Want to do some home improvements but on a tight budget? These simple ideas won't break the bank, says Vicky Shaw.

Many of us have spent more time at home than ever before over the past few months - making us more aware of what we love about it, and what's less appealing.

This has spurred some people into action, tapping into a new-found passion for DIY.

According to Barclays Mortgages, over half (54%) of us have been using the extra time at home as an opportunity to tackle jobs that had previously been put off for months, or even years.

But, before you grab your paintbrush or drill, interiors expert Kate Watson-Smyth, who has teamed up with Barclays Mortgages, says there's no point starting projects you'll become fed up with and give up halfway through. "Instead, pick smaller jobs that will have bigger impact and you are certain to complete: painting a ceiling, redoing the woodwork, making some new cushion covers or blinds," she suggests.

Keeping things small and simple helps keep costs down too - and nobody wants to be making any expensive mistakes right now.

Curious? Here, Watson-Smyth shares eight tips for small and simple DIY projects on a budget...

1. Paint that cheap table you bought

Many of the best DIY tips involve paint, as it's an affordable way to make a difference. If you have a table that you bought a while ago at a junk shop or car boot sale, now's the time to create something bespoke and individual with a tin of chalk paint. Or you could simply paint the legs of your kitchen table.

2. Re-make blinds using the old parts

Window dressings are often expensive, as so many of us have windows that aren't standard sizes. If you have a blind that you no longer like, or that doesn't go with the decor, try taking it apart and re-using the mechanisms so that all you have to do is re-make the material part.

3. Make cushion covers with remnants

You can also have the back and front in different fabric, so it's as if you have twice as many cushions. If you don't have a fabric remnant that is large enough, try sewing a few together to create a colour block or patchwork effect. If you aren't confident sewing a zip, make an envelope cover like a pillowcase, or use a couple of large buttons. Again, you can buttonhole by hand if you don't have the right attachment on your sewing machine.

4. Recover a simple drum lampshade

You can buy lampshade kits but if you have a simple drum shade that, again, you would like to refresh, then you can simply glue some different material over the top and attach with pegs while it dries. Bear in mind it might not give out as much light as before, so choose a light fabric. But it will still give direct light from the top and bottom, rather than a gentle ambient and diffused glow.

5. Paint those tiles you always hated or redo the splashback

Tiles can be expensive and messy to replace and you will probably need a skilled tradesperson to help you. But you can paint tiles yourself using simple bowls or a ruler to create a new pattern. You may need at least two coats and allow them to dry fully. To protect the tiles afterwards, add a layer of lacquer.

6. Create a gallery wall by printing photos from your phone

How many of us have phones crammed with photos? Print a few and create a gallery wall. A staircase is a great place to start, as you don't have to worry about straight lines. You could either match all the frames and have different sizes, or choose a variety of colours. Try laying them out on the floor first to get a feel for the overall look.

7. Change your cupboard handles

Refreshing handles is an effective way to update kitchen cupboards or drawers. The easy way is to choose handles that are the same size as the existing ones. If you want something different, be prepared to fill the old holes, sand them down, and paint over before drilling new holes.

8. Paint the edges of the doors to create interest

You don't have to pay for lots of tins of paint to give a room a new look. Painting the edges of doors can add interest. Carefully tape the edges of the door on both sides and paint the edge in a bold colour, so that you only see it when the door is open. Match the colour of the room the door opens into - or try adding a bright totally contrasting shade for fun.


With many stores having been shut for long periods during lockdown, some have been shifting stock by ramping up discount deals for shoppers online.

Hotukdeals.com has found there were 16% more live deals on the platform in May, compared to May 2019.

Fashion was among the categories with some of the biggest increases in deals (39%), as workout gear, comfy clothing and summer wardrobes saw a surge in demand.

Gaming also saw a 18% increase in the number of deals posted compared to the same time last year, as people looked for ways to keep entertained at home.

There's generally been a 94% increase in culture and leisure deals to inform and educate the family, including movie offers, online courses, homeschooling resources and live streamed events. Electronics deals increased by 15%, while grocery offers saw a 12% uplift.

Deals for non-essential items, including wine and ice cream increased by 40% in May, compared with April, and 'bike' entered the top five most popular searches on the website, as people steered clear of public transport and looked for new ways of keeping active.

Dan Plant, a consumer savings expert at hotukdeals, says: "With some great discounts still to be found on items such as clothing and electronics, shoppers can find deals online as stores are pushing stock through their websites."

Not everything online is a bargain however, as there have been some recent reports of 'price gouging', as sellers take advantage of demand for items that have been hard to get under lockdown.

Trading Standards have warned consumers to be on their guard for 'pandemic profiteers'. Consumer group Which? has a price gouging reporting tool where consumers can report inflated prices at www.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/advice/price-gouging.


Financial fact: Average savings rates for easy access, fixed bonds and Isas have fallen to their lowest levels since records started in 2007, according to analysis from financial information website Moneyfacts.co.uk carried out in June.

It found that the average easy access account rate on the market in June was just 0.3% - around half of the typical 0.59% rate in January.


American Express' new 'shop small' summer offer for card holders means customers will receive a £5 statement credit when they spend £10 or more in-store at any participating small business.

The offer, running from June 22 to September 13, is valid for use up to 10 times, once per card and per participating location, up to a total of £50 in statement credits.

Participating small businesses can be found at www.americanexpress.co.uk/shopsmall. Terms and conditions apply.


People who have experienced mental health problems are three times more likely to run out of money within a week if they lost their main source of income, research by the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute suggests.

They also found that people who have experienced mental health problems have a typical household income £5,700 lower than the general population.

The institute, which was set up by consumer champion Martin Lewis, commissioned a survey in May of more than 2,000 people, of which around a third (32%) said they had experienced mental health problems.


Around three in 10 (29%) parents - including many who are working from home themselves - have used money as 'motivation' for their children to apply themselves to tasks set by their school during lockdown, according to a survey by Halifax.

Nearly two-thirds (61%) have handed over cash to keep their offspring quiet while they worked from home, and more than half (53%) paid youngsters to complete their schoolwork.