Renovating Your House on a Budget

Making the most of your hard-earned cash.
Image courtesy: Unsplash

You’ve been daydreaming of a new house. You see sunlight streaming in, bright colors that open up the space, and an oasis in the backyard.

Spoiler: that house is yours, you just don’t know it yet.

Home renovations can make your current home feel brand new, all without the hassle or expense of moving. If you only have a small budget to work with, there are lots of ways to refresh your home or make it more energy efficient without the need for expensive materials or professional services.

Before you spend your life savings on a new home you can’t afford or renovations you don’t really need, see what you can tackle on your own.

Trimming Down: What to Keep and What Should Go

As you plan for your home renovation, you’re probably clearing the house of as much clutter as possible. It’s tempting to throw out items you don’t think you have any use for, but you could end up getting rid of important items or documents in the process. Here are a few rules of thumb for trimming down without tossing the things you actually need.

  • Sift through your closets and either donate or sell the clothing that you don’t wear or that doesn’t fit.
  • Go through your documents to weed out the ones you no longer need. Familiarize yourself with retention periods for common documents before you do this, though. For example, bank statements should be held onto for four years, while copyrights or patents should be retained permanently. When in doubt, hold onto it until you can check into it further.
  • Put your furniture in storage for the time being (along with anything else you want out of the house but not out of your life). You may hate some of your furnishings right now, but many items could potentially be updated to use in your improved home.

Organize Before You Make a Mess

There’s no way around it: home renovations are messy. Before you start ripping up the floor, covering the furniture to paint the walls or dragging items in and out of your rooms, organize your house. This will make it easier to live during the renovations, especially since your time is going to be spent in fewer rooms as part of the house is worked on.

Go through the drawers and cabinets in the kitchen and bathroom, the home’s busiest spaces. Get rid of anything that’s expired, then organize the rest. Hang pots on racks in the kitchen, put up floating shelves in the bathroom to hold essentials, and put cleaning supplies in their associated rooms.

Another bonus of organizing before a renovation is that you may realize you don’t need quite as much work as you thought you did. If you wanted to remove a wall to expand the size of your kitchen, you may find that you have all the room you need once you make the space more efficient. This can leave you with a bigger budget for your other renovations.

Time to Renovate

You’ve cleared the clutter and organized what’s left. You have some items stored away for when the house is done. It’s finally time to renovate.

Since you’re sticking to a budget, a lot of the renovations will be done by you, which means you have to work with your skills instead of against them. For example, you may do a fine job painting, but don’t try to troubleshoot your electrical outlets.

Renovating on a budget means walking the line between overspending and underspending. Wealthy people get and remain wealthy by being careful about where they spend their money. However, you have to be smart about it; if you try to do something on your own and screw it up, it’ll cost you more in the long run to have a professional fix it.

Here are DIY renovations that will be easy on your budget:

  • Brighten up a dark area. Adding a window where there isn’t an existing one is a big project. Instead, go for the less pricey option of adding a light tube. This small, round window in the ceiling can bring natural light in without requiring a lot of work.
  • Change the color scheme. Repainting the interior is one of the simplest ways to update the look of your home. If you’re looking to sell, choose a neutral shade like light gray or beige – homebuyers will have an easier time picturing their life in your home if it’s not overly-styled.
  • Add a backsplash in your kitchen. Few things change the look of your kitchen as drastically as a new backsplash. Since the space is small, you won’t need too many tiles, which will keep costs down. To save even more, use peel-and-stick tiles instead.
  • Refresh your cabinets and wooden furniture. Instead of replacing your cabinet doors and your old dressers, give them a new coat of paint or sand them down and restain them. Once dry, add new (or used) drawer pulls.
  • Update your shower the cost-effective way. If your shower is still in good condition and you’re just unhappy with its appearance, you don’t have to start from scratch. Replace the showerhead and swap out the shower door for a newer one.
  • Upgrade the insulation. If your house is under-insulated, you’re losing a lot of heat – and spending a lot of money – each year. While you’re at it, replace old windows with energy-efficient ones.
  • Improve curb appeal. Lawn care can be handled by even the most amateur landscaper. Weed control, fertilizer, and some TLC can have your lawn looking much more lush. Other ways to boost curb appeal are to add flowers or shrubs, paint the front door or create a stone walkway.

If you have to stock up on materials or fixtures, like insulation or tile, head to your local recycling center. You may be able to pick up quality materials at a fraction of the cost.

Once you’ve handled simple renovations on your own, you can look at your home and budget with fresh eyes. Decide if there’s anything left to do and if it’s time to call in the pros, or simply enjoy your new and improved house.

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