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When to Splurge vs When to Save on Home Improvements

By HOM Editorial Team
May 2020

The lines in front of home improvement stores have been nearly as long as grocery store lines lately, as people find different home projects to pass the time while hunkering down inside. Every homeowner has a never-ending list of home improvements they would like to tend to, but often there just doesn’t seem to be enough time in the day to check anything off that list. In addition to a lack of time, there is another large factor: money. Deciding when and where to shell out money on home improvements is difficult and involves cost-benefit analysis across a wide-spectrum of areas.

With all these factors at play, how is one supposed to know when to splurge and when to save?

Splurging here and there is certainly not a bad idea, as there are specific home projects where you won’t want to choose bargain prices over quality. Remember, ultimately increasing the value on your property is the added bonus that comes with thoughtful investments in your home.

With that being said, it’s important to ask the right questions before investing in a project to decide which improvements are worth spending a lot of money on. As you dive into DIY-central while sticking it out at home, consider these cost-effective secrets for a home that doesn’t compromise looks for a budget.

Save: Buy Local

Purchasing materials and appliances from local shops can not only save you money but will help support your community’s local businesses by making them money and help keep them afloat, especially in today’s economic climate. Many assume you’ll find a better price at big department stores, but you’ll be pleasantly surprised to find that’s not always the case. In addition, your local shops will most likely order anything you’re interested in that they don’t have in stock. Save some money while being community and economically conscious: a win-win.

Splurge: Windows

When it comes to features that impact your safety (as well as your utility bills), skimping isn’t the path to take. It isn’t necessary to reach for the most expensive brand name windows but be sure to purchase ones that are well insulated and won’t end up falling apart within a few years. In addition to keeping your heat and/or AC inside where it belongs, energy-efficient windows could score you some energy tax credits and rebates.

Save: Painting

 If you’re looking for a way to jazz up a rather blasé room, painting is the budget-friendly (and best) way to do so. While painting is a rather tedious process, it’s almost too easy to do yourself. Rather than hiring someone to apply some pale green coats to your guest room, spend your weekend in a smock and paint yourself! As far as the price mark on the paint itself, you get what you pay for. So while you can save by painting your walls yourself, you may want to splurge on nicer paint ($30-$40 per gallon) which in the end will require fewer touch-ups and is much less likely to fade or stain over time. You should be able to get small samples of any brand of paint you have your eye on at your local hardware store, so allow yourself to try some different varieties and remember how much you’re saving by not hiring a professional, giving you some wiggle room for the price of the paint.

Splurge: Home Security

You can’t put a price tag on your safety. While you can buy a comical amount of deadbolts at the store, there is no amount of locks and yard deterrents that measure up to an extensive security system. Now that you’re a homeowner, it’s important to take the right precautions to protect your home and all of your belongings inside. Electric alarm systems like Vivint and Simplisafe include a variety of features that benefit you and your family such as an easy to use phone app that allows you to control your security system from anywhere in the world as well as extra attentive customer service.

Save: Wall Shelves

Whether you have a tiny home or a 5+ bedroom house, it seems as though there is never enough space for storage. A great way to utilize space is wall shelving, as opposed to expensive large shelving units, and one of the best things about this option is the affordability. Not only are wall shelves extremely low-cost, but so simple to put up yourself and easy to customize. All you need are some brackets (or opt for floating shelves) and the world is your oyster.

Splurge: New Wooden Floors

New flooring is most definitely expensive, but if taken care of correctly you shouldn’t have to update them again anytime soon, if ever. The average cost of replacing your floors with wood is $5,500 according to the Remodeling Impact Report, so certainly pricey although solid wood floors will substantially increase the value of your home—so much so, that costly investment can potentially recoup around 91% of that cost when selling your home. Lastly, with the extra time on your hands at home, take a stab at installing your floors yourself to cut back on expenses.

Save: Updated Hardware

Finding new hardware such as knobs, handles, and door knockers are some of the easiest cosmetic updates that go a long way. Whether you’re sick of the same drawer handles you’ve had on your dresser for years, or you just scored a great piece of used furniture just begging to be restored, changing the hardware will fool you (and everyone else) into thinking you just splurged on a new gorgeous piece of furniture.

Splurge: Custom-Built Showers

Installing a shower on the cheaper end may seem like a good idea initially, and you may be thinking, I can just cover it with a pretty shower curtain. But some of the many cons of cheaper shower kits are that repairs are difficult, there are limited sizes and styles, and they are not environmentally friendly. Custom-built tile showers don’t share any of those cons. They are eco-friendly – typically made from natural clay as opposed to plastic – and have size flexibility, while increasing your home’s value. The cherry on top: they are much easier on the eyes than their plastic counterpart.

Save: Front Door

If you’re a new homeowner, your jaw will likely drop when you see how expensive a new front door can be—between $1,500 and $20,000 with the installation. The owner of Door Store and Windows, Ann Gregory, shares that many factors play into the cost of installing a new door, but that you’re likely going to spend anywhere from $1,500 to $5,000. You will be able to find the same benefits from a door closer to the former amount, so stick to a friendly price tag while keeping in mind you can always add a coat of paint and/or new door number plaques to make your entryway more attractive. Your front door has an enormous impact on your home’s perceived value, considering it’s the first thing guests are seeing when entering your abode. Over the past three years, the most return on investment of any remodeling project is from a new front door, according to a Cost vs. Value report conducted by Remodel, so while even the more budget-friendly options are still pricey that is a great factor to keep in mind.

“Put money into the permanent parts…and go thriftier on interior finishes, which tend to be more ephemeral anyhow.”

There are endless components to consider when renovating your home or even just making small cosmetic updates, making it more important to factor in your budget and balance your priorities before diving in.

As architects, Beth Reader and Chuck Swartz share, “Put money into the permanent parts…and go thriftier on interior finishes, which tend to be more ephemeral anyhow.” One of the many benefits of homeownership is that this is your home, so you are able to reap all the benefits that you provide for yourself, but in addition, these amenities and restorations increase the value of your home. Invest in yourself and enjoy the comfort of your home in the meantime.


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