t fog up

Shaving in the shower is easier on your beard and skin, but the challenge is seeing what you’re doing. This shaving mirror makes it much simpler. All you do is hold it under the shower for a few seconds to equalize it’s temperature to that of the shower environment and it won’t fog up. Now you can see to shave. It comes with a stick-on hook that holds securely to most shower surfaces.

28. These stylish wall hooks for your robe, towels, coats, & bags

This 4-pack of stainless steel minimalist wall hooks gives you a place to hang a coat or bag in the entryway, to stash towels and robes in the bathroom, or keep a hand towel in the kitchen. They’re simple to install and come in three finishes. “These hooks are exactly the little touch I was looking for to finish off our bathroom remodel,” said one reviewer. “They were very easy to install and are quite sturdy.”

29. A complete herb garden for your windowsill

This herb garden kit has everything you need to install an herb garden on a window sill. There are seeds for cilantro, mint, basil, parsley, and chives, as well as five bamboo pots with drip trays, soil pucks, plant food, plant markers, and detailed instructions on how to plant and care for your herbs.

30. A set of chalkboard labels for all your kitchen goods

Label everything in the kitchen clearly with these peel-and-stick labels made from a nice, thick vinyl that pairs charmingly with the included liquid chalk markers. You can erase the labels and reuse the container for something else with a quick scrub of the label but, when in use, your writing won’t wipe off and blur. This is 132 labels and three markers.

31. These swing-top bottles for your brews & infusions

Whether you’re brewing beer or kombucha or just looking for a beautiful, vintage-approved place to store fruit and water infusions, these swing top bottles are perfect. The lids clamp down firmly and the gaskets make sure they seal tight, while the glass is clear and easy to clean. This 4-pack includes 12 labels, a pen, and four extra gaskets.

32. This straining container that makes bacon grease an elegant affair

If you love bacon, and love cooking with the delectable grease, this clever bacon grease container just made the whole thing simpler. A fine mesh strainer sieves out any bits when you pour the leavings in, so all you’re left with is that pure liquid gold. It’s made of heat-resistant stainless steel, and pops right in the dishwasher when it’s time for cleanup.

33. A kit that teaches you to make your own fancy cheeses

This cheese-making kit comes with everything you need to start creating delicious burrata, goat, mascarpone, and mozzarella cheeses in your own kitchen. It includes the cheese salt, citric acid, cheesecloth, and rennet, as well as step-by-step directions so that all you have to add is milk and you’ll be eating high-end, homemade fine cheeses in just a few hours.

34. The honey dispenser that eliminates the mess & hassle

This clever honey dispenser fixes everything about using the sticky stuff as a sweetener. It dispenses honey from the bottom of the hive-shaped canister using a stopper you control in the handle, so there’s no waiting for the goodness. Gravity is working with you. Set it in the stand and catch basin to eliminate spills altogether, and so it looks nice on the table.

35. These silicone-reinforced potholders that double as trivets

The divided pocket in this pair of potholders makes it easy for you to slide a hand in and get a grip on pan handles, lids, and other hot items in your kitchen. And the silicone, patterned palm gives you a non-slip grip. Lie one flat, though, when you want to set down a hot pot without burning the counters. There are five color options and they look great hanging from a hook.

36. This set of 3 handy bamboo cutting boards

Trick out your kitchen with plenty of places to chop ingredients by equipping it with this set of three bamboo boards in different sizes. The large- and medium-sized boards both have a cut-away handle for carrying or hanging, while the small one is ideal for cutting a piece of fruit or for the bar. They’re reversible so you can make use of both sides, and come in handy for presenting party charcuterie.

37. An adjustable footrest for a more comfortable work day

If your legs get numb or your lower back hurts after working at your desk, try putting this comfy, memory foam footrest under your feet to elevate your legs. This takes the pressure off both your back and legs to help improve posture and circulation. You can adjust the height by adding or removing the two-inch supplementary cushion or flip it over to incorporate some movement into your day with a rocking motion.

38. A stainless steel citrus squeezer for quick & easy juice

Want some orange juice, a fresh margarita, or just a squeeze of lemon on your salad? Pop the citrus into the bowl of this citrus squeezer and bring the two sides of the handle together to squeeze your juice right into the glass or bowl. It filters out the seeds, goes right into the dishwasher for cleanup, and has a hanging loop so you can keep it within reach.

39. This rounded chopper blade for fast, fresh salad

This double-bladed salad chopper makes creating fresh chopped salad easy and fast. Just drop all your ingredients — lettuce, vegetables, cheese, protein — onto the board and chop it all up with these two easy to hold, curved blades. In seconds, you will have a tasty chopped salad that’s ready to dress and eat.

40. This complete set of 11 silicone-coated cooking tools

Quickly ramp up the capabilities of your kitchen by stocking it with this complete set of cooking utensils that has everything you’ll need, all of it covered in heat-resistant silicone. It includes three kinds of turners, a flexible spatula, tongs, a skimmer, a slotted spoon, a solid spoon, pasta spoon, ladle, and a whisk. The strong stainless steel base makes them durable and the silicone coating won’t hurt pans.

41. A complete set of cheese knives for impressive charcuterie

When you set all the cheeses, meats, spreads, and snacks on the table for your next party, provide the tools to help people serve themselves. Everything needed is in this cheese knife set. There are knives for hard cheeses and soft ones. There is a spreader, a couple of stabbers for picking things up, and a plane for scooping smaller items onto a plate. They’re all sharp, sturdy, high-carbon stainless steel with a black ergonomic handle and come in a handy storage box.

42. This under-desk bike that turns sedentary time active

Instead of being inactive all day at your desk, set this little exercise bike under your desk and do a bit of spinning while you work. You can adjust the resistance, and an LED readout tells you how far you’ve gone and how long you’ve been spinning.

43. This putter cup that turns the home office into a practice green

Instead of suffering the ill effects of too much sitting, stand up and putt while you talk on the phone (or procrastinate). This golf putter cup automatically returns the ball to you so you can keep putting without constant ball retrieval. All you need is this cup, a flat surface, a putter, and some batteries to add putting practice to your day.

44. The poster that helps you design your ideal workout

Got the home-gym equipment but aren’t sure what to do with it? These laminated fitness posters tell you precisely what to do to work your muscles so you can develop a home workout that targets the areas you want, or create a complete workout with your equipment. There are posters for everything from suspension straps to dumbbells, to kettlebell and balance balls. Pair a strength poster with a stretching one and complete your home gym with the requisite know how.

45. These homemade ice cream storage containers that fit neatly in the freezer

If you love to make homemade ice cream, these ice cream containers will make you love it more. The shape and size of them makes it easy to store and stack your creations in the freezer, and the long oval interior makes scooping with an ice-cream scoop surprisingly easy. They are insulated, too, to keep your ice cream stable and prevent freezer burn. They come in five colors.

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