Improving your home is not only a rewarding experience — it can also be a great investment. But to get the best return on that investment, you may need to find ways to save time and money on your projects without sacrificing quality. Whether you’re working with a small budget or want to get more bang for your buck, here are a few tips on how to lower costs while renovating or remodeling your home.
During a renovation or remodeling project, the cost of labor (i.e. the cost of hiring contractors and subcontractors) can have a big impact on how much you pay overall. Click through for ideas on how to save money when hiring a contractor and still get stellar results in the end.
Although the first cost estimate you receive from a contractor may look appealing, it’s considered best practice to vet a few other options before making a commitment. For example, if the contractor’s price seems higher than their skill level, do more research. Message or call several other pros to see their rates. You may find a qualified professional who charges a fair but lower rate than the first pro you contacted.
Also, remember that some estimates may be high if you need design-build services, your project is complex or if additional repairs are needed before the contractor can begin working.
Related: How to hire a contractor.
It never hurts to ask about discounts. When you meet with a contractor, ask if they’re offering any deals to first-time customers. Or, maybe they can offer discounted rates to customers who sign up for a package? For example, if the contractor also offers maintenance services, ask if you can get a discount on future maintenance and repairs by signing up for a package deal. You might be surprised by the discounts, deals and promotions that are available to customers like you.
Negotiating is easier when you know the fair price for your project. If possible, talk to friends, family and homeowners who’ve completed similar projects in your area to see how much they paid. You can also go online and read cost guides that explain the different factors that can impact prices for various projects.
The more research you do before you start talking to contractors, the more confident you’ll feel when negotiating with them.
In the slow season (when demand is low), contractors in your area may have a hard time finding customers. As a result, they may drop their prices to attract more business. If it’s feasible, start your home project in the off-season to save money.
But when exactly is the “off-season” for your home projects? It depends on the project. For example, summer is a popular time to get your air conditioning serviced or replaced. You may be able to save money if you plan ahead and schedule your HVAC service in the spring.
Nothing may be more expensive — or frustrating — than redoing elements of your home project or having to start all over again. That’s why it’s recommended you read customer reviews before you hire a contractor, designer or any other type of pro.
Reviews give insight into the pro’s history. For any pro you’re considering, look out for reviews that state the customers needed to have some things redone — either by another contractor or by the same one. If a professional you’re considering has a history of problematic projects, it may be best to keep scrolling.
Pro tip: Also, find out if the pro is licensed, bonded and insured.
Every home project requires materials. Materials often make up the bulk of the total cost. Knocking off a hundred or a thousand dollars on materials is always ideal. Click through for tips on how to save money on building materials.
Take stock of items in your home that you don’t need or plan to replace during your remodeling project. For example, you may be sick and tired of looking at that old couch. But, it could be the ideal solution for a college student. The same goes for any appliance upgrades. Your old refrigerator may be an eyesore next to your new backsplash. On the other hand, it might fit perfectly in someone else’s aesthetic.
Sell the items you don’t need and plan to replace them. Then, put the extra cash toward the new materials, furnishings and appliances you want to purchase.
Waiting for a sale — seasonal or otherwise — may mean you have to delay your project. But the good news? You could save major bucks, especially on a new TV, grills, appliances, outdoor furniture and much more.
Pay attention to online and retail sales throughout the year, including sales that occur on Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day, Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
Ironically, the most impactful aspect of bathroom and kitchen cabinets may be their least expensive feature: their doors and hardware. Giving your existing cabinets a fresh face typically requires less labor, time and money than fully replacing them.
Refacing your cabinets can help them jive with the backsplash, and the final product can completely transform your kitchen or bathroom. You can even get push-in hardware for lower and upper cabinets without going over your remodeling budget.
Whether you’re tackling a project on your own or working with a contractor, ask about discounts for your building materials. A supplier may offer discounts to builders (usually contractors but sometimes homeowners who are acting as the general contractor for their project) if they satisfy some sort of minimum order or a large volume of materials.
Your contractor or designer might also have connections to secure more affordable — but still high-quality — materials.
You have many options when it comes to materials, appliances and finishes. High-end appliances, flooring, tile and fixtures can send the price of a project through the roof. The key to saving money is finding an appropriate balance between form and function. For example, consider these scenarios:
Kitchen remodel: If you opt for a budget-friendly fridge, you may be able to spend a little more on a nice kitchen quartz or marble countertop.
Bathroom remodel: A less-expensive tile, showerhead or medicine cabinet can save you some money.
Flooring: While thick hardwoods may come with a certain panache, the end result might not be much better than engineered — or even laminate — floors that look and feel just as good. Depending on who will be running around on your floors, carpet may be a more economical choice for common areas.
Be open to living room, kitchen and bathroom design ideas that involve less-expensive materials. If you keep your home improvement ideas modest, your home renovation budget can shrink — and the final result can still have a big visual impact.
Whether you want to remodel a room, replace outdated appliances or boost your curb appeal, some general finance principles apply. Remember these tips to protect your personal finances during your next home project.
Every home improvement project has specific objectives and goals. Create a budget to account for these goals, and make sure you have enough money to complete each milestone. It can be tempting to add little upgrades here and there, but when you account for both materials and labor, the small things can have big price tags.
Use a spreadsheet, pen and paper or another tool to keep track of your spending. If you can convince a spouse, family member or friend to help you stay within your budget, that’s even better.
If you don’t have enough money saved to pursue your project, don’t lose hope. You may need to put some of your expendable income away for a short period of time in order to save enough for a home project.
Take a look at your spending habits and adjust your home project’s timeline or budget as necessary. For example, you may need to lower your budget for that new marble countertop you’ve been wanting and settle for concrete or laminate counters instead. Or, maybe you’ll choose to postpone the project, eat more meals at home, and use the extra cash for that marble countertop.
The bottom line: do whatever you need to do to protect your finances and pad your savings when remodeling your home.