Home improvement projects can be bottomless money pits. In fact, these budgets notoriously spiral out of control — and it’s all too easy to get sucked up in what you think you want versus what you really need. Here’s the good news: With a bit of planning, practicality and patience, you can achieve the house of your dreams without winding up in crippling debt. Ahead, we’re covering our three top tips every homeowner should know before taking on a home improvement project.
Tip #1: Have a Detailed Plan
Home improvement projects are a delicate balance of detailed planning and going with the flow. On the one hand, having a zoomed-out view of everything you’ll need to do beforehand as well as meticulously planned steps is key to composing a realistic budget and sticking to it. On the other hand, being flexible is a prerequisite when the world is on backorder and good labor is hard to find.
Before you fall down the rabbit hole of selecting tiles or picking out paint colors, step back and make a list of everything you want done. Then, go through item by item and write out all associated costs. Sometimes, pivoting halfway through a project is the right — or only — choice. But on the whole, having a clear idea of your direction is much more financially savvy than winging it.
RELATED READ: How to Prioritize Your Home Improvement Projects
Tip #2: DIY What You Can
Your time is a valuable, irreplaceable resource, so it’s important to carefully weigh what cost savings are worth trading for your precious hours. Painting is one task most homeowners have the ability to tackle themselves — it’s just a matter of how much time you are willing to dedicate. If demolition is required for your project, that’s another big budget buster that you may be able to take on yourself. Refinishing floors and learning to tile a backsplash are two other learnable tasks that can add up.
Remember: Cutting the wrong corners may cost you more in the long run. After all, there are some things best left to the professionals (hello, tricky electrical work!). If you aren’t honest with yourself upfront about your skill set, you may blunder a project to a point where it must have professional repair — even if that wasn’t originally allotted in the budget.
RELATED READ: Should You Hire a Contractor?
Tip #3: Consider Your Sources Carefully
Patience is a virtue, and it’s also a major money saver! Planning ahead and allowing a long runway means you can take your time to research and find the best value at the best cost in every department. In some areas, that may mean choosing a mid-grade material. For others, you may learn that anything less than the best is ultimately a waste of money. From vendors and contractors to materiality and hardware, thorough research can make a huge difference in final costs.
For example, keep a close enough eye on your local Facebook swap groups and you might be able to find the perfect coffee table for your living room refresh. Calling several plumbers and getting detailed quotes may save you hundreds. Going in person to a few different countertop warehouses can give you a more accurate sense of your options. Ask service providers if they do price matching or are willing to negotiate. These approaches take a lot more effort than scanning an online store and making an impulse buy, but you can save your budget if you’re willing to be patient and put in the time.
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