When you’re about to embark on a home renovation, the cost of the project is more than just a minor detail. Here’s how to make a budget for your project and stay on track too!
Home renovations come in a few flavors. Maybe you’ve gone batty every time you stare at the bathroom tile that was cool five decades ago. Maybe you see the untapped potential of your space. Or perhaps its necessity driving you for change: the need for a new home office, an extra bedroom, or an outdoor space to offer you some much-needed vitamin D. No matter your reasoning, each project likely has this in common: it’s going to require some dollars.
Remodeling budgets have a reputation for developing some serious bloat. Ballooning. Skyrocketing. And that part can be a little nail biting—as in, down to the nubs. The new patio feels a lot less relaxing when you think of your monthly payment every time you sit down with ice-clinking drink in hand.
But here’s the thing. You can do a renovation and keep your expenses under control.
What?! Yes. With a little prior planning, an expectation of flexibility, and giving yourself wiggle room, home renovations can be a lot more financially peaceful.
1. Make Your Home Reno Plan
Before you break ground or have a demo day, there are fountains of wisdom in planning your steps before you start. Sit down and write out the expected expenses for your renovation. These are things like:
- Equipment rental
- Hiring help (plumber, electrician, handyman)
Then, estimate the cost associated with each category. You probably won’t know this number off the top of your head, and if you did that would be weird. So, do some research, google here and there, and always aim high.
You might be tempted to lump these expenses under one massive category, but for large projects with multiple expenses, you might end up feeling overwhelmed without at least some detail. Breaking it out helps you get a granular view and reassure you that you can pay for your project, and helps you pin down how much to spend on each piece.
Here’s an example budget for a large kitchen renovation that included moving walls and pipes. The costs are broken out by category at the start of the project along with the estimated cost of each.
2. Build Your Buffer
Unless you’re already a seasoned contractor, there will probably be some costs you just won’t think of in that first run-through. That’s OK! And it’s also OK to know what you don’t know: and that’s where the buffer comes in.
Take 10% of the estimated cost of your project. That’s going to be a separate line item called in your budget. You could call it the “cushion,” the “stuff I didn’t budget for” or the “unexpected expenses” or just “surprise!” If you have an older home, or a particularly finicky one, this buffer might be closer to 25%. Take whatever you’re comfortable with but don’t dip much below 10%.
Some other categories you could potentially build out as part of this buffer or within your current budget.
- Eating Costs. If you’re doing a kitchen renovation, the extra cost of food (whether you’re eating out more or just need more convenient, pre-made options)
- Hotel Costs. If you need to leave your house for all or part of your renovation, hotel prices can add up.
- Pet Boarding. If you have a dog that gets anxious or isn’t comfortable with other people, you might need to send your pup away from the house for a few days while work is being done.
Unsure? Just keep that “cushion” category nice and plump and go from there!
3. Total Up Your Expenses
Alright, it’s time for a tally. Add up all the costs and expenses of your project plan. Although every project is different, here’s a look at some averages for different projects. If you’re low or high, well no one wants to be downright average, huh? Keep in mind, these costs are only a reference in might not include the truest picture of expenses like eating out costs and hotel stays.
- Kitchen remodel: average cost between $12,000-$34,000.
- Bathroom renovation: average cost around $10,000.
- New patio: average cost between $3,000-$5,000.
- Yard/landscaping: this might be the toughest project to nail down expenses. Costs range from $3,000 for something like sod or sprinkler installation to $250,000 for a full blown backyard oasis from the ground up.
- Set up a home office: if you’re looking to transform a current space in your home into an office, or give your current one some sprucing up, a medium budget to set up home office might be around $800, assuming you already own the pricey electronics like a computer, monitor, and printer.
In the kitchen renovation budget shown so far, the expenses are tallied up for a total of $33,000.
4. Fund Your Plan
Now that you have a clean and clear number for the estimated cost of your project, it’s time to turn that dream into a reality with some extra dollars.
While the most financially sound route would be to pay for non-essential home projects with cash you have on hand, that’s not always a reality.
Source your funding—whether that’s approval for a loan, refinancing your mortgage, or gathering your cash on hand.
How much is your budget? Sometimes that list above will be your north star, other times it will be the current bounds of your financial situation. While we see the best financially peaceful results with setting your budget based on your current ability, choose what makes sense for you!
In our example kitchen reno budget, this homeowner had $25,000 set aside for the project. They entered it into their YNAB budget to distribute out to the categories listed above.
5. Give Every Dollar a Job
Now take that inflow and divvy it up into your categories. Just like you might divvy a huge wad of cash into envelopes. You’ve got a target for how much each one should cost, and fill up your buckets accordingly with the cash you have on hand. Can’t do it all yet? That’s ok! Shift your plan anytime and add additional inflows as they become available to you.
In the example we’ve used so far, $25,000 won’t quite cover all of the estimated $33,000 projected costs. But this knowledge is power! Now this homeowner can either shift some of their plans, perhaps going with a less expensive flooring, or perhaps shopping around for other quotes. The question to ask is “what does this money need to do before I get more money”?
So in this example, you can see the priority funding went to the countertops, cabinets, and flooring—all materials that needed to be ordered ahead of time, while the electrician is on hold, since that would be towards the end of the project.
Give every dollar a job for a clear, crisp plan of what you need and want your dollars to do. It’s the ultimate decision-making tool!
6. Track Your Expenses
Once you have your budget blueprint and project plan, start making your purchases! You can keep track of everything in the account register in YNAB for easy reference, and update your template as you go. YNAB will help you do that—it’ll even connect to your bank.
As you spend, you’ll see the amount remaining in your categories to inform your project decisions. This is tremendously helpful to let your budget help dictate your decisions, because there are lots of choices to be made while doing home projects!
7. Roll With the Punches
As you build out, your expenses might fluctuate. More expensive flooring, less expensive drywall. Roll with the punches! The doors might be more expensive than planned. A leak needs to be fixed. An appliance is backordered and you need to eat more takeout in the meantime. These things are going to happen as sure as the sun will rise. As they do, no need to fret. Just roll with the punches, move money around your budget, and shift your plan. Not just expected, but encouraged!
8. Enjoy the Fruits of Your Labor
Ah yes, your project will finally be done!! Built, painted, remodeled, finished. And you can just bask in the beautiful new space you’ve created, and hopefully with less financial stress along the way.
Use this method and you might even find you have money leftover (*GASP!*). Yes, it’s happened before. Treat yourself to something pretty, and cheers to you creating something new!
Use YNAB’s convenient app to plan and track your home renovation, remodel, or redesign. It’s more powerful than google sheets, google docs, or Excel, and you’ll have a flexible system that adjusts and pivots right along with your project. Try YNAB free for 34 days and create your own powerful home renovation budget template.
Start Your Project Budget
Prefer pen and paper? Download our free printable and follow the method laid out above for more peaceful finances during renovation.