How to Budget for Home Improvement

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By now, you should know that any expenditure should be predicted and logged in a thorough budget — and that includes things you buy to improve your home. A can of paint might not seem like a major expense, but when you tally all the cans of paint you’ll need for your entire home interior, you could be talking about several hundreds of dollars. That money might already be devoted to your mortgage for the coming year, filling out an emergency fund or paying for diapers.

Thus, it’s safe to say that your home improvement efforts need a dedicated budget — but how are you supposed to budget for projects that you aren’t familiar with or that seem incredibly large and extensive? This guide will help you build your home improvement budget using real, reliable numbers, so you can get a better home without breaking the bank.

Step 1: What Are You Improving?

Most people who move into improvement-worthy homes have more than one project on their minds. Therefore, to start, you need to list out your projects and pick apart the pieces, so you know what materials, tools and expertise is involved. Even if you only looking at one major renovation, you need to take an in-depth look at the job to break down its costs and make an accurate budget. Here’s an example of what this looks like:

  • Kitchen Remodel
    • Paint cabinets
    • Buy new hardware
    • Buy new kitchen sink and faucet
    • Replace countertops
    • Apply backsplash
    • Install recessed lights
    • Buy decorative lights
  • Porch upgrade
    • Extend concrete
    • Lay tile
    • Build pergola
    • Add ceiling fan
    • Build wet bar
    • Acquire patio furniture

Once you have a list of all your projects — and all the smaller projects within those projects — you should prioritize them. There are a few ways to do this; for example, you might prioritize them based on which projects you will most enjoy, or you might prioritize them from lowest cost to highest, so you can have time to save up for the big-ticket projects. You should complete this step based on your resources and your interests, so you feel motivated to complete projects but also don’t blow all your budget at once.

Finally, you should look at your list of projects and pick out the items that you can’t or shouldn’t do yourself. This, also, will depend on your circumstances; if you have plenty of DIY experience, you might feel confident erecting a pergola, but I certainly looked for electricians in my area, because I am not qualified for dangerous and important work like that.

Step 2: What Will It Cost?

Now that you know what you need done, you can devote a few weeks to researching the costs involved. You shouldn’t hold back on this research; dive as deep as you can to truly understand all expenses you will incur. This will help you identify areas where you can save money, and most importantly, it will give you a final number for what your project will cost.

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I always take full advantage of the internet when considering a home improvement project. There are endless numbers of blogs that break down costs item by item, and you can use the web to connect with other DIY-ers or even professionals who can give you accurate quotes for certain elements. If you can, try to identify the exact products you hope to use in your project, like the specific tile you will use in your backsplash or the brand of putty you will use to stick it to the wall. The more meticulous you are in your research, the more accurate your budget will be.

Be careful not to take on more than you can when it comes to DIY. Doing projects yourself takes time, and if your career is demanding or your kids are young, you simply might not be able to commit to painting your own cabinets or doing other time-intensive jobs. Time is perhaps more valuable than money, so if there is a job you don’t relish doing, you might as well outsource it to professionals.

Step 3: Where Does the Money Come From?

By this time, you should have a pretty accurate budget for your home improvement projects — but that doesn’t mean your work is through. Now, you should look into your current finances and identify where you will get the cash to pay for these projects. If you don’t have a random fund filled with $50,000, don’t fret — you can probably find the money for your project elsewhere in your existing budget. While you might have to forego one of your streaming service subscriptions or cancel a few spa days, you will find ways to save up for the home improvement you crave.

Home improvement isn’t entirely out of reach, but you do need to research to understand what you can afford and when. As long as you commit to understanding your projects before you launch into them, you should avoid financial (and physical) catastrophes and enjoy a better home in no time.

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