Personal Finance

Renovating a money pit? Better budget

Home renovations part of your 2017 plan? Before you take on more than you can financially handle, make sure to do your research. Building a realistic budget, tackling projects room by room, and determining what requires professional help vs. things you can DIY will help save you a ton of money in the long run.

Prioritize your projects

If you are anything like my family, you probably have a list a mile long of updates you would love to make in your home. But it’s not always easy to afford it all at once. That’s why my family chooses one project per year to focus on. One year we invested in granite countertops, another year we built a pergola by the pool, did landscaping around the house and so on. While this year’s gutter replacement projects isn’t as much fun, sometimes you have to invest in practical maintenance, too!

Set your deadline and budget

There are some instances where you may need to make several updates in a short period of time. For example, if you are selling your home unexpectedly you may have no choice but to make the updates in order to get the full-price value of the home. If you are like me and plan to make updates over time, set deadlines that best work for your financial situation.

Perhaps you would love a finished basement and your kids are currently elementary-aged. A good goal might be to finish the basement once they hit middle school and require more space. It’s never too early to begin researching how much a future project will cost, how long it will take, and professionals you may like to hire. This will give you a clear understanding of how long it will take you to save for your deadline.

Pay it forward

To pay for each year’s project in cash (as opposed to financing it), we build a ‘home renovation’ category into our monthly budget. We divide the total cost of the project that we want to do in the coming year by 12 and pay that amount to our savings each month from January to December. Once January rolls around the following year, we have the savings ready to go! For example, this month we already started saving for our 2018 project.

DIY or hire it out?

This can be a difficult choice! While anything can be done with a little willpower and patience, sometimes a lack of proper expertise, equipment and time may outweigh the benefits of DIY. There are, of course, so many other factors to consider than just the hard cost.

Right now, painting wood cabinetry is very trendy. Depending on your wood grain, this is typically a time-intensive job that requires specific tools, a steady hand and many steps (and hours) to do it properly. While DIY projects are incredibly rewarding, challenge your assumptions and research how much a professional would cost. Then carefully weigh your options. It might be more affordable than you think! If you choose to hire, seek a direct referral from a close contact so you can visit their home and see the work up close.

Home renovations don’t have to stay on your Pinterest board. You can bring them to life with smart planning, sensible budgeting and a realistic timeline your whole family can get behind.

Kat's Money Corner is posted on Dollars & Sense every Tuesday. Kat Hnatyshyn, when not blogging or caring for her little ones, is a manager with CommunityAmerica Credit Union. For more financial chatter, visit