How to save money on home improvement projects

by Nick on December 12, 2013

Pad of Paper, Pencil, Hammer and Screwdriver on a Wood Background.Any other homeowners out there know there are always more projects than money.

We’re in the same boat.

We value an emergency fund and long-term investing more than upgrading a bathroom, central air or getting a “fancier” anything.

But we have some money dedicated to home improvements.

So we have to stretch and spend that money wisely.

We do this several ways.

First, we make a list of all the projects we want to get done in the relatively short term.

Second, we get three or more bids on big projects, so we know approximately how much each will cost.

Third, we save money each month to build up our home improvement fund.

And fourth, by being opportunistic.

For example, the house next door is being flipped. A builder bought it and is adding square feet, bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchen cabinets, and a driveway. He’s also clearing some land and doing some significant landscaping.

It’s a big project.

So I reached out to him, mentioned the items on our list asked him to let us know when he’s doing those to see if we can both save some money by buying in bulk, so to speak.

Because our list is longer than our money, and is all “wants,” we are comfortable moving things up and down the priority list if we can score a great deal.

We define a great deal as saving more than 20% off our lowest bid.

For example, we the quotes for paving our driveway (it was stone) came in at $6,300, $6,500 and $6,600.

Our neighbor’s driveway contractor had extra materials and time with him when he paved next door.

Enter us. He agreed to dig out, prep and pave our driveway – plus an extra area off the back to park an additional car – for $5,100.


We saved 20% off the lowest bid plus we got an additional 200 sq. ft. paved, som someone can park there and not block the garage doors.

The driveway was on our list.

But it wasn’t at the top.

Until we got the deal we wanted.

Everything will get done, soon enough.

Until they’re done, or we hit the lotto (that we don’t play…), we’ll continue to be opportunistic.

How do you balance budgets and projects?

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Josh @ December 12, 2013 at 1:08 pm

Great post! Being optimistic helps in so many different areas of life! Thanks for the great read!


Nick December 12, 2013 at 3:09 pm

Thanks, Josh!


Grayson @ Debt Roundup December 12, 2013 at 2:54 pm

That seems like a good win. I don’t have any major projects on the list now, except for just cleaning up the house. We are in the process of listing it, so we just have a lot of small projects. All being paid with savings!


Nick December 12, 2013 at 3:15 pm

Yeah, we were happy. Good luck with the sale!


Michelle @fitisthenewpoor December 12, 2013 at 4:32 pm

Posts like these make me so happy that we rent and not own!


Nick December 12, 2013 at 5:01 pm

Ha! Yeah, we rented for a while… I’m starting to think there needs to be a “landlord service” where someone will fix everything a landlord does for a small monthly cost…


Moneycone December 12, 2013 at 6:33 pm

Smart move Nick! Congrats – 20% savings is sweet!


Nick December 13, 2013 at 5:13 am

Thanks! Yeah, we’re pretty happy with it.


The First Million is the Hardest December 12, 2013 at 9:56 pm

Nice move, thankfully we don’t have many big projects planned (until summer!) so we have time to save up. If any of my neighbors start to have big projects done I’ll have to see if I can work out something similar!


Nick December 13, 2013 at 5:14 am

Thanks. We lucked out a bit by having a builder/flipper going next to us for sure…


Elroy December 13, 2013 at 2:14 pm

Since I’m a DIY’er, we can pay for most of our projects out of our normal cash flow. I move so slowly, it works out just right.


Nick December 14, 2013 at 6:44 am

That’s awesome! I totally need to spend my time at those weekend workshops over at Home Depot… they say they’re for 5-year olds, but I’m probably at their level anyhow…


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