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PRIORITIZE BEFORE YOU REDECORATE

What's the dirtiest word in decorating? That's right: budget. Whether you have just a few hundred dollars for a room makeover or tens of thousands, you'll need to plan carefully and make tough choices. With that in mind, Leah Hennen from HGTV.com has some ideas.

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.Determine your actual budget:Take a look at your monthly inflows and outflows, as well as any funds you've set aside for rainy-day projects.

. Familiarize yourself with price tags:Before you draft an itemized budget, hit the stores, catalogs and Internet to research how much the items on your wish list will cost.

. Prioritize your purchases and labor: Start itemizing with your decorating wish list, real costs and your total budget in front of you.

. Draft your decorating plan: Put your design blueprint on paper. List the work to be done, the items to be purchased and other practical projects, as well as the amount you plan to spend on each.

. Invest in important room features:Consider big splurges for the things that you'll use every day, are hard to change, will hold their value over time or will add value to your home.

. Scrimp on the cosmetic changes:Once you've earmarked the bulk of your budget for the big items, divvy up what's left for the extras: linens and other textiles, lighting and decorative accessories.

.Phase it in:You may not be able to do everything right away, but you can spread out the expense by making a long-range plan and implementing your design in phases.

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