When you're tackling something as emotionally and financially important as a home, it can be easy to lose perspective. But there are simple things you can do to remain on budget, from the muscle you hire to the bespoke touches.
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1. Strategically hire professionals
We've written before about when you should consider hiring a professional rather than doing the work yourself. There are a couple of questions to ask yourself first. Will you give up more in wages and experiences than you save? Do you have the skills necessary? Can you hire a professional for specific aspects of the job, rather than the whole thing?
If you wind up taking on a professional, make sure to look around. There are plenty of sites like Hipages where you can source a few quotes, look at reviews, and chat with the person first. Shopping around can save you up front, and hiring the right person can save you in time and money in the long run.
2. Become a labourer yourself
Even if you take on a pro, there's nothing stopping you rolling up your sleeves and getting involved. See how much of the job you can do yourself — a professional may need to build the wall, but can you paint it? Even better, ask your tradie whether you can be the muscle — pushing the wheelbarrow or lugging the tools.
Doing the unskilled jobs yourself could save you in labour costs, and get the job done faster, allowing you to pick up some skills along the way. Depending on where you live, licenses are only necessary for particular home improvement jobs — notably electrical and plumbing. Most cosmetic jobs, like laying tiles, are open for anyone if they dare.
3. Consider when to borrow and when to buy
Unless you're a tool hoarder, your reno will probably require some tools you don't have. If your usage will be limited, try and borrow or rent where you can. Ask your friends, neighbours and local Facebook groups if they have what you need. If you can't borrow, search a specialised social network like Open Shed, where you can usually "borrow" everything from hammers to heavy tools. Otherwise, consider hiring from an established company.
If you plan on using the same tool on future jobs, then it may make sense to buy rather than rent. Factor in extraneous costs like storage and maintenance, as these can add up.
4. Call in friends and favours
In many countries and cultures, homebuilding is traditionally a community activity. A house or barn can be built in a matter of hours or days. A house might be going too far, but you can employ a similar strategy for big jobs — think painting or gardening. These are projects requiring less skill and more grunt, enough people could smash them out in a few hours.
Hold a party or invite friends who want to pick up skills. It might only cost you the price of a barbeque and some drinks to get your job done, and it can be a great opportunity to bond and catch up.
5. Buy seasonally
Just as fashion and food are seasonal, so are white-goods, furniture and household fittings. Times when stores are making room for new stock, holidays are approaching, or the shopping season is over, are when you should be looking to grab a bargain.
Lifehacker has an up-to-date guide on the best time to buy things throughout the year, including Furniture in July and Appliances in September. But your best bet may be to keep an eye out — not all sales are predictable. Be prepared to stock up and store some items until you need them.
6. Plan properly
Not having a clear plan, and not sticking to your plan, are some of the biggest mistakes made when taking on a renovation. Without a plan you won't have a true idea of the costs ahead of time, leaving your unable to rationalise or better direct your assets.
Altering your plan on the run may feel necessary, but it often requires altering orders and planning permission, working out how to make new additions fit, and a whole bunch of standing around while all this happens.
7. Think long-term payback
Saving money on a renovation isn't just about up-front savings, it can also be about strategically spending money. Consider installing energy and water saving appliances, like sky-lights, strategic windows, rainwater tanks, solar panels and waterheaters.
All of these involve an up-front investment, but a reduction in utility costs over the long-run may make them worth it.
8. Customise off-the-shelf products
One of the biggest expenses in a renovation can be cabinets and other installed-furniture. If custom furniture is out of your price range, consider buying standard products and customising them for your needs. Lifehacker is chock full of ideas for customising Ikea and other products to get exactly what you want.
Customising bog-standard products can be an easy and fun way to express your creativity and get exactly what you want. You could turn an Ikea sideboard into a kitchen island, for example.
9. Recycle as much as you can
If you have a dig around the internet, plenty of sites like Recyclebuild.com.au and Buildbits.com.au, allow you to buy used or surplus materials from other building sites. These materials often come at a significant discount to what you would pick up in a store, and it's great for the environment to boot.
If you want to go the extra mile, try and recycle as much of your own building waste as you can. Not only can you save on an expensive skip, you might even be able to sell some of it. Windows, doors, roofing and even some fixtures can all be re-used yourself or sold on websites or at recycling centres. Wood can easily be used in building or to make something new, and masonry and brick can be crushed and turned into features within a garden or used to grow something new.
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