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Planning Renovations on a Budget

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Planning renovations for your new home- and how to save money on and organize the updates!

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We moved into our “new” house the day before Thanksgiving… And I already have so many plans. While some may be much further down the road, I find it helpful to plan things ahead and prioritize and budget for major home expenses.

Where our home was build in the early 1990s, we know that there are things in the home that will need to be improved or replaced.

Home Renovations on a Budget

When you’re on a budget, you’ll need to carefully plan out your home renovations to make sure that you aren’t surprised by sudden expenses that leave you unable to make ends meet. Here’s some tips for organizing your home renovation plans, as well as for how to save money on renovations.

Reviewing Your Inspection Report

Your first step should be to review your inspection report thoroughly and keep a list of necessary renovations and fixes. Our inspection report was very thorough about what needed to be replaced sooner and what could wait. The inspection report also indicated the ages of certain appliances such as our water heater and HVAC system, as well as for our roof.

We know our roof has been replaced once and that we could likely get another ten years from it. There were some minor issues such as a few shingles that needed to be replaced and one area where there had been a leak. We immediately hired handyman to fix that area of the roof to prevent expensive long-term issues.

Our water heater has some indication that there may have been a leak at some point in the past, but it was unclear if that could have been caused by the current water heater or an old one. We know the water heater isn’t- or shouldn’t be- at the end of its life so hopefully we have a few more years left. In the meantime, it makes sense to buy a water sensor that will notify us if another leak occurs. Future plans include a tankless water heater.

Most of the issues with our home were things that could be fixed by a handyman and we had them come out for two days to do some repairs. Some of those repairs, such as weatherproofing doors, we saved money by doing it ourselves.

I find it helpful to make one big list. On the left, list the jobs you need to hire out, and on the right, list the jobs you’re comfortable DIY’ing.

We asked for credits from the seller towards repairs, rather than have them repair the issues. This gave us the freedom to talk to contractors and get recommendations beyond what was on the inspection report. It also made things go a little more smoothly for the sale.

Make a List Your Major Appliances

It is helpful to make a list of all your current appliances and relevant information.

  • Appliance type
  • Year
  • Model
  • Life expectancy

Don’t forget to include items like your roof, water filtration system, water heater and HVAC.

You should draw up a timeline for your future repairs. This will allow you to plan and budget, as much as you can (seeing there are no guarantees).

List Your Desired Cosmetic Updates

I always get stuck dreaming about cosmetic updates. There are so many in my head, but I need to compartmentalize them. Otherwise I will kill my budget.

You should keep a list of the projects with inspiration drawings or photos, quotes from contractors, etc. in your home renovation binder.

Draw up a priority time line for these.

In our case, we know that we’d like to add some built ins for our family room. We had gorgeous built-ins in our old house that we made ourselves, and we are running into the issue of not having a place to put everything that we had stored in those. Because the cost for us to DIY that was so low, it is a feasible project for the near future. But it’s 100% cosmetic, however functional. Our DVD collection will survive in a box in our basement.

I’m pretty sure we will need to replace some pipes in our sons’ bathroom soon but I realllllly want to update the whole bathroom. So many dreams! I found a gorgeous farmhouse style sink with double faucets, but it was $2000 for just the sink. So that isn’t happening, haha. I’ll keep looking for good DIY tutorials or good deals. In the meantime, I may stick with more reasonable updates, such as the pipe repair and replacing faucets, painting the cabinet, etc.

Get Quotes and Decide Who to Hire

Most companies will give you a free quote for projects and it’s good to keep a record of those quotes so you can plan for the update. Those quotes won’t be valid if you wait a year or two, but you’ll have a decent ballpark for savings.

We are using a handyman for a lot of updates and it was a much more affordable option- plus I only had one person coming instead of three or four.

He wasn’t able to install our new ceiling fans though because there isn’t a fixture there yet. As a result, we had to hire an electrician separately. By the way- adding ceiling fans is NOT a cheap update.

Outdoor Renovations

The major thing that we want to plan out is our property layout. We bought 8.5 acres so we can eventually add a barn and fields for horses. I would also like a garden and compost area. The home already has two sheds and a chicken coop with fencing.

We’d like to eventually put an addition on the house, add a swingset, and add a pool too. This is likely years and years of dreams and saving money. We probably won’t get to it all. But we want an idea of how we will lay it out because as we have an opportunity to add something, we don’t want that addition to get in the way of another future project.

For example, if we were to put a pool directly behind our house, there would be nowhere for us to place an addition in the future. Some things like a swingset can be moved and other things cannot.

A few sketches of your property and possible layouts may be helpful for your binder.

Keeping Records

For all of my home renovations, I keep a neat binder with appliance information, home repairs and updates, etc. Make sure to save any inspection information if you have each project inspected by your county (a good idea).

Supplies for your binder: Binder | Binder Dividers with Pockets | 3 Hole Punch

Tips for Saving Towards Renovations

One of the most important things about saving money is to make sure you have your goal in mind. Once you’ve mapped out your renovation goals and figured out how much you’ll need to save, you will find that you’re much more dedicated to saving the money.

  • Thinking about spending a little extra cash on an activity? Save it instead and spend that time dreaming of the work you plan to do.
  • Take classes at Home Depot, Lowes, or library that show you how to DIY some parts of your project. 
  • Bargain shop for supplies and buy items when they’re on sale. The Restore often has supplies at discounted rates if you have one nearby.
  • Take on a roommate or a second job so you have more money to put aside. I had roommates for my condo and my first single family home, purely so we had extra money to save and use towards home expenses.
  • Before you DIY, do a quick calculation for the cost of supplies and equipment necessary for the job. Sometimes the cost of DIY’ing a project exceeds the cost of hiring help. 
  • Rent equipment if you think you won’t need to have it on hand for future projects. Some libraries offer tool rental!

You may also want to consider getting a home equity loan if you have that option.

Get My Home Renovations Checklist and Printables

Make sure to subscribe below to get my bundle of free printables to complete your home renovations binder. These printables will help keep you focused on your goals for your home and hopefully prevent you from over spending.


Renovation Inspiration

Here are some fun projects that we’ve completed that can inspire you if you need ideas for your new home!

Please pin this post! It’s super helpful so that other people can get this important information too!

Learn how to save money on home renovations and get the printable bundle that will help you organize it all!

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