Those baby blue tiles going from floor to ceiling in your guest bathroom have to go, but you aren’t sure how to afford the renovation. How can you afford to do home improvements when monthly bills take so much of your income?
You aren’t alone in this financial battle. According to the sixth annual Houzz & Home survey, homeowners cite funding and financing the project in the top five biggest renovation challenges. The No. 1 reason was staying on budget. The survey also showed a jump in credit card use to pay for renovations – 23 percent in 2016 versus 21 percent in 2015.
But you don’t have to go in deep debt to pay for home upgrades. There are plenty of ways to save big bucks during the renovations. Here are seven ways to do what you need without hurting your finances:
Save, save, save
If you have some time before a renovation needs to be done, then start putting away money every week in a separate savings account. You might want to even put it in automatically with a direct deposit from your check.
By doing this, you won’t even have a chance to spend the money before it gets into the bank. You can also start packing your own lunch, making your own coffee and cooking dinners instead of going out.
You will be surprised how much money you can accumulate quickly by simplifying your life and staying home more often.
Barter with others
While flipping her first house, realtor Bridget Gooch discovered that she didn’t have the skills to put in all the new doors in her house. So, she traded a simple deal: she would paint two rooms of a contractor’s house while he put in all new doors for her.
Gooch, a realtor at RE/MAX Elite Homes QC in Davenport, Iowa, had owned and operated an interior painting company before getting in real estate. She still paints many of her clients’ homes, too, before putting them up for sale.
“It only cost me a quick afternoon of painting to get something done that I didn’t know how to do,” she says. “I watch my budget like a hawk. I try to creatively save as much as possible.”
Use budget finds and refinishing companies
Gooch couldn’t find a new 60 inch vanity for the house she was flipping without spending $1,000 or more. However, she was able to pick a used one for $60.
“Somebody was upgrading from oak. It was just sitting in their garage,” she said.
To find these deals, sign up for local online garage sales, go to estate sales or flea markets, or second-hand renovation stores such as Habitat for Humanity’s ReStores.
Gooch hired a bathroom refinishing company for $75 to redo the vanity top to look like granite. She painted the wood herself, and now it looks brand new.
Find a reasonably priced contractor
If you can’t do the work yourself, you can find vendors to do the work for you. Many of these vendors do side jobs from their regular contracting jobs, which can be less expensive, Gooch says.
“Reach out to a real estate office for their suggestions of contractors. They know a lot of them,” Gooch says.
She also suggests going to the big box stores such as Home Depot, Lowe’s and Menard’s. They have preferred contractor lists, so make sure to get a full estimate list of what it will cost and try to get at least three bids from different contractors.
“If you just go to the store, tell them you need help with a certain project. They will give you a list of recommended contractors,” she said.
Do prep work yourself
You can reduce your contractor’s fees by doing some of the dirty work yourself. If your bathroom tile needs to be removed, go online or buy a book and figure out how to do it yourself without tearing up the drywall.
If the carpet needs to be removed before your new wood floor will be put down, then do it yourself. It can be time-consuming, but it’s better than paying someone hundreds of dollars to do it.
If you need to paint, a gallon is usually only $25 along with purchasing a few rollers and paint brushes.
“Painting and flooring will be your biggest bang for your buck. Hiring a painter can be expensive,” Gooch says. “Putting a nice coat of white trim makes everything look better. Everyone wants white trim these days.”
Pick budget-friendly materials
If you do need to buy materials for a kitchen remodel, buy something that isn’t crazy expensive. When it comes to countertops, granite and quartz resist stains and stand up to abrasion and heat.
Installing these workhorses in the average kitchen could save between $500 and $1,000 over higher-end marble or soapstone. But laminate has become a much more popular choice these days with lots of styles, including some that look just like quartz and granite.
Consumer Reports says to pass on trendy design touches such as a waterfall edge, which wraps the exposed side of a cabinet. The materials alone for this one element can run $1,000. And if you just have your heart set on marble, then splurge on a single slab for the island and use complementary laminate to cover the remaining countertops.
Gooch says that if you are remodeling to sell your home, you can spend $1,000 on paint and other necessities that will easily give you back $5,000 to $10,000 in the sale.
“Nobody wants to do improvements when they move into a home. Times are changing. People used to want to put sweat equity,” Gooch says. “Not now. Every single buyer that comes to me wants move-in ready. They don’t want to get their hands dirty.”