10 ways to save money on a big renovation

Taking on a renovation can be really daunting, especially as a first time buyer. Big jobs like a rewire or replastering quickly drain the budget, and you can sometimes find yourself with little leftover for the nice bits. We’ve found a few budget saving tips helpful over the past year and thought I’d pull them all together here.

1. Upcycle what you already have

Those of you who haven’t been following from the beginning might not have seen our upcycled front door. I hated our dull plain white uPVC front door when we first moved in. At the time we were saving for the rewire and couldn’t justify even starting to think about a new front door. Then I came across the Frenchic paint instagram page. They have a range called the Al Fresco range which is perfect for brightening up dull uPVC doors. Spring is the ideal time of year to get painting (the paint needs dry, slightly warmed conditions to cure) so I painted the door in ‘Steel Teal’. It took about 4 coats and 1 small tin of paint was more than enough. I also fancied up the hardware on the door using a Rustoleum multisurface spray paint.

I can’t tell you how many people have commented on the door (after seeing it in real life) and the whole upcycle cost about £35. I’ll want a new door in the future, when the rest of the renovations are finished. In the meantime, I’m really happy with how this upcycled version looks.

2. A temporary kitchen upcycle

Whilst we’re on the topic of making the most of what you already have, let’s talk about the kitchen. When we moved in the kitchen didn’t actually have a cooker. It actually still doesn’t, we have a portable induction hob which is good for most things. As well as being totally impractical, it had cream cabinets, floral tiles and a damaged laminate counter top.

I used to physically cringe whenever anyone was around and came into the kitchen – one good thing is that covid quickly put a stop to that. We’re getting a new kitchen fitted when we do our extensions this summer (2021) and will have lived with our current kitchen for two years. To make it slightly less cringeworthy, one weekend we painted the cabinets navy (Valspar Victorian Dusk), painted the tiles white, vinyl wrapped the counter top and fitted new gold handles.

Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t going to be the most durable upcycle (although remarkably the vinyl wrap still has no signs of damage). It has however made the renovation so much more bearable with relatively little work, and the upcycle cost about £100.

3. Colour matched paint

Sometimes, even though you know you can’t afford it, you find yourself on the website of brand of paint that you can’t afford. Inevitably you fall in love with a colour, we’ve all been there. We had our house replastered about the rewire and so needed to buy a boat load of paint to decorate. When we had big spaces which we wanted to paint in an expensive colour we have used a colour matching service.

The perfect example of this is our hallway. I completely fell for Farrow and Ball’s Downpipe for the woodwork in the hallway and on the landing. We used the decorating centre online (who I would highly recommend) to colour match the paint in their Leyland trade Acrylic Eggshell finish. It saved us quite a bit of money, and meant that we could afford other nice things, like houseplants.

4. Shop around!

People are often surprised when I tell them that the majority of our bathroom suite is from EBay. Last year we had decided on black fixtures and fittings for the bathroom and the costs were quickly spiralling out of control. At the time we were also paying for our rewire and plastering and so in a last ditch attempt to bring the cost down I started looking for alternatives online.

There are quite a few bathroom retailers on EBay and after reading plenty of reviews I thought that I would give them a go. Our toilet, basin tap, bath tap, shower and shower screen all eventually came from these smaller sellers. The counter top basin came from Amazon so it’s also worth checking on there. We managed to half the price of the bathroomm suite by doing it this way. We knew exactly what bath we wanted from Plumbworld, and by saving on other bits, we didn’t feel as bad buying exactly what we wanted from there.

On the point of shopping around, I also want to mention local factory outlet stores. People always ask where we bought our bed from, and it was a factory outlet which gets surplus stock from lots of different stores. Sometimes the furniture itself is damaged but often it is just the packaging and the product itself is totally fine. Our bed retailed for over £2000 but we paid just £350 for it. You might have do some googling to find a similar store which is local but its worth a look!

5. Furniture hacks

Sometimes, no matter how hard you look you can’t find a piece of furniture that matches both your vision and your price range. We had this when planning out our bathroom. I wanted a wooden vanity, with plenty of storage to sit our basin on. I had plenty saved in baskets on various websites but they ranged from £400-£700. At the time we couldn’t justify that.

What we eventually ended up doing was buying a bedroom chest of drawers from Argos (in their Easter sale) for about £90. We spoke to our plumber and he was happy to cut some sections out of the back of it to modify it so that the pipework would fit. To stop it from getting water damaged we bought a tin of yacht varnish and varnished it before our plumber installed it. It looks great and has plenty of storage!

We also followed along one of the very popular IKEA Pax hacks to build our ‘built-in’ wardrobes in our bedroom. There are plenty of these on Instagram so keep a look out for one to follow along!

6. If you can…do it yourself!

Some jobs are 100% better left to the professionals. Electricity and gas are definitely things which fall into that category for us. Over the past year, we’ve tried our hand at all sorts and really surprised ourselves with we’ve achieved. I know for a fact we’ve saved thousands doing things like sanding our own floors, tiling the bathroom and building our alcove storage units.

With the bathroom, tiling it ourselves meant that we could justify buying more expensive tiles. With the alcoves, doing it ourselves meant that we could do it whilst also saving for our extension. Whatever you’re thinking of giving a go, I can guarantee someone has a post on Instagram or a video on YouTube that can help you out!

7. Buy things which allow a little bit of DIY

Bespoke is pricey. Rightly so. The labour costs of coming out to measure, making the product and then fitting it all adds up. Plenty of companies are now offering ‘bespoke’ products which allow you to do the measuring and fitting at a fraction of the price. We did this for our wooden blinds which we’ve fitted to the front of the house and now our back bedroom as well. We used Make My Blinds for this. Admittedly there is a little bit of risk doing it this way, but they have a great measuring guide which you need to follow, and they also have good fitting guides (and YouTube videos) which are easy enough to follow. This was one of our first DIY jobs and with very few skills between us managed it in a day.

This way, you get a great ‘bespoke’ product at a fraction of the cost!

8. Mix and match high end finishes and budget buys

This post is all about budget saving, but let’s be honest, sometimes there are things which justify blowing the budget out of the water. I think that if you strike a good balance of saving money where you can, and splurging on things that you really want you’ll end up with a gorgeous finish in your house. As I mentioned earlier, because we saved money doing the tiling ourselves we upped the budget on the tiles that we bought.

Another example is our carpets. We have a dog, and are firmly a ‘come on in with your shoes on’ type of house. Also, Jack spills things (like red wine or tomato based curries). It didn’t make sense for us to buy a lovely wool carpet. We actually went for a cheaper synthetic carpet that is completely bleach cleanable (which I can confirm it definitely is). This saved us money, but it also means that it will be less painful to replace when it starts to look worn in years to come.

To fancy up the stairs we splurged on stair rods. I actually hadn’t appreciated how much of a splurge stair rods can be otherwise I might have been completely put off. I think that they make a huge difference to how the room feels and they really finish off the stairs well. Given the choice again, I’d splurge.

9. Buy secondhand

When you’re a first time buyer it is so pricey having to furnish an entire house for the first time. As well as being more sustainable, buying secondhand items is great for the bank balance. At the minute we can’t go into our favourite secondhand/vintage/reclaimed shops, so something which has been a saviour for us is Facebook Marketplace. I’ve found all sorts of amazing bargains on there. My favourite if the orange sofa bed in our office. I had found it on the habitat website for about £300 and was totally set to spend the money and buy it. I had a look on Marketplace on the off chance that even though it was still in stock on the website, someone was selling one near by.

Amazingly, that exact sofa was being sold a 5 minute drive away form our house. I dropped them a message and later that night Jack drove back with a sofa hanging out of the back of the car. Now, before we make any big purchases I have a quick search on facebook to see if we can pick up a bargain.

10. Take your time

If you’re like me and you follow some of the gorgeous renovation accounts on Instagram it can feel like they must have limitless pots of money to crack through their renovation at lightning speed. Most people don’t have that pot of money, especially after just buying their first house. It’s completely fine to save up and do things as you’re going along. This will also let you finalise your plans making sure that there aren’t any regretful purchases, and keep an eye out for sales on the things that you know that you really want.

Remember that new kitchen that we’re getting in summer 2021? We bought our hob in the 2020 January sales. Jack watched the bath that we wanted religiously until he saw it go into the sale.

I hope you find some of this useful and as always if there are any questions feel free to drop us a message on Instagram!

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