How to Save on a Home Renovation

We recently renovated the entire top floor of our home. New floors, new paint, new trim and total gut and remodel of our master-bathroom. It was… exhausting. And expensive. And stressful.

But it was TOTALLY worth it. I’m glad we did it (even though spending that much money at once makes me want to blow chunks) and it makes me happy every time I walk up the stairs and see our new and improved living spaces.

Now, I’m not going to lie to you. I’m not a handy person. As evidenced by this and this. I can’t do much in the way of DIY stuff. So, we hired it out. And the labor was by far the largest cost of this renovation.

If you are handy, you’ll save a bundle if you want to do the work yourself. And you’ll save even more if you plan out every single expense as well as you possibly can.

You probably don’t know this about me, but I am a bit of a Type-A personality. (Wait, you did know that? You mean my label-maker and fascination with spreadsheets and paper planners gave it away? Shocking!)

*ahem* Anyway, I am a bit of a type A personality. So, before we even started contacting contractors and getting quotes for the work, I started planning. I settled on a number we were comfortable spending and then I created a spreadsheet that walked through every single room we were remodeling (3 bedrooms, a hallway, and a bathroom) and made a list of every possible thing we could potentially want to buy.

This included trim and moldings, light fixtures, light switch covers, paint, flooring, tile, vanities and even misc. materials costs! I listed out EVERYTHING I could think of. Then I showed the list to my husband and he found even more things I forgot about. There is definitely a kind of “if we’re going to do this then we might as well do that” trap we can fall into. But we knew we were only going to renovate this floor once, so we might as well do it right.

Then I started comparison shopping.

Home Depot, Lowes, Overstock, Wayfair, Amazon… I went line by line and priced out how much things cost and then bookmarked the least expensive of my favorite options and put the URL right into my spreadsheet.

I want to clarify here that this does not mean I “cheaped” out on anything… Again, this is a one-time, huge, renovation. I still wanted nice things to be put into place. But I did price compare on many of them. And while I definitely spent more than I would have liked on a couple items (shower doors, a vanity), I know that price comparisons really helped me keep my budget in check.

I kept every single receipt for everything I purchased. And anything that was left over at the end of the renovation got returned – that ended up being almost $400 worth of extra flooring and tile (you always buy more than you think you need). So keep those receipts!

Pro-tip – as soon as I bought something I labeled the receipt at the top with a note about what it was (tile) and then put the receipt in an envelope. That way, when I needed to return tile, it was easier to go through the receipts and find the one I needed.

Every time I bought something I updated my spreadsheet. My spreadsheet had a few columns like this:

Item Price Estimate Actual Cost Notes/URL
Vanity $2000 $1400 www.overstock.com
Light Fixture $300 $450 www.jossandmain.com

Then I had a sum at the bottom of each “price” column that let me see my price estimate and my actual, to date spending.

We bought a lot of stuff ahead of time so the contractors could just come in and work. However, there were things that I wasn’t sure how or where to buy that I relied on my contractors for. And they bought a lot of the miscellaneous materials that we needed and then just gave me the receipts for reimbursement.

Now, I bought a lot of stuff online – and for the most part this worked out really well – but there were a few times it didn’t work out as planned. And since this post is getting pretty long – I think I’ll save my lessons learned in online shopping for another post!

Ultimately, the things that make a home renovation the easiest are the following:

Be Prepared

Do your homework and understand what things cost. No, I didn’t know how much moldings or flooring cost before I started this project. But now I do – and now I know what a good price is on some of this stuff.

Be Flexible

Not everything will go as planned. Things won’t be delivered on times, things will take longer than expected, and issues and workarounds will have to be found. I’m lucky enough that I could telecommute through most of the renovation so I could be on site to address any issues in the moment. But if you’re not able to do that, just know that things will take longer than we could. Our vanity debacle (that I’ll post about tomorrow) pushed our reno time from about 3 weeks to 5 weeks.

Stick To Your Budget

There were things that were just completely outside our budget – we weren’t going to knock down walls or anything like that. We were working within the original footprint of the home. That saved us a ton of money. It’s tempting, when your contractor says, “well we could just move this thing here and then…” to just go with it. But that will cost you more money in the long run!

Splurge on the Things that Matter

Tile was a big thing for me. I wanted a classic, yet modern looking tile that would stand the test of time. I didn’t want it to be too trendy. I, personally, think we hit it out of the park and I’m happy that I spend what I did on tile. But it was tempting to go with the cheaper option on the things that get most expensive.

Our shower door was another thing that I splurged on. It’s going to be what we look at for the next however long we’re in this house so I wanted it to look nice and clean. I spent twice as much as what I could have spent on a basic shower door to have just the look I wanted. And it was sooooo worth it.

Hopefully this helps and my rambling is semi-coherent. But this was the biggest renovation we’ve take on to date and I’m really proud of the way it turned out.

Got any big reno plans coming up? Got any special lessons learned? Drop a line in the comments or send me a note at basicbgettingrich@gmail.com!

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