We know how exciting it is to move to a new place. Having a space to finally call your own is an important moment in any couple’s life.
The first thing you want to do when you get a new home is to find ways to personalize it in order to stamp your character to the place. One of the best ways to do this is by remodeling and renovating the property. However, many young couples like us don’t have unlimited funds. Luckily we learned a lot of things while we were remodeling and renovating our new place.
Here are some of our smart tips that you can consider if you want to stretch and bend your remodeling budget.
Know Your Budget
Many couples rush into remodeling their new place with an eye on the finished project while ignoring practical considerations. This is fine if you have an unlimited source of funds but impractical for many couples including us who need to follow a budget.
Therefore, this should also be your first consideration when renovating or remodeling your place. Have a reasonable amount of money you’re willing to spend on renovations and stick to it. Determining your budget is easy. Start by prioritizing projects. Find out which ones need attention and which project can be shelved for the time being. An important project like fixing insulation is important especially if you live in cold places like Rhode Island just like we do. Don’t leave insulation for when the weather gets colder because drafts can cause your air conditioning and heating bill to increase which in turn can hurt your savings and budget.
Since we didn’t have a lot of money for our remodeling project, we started with important projects like our bathroom, kitchen and bedroom. We made a note of other areas in the house that needed repairs so that we can get to them when our savings or financial standing improves. Next we estimated the cost of repairs so that we can allocate expenditures better.
Allot money for permits and fees. Depending on your local code, you might need to file permits for certain home improvement or renovation projects. If you’re hiring a contractor for certain projects, ask them upfront about building code and fees plus who’s going to shoulder what. It’s better to be frank about permits and money to avoid unpleasant surprises.
The hardest part is sticking to the budget. This is why it is also important to always spend time canvassing prices of material and labor. Don’t just settle for the first contractor that calls you. So don’t be afraid to shop around. You won’t only get better prices but also better service.
One of the first areas that we wanted to work on was the master’s bathroom. Being able to relax while in the bathtub is really important to us because it’s an effective way to relieve stress without spending a lot of money. A company that specializes in tub refinishing in Cambridge MA also did our bathtub at our old place and we thought we would approach a similar service here in Rhode Island.
We asked professional tub refinishers in our area to see if the tub can still be saved since buying a new one would make us go over budget. Luckily, they were able to refinish the tub and allow us to save a lot of money. Tub refinishing is a quick and easy process that uses layering and repainting in order to fix defects like cracks. It can also hide imperfections and make your tub look brand new at the fraction of the cost. Tub refinishing usually costs anywhere from $250-500 depending where you live but is still more affordable than an actual new tub.
DIY Whenever Possible
Don’t be afraid to roll up your sleeves. If you’re like us, there are many projects at home that you can easily do by yourselves. This is not only a good way to bond with your significant other but also a good way to stretch your budget.
For example, my partner and I repainted our bedroom, living room, kitchen and other areas of the house ourselves. Painting an area is fairly easy and can be done by almost everybody even without prior experience. Discussions and picking colors for every room are also fun. It allows you to get to know each other better and share your ideas on what the area would look like. Renovating is not purely a “man’s world” while decorating a “woman’s domain”. Sharing a home means exchanging ideas and letting both of your personalities shine through.
Other areas that don’t need professional help include: changing locks, replacing busted light bulbs, re-grouting tiles, gardening chores like mowing and planting and simple carpentry. Of course, it helped that my partner is a bit of a handyman, but even you can do simple repairs by using common sense and doing a little research and some YouTube tutorials.
Choose Alternative Options
Another way to save money is by choosing less expensive alternatives to your original choices. Yes, marble flooring in the bathroom looks sophisticated but not all of us can afford this. While we didn’t really need to retile our bathroom floors, those that need to do this can opt for inexpensive alternative like ceramic tile or faux marble which are also durable.
Contact paper is also an inexpensive and quick remedy that can make many surfaces look elegant. You can use it to top a coffee table or to refinish walls. The peel-away backing sticks to almost anything. However, paper doesn’t work well with water so avoid using it on surfaces like your kitchen counter or bathroom sink.
Avoid Moving Fixtures
Moving fixtures usually require professional expertise. Even though my partner knows basic carpentry and electrical work, major repairs are beyond him. So leave fixtures to their original locations as much as possible.
For example, if the tub isn’t exactly in an area in the bathroom that you like leave it there. Moving the tub requires professional plumbing service which is expensive. In some states major renovations like this also require permits from local building authorities. Inspections are needed as well as filing for plans for renovation so it’s going to take more time and money. If you don’t have this kind of time and money, leave fixtures (especially electrical, lighting and plumbing) as they are.
Be Flexible With Your Timeline
Since many of our remodeling projects at home were DIY, my partner and I had to be flexible with our timeline. For many couples who buy fixer-uppers there might be a lot of things to do. While prioritization is important, you also need to understand that not everything is going to be done immediately.
Professional contractors try their best to finish within the allocated time stipulated in your contract for their repairs. However, DIY projects are more fluid. If you and your significant other work full time, weekends could be the only time you can attend to your repairs. This means you have to be prepared for slow progress.
However, don’t despair because DIY projects get finished especially if you’re determined. Best of all you learn a new skill while saving a ton of money.
Reuse or Repurpose Materials
Upcycling is trendy nowadays so don’t be too quick on throwing out your old stuff. One of the biggest ways we were able to save money was by repurposing the old kitchen cabinets and other cabinetry in our place. Some people would have demolished the cabinets but upon inspection all they needed was a fresh coat of paint and new hardware.
Most of the appliances like the oven and dishwasher were also fairly new and also worked so we decided against replacing them. Appliances cost a lot of money so make sure to have them checked and inspected to see if they are still usable.
Many of our doors were also in perfect condition so all we needed to do was to repaint them and to change the locks on our front door.
If you do need new stuff, check out Habitat for Humanity ReStores near your area. They sell gently used appliances, furniture, home goods and building materials. It’s not only good for your wallet but for your community and for the environment too.
Another alternative is to search the web for buy, sell or trade websites. There are people who suddenly need to move or downsize that might be selling their gently used stuff quickly so you might end up with leftover lumber from someone’s project or almost new appliances from relocating people who can’t bring them.
Checkout Sales Before Major Purposes
We needed new stuff for our new place too. For instance our old sofa from Cambridge was unusable and we had to leave it behind. It was old and did not provide good support. It was also uncomfortable for naps. In this case we decided to throw it out and splurge on a new sofa for our Rhode Island home.
However, we only had a few hundred dollars for a new sofa. I thought about taking money from other items I wanted to purchase like new sheets and a new coffee machine. Luckily, there was a clearance sale from a department store nearby and we were able to buy a sofa and coffee machine at a big discount.
If there are no store sales in stores near your area, check the internet for their online stores. Sometimes they offer the discounts online only. You can also check online sellers for items that you want. However, just be careful with the delivery charge. Sometimes, it can cost an arm and a leg especially or big purchases like sofas and major appliances.
You can also time your big purchases for sale season. For example, Black Friday, Memorial Day, Christmas and end of season sales offer big discounts and low delivery charges. Be patient and alert for all kinds of sales to save money and stretch your budget.
Don’t Be Afraid To Ask For Professional Help
Let’s be honest, not all of us are good at DIY. Yes, there are projects that can be done easily but sometimes it is better to ask for professional help. It’s cheaper too.
Let’s say that you’ve decided to refinish your tub. After watching videos on YouTube and researching on the internet you’re finally confident enough to attempt this DIY project. That’s alright because experience is a good teacher. However, if you’re not feeling confident or if you doubt your skill it’s perfectly alright to call the pros.
This is what happened to us when we decided to have our tub professionally refinished. We have seen the process up close and know what materials to use but the pros are better at their job. They work faster and made very little mess in the bathroom.
That job cost just more than $300 but we probably ended up saving over $200 because we didn’t have to buy any sprays or refinishing materials. They also did a perfect job which wouldn’t have been possible if it were DIY. Clean-up was also quick and minimal. Most of all, they worked fast so they saved us a lot of time.
Home renovation and remodeling is exciting but also tiring. My best advice for people who are attempting to do this project by themselves is to be honest with what you can and can’t do. Getting in over your head and attempting to DIY tasks that you don’t know how to do in order to save money will end up costing you more.
Our beautiful home is a product of our best efforts and also our contractor’s hard work and expertise. It was a slow process especially for our DIY projects but we were able to save money and avoid having bigger debt. Renovating our home has helped build our character. We have grown not only personally but also economically and this is why our home remodeling project was worthwhile.