Your home could be so much better with any of these 40 cheap, clever things

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ByRachel Bar-Gadda and Lisa Fogarty
Originally Published: 

Home improvement projects can cost an arm and a leg, so it’s no surprise if your impulse is to stick your head in the sand any time you think of upgrades. But you don't have to sell everything you own to take your kitchen from blah to beautiful — sometimes small changes can make the most dramatic impact. No matter which room you’re looking to jazz up, your home could be so much better with any of these 40 cheap, clever things.

The key to creating a more functional, aesthetic space on a budget is to think small. Smart upgrades like glass food storage containers and a lid storage rack bring organization and beauty to a kitchen, while swaps like replacing your current doorbell with a wireless one or snagging sturdy wooden hangers and tossing out your plastic ones instantly make your home feel more luxurious.

If you want to bring harmony to your home while keeping your finances under control, check out these genius products that will improve the look and feel of every room.


This mineral oil that will maintain your butcher block for years

For the budget-friendly price of $14, you can help to maintain your (much more expensive) butcher block for years and years to come using this mineral oil. It’s food-grade and food-safe as well as totally colorless, tasteless, and odorless. Use a rag to rub it onto your cutting board to keep the wood conditioned and help prevent drying or cracking.


This microwave plate cover that prevents messy splatter

You’ll never again dread cleaning your microwave of crusted splatter from last night’s pizza reheat. This microwave plate cover sits right on top of your pizza, soup, or pasta, for example, and prevents splatter. It features small vents on the top to evenly heat food and is made of BPA-free, food-safe, and heat-resistant plastic and silicone. The dishwasher-safe cover collapses down flat when not in use for easy storage.


These air purifying bags made with activated charcoal

These air purifying bags are perfect for combatting stale, strange odors in closets, bedrooms, basements, or even your fridge. They contain all-natural activated charcoal that absorbs odor and moisture. Reinvigorate them and keep them lasting for up to two years by placing them in the sun for an hour once a month.


This digital meat thermometer that takes temperatures in 3 seconds

For less than $20 you can be assured of perfectly cooked meat on the regular. This digital meat thermometer can take a temperature in as fast as three seconds and is easy to read with an ample-sized LED screen. It’s fully waterproof and can also be used with frying oil, making candy, or even baking bread. As a bonus, it features a built-in magnet so you can easily access it on the fridge door.


This door mat that comes in tons of adorable designs

Make the best first impression by having one of these clever coconut coir door mats greet people on their way into your home. They will surely not forget a charming cactus scene, a salutary french bicyclette, or a chic geometric design — among many other options. The coconut coir is a completely natural material that offers incredible sturdiness and the ability to trap dirt, mud, and even moisture. Your home will remain free of debris and all at a $30 price tag.


An indoor insect trap that uses UV light

If fruit flies, gnats, moths, or mosquitoes are making life at home less than comfortable, you need this affordable indoor insect trap that lures bugs using UV light. Once they’ve been attracted, a fan helps to suck them inside where they get trapped on an easily replaceable sticky glue board. With this device, you won’t hear the sounds of an electric zapper or put up with the stink of smelly bait. Just set it wherever you need it and let it go to work quietly and efficiently.


A set of Swedish dishcloths that are reusable up to 100 times

Keep a cleaner home, be good to the environment, and save loads of money on disposable paper towels with these ingenious Swedish dishcloths, each of which can be reused up to 100 times. They are made of biodegradable cellulose and cotton that becomes soft when moistened but acts as a perfect scrubber when dry. They come in a pack of 10 and you can choose from nine cheerful colors.


This wireless doorbell kit that works long-range

Upgrade your daily home life with this wireless doorbell kit that functions within a range of 1,000 feet but won’t break the bank at $32. The kit comes with one wireless remote transmitter and two plug-in smart receivers that allow you to select from over 50 possible chimes. Whether you have a large property and want to know before anyone arrives at your actual door or you just want to know when there’s a package at the front door, this is the set you need to upgrade your doorbell.


A 24-piece set of versatile glass food storage containers

Give yourself the gift of great organization by storing food in these glass food storage containers that come in different shapes and sizes to suit any item. The set of 12 shatterproof borosilicate glass containers arrives with 12 accompanying BPA-free plastic lids that lock down for an airtight seal. Take these from the freezer to the oven, fridge, or microwave as they’ll be just fine withstanding major temperature fluctuations. These will last you years to come and only set you back $40.


A 20-pack of hangers made of solid wood

Upgrade your closet by simply replacing all those tired wire hangers left over from the dry cleaners with these beautiful solid wood hangers that come in a budget-friendly pack of 20. The wood has a smooth finish that won’t snag clothing and each hanger features a 360-degree rotating chrome hook, contour shoulder lines, notches for straps, and even has a vinyl-lined pant bar so clothing won’t fall to the floor. These hangers are clearly a popular choice with over 11,500 reviews and a near-perfect 4.8 rating.


These trash cans made from durable metal mesh

Instantly tidy up any area of the home with the help of these small and chic trash cans made of sturdy and easily cleanable metal mesh. Each can in the two-pack accommodates six gallons and they come in four colors. In addition to using them for trash, they can be repurposed as bins for storing cleaning products, bathroom supplies, and pantry items. They’ve earned a high 4.7-star rating.


These window frames in a rustic farmhouse aesthetic

Add a dose of farmhouse charm to your empty walls with these clever window frames that are designed with rustic-looking distressed wood. Choose from three finishes (white, brown, or turquoise) and use them to display photos, flowers, or wreaths – or simply hang them by themselves to create an appealing visual accent. Each set comes with two and you can hang them horizontally or vertically using the included hanging hardware.


An extensive knife set to improve kitchen productivity

There’s nothing you won’t be able to dice, chop, mince, or carve with this comprehensive knife set that comes with 12 professional-level knives, shears, a built-in knife sharpener, and a beautiful wooden storage block. All the knives are created from durable high-carbon, German stainless steel and are stain and rust-resistant in addition to having comfortable, ergonomic handles. These will seriously up your game in the kitchen and it even comes with an unlimited one-year warranty for extra protection.


This reversible dishwasher magnet in a cute farmhouse font

Save yourself both time and money with this reversible magnet that tells you whether your dishes are clean or dirty using an adorable farmhouse-style font that’s easy to read from anywhere. Simply stick it to your stainless steel dishwasher, or if you don’t have a metal surface, use the provided metal piece that includes adhesive backing. The strong magnet will keep it in place and it’s waterproof, peel-proof, and designed to last many a dishwashing cycle.


A cat cave made from high-quality New Zealand wool

A happy cat makes for a happy home, so you could do worse than getting your favorite friend this super cozy cat cave made from New Zealand wool. The material is hand-shaped and soft to the touch with the added benefit of keeping your kitty cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Choose from 10 colors and designs such as light gray, furry pink, or rainbow.


These wall-mounted shelves to stylishly store your favorite items

These wall-mounted shelves offer the perfect solution to dealing with haphazard clutter by artfully displaying your favorite things in all their glory. They’re made in a design that combines geometric metal wire and rustic wood and includes all the mounting hardware you need. Put these floating shelves up in any room that could use a little decoration as they’ll be sure to add charming visual interest.


A white noise machine for blissful sleep

This ingenious noise machine is the answer to all your sleep woes as it provides you with a choice between 60 different soothing sounds for serious relaxation. On top of classic white/brown/pink noise, other options include nature sounds like campfires and thunderstorms, animal sounds such as birds or crickets, daily life sounds like fans or trains, and classic ocean waves, just to name a few. Set a timer for 30, 60, or 120 minutes for worry-free slumber.


These charcoal water filters for a better-tasting daily brew

If your daily cup of joe isn’t tasting as invigorating as it used to, use these charcoal water filters that work with any Cuisinart coffee machine to remove impurities that could be souring your cup. The micromesh contains fine-grain charcoal that effectively filters out odors, calcium, and chlorine. Note that these filters aren’t compatible with Keurig machines.


A lap-sized whiteboard to make every day more creative

Capture ideas quickly and easily with these lap-sized whiteboards that come in a pack of six and include six dry erase markers in different colors and six erasers. The fine-tip markers and erasers leave no streaks behind. Each board offers two sides, one that’s blank and one that’s ruled, which makes these especially great for kids (or adults – no judgment) practicing their penmanship.


A marble cutting board that’s as elegant as it is practical

Level up your meal prep time with this elegant marble cutting board that comes in two sizes: 8 x 12 inches (shown here) and 16 x 12 inches. The board features non-slip rubber feet to keep it in place on counters and it works overtime as both a food prep necessity and a beautiful serving tray for cheese, appetizers, and desserts.


A bamboo shoe rack for a tidy entryway

Instead of chucking shoes into a messy pile the minute you walk in the door, use this sustainable bamboo shoe rack to keep them all neat and organized. The rack has three tiers with each shelf able to hold up to four pairs of shoes. The bamboo material is water-resistant, lasting you through all the seasons, and the top tier is sturdy enough to double as a clever and convenient bench.


A shower door seal to keep your bathroom floor clean and dry

Simple home improvement can come in the form of a blissfully dry bathroom floor post-shower. This shower door seal attaches to the bottom of a frameless door and helps prevent any leaks with the help of both sturdy and flexible vinyl. You can install it in seconds, and it features a universal fit but can also be trimmed to custom measurements if needed.


This extendable bathtub tray with a wineglass and tablet holder

This completely genius bamboo bath tray might be the answer to making your home so much better. Just feast your eyes on the specially-designed wine glass and tablet holder that make evenings in the bath a truly luxurious experience. The tray expands and is adjustable to fit most standard bathtubs. It comes in four different finishes (natural, black, brown, and white).


A space-saving block that keeps knives stored in drawers

Put that drawer space to good use with this in-drawer knife block that neatly stores 14 knives plus a knife sharpener for good measure. It can fit up to eight steak knives and six large knives of different kinds, all neatly and safely tucked into one another to save precious space. It’s constructed of sustainable bamboo that is water-resistant and can be easily maintained using a damp cloth.


This water bottle organizer that takes advantage of horizontal storage

If you feel frustrated constantly searching for your favorite water bottle through a morass of others, you need this water bottle organizer that stores them neatly and horizontally for easy access. The organizer is made of BPA-free, shatter-resistant plastic and comes in a pack of two for an affordable $20. The organizers are fully stackable so you can easily have six bottles tidily at the ready in your cabinet or on your countertop.


A pair of blackout curtains for quality slumber

Give yourself the gift of high-quality slumber using these blackout curtain panels that feature a triple weave that blocks up to 99% of light. These curtains also dampen sound and provide thermal insulation, so your home remains cool when it’s hot outside and warm when it’s cold. Choose from over 30 colors such as biscotti beige or sage green, as well as 16 different sizes.


These reusable produce bags that curb plastic bag use at the supermarket

These ingenious mesh produce bags will prevent the not-so-eco-friendly accumulation of plastic produce bags from the supermarket. Use them to collect your produce, and when you go to check out, the cashier will be able to scan barcodes through the fine mesh without any problem. They come in a budget-friendly pack of 15 that includes bags in three sizes (small, medium, and large) that all feature a tare weight in case you need to get an accurate weight measurement. Cue that zero-waste lifestyle.


A bra wash bag that protects undergarments in the wash cycle

If washing expensive bras by hand means you just never wash them, then you will absolutely love this extremely handy bra wash bag that lets you put them through the wash cycle. It’s made of a durable but soft micro-mesh material with a sturdy, circular plastic frame that fits the shape of your bra perfectly and offers protection through rough-and-tumble machine washing. Choose from two sizes: regular for A to D cups and large for D to G cups.


This lid storage rack that mounts to the inside of your cabinet

Streamline your kitchen organization by installing this lid storage rack in a place oft-neglected for clever storage: the inside of your cabinet. It includes all the mounting hardware you need and can hold up to five pot or pan lids made of any kind of material – it can even store Tupperware lids if the need arises.


A wall plug with two USB ports for charging

This clever USB-charging wall plug makes for less cord chaos around your outlets by allowing you to charge two devices from one plug. It comes in a pack of two, features a slim profile for more charging stability, and uses high-speed USB-A ports. Choose from six color options like blue or rose-red to charge anything from phones to tablets to kindles.


A window privacy film that blocks both light and heat

If there’s a particular room that has windows facing the street or becomes uninhabitable during sunnier months, this window privacy film will provide respite from light, heat, and prying eyes without blocking all of the natural light. It comes in lots of different sizes and can be trimmed for a custom fit. Application is easy with the help of water and static cling and when you remove it, zero sticky residue is left behind.


This table lamp that stores and charges devices

There’s no reason style can’t meet function at an affordable price. This clever table lamp costs less than $30 and, on top of casting a warm glow, it is also designed with three USB charging ports and compartments that let you organize devices like phones or small tablets. It’s pretty, practical, and perfect for your desk or bedside table.


A microwave popcorn popper that lets you melt butter at the same time

This innovative microwave popcorn popper has a very special feature: the lid both measures your kernels and allows you to melt butter directly onto your popcorn as it’s popping. The popper is made of temperature-safe glass that is dishwasher-safe and can make up to 3 quarts of popcorn. It comes in seven fun colors and has a huge fan base with more than 53,000 reviews.


A soap dispenser with a built-in sponge caddy

Turn dishwashing into a thing of pleasure with this clever soap dispenser that includes a built-in sponge caddy. As you depress the sponge, the optimum amount of soap is dispensed to make cleaning as easy as can be (not to mention this also saves you money on dishwashing liquid supplies). Place any kind of rag or scrubber in the caddy for the same great result.


This magnetic screen door that keeps bugs outside

This extremely affordable magnetic screen door upgrades any home by letting blissful breezes through while keeping annoying bugs out. It attaches to your door easily and features strong magnets that run the vertical length of the screen, allowing people and pets through while sealing against anything else. This pick has more than 53,000 reviews and costs less than $25.


A seriously popular bed sheet set that comes in gorgeous neutrals

Updating your bedroom linens can make your home instantly feel more luxe and this bed sheet set made of microfiber will do just that. It is clearly popular with over 126,000 reviews on Amazon and comes in seven beautiful neutrals like cream, light gray, or taupe. Choose from sizes ranging from twin to California king. Each set includes a fitted and flat sheet as well as four standard pillowcases.


These fully customizable smart light bulbs

Achieve any atmosphere you desire with these smart light bulbs that allow you to adjust both the brightness settings and the relative warmth of the light. Select your desired brightness with dimmer control from 0% to 100% and customize the temperature to anything from a 2500K warm white to a 6500K cool white. The best part is that all these adjustments can be made remotely from an app or voice control via Amazon Alexa, Google Home, or SmartThings.


A motion-activated toilet light that shines vivid colors

Jazz up that middle-of-the-night trip to the bathroom with this LED toilet light that casts a vibrant glow when it senses motion. It attaches easily to your toilet seat and turns on at the detection of movement. It’s water-resistant and offers eight colors to choose from in addition to a color rotation mode for full midnight party vibes.


This marble wallpaper for a budget-friendly renovation

Skip the high price of a costly reno and opt instead for this marble wallpaper that will make it look like you spent thousands when you actually dropped less than $10. It can be applied to all kinds of surfaces like kitchen counters, desktops, bedside tables, bookcases, or walls, to create an immediately chic result. It’s made of vinyl, stays in place with a self-adhesive, and can be cut to any custom dimensions you need.


These popcorn boxes for festive movie nights at home

Make your weekly movie night extra special with these classic popcorn boxes complete with the traditional red and white striped design. Every pack comes with 20 open-top boxes that can be folded down flat for easy and convenient storage. Use them to jazz up any kind of event from birthdays to holidays to your annual Oscar-watching party, and all without spending more than $15.