Six No-Cost Projects When its DIY-or-the-Phone-Bill

I’ve been going a little crazy the last couple weeks with my list of projects (pictured below) that I want to work on around the apartment, yet I have no dinero!

project list

So what do you do when Verizon demands its payment, but you need some creativity in your life? Well, who doesn’t enjoy a challenge? Here are my top 6 totally free projects. And by “top” I mean recent. Please share those of yours that are actually tip-top! See if you can guess which one is (kind of) a joke.

1. Bring nature inside for above-the-head bed art

branch headboard

For this I literally walked around the neighborhood searching for branches. I had something entirely different in mind, but the thing about searching for fallen branches is its entirely different from being able to order exactly what you want from Target. What I ended up with I liked better than my original idea anyway.

How to:

1. Find branches you like.

2. Arrange them how you like on another surface.

3. Use a level to help you find their spot on the wall.

4. Drive in a single nail at the thickest place in the branch (where it won’t split too badly).

5. Stand back and say “Voila!” (Yes, out loud.)

2. Rearrange books and safari animals on the coffee table

Coffee Table

Coffee Table_Under glass

Coffee Table_Elephant

Coffee Table_Tiger

We got this coffee table JUST for the storage. There’s a layer for books and drawers underneath for the unsightlies. I added more books, and display my two friends – the golfing tiger and ballerina elephant I bought from a sweet 13-year-old girl at an arts and crafts market in San Antonio.


1. Get some books you already have. Or just keep the ones out that you have out all the time anyway.

2. Find creative very nice 13-year-old girl who makes awesome fancy toy animals and sells them at her mom’s art stand.

3. Put ’em all together.

3. Paint chip art

Paint chip art

I must admit that paint chip collecting has been a tick of mine, so to speak, every time I enter a home improvement store, even before I knew of all these paint chip art projects all over Pinterest these days. I had a bunch in one of my craft baskets, pulled them out, and just did whatever came to me. I’ve seen many beautiful projects online nowadays though. Here is one of my favorites.


1. Collect paint chips.

2. Cut into 2×2 pieces.

3. Arrange how you want on a surface.

4. Transfer them to the wall with some basic tacks.

Or just do your own thing with them. You can’t really go wrong with paint chips as long as you get colors that make you feel good.

4. Print out some bird friends


I made these birds about three years as inspired by an Anthropologie (their displays are better than their clothes!) display I had seen in college, and put my own spin on it. I already had them so they certainly were free, but if you have a printer, card stock, and optionally some pastels, then you’re in business!

I used to have these all on one string facing one direction so you would see a line of them as you walked through the door, but it never quite worked. So I flipped them out to face the other way and put them on my Christmas tree branches for a new look.

(crappy) BEFORE (picture):






1. Google “bird silhouettes” and pick out your favorites.

2. Put them randomly into a Word doc.

3. Print onto cardstock.

4. Cut them out on uniform pieces.

5. Optionally draw some random designs on some with pastels, watercolor, colored pencil, whatever you like.

6. Hang them with alligator clips onto fishing line.

5. Hang something you already have

heart and sign

I had this hanging quote sign from a rental house a couple years ago that the tenants before (also Teach for America alums) had left behind. It might be an upcoming project for a re-do itself.

“What would you do if you knew you could not fail?”

The heart thingamajig was a “gift” from a small boy in Granada, Nicaragua made out of folded banana tree leaves. Its just been sitting around until I spotted a place for it and just did it!

6. Give your SO a haircut

So clearly he was in need of a good cut. (I’m so sorry, Daniel.) And if you can’t gussy up your apartment itself, why not gussy up its residents?


The first time I cut Daniel’s hair I was 18 or so, and was so thrilled/shocked he agreed to let me do it, he spent something like 2 hours sitting on a stool in the kitchen while I worked on it, because I wasn’t about to screw it up!

These days I don’t take quite that long, but I’m still not very speedy. The question in this situation is … is this nice haircut due to my hunger for projects … or was it that same hunger that led to my neglecting his locks and letting him he end up in that Beatle-like state in the first place? Chicken … or egg?


If you can do this item #6 just before Valentine’s Day like I did, you can have the added benefit of a sharp-looking date as well. 🙂


How to:

1. Grab a comb, a glass of water, and a pair of sharp scissors. (I literally use our kitchen scissors because we are that by-the-seat-of-our pants, so really any pair will do.)

2. Say a prayer.

3. Get to work (and don’t let him see the concern on your face as you stop to examine your progress).


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