How to Renovate and not go into debt

renovating on a budget

Well here we are renovating our second house and it’s hard to believe how much we have already got done. Apparently, it’s hard for many of you to believe too. Two recent comments I received on Facebook were

“You guys never slow down! I am jealous and in awe of your work ethic, creativity, and skills to do all that you do!”


“I wish we could afford to do that kind of renovation right now!”

So, I thought it was finally time to address exactly how we stay on top of all the renovations we do and how we afford to do it all with out going into debt.


When it comes to our money and time we all have our priorities; and ours is our house. We funnel almost all of our extra time and money into it. If you are serious about taking on a renovation or remodel than you need to get in this mind frame too (well at least until the remodel is done).

Make a plan

Remember when I shared our 2014 goals with you? Our plan consists of projects all over our house, but even a small project like our foyer makeover started with a solid plan. Having a plan helps us stay on schedule, reduce costs and mistakes, as well as take advantage of sales and promotions.

Take advantage of sales and promotions

Pretty much everything goes on sale eventually. If you’ve taken the time to make a plan then you’ll already know what materials you need. This will allow you to do some research and find out when the best time to buy them will be.  We were able to score our kitchen cabinets and countertops during the Ikea Kitchen Sale which netted us a $950 discount!

kitchen progress

Shop Around

Find what you like, check all the local stores, then shop online. I originally found our door knobs on Amazon through, but when I checked Build’s website I found out they were offering 7% off plus free shipping, something they weren’t offering on Amazon.

Ooil rubbed bronze egg door knob

Shop Outlets and Second hand

We scored our kitchen chandelier for $20 on Craigslist, our Greek key console for $20 from the Habitat for Humanity Re-store, and our fridge for 1/2 price at the Sears Outlet.

How to paint a brass chandelier

Do it yourself

This is a no brainer and where we net our biggest savings. Take on anything you feel comfortable doing yourself.  You may not be up for installing new kitchen cabinets but removing the old ones yourself could save you a bundle with the contractor.

caulking wainscoting

Enlist friends

When doing it yourself fails then phone a friend. When we started our first kitchen renovation we knew nothing about plumping and electrical work so we called in some friends who did and whose time could be purchased with a case of beer. Now Cody is the most skilled DIYer of our friends, so he will often trade his skilled labor (like laying floors) for unskilled labor (helping us move). It’s a little of “I’ll rub your back, if you rub mine.”

Set a budget and pay in cash

I create an excel spreadsheet for each of our projects before we start. We estimate how much everything will cost then keep track of all of our expenses. If I know I am already over budget I am much less likely to splurge, where as if I’m under budget I know I can afford the upgrade.  I also pretty much always pay in cash. Not only is this a good negotiating tool, but it will always keep you out of debt.

Break it down by paycheck

This is the tip that has helped us the most. Some people will save until they have enough for the whole project, but I would get bored waiting and probably splurge on something instead. What we do is set aside $100 a paycheck that is specifically for the house. When the money is gone, we wait until next paycheck before buying more material. This allows me to always pay in cash and makes me feel like I am always making progress on the house.

Use a windfall

When it comes to larger purchases (like our new windows and stove) we tend to take advantage of windfalls such as tax returns and company bonuses.  These are far and few between, but help us knock out higher financial obligations.

And that is how we manage to get it all done without breaking the bank.  So, how do you do it? What are your best tips for taking on a renovation?

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xoxo Stephanie

3 thoughts on “How to Renovate and not go into debt”

    1. I know how you feel Christina! I constantly struggle with feelings of frustration. I just want it all done now! I’ve been trying to practice patience but it’s a virtue I haven’t quite mastered yet….

  1. When we bought our home over a year ago, I had all these ideas of how to decorate and all these awesome projects I wanted to take on. I just takes time and money. Even if you DIY, you have to have time and money for materials. I like the idea of setting a budget per paycheck! Love that chandelier 🙂

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