Where to spend your remodeling budget

Shannon Lee | Improvement Center Columnist | March 23, 2015

Now that you are looking at your yearly budget, maybe there's some extra cash for home improvements. What would be the best remodeling job for your home? Perhaps you really want that new deck but it's just a bit out of your price range; or perhaps you have your heart set on a new kitchen, but all the estimates are far above what you are comfortable with paying.

There are solutions that can give you a good compromise between what you really want and what you can realistically afford. Here are a few options that just might make the most of your remodeling dollar.

If you love to entertain…

When entertaining is at the top of the list, so is a very nice kitchen. But let's be honest: Most of us can't afford all the bells and whistles we covet on home design television shows. Rather than take out a loan for all that high-end goodness, focus on the areas that make the most sense to your entertaining style.

Do you enjoy having many friends over for dinner? A larger range and oven could be just what you need to keep the courses coming. Do you often lounge in the dining room with fine bottles of wine? A built-in wine cellar makes good use of the space underneath the kitchen island. Do your friends gather in the kitchen with you to cook? Extend the countertop to create elbow room for everyone -- and put in a few butcher block sections to make prep work a snap.

If you adore the great outdoors…

Stepping outside and taking a deep breath of fresh air, looking at a spectacular view, or simply lounging quietly on the deck while nature makes music around you can turn life into something sweet, indeed. But you might not be able to afford that porch remodel you crave, and your budget might come up short for that outdoor kitchen.

That's when you get creative with your remodeling plans. Do your kids love playing outside? Create a firepit and lounging area in the backyard, perfect for toasting s'mores. Does the sound of nature relax you? Put up an attractive privacy fence that blocks noise from the road or neighbors. Do you enjoy gardening? Invest that money in raised beds, a rainwater collection system, and a good compost bin.

If you are going green…

Trying to reduce your carbon footprint is a very worthy goal, but sometimes it can seem quite expensive. Rather than opt for the geothermal unit or put solar panels on your roof, go for remodeling ideas that make the most of going green with what you already have.

Do you have old windows that seem to let in every draft and sound? Now might be the time to replace them with double-pane or triple-pane windows with high energy-efficiency ratings. Are you using a ridiculous amount of energy to heat and cool your house? Pour that remodeling budget into eco-friendly insulation that will help reduce your energy usage.

If you want to age in place…

Many homeowners envision themselves living in their own home until their final days. That goal is completely attainable for homeowners who start making smart remodeling changes early. Start right now by opting for small but significant projects that won't break your budget.

Does your home have multiple levels? Now is the time to look into adding an elevator or stair lift. Do you have traditional tubs and showers? Replacing them with walk-in tubs or a zero clearance shower stall can make life easier right now, no matter how your mobility is. Are your doorways tight? Expanding them can mean plenty of room later, when you might need it most, plus a more open-looking floor plan in the meantime.

Make your remodeling budget work for you

Why wait to remodel? Your budget might be small, but big ideas can come from it. The trick is to narrow down your remodeling dreams to what you really want and need, and then build it from there. Look at your most expensive remodeling plan and ask yourself what you really want. Is it more convenience you crave? More space? Lower utility bills? Once you have pinpointed what you really want, ask yourself which remodels might accomplish that goal with a far smaller bottom line.

Not entirely sure how to scale down those remodeling fantasies? Investing a bit of time with a good design expert can open up remodeling ideas you might have never considered. In the end, you will be pleased with your changes, and your bank account will breathe a sigh of relief.

Photo credit to Myryah Shea

About the Author

Shannon Lee is a freelance writer and occasional novelist with a serious weakness for real estate. When she's not writing, she and her husband are taking road trips to explore covered bridges, little wineries and quaint bed-and-breakfast inns in their beloved Pennsylvania.