How to Update Your Home on a Limited Budget

When my husband and I bought our first home at the end of May, I didn’t realize that our plans to spruce up the decor would entail an entire first-floor renovation. What started as a simple idea to make the flooring more cohesive gave way to updating trim, cabinets, and countertops. The best part, though? We accomplished our updates in just over a month and on a limited budget. If you had a chance to read Devon’s post last month on “How to Prioritize Your New Home Updates,” then you’ll enjoy my humble home-reno tips below on how we took some of her suggestions (like tackling the “public,” downstairs spaces first) and personalized our space while staying cost savvy.

Mix thrift and big spending by determining when to DIY and when to bring in a professional.

Every person has a unique skill set, so capitalize on the tasks you feel confident doing yourself and hire a professional to complete the rest. For instance, I knew I wanted to update the existing honey-colored wood cabinets in the bathrooms and kitchen to better complement the cool undertones in the new hardwood floors, but quotes from painters came back high and completely replacing the cabinetry was more than our pocketbook could manage. I am comfortable with a paintbrush and had the time while I’m not teaching over the summer, so I decided to paint the cabinets myself and invest the money we saved elsewhere. On the flip-side, although click-and-lock floating floors are easy to install, Bertie and I were pretty confident that any task involving a table saw was a task for us to avoid! We hired a professional to install the new hardwood floors and new, taller baseboard throughout the space. Do some how-to research online and figure out what types of projects you are comfortable accomplishing and what types you are not. In the end, you’ll really maximize your budget.

As a side note: Did we make some poor decisions on this front? We definitely should not have taken on the task of re-connecting plumbing to the new dishwasher, but the silver lining is that we’ve learned our limits for next time!

If it’s going to be thrown out anyway, demo yourself.

The biggest way we saved money on new flooring and appliances was to tear out and haul away the existing materials ourselves. If you’ve ever thought Demo Day on Fixer Upper looked like fun, then do some research on where to properly dispose of materials in your area and find your inner Chip Gaines. Our philosophy was that if the existing material was going to be thrown away anyway, then we, as amateurs, could probably tackle the tear-out ourselves. The floors and appliances came out easily and we were able to donate nearly everything. (If you were wondering about what we weren’t able to salvage, the baseboard and some existing laminate came off in splintered pieces and needed to be thrown away.)

Act as your own “project manager.”

As you’ve probably gathered, successful home renovation on a budget requires knowing what you can accomplish yourself and what you can’t. I certainly value professional project managers and designers who know their craft and can help a home project run more smoothly with professional results; however, another way we saved costs was by doing our research and finding direct retailers and professionals and going to them directly. For our floors, we bypassed the overhead costs that customers often find at stores by ordering the flooring material from a direct retailer outside of Chicago and hiring a professional floor and trim carpenter to do the installation based on a family recommendation. I also found a local millwork business and ordered trim materials directly from their shop. Again, know your limits and take on decisions that will suit your needs best!

Put high-end touches on affordable pieces.  

Savvy Pinterest-ers and HGTV followers will know that trash-to-treasure projects can help stretch a home renovation budget. I learned with my cabinets that quality paint and some patience can create a beautifully polished look, so I decided to continue the “high-end makeover” look by turning a front room into a library with a wall of faux built-ins. We purchased white Billy bookcases from IKEA (just $59 each!) along with height extension units and asked our carpenter to attach 1×6 trim, baseboard, and crown moulding to the fronts to give the affordable bookcases a built-in look. Find spaces in your home that could accommodate a high-end look like built-ins or stylish trim and copycat the work.

I hope these suggestions will inspire you to take your prioritized wish list of updates home updates and make the space you’ve been dreaming of a reality!

Happy homemaking,


Jordan is a writer, educator, artist, and all-around lover of words. An English teacher by day, she is also a classically trained singer and pursues creativity in many forms—from singing and writing, to creating artwork and designing spaces to host family and friends.

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