Gary Foreman is a former financial planner who currently edits The Dollar Stretcher website and newsletters. He wrote "New Frugal You," a weekly Q&A column about frugal living, for CreditCards.comAsk a question
Dear New Frugal You,
Our kitchen is nearly 30 years old.
We've been putting off any kitchen update because of the cost. But now the wood
kitchen cabinets are starting to fall apart. How can we update the kitchen
without spending a lot of money? -- Tara
A kitchen remodel is one of the more common home upgrades. An estimated 5 million happen each year in the United States.
It's not surprising. Styles change, new technologies improve old appliances and
even invent new ones. Plus, your kitchen gets a lot of use, so things just wear
To inexpensively remodel your kitchen
you'll have three major questions to answer.
1. How big is your budget?
2. How much remodeling will your budget allow?
3. How much (if any)
of it will you do yourself?
We'll start with the budget. Don't be
too influenced by the "average cost to
remodel" or "average return when you sell your home" figures you'll see tossed around. Those numbers are just that -- averages.
Your home isn't average, and neither is your budget, so make your own choices.
Instead of asking how much other people
spend, find out how much you can afford to spend. Then
work within that budget. It's easy to talk yourself into a better this or
upgraded that. Don't do it. In fact, you probably should only plan
on spending about 90 percent of your budget. Kitchen remodeling projects tend to uncover a surprise or two.
Are you considering a loan to make the remodeling happen? Start by checking your finances. This would be a good time to review your credit reports if you haven't done that in a while to make certain of your creditworthiness. Compare your home improvement financing choices to find the best deal.
Once you have a budget number, decide how much remodeling you can fit within that budget.
An inexpensive kitchen remodel generally
doesn't include taking everything to the bare walls and redesigning the kitchen,
including its layout. There's nothing inexpensive about that.
But there are a lot of less-expensive
options available. You might want to just paint or refinish your cabinet doors.
Or if the underlying cabinets are sturdy, staining or covering them with new
mica could be a good choice.
If you're going to redesign, consider
how you use your kitchen. Select changes that favor your usage. Settle on a
design before you start. Changes made midproject can be expensive.
Choose your materials carefully. There's
a wide range of quality and prices. You want to get the best materials you can
within your budget. Shopping can make a difference. You may find that smaller
specialty shops are less expensive than the home centers. Let them know that
you're price sensitive.
Make the little things count. People
tend to notice things such as drawer pulls and handles. You might get more impact
by spending an extra dollar on each of the 18 drawer pulls and handles instead
of spending hundreds more on the cabinet doors.
You'll need to research the options' cost. Do as much as you can online or by visiting
home centers, but for some you'll need to call professionals and ask them
Once you've decided how expensive and how extensive you want the
kitchen remodel to be, you can decide how much of it you want to tackle
An inexpensive kitchen remodel is a good
do-it-yourself project. Your part might be as simple as removing doors prior to
their refinishing. Or it could be removing entire cabinets. Most homeowners
with minimal skills can do much of the prep work. Contractors are
usually willing to let you do that as long as you finish on time.
Choose your contractor carefully. Get
three bids on any work that a professional will do. And check contractors'
references. Make sure they're bonded and insured. Agree in advance on how
you'll be billed for unexpected problems that add to the labor.
If you work through the steps you should
have an inexpensive kitchen remodel that fits within your budget and has the
maximum impact. Hope you enjoy your new kitchen!
See related: Kitchen remodeling and your budget
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