Ok, so home remodeling is expensive, there's no doubt about it. Sticking to a budget can be a challenge. Some items are worth splurging on, and some items are not, and it's hard to decide when to splurge vs when to save on home decor.
Beginning a project, whether it's interior design for living room, kitchen, or bedroom, it’s good to have a roundabout figure on what you want or can spend. If you don't have a final amount in mind, it's easy to break the bank and find yourself paying off a much larger loan, or giving up a much bigger chunk of cash, than you can really afford. Careful planning with your builder and interior designer can help you contain your costs and keep your project affordable.
Don't Over Spend, Don't Under Spend
Just as it's easy to overspend when you're doing a home improvement project, it's also tempting to under spend. Hiring the lowest cost builder, contractor or interior designer may seem like it's a good way to save money, but you could just end up regretting your choices or getting low quality work.
Likewise, trying to save money on fixtures or furniture that should be high quality could leave you dealing with a lot of wear and tear on household items that weren't designed to stand the test of time. You might think you're saving money, but in a few short years, you could find yourself re-doing the whole thing.
So, I always say, spend what you can afford, but buy quality. Don't skimp on the wrong things. I'll come back to this in a minute. First, let's talk about budgeting.
Make Your Budget
Making a home improvement budget is a complicated process. Before deciding where to splurge vs save on home decor, I could write a whole article about how it works and then some. Here are a few tips:
Start by getting quotes from professionals. Meet with designers and builders who can discuss prices and help you ballpark the cost of your upcoming project. This will give you a range that you can expect to spend.
Seek financing. If you're getting a loan for your project, shop around for the right loan with the right payment terms. There are many types of home improvement loans, so explore more than one. Pick a reputable lender. If you're not sure which lender is reputable, check with your bank, or get referrals from friends or family that have gone through similar projects.
Set a limit. Once you know about how much your project will cost, and about how much you plan to borrow/spend, then you can set a limit and move forward. Be sure to communicate this number to the contractor and designer that you end up hiring. Keep everyone on the same page.
I have a free budget guide that you receive when you sign up on my website. This guide breaks down projects from living rooms to kitchens, and gives you three tiers of budgets, so you can get a sense of what the cost COULD be (before any fees).
As I go through projects, I like to explain to my clients what deserves the splurge vs save on home decor. Knowing where to focus your spending and where to find small savings is the way to keep to your budget and avoid spending your money wastefully.
Those things that you can - and should - spend more on are things I call investment items. Investment items are items that you sit and sleep on. You should invest in a sofa and chair that will stand the test of time in both durability and comfort. Dining room chairs are another investment item. I've literally had dining room chairs break while I was sitting on them - believe me, you don't want that to happen to you!
Sofas, sectionals, and accent chairs need to stand up against the kids, pets, and adults! Your furniture should be able to stand up to spills, jumps, acrobats (like my younger son), while the fabric should be able to easily clean spills (red wine and chocolate, anyone?).
Don’t you want to climb into bed knowing that the frame will hold you up? How annoying is that frame that moves and creaks when you get up? Average numbers say we spend about one third of our entire lives in bed. To me, that definitely qualifies as something to invest in.
For some homeowners, identifying high quality furnishings can be tough. Working with a good designer can help. Just because something is expensive doesn't make it high quality. A good designer will know which brands are best and can direct you to quality furnishings that will last a long time.
For kitchens and bathrooms the splurge is usually on the cabinets and appliances, with counters coming in close behind - and you should be splurging in these areas. The one exception I can think of is if you decide to refinish your existing cabinets, instead of replacing. You can save some money by refinishing cabinets, but the savings are only worthwhile if your existing cabinets are in good condition, made from a high quality material, and fit with the style that you’re remodeling to.
Accessories, smaller pieces of furniture, and tile are all items you can save on. Finding low-cost, quality items is an art. Your designer can help with this. Some tips when saving:
If the cost of a furnishing is too good to be true, it probably is. Do your research to see what it is made of. Performance fabrics are the way to go, especially with kids and pets. You should also consider the long-term viability of any item that you're attracted to. Durability and longevity are directly related. Saving money on an item that's going to fall apart in one year probably isn't worth it.
Go local first before big retailers. Local stores have more personalized service and extensive knowledge in what they are selling. They also tend to stock quality items that are going to last. Many local stores base their business model on the idea that they can't deliver cheaper, but they can deliver better. Thus, the lower cost item at the local stores are often better than the lower cost item at the big retailers.
Big retailers, some of them, do not make quality furniture equal to the price you may pay. These stores simply do not invest in their product in this way, nor do their customers demand higher quality products.
Before investing in anything, whether it's tiles for the walls or flooring, GET SAMPLES. Both fabric and finish samples are either low in cost or free. Look at the samples in the actual room where the product will be installed. Compare the samples against other materials and colors found in the room, and at different times of day, in different qualities of light. Get second opinions from other family members. Take your time. Bring together the cabinet, counters, and tile samples as well, even if your project is the adjacent living room. This is helpful to make sure you love it all together and that it’s a cohesive design.