Shakespeare famously said “the play’s the thing” (well he had Hamlet say it anyway.) Out of context, this phrase has come to mean that plays stand alone in their own realities, isolated from the world around them. In order to achieve this dislocation from reality, stage props are often used.
It doesn’t take a lot of props to enable an audience to suspend their disbelief. Just one or two objects can go a long way to creating an authentic atmosphere. A case in point is the skull held by Hamlet during the “Alas Poor Yorick” speech, which adds to the atmosphere of the scene. It’s obviously a very simple prop, but arguably the most famous in all of history.
When choosing your own theatre props therefore, you should understand the power of smaller, symbolic objects. The Ancient Greeks where suspicious of all kinds of props, saw them as imitations of the work of the Gods, and therefore mal-portentous.
In the modern day, plays and movies gorge themselves on props, and this is understandable especially where TV and film are concerned. Plays, on the other hand, can often benefit from less props, even less staging, as this allows for the drama to really take off, un-tethered by too many objects.
You, the amateur director, can benefit from this less-is-more-approach, and so can your budget!