Tips for Building a New Home on a Small Budget

Our Work | June 11, 2013

I’ve received some reader emails about what to spend their money on when building a new house. Most of us stretch financially to get into our homes in the first place and we don’t have a lot left over for upgrades. We saved for four years to buy our townhome and when we went to the design center to choose finishes and upgrades we realized we didn’t have a lot left over for all the “extras”.  I had really been looking forward to choosing fun options for our new house but when we showed up I realized the options in our budget weren’t the options I had been dreaming of.

SAVE //  I, like many many others, really love white kitchens. I set my heart on something like this:
image via House Beautiful 
However when we went to choose our cabinets I learned white cabinets would be an extra $3,000… gulp. Not in the budget. So we went with brown instead. They were a $0 upgrade.

I chose a modern shaker style that I really like. Because I couldn’t have the color I wanted I decided to choose the shape and style I wanted. We can always paint later. I also wanted a beautiful marble countertop but had to settle for white laminate instead. That was another $0 upgrade. 
We also decided to opt out on a backsplash and did it ourselves a couple of years later. 
SPLURGE // We decided to go with hardwood (fake hardwood) floors on our main floor instead of the standard tile. I’m really glad we did this because re-flooring would have been a major pain later on. I am not going to lie though, the dark hardwood shows everything!

The paint color used throughout most of my home is Benjamin Moore’s Hazy Skies

SAVE //  We had our whole house painted white. We saved a lot by doing one tone instead of two. I figured I’d rather paint walls than ceilings, baseboards and doors.  We later decided on a paint color for the walls but painting our entire house by ourselves was torture. I wish we had paid to just have it done but it saved us a lot of money. I also didn’t want to just pick a color at the design center and cross my fingers that it worked out. I wanted to live in my house for a few months and really make the right decision on paint.

 image by Jessica Kettle Photography

SPLURGE // This may seem utterly ridiculous but we upgraded all our doors for $200. At first my husband thought I was crazy that I was so insistent on it but I’m so glad we did it. I love the modern look of the three panels and for some reason it makes my whole home feel more custom. It fits the style of my home so well.  Changing your doors is not really something you are going to want to do later so I’m glad I made this decision upfront.

left image by Britta Anne Photography and right image by Jessica Kettle Photography 

SAVE // We decided against having our windows framed out and just did it a few years later ourselves. The above pictures are of the same window in Jett’s room. Before we had our windows framed out I disguised our lack of framing with high and wide curtains.

SPLURGE // The best decision we made was to vault our upstairs ceilings. This upgrade was a significant amount but so worth it in my opinion. The vault makes our teeny tiny rooms feel so much bigger. A ceiling vault is something you wouldn’t be able to just add on later so it was a good investment upfront. 

SPLURGE // Anything behind the walls is always good to do upfront. We wired our downstairs basement for surround sound because it’s something we’d never be able to do afterwards.

Overall just prioritize what things are most important to you. You will make mistakes but it will help you make better decisions when you go to build your next house!

What are the best or worst decisions you all have made in building your homes?