Home Renovations on a Budget
Currently living in our third fixer upper, we’re becoming quite keen to the topic of home renovations on a budget.
It wasn’t always this way.
Flashback six years to our first major renovation. We dove into the renovation head first with rose-colored glasses and an unrealistic budget.
Most of the house would be redone. Bathrooms, kitchen, knocking down walls; you name it, it was on our list of to-dos.
We’ve watched hundreds of episodes of This Old House, Fixer Upper and Rehab Addict. How hard could it be? Those famous last words…
The ink wasn’t even dry on the loan documents yet and I was in the basement ripping out the dated carpet.
By the end of it all, we got it done. But we got it done well over budget, physically exhausted and spending more nights than we would like to admit curling up with a bottle of wine.
Today, you will still find us with a hammer in one hand and a drill in the other. But we are more calculated and methodical with the renovation process.
Throughout the years, we’ve found several ways to save on home renovations.
Below you will find the 12 tips we personally use that save us money with all of our home renovations on a budget.
1. Price and Plan out Home Renovations on a Budget
Planning ahead of time is key. You don’t need any fancy planning tools or programs.
How do we plan a renovation? I draw it out on scrap paper or dotted paper. That’s it.
You can grab a free dot template simply with an online search for “Free Dot Paper Download”.
I possess very little artistic skill but thankfully those skills are not needed to draw up a plan.
Once I have a general idea of the final look, I create a materials list.
Lastly, I jump online (usually to the Home Depot website) to grab materials cost. I always add 20% on top of my final number for good measure.
If my design is not within budget, I find ways to revise the design until a comfortable number is reached.
This process takes several hours. And I often have to take breaks and come back to it with a fresh mind. It’s well worth the time as planning it out saves us hundreds of dollars in costly mistakes and wasted materials.
2. DIY Home Renovations on a Budget
My husband and I are avid do-it-yourselfers.
The main reason we save money is because about 85% of any work is completed by us.
Our rule of thumb is we hire out work that involves major changes in electrical and plumbing. And anything structural is always hired out.
Even when we hire out, we do not use a general contractor. We go directly to the source (ie: electrician, plumber, etc..) and manage the timeline and work directly with them. In a sense, we play the role of the contractor. Going this route saves us thousands of dollars.
I recommend finding trusted referrals to hire over a random online search.
All of the people we hire are trusted referrals from friends, family, our realtor (Realtors are an EXCELLENT source for renovation referrals, btw), etc…
3. Buy “Used – Like New” Materials on Amazon
This tip is key to achieve home renovations on a budget.
Surprised by how many people do not know this exists, I am here to share this savings tip to the world!
When shopping on Amazon, check if the item you want to purchase is listed under the “Used – Like New” category.
Buying this way usually means the item was returned to Amazon by someone else. Sort of like an “open box” scenario.
By Amazon’s definition, there should be no damage to the item when it is marked “like new”
I saved $250 on our new Kraus kitchen sink simply because I purchased it like new from Amazon. At the time, it was listed on Amazon for $499. I purchased one in like new condition for $250.
Out of the many times I’ve purchased like new items on Amazon, only once was there an issue with the item being damaged. Easy fix, I returned it and purchased a replacement.
The risk involved with buying “like new” is if the item you receive has damage and you need to return it. They may not have another one in that condition at that price. And returning it may set your timeline back a few days.
I’ve also purchased “Used-Very Good” condition items on Amazon. These items often have minor cosmetic damage. Depending how I’m going to use the item, the damage may not matter.
For example, I saved over $100 on our hood vent that was marked “Used-Very Good” condition. There was some minor cosmetic damage but the damage did not matter because we built a wood hood vent cover around it.
Related Reading: Our $3,000 Vintage Farmhouse Kitchen Renovation Reveal
4. Purchase Gently Used Materials
Search Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace or your local used building materials store for some great deals.
When we lived in Denver, my favorite place to shop was at Extra Building Materials. They had it all! And, at discounted prices.
Now that we live in Grand Junction, my go to spot is the Habitat for Humanity store.
We saved several hundred dollars on the windows and doors on our DIY She Shed simply by buying used materials.
Related Reading: DIY She Shed on a Budget
5. Enroll in Free Online Rewards Programs
Now we’re at one of my favorite ways to save. Free rewards programs.
Honey automatically finds and applies coupon codes at checkout. If no coupons are available, you may still earn Honey points, which convert into gift cards.
They have bonus points available on certain items. The bonus points are awarded if you purchase the eligible item within a certain time frame.
Just earlier today, I earned over 1200 points (ie: $12 gift card) on a $65 order. That was also after Honey found a 30% off coupon. And you bet this frugal gal price checked all over the web to make sure I had the best price before purchasing 😉
I’ve had Honey for about a year now but started paying more attention to leveraging it for rewards and savings in the recent months.
Using Honey, I’d estimate a savings/earnings of over $300 in the last six months. All from purchases we’ve made.
Learn more about Honey here.
Rakuten is all about cash back. Simple as that.
They tell you which brands offer what percentage of cash back, you shop with that brand, and you get your cash (after a period of time, of course).
I have my Rakuten account set up to pay me automatically via PayPal – can it get any easier?!
Recently, I’ve found more value in using Honey but have still done well with Rakuten with an estimated cash earning of $150 in the past six months.
Learn more about Rakuten here.
6. Leverage Credit Card Bonuses and Reward Points
I won’t get into this one too deep. I worked for a bank for over 14 years and have seen the financial damage credit cards can produce.
I’ve also seen the financial benefits a credit card provides, when used responsibly.
Having personally been on both ends of the spectrum, I suggest going the responsible route 😉
Disclaimer: I am NOT recommending you go out and sign up for every credit card under the sun just to earn rewards.
We have saved hundreds of dollars by signing up for a cash back credit card with bonus rewards up front.
If you know you will make large purchases in the near future, look into what credit card offers are available.
My favorite card is the Capital One Quicksilver card. Between the 1.5% cash back and enrollment bonus cash back, we have earned over $800 cash back in the last year. And, rewards can be redeemed for actual money directly deposited to your bank account.
Paying the credit card balance in full each month ensures we don’t accrue interest charges. Interest and fees will quickly negate your rewards earnings. I recommend always paying your balance in full and on time.
Learn more about the Capital One Quicksilver credit card here.
7. Pay in Cash for Home Renovations on a Budget
While they are becoming far and few between, some businesses may provide a discount if you pay in cash.
Cash discounts are more common at smaller businesses. Big corporations don’t typically care about cash payment.
If the discount is larger than the potential of cash back on a credit card, pay in cash.
We save a couple hundred dollars each big project simply by asking the business if they offer a cash discount.
8. Buy in Bulk
Our yard is a perfect example of a recent home renovation on a budget.
We needed a large amount of mulch for our bare bones backyard.
Many people would pop over to the local home improvement store to grab mulch. Don’t do that!
First, search locally to see who sells mulch in bulk in your area. You will also more than likely be supporting a small business while saving money, so it’s a win for all.
If we would have purchased our mulch from a big retailer, we would have paid a whopping five times as much as we did from our local mulch company.
And bonus, the businesses offered a cash discount!
Related Reading: DIY Chicken Coop on a Budget
9. Purchase Materials with Minor Cosmetic Damage
Purchasing materials with minor cosmetic damage is another one of our tricks for home renovations on a budget.
Since this money savings tip was touched on early, I won’t beat a dead horse. But I will share another example…
We were searching for 8-10 Arborvitae trees to plant in our yard.
The store had 8 in stock with more on the way.
One of the trees was struggling and had been marked down to $20 (verses the regular price of $60). Two additional trees were on the verge of needing help, but were still at full price.
A new shipment of Arborvitaes was expected in the coming days and the store needed to sell what they had in stock ASAP.
So, Mr. Negotiator (my husband) worked a deal to purchase all the Arborvitaes in stock, including the rough ones, and talked them down to selling all 8 for $150. A savings of over $300!
Oh and PS – purchasing the rough looking trees was no risk because the store has a one year guarantee. If the trees don’t survive one year, the store replaces them at no charge. Score!
10. Sell Materials and Working Appliances You Intend to Replace
Don’t just toss usable materials and appliances! Sell them and earn some money back to put toward your renovation .
We’ve sold kitchen appliances, washers, dryers, old doors…all things that we replaced during the renovation.
Facebook Marketplace was the best place for us to sell our unwanted home items. You may also try a used appliance store to see if they offer cash for unwanted and working appliances.
11. Keep an Ongoing List of Materials Needed
Sometimes the perfect appliance, tool or piece of furniture presents itself at the strangest times. And it presents itself at the perfect price.
Keep an ongoing list of the big ticket items you want for your home. It’s amazing how the universe works and if you’re thinking about something enough, it often presents itself. And you must to be ready to act!
We’ve saved thousands by consistently keeping our eyes peeled for sales on kitchen appliances. In fact, we saved over $1,300 (and over 50%) on our brand new fridge by being in the right place at the right time.
It was an open box item with zero damage at our local Best Buy. The previous customer simply changed their mind (right before it was installed in their home) and returned it.
We weren’t necessarily thinking we would buy a fridge that day but were ready to act and, in turn, benefited from the unbelievable savings.
12. Don’t Bite Off More Than You Can Chew
Finally, don’t bite off more than you can chew. This advice is priceless, especially when it comes to home renovations.
When possible, renovate one room at a time. This is the approach we use now to help keep us sane….this also means we don’t buy as much wine. And that equates to more savings. Cheers to that!
What other money saving tips do you have? Share them in the comments below.
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