One of the greatest advantages of living in our day an age is the internet. Such a vast source of infinite wisdom! Right? Of course, you can pick up a lot of sarcasm in those words, but the truth is, there is a lot of valuable info on the internet. I remember a few years ago when I first came into contact with Pinterest. I could not stop looking at pictures of pretty homes and tutorials of things I wanted to either change or upgrade in my house. One night I remember telling my wife: we need a better house! I was joking, of course, but that night a truth was revealed to me, by my wife’s sharp sense of observation. She said to me, don’t get caught into the whole, ‘our house got to look like that one’ thing! Wow, those words pierced my very idea of home improvements.
The truth is that we all love our houses. They are our homes, they host our family gatherings, they reflect to a degree who we are and what we like. But we must be careful with that thought because it can lead us into a never-ending loop of “home improvements” that will cost us substantial amounts of money in the long run. No matter how pretty your house is, if you look on Pinterest long enough you will find a better one, and a prettier one, and a more efficient one, and on and on it goes.
With this I am not saying that you should not strive to have a better house, or to fix anything on your current one, or if you are saving for your first home, not to have the house of your dreams. That begs the question: how can we do home improvements in a fiscally responsible way? In other words, how can we make our house, our home, without breaking our bank?
We have put together a list of ideas that can help young couples (and older ones) stay in your budget as you plan-ahead to transform your simple house to a ‘home sweet home’.
First, like in anything in life, it is important to differentiate from the ‘needs’ to the ‘wants’. Your house needs maintenance. That is the items the home needs to stay running. Air filter, bug and pests’ treatments, lawn care, those are thing that a house needs and that if you neglect, they can cost you more money in the long run. For example, if you don’t change your air filters often, that can lead to a damaged A/C unit that costs a lot of money. What you house does not need is: a pool, or a water feature for example. Most houses and most people can live well and have beautiful homes without a pool. And those items cost a lot of money to install and to maintain. So, identify what your needs are in your house and make a budget that fits those needs.
Second, if you already identified the needs you have, and already have a budget that meets those needs, then you can start thinking about repairs. House, like cars, break. That is the reality. If you have the luxury to buy a new home, which comes with a 2 to 5 years warranty, you might be ok for a while, but that does not cover you for small breaks. The truth is that you will most likely spend more money on smaller items (like vacuums, appliances, and such) that on large purchases. But from time to time, you will have a surprise!! The A/C is broken, the roof is leaking. If you live in Florida like we do, those are critical items to fix right away and that it will cost you thousands of dollars. Put a plan together for those surprises. I always recommend new home owners to start with an emergency fund of at least $1,000.00 that can help with most smaller to medium sizes repairs. You can increase $500.00 a year to that initial amount until you reach a cap that fits your house. It might take a few years to get there, but it will give you a piece of mind. Also, I will add, that when you are ready to fix any surprise that life throws at you (like a Hurricane!), look at the section we have on tips that can help you save thousands, right here.
Third, after the needs of your home are met and you have a plan for life’s surprises, only then, you can start thinking about making your house look like a Pinterest’s worthy house. Now this is a very sticky situation. Because it is here where people most likely will fall into the never-ending ‘home improvement loop’ that always requires people to spend money on better things, and never be content with a simple yet beautiful home. Read on, but be careful. If you decide you still want to make a project a reality, either by DIY hand on or by letting an ‘expert’ do it, you must consider the following: first, consider the cost prior to you starting each project. We call that, good planning, Jesus called it practical estimating (Luke 14:28). Second, plan to do only one project at the time, and don’t start another one without finishing the prior one first (I learned this the hard way, when I had several projects going at the same time and no time, or money, to complete either) third, learn how to do things yourself, especially the labor side. That alone can save you over 2/3 of the cost on any project. Don’t be scare, just do it. Finally, never borrow money to do home improvements. This is one of the worst mistakes I see people do, either by credit cards, or they cash their home’s equity via a loan to fix their houses. Big mistake. It is better to save and wait and do it on your own terms and without paying banks a ton of money to do so.
A small or large project can be fun and can add value and character to any home. From outdoors to inside living spaces a home should be fun, should reflect who we are and what we are all about. Homes are enjoyable with upgrades, but upgrades are even better when we do not end up bankrupt because of them. If we get to be bankrupt, what will be the point of having a lovely home? Go ahead, be creative, save money, and more important of all: Enjoy!