One of the biggest problems with undertaking a remodeling project is that once you find one thing that needs to be fixed, you tend to uncover another. Staying in budget can be not just a challenge, but nearly impossible unless you plan ahead of time.

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Here are 5 ways to stay within your remodeling budget:

Keep Your Budget Realistic

One of the biggest issues is keeping your remodel ideas realistic. It’s great to want to get everything done at once, but it is important to keep things realistic, not only from a budget standpoint but from a practical one.

For instance, if you are going to remodel your kitchen, you need to be realistic about how much money you are going to spend on eating out and take out food while your kitchen is torn apart, or you need to have another alternate food plan. Either way, the remodel will affect your budget in more ways than the cost of labor and materials alone.

Here’s a great way to estimate your costs:

  • Use a remodel calculator
  • Add at least 20% to anticipated costs to cover expenses that are bound to come up.
  • Determine how you will finance it ahead of time, whether an equity loan, a personal loan, or if the project is large enough, a construction loan.
  • Separate what you need and what you want, and tackle needs first.

Keeping your budget realistic is vital to your project’s success. It is only the starting point though.

Stick to the Plan

Once you have made a plan, you need to stick with it. As you begin one project, another one might come to mind, but if you do not have the budget or time for it, it can swell the project well beyond your budget.

This means a few different things.

  • Get a Good Estimate to start with: Know what you’re getting into and what might go wrong.
  • Don’t get distracted by rabbit trails: yes, new barstools might enhance the new breakfast bar, and some new wall décor might look good, but if it is not in the original plan, skip it.
  • New issues mean sacrifices elsewhere: have a new emergency issue? This means something else in the plan that was a want not a need must go.

Sticking to the plan, and only the plan that you have budgeted for means you won’t end up borrowing more than you can afford, or ending up upside down on the project, where the cost exceeds the value it adds to your home.

Be Very Specific

Not only is it important to get a thorough estimate to stick to the plan, but it is also important to be very specific with contractors and with yourself. Determine exactly what you will and will not do when it comes to your remodeling project.

This means if you goal is to replace the cabinets and appliances but not the flooring

in your kitchen, be specific about how you want any issues with the floor handled. Dictate the brand and even model numbers of appliances rather than leaving that to the contractor’s discretion.

This also means being prepared to say “no” or “not now.” You can’t do everything at once, and you can only do so many things well. You need to be prepared to tell yourself and your contractor that even though something may seem convenient, if it is not in the budget, or the budget cannot be modified to make it work, then it will just have to wait.

The toughest person to be specific with and limit interruptions is yourself. Have someone you are accountable to who can keep your desires in check, and avoid going over your spending limits.

Plan for the Unknown

Above, we talked about being realistic with your project expectations and your budget. Yes, you should add 20% to any estimate to cover the unknown: things that come up you did not anticipate. However, it is vital that you define for yourself and those around you what “unknown” means.

For example, ripping up tile in a bathroom to find a rotting subfloor is the unknown: there was no way to anticipate that cost, and it is work that must be done right now. It is a need, not a want, and doing it later would essentially mean doing the job all over again.

The unknown does not mean that there was no way you could have known that Home Depot would have a sale on light fixtures, or that flooring you would have picked were you doing floors is now half off. Those are wants, and quick ways to destroy your budget.

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Manage the Changes

Your project probably changed and evolved at least a little even if you had the greatest plan ever created. To stay within your budget, you need to manage these changes. This means that were one item ran over budget, you need to cut the same amount from another item.

Also, there is nothing wrong with coming in under budget, and using excess money to pay down debt or to be a seed for the next project you will undertake. Staying within budget on a remodel is certainly a challenge, but you can do it with a few simple tips and tricks combined with a bit of self-discipline.