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I have friends with all kinds of means. Some have expansive homes in the suburbs, a dog and a kid. Others live in efficiency studios holding out for their next apartment. I have friends in high places. I have friends in low places. (This is beginning to sound like a bad song). Point is, everyone wants a comfortable living space without the huge budget. Some of my most well-off friends are, sorry to say, the cheapest of them all. Some of us simply have to save money where we can because we truly can’t afford to spend more. For those who want to decorate and design a living space on a budget, there are a multitude of Chicago-area staples to check out (besides IKEA). Here are some options that will let you have some true individuality. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen the same IKEA poster on a wall. You can express yourself on a budget. Here is how:

DIY: Do-It-Yourself projects are expansively cataloged on the Internet. If you have extra time to make building a cheap desk a weekend hobby, you should. You save time and you can truly feel like you have an original project with your name stamped on it. You can also spruce up old garage sale finds or already-owned pieces with a fresh coat of paint or some stencil designs from Michael’s arts & crafts store for under $10!

Craigslist: It’s not just the place to find a cheap hook-up on a lonely night anymore. In all seriousness, CL is the place to get deals and steals and freebies. I have a vintage trunk that I got for free from someone who was moving and didn’t want to lug it to Boston. Plenty of people who don’t want to spend money on movers have fabulous tables, chairs and household items. Don’t think it’s simply a creepy hangout for people with no friends. Plenty of legit purchases can be found here.

RPN Sales: This place has both a store and an auction. Check out their website for future auction dates (April 7th is the next one). You can find everything from the kitchen basics to interesting art treasures. Whether it’s an ottoman, a one-of-a-kind stained-glass piece or something as everyday as a coffee table book, you’ll be able to find it here. 4451 N. Milwaukee, Chicago, IL

Lincoln Antique Mall: Well-organized with a veritably friendly and helpful staff, this gem has everything for any type of space, from a grand living room to a tiny kitchenette. Whether you want a vintage magazine to frame for a wall or a giant mirror to make a small space seem enormous, you can find it here. This is where the Chicago set designers come to purchase items for Chicago-based TV and film. If you have eclectic taste or lean towards traditional, you won’t have a problem creating a new space with items from this Old Irving/Albany Park spot. 3115 W. Irving Park, Chciago, IL

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