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My house is never meant to be my forever home. In truth, I’ve got a 3-year 5-year 8-year plan on this house and will likely be moving onto the next “project” home adventure shortly thereafter. To me, the number one consideration of my home improvement choices is the investment: will this contribute to the home’s overall appeal to a new buyer?

first home budgeting tips

So, rather than spend thousands of dollars on a new kitchen or knocking down walls, I am doing my best to spend my money wisely. A few rules I have come up with in regard to budgeting choices:

First Home Budgeting Tips

Consider the neighborhood.

How much change will this neighborhood see between now and when I plan to sell? The current real estate flop may be a drastic change in a short period of time, but for the most part, I think there is a big difference in a 3-year, 5-year, and 10-year plan for this neighborhood. In ten years, the kind of growth I’ll see may recover a full kitchen renovation, but in three, it may be better to paint my cabinets rather than replace them. And with some of the paint jobs I’ve seen in other kitchens (such as at the Atlanta Home Show), I think it’s more than adequate to make the house more livable without breaking my bank. Not to mention, in a neighborhood where many houses appear to be similarly built, any major additions would stick out pretty badly.

Know the stats.

Home improvement analysis websites will tell you that kitchen and bathroom makers offer the biggest return on investment (ROI). One step further will tell you that minor remodeling jobs have a higher ROI percentage than major renovations. While these stats of course are only the average, they all tell me that less is more. Changing light fixtures, painting and replacing the carpet can go a long way despite the lack of a large budget. Smaller projects also mean less skilled labor, so by putting my DIY skills to the test, there’s a good chance I won’t overspend.

No extremes.

I’m sticking to a neutral palette with white trim… mostly. Paint is cheap and an easy do-over, but as a previous watcher of House Hunters and a former real estate agent (part-time), I have too-often heard a potential buyer say “I like the house, but lime green/orange/purple? Really?” and then remember it as the “ugly” house they aren’t interested in despite how much more fitting it is for their needs.

But no all-beige either.

“No extremes” doesn’t mean I don’t get to have fun with this house. I still plan to make some drastic changes. I want to remove “dated” and replace it with “fresh,” which means a lot of elbow grease and a lot of new ideas. I want this place to seem open and airy, and to do that, I’ll have to make sure I focus on highlighting the house’s best features:  the large kitchen, the windows in the living room and primary, etc. Drawing attention to the fireplace requires that it stand out – not blend into the wall, so no head-to-toe monochromatic looks for me.

Beer budget, champagne tastes.

Would I want a new kitchen? Sure. But I don’t have $15,000 I’m ready to part with. All that means is that I have to get a little more creative when it comes to what I want to do with this place. I need to focus on making the cheap look glam, and to do that, simplicity is key. Upgrading some major-ticket items like the stainless steel fridge is a good idea, but a $400 lamp? Not if I can find it for $15 and spray paint it to look new. I’m letting Goodwill be my guide!

These may be my current rules of thumb, but I am no expert and have never sold my OWN house before. How do you make your budgeting choices? What are you willing to spend your money on, and what are you willing to pinch pennies for?

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  1. You've got some great ideas here. We don't know how long we will be living in our own house – it could be 3 years, or it could be 30. No idea. Since my hubby is in medical school right now, when he graduates in 2 years we could be forced to move across the country. Or we could end up raising our family here. Only time will tell. :)

    The theme of our remodeling is: DIY, cheap, correctly, fresh, updated, and nice and neutral. We are making the more permanent things neutral. Such as opting for painting the cabinets white. In 10 years, a wood stain will be outdated, but white cabinets will still be in. If we want big bold color somewhere, we'll do it in accessories and furniture.

    We've never sold our own home, either – but it seems like you guys are on the right remodeling track!


  2. Just stumbled onto your blog from the Picket Fence Blogs, and I'm glad I did! This is an interesting post. We've been in our house for a couple years now, and I'm not sure if I see us in it for more than 5 years…

    But one thing we're definitely spending money on is the landscaping. There was NONE when we moved in (it was a new house), so we started from scratch. We're saving money and DIY-ing as much as we can, but it's still expensive. But I know that when we do sell it someday, the curb appeal is going to be a big factor.

    We also have an entire unfinished basement, but I'm not sure when we'll ever get around to finishing it. Ugh!

  3. Good point! Both our front and back yards need some work, and I defintely have plans for them… I think. Unfortunately, while the house is being redone, the yard will be somewhat neglected. Hopefully, we won't have to wait much longer to get to it! Thanks for the suggestion!