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Saving Money with Color

By Nikki Willhite

How important is color in our lives? How does it influence our budget? The answer is a lot!

Do you think about color when you walk in the grocery store? You should! Millions of dollars have been spent on choosing the colors of the packaging of items so that you will buy them. Whether you know it or not, you are going to be influenced by it.

People often pass on buying an otherwise good house because they don't like the color of the carpet. Clothes are discarded or not worn because of their color. Furniture may be replaced because of color; or it may begin to offend your sense of good taste and the feelings you have about you home.

So, thinking about the importance color has in our lives, how do we use it to our advantage as we try and save money?

The answer is simple. Neutrals! You must come to understand and use neutrals. Everyone can find a neutral color that they like, whether it's for home decorating or clothing. It is simple to like a color like red, but it takes a lot more sophistication and work to develop your color sense about neutrals.

There are dozens of shades of beige. Some have a warm, yellowish cast, while others are on the cool side. Some are dark, some are light. Beige has all kinds of names, like taupe and fawn. Another neutral, white, has many, many variations. White can be very white, creamy, eggshell, grayed, and many other variations.

Home decorating neutrals are light, while neutral clothing colors can be dark like navy blue or black. If you don't have any training in color, go to the hardware store and pick up some paint swatches. A little training will go a long way to help you avoid costly mistakes.

Here are some basic guidelines about color in a few different areas of our lives:

Grocery Shopping

Look for value, and ignore the colorful presentations on the products. Most of the value products tend to be lower on the shelves, so keep your eyes down. The most inexpensive cereal is in packages in a plain wax bag.

Bear in mind that your children are going to be affected by color. If your children get their own cereal, you may want to purchase one of those bright boxes, and then fill it with the generic cereal. (We did that for a long time before they caught on to us!).


Buy your basics in neutral colors. Have one for winter, and one for warmer weather. Put stronger colors in less expensive seasonal items that will be replaced more often.

My basic neutral for the colder months is black. I can't wear it near my face because it overpowers me, but it is the color of my skirts and slacks. There isn't anything in my closet that I can't wear with these pieces.

In the warmer months my neutral is beige. The same holds true. Everything goes together.

Home Decor

Keep carpets, drapes, and major pieces of furniture in light, neutral colors. Use colorful accessories that add punch to these pieces. The contrast will be exciting.

If your walls are white, know which shade of white they are! If you looked at the walls in my house, you would say they are all white. Actually, they are very cream colored. I have some white laminated bookcases that I purchased before I moved here, and they are so white they look awful against the walls. If I were to put up wallpaper, it would need to have a cream background. The same is true for the background color in major upholstery fabrics.

Another example of using neutrals is with your bedding. If you replace the comforter on your bed often, you will want to have a neutral color or lace bed ruffle that can be used with every change in bedspread or comforter.

Also remember that no color stands alone. Beige with red is exciting. Beige with a pastel is soothing. When your big pieces are in neutrals, you can change the mood of your room by just changing the pillows, throws, and other accessories.

There are some colors that wear well over the years. If you are sure of your taste, you will probably be safe. For instance, a red sofa is a classic. It can work in many environments, and the look can be changed with pillows and throws.

However you may have a harder time dealing with a rust sofa through the years. It is not a classic color, and when it goes out of style, you may start to dislike it.

Remember those wing chairs I talked about last week? They are beige. Good decision, but now I'm stuck with them.


Painting your home is a major expense. It is also a lot of work. It's not much fun to spend a week doing it, only to realize the color is wrong! Unfortunately, in spite of my best efforts, I made a mistake. I brought home a sample of the paint and tried it out. I was aware that a small sample would not be as strong as the whole house.

Where I made my mistake was not taking into account the neighborhood. Most of the houses in my neighborhood are anemic. There is very little tint to any of them. The grays look beige, and visa-versa. My houses came out too yellow. The house itself looks great, but it sticks out in the neighborhood. It is actually a source of embarrassment to me. Time and the sun have faded it somewhat, but it still bothers me.


Red cars are bigger targets for theft. However, they are easier to sell, and bring a higher price.


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