It’s been a while since I’ve done a building series post! I figure I better get back to it before I forget about the whole process now that we have lived here almost two years. Today, I thought I would share a little more about where to make budget cuts. I mentioned a few ideas in this post here a year ago, but I thought I would delve a little deeper in this Building Series – Where to Splurge vs. Save.
It’s pretty common when building to go over your original budget. There are just so many unforeseen things that come up from excavating to changing your mind about floorplan once you see it in real life. For us, buying this larger lake property, removing tons of dead trees, and knocking down the existing structure that was here, took a huge chunk of our building budget. Sometimes you need to adjust your plans to fit your budget – especially if you are like me and married to a financial planner whose native tongue is spreadsheets :)
Here’s a look back at the house that used to be here and some evidence of the trees that had to come down.
In my previous post about spending vs. saving, I recommended making a list of all the most important “must have” items on your list when it comes to what you want in a new home – I still completely recommend that! It helps you see details you can cut out that are easy to add later. Our biggest priority since we “think” this will be our forever home, was getting a floor plan and space that would work well for us. We have the next 50 years or so to change/add anything else. Here’s where we made cuts –
1. Showers. We put in regular old fiberglass showers with shower curtains. I’ve talked before about my hatred of glass shower doors and hard water (which we have even with a softener – it’s a nightmare), and it’s still true. Our water is so bad that it has started to erode the drain in my daughter’s shower. I can’t imagine if we had done tile, how the grout would hold up. That said, I still would love to have a prettier shower space one day (however impractical that may be), but it was the same cost as the ceiling treatment in our family room and I would pick that any day over a fancy shower.
2. Inexpensive carpeting. I had picked out some beautiful patterned carpet for the inset carpet in the basement family room (similar to our stair runner), but it was a $$$ so I swapped it out for something less expensive. Judging on the number of times my kids have spilled on it that was a good call. We can always swap it down the road when they are a bit older (or out of the house!).
I was able to splurge on my carpet runner because I saved on the basement carpet.
3. Less can lights. Our electrician was great at helping out on this he would say “ok in the basement for it to be super bright you would want 6-8 can lights, but you can probably get away with 4 lights if you don’t need it really lit up.” With the 4 can lights down here we actually use them on a dimmer the majority of the time because if we are down here at night it’s typically to watch a movie. I would rather use lamps and have softer overhead lighting at night, so we went on the lower end with can lights everywhere except the kitchen. Don’t skimp where you really need task light, you want to be able to see what you are doing in the kitchen!
Another example is in our master bedroom he recommended we use the main light fixture, the wall sconces, and a few cans if we wanted extra lighting. We skipped the cans and rarely ever turn anything on but the sconces (well and you all know I’m hunting for a new light fixture since our fan is broken too). There are also only 4 cans in our upstairs family room along with our big chandelier that gives off plenty of light. This seems like a small thing but it all really adds up!
4. Closets. I did good ole wire shelving in all of our closets (which I shared on Instagram stories this week). Originally we were going to have a nice wood closet system with built-in drawers, etc., but I decided to spend that money on custom shelving in our pantry. Someday I hope to swap out the wire shelving in our master closet for wood, or even an IKEA system would be great in there too.
5. Cabinets vs Drawers. All of our cabinets in this house were custom built and they did an amazing job on them! I worked really closely with our cabinet maker to design everything and he was great at helping me cut out a few things. For instance, drawers cost a lot more than cabinets doors to build. Even less expensive than that was having cubbies for baskets. We cut out about $1,000 in the mudroom by eliminating drawers on the bottom of our built-in locker system and adding baskets instead. I love the way it looks and it’s been practical storage for us too. That allowed me to shift that money toward the kitchen cabinet budget which was more important to me.
6. Inset cabinet vs traditional cabinet. I really wanted inset cabinets this time around because I love the classic look of them. So we did them in the kitchen, master bath, mudroom and living room. Down in the basement, we switched to regular cabinets on the wet bar and in my kid’s bathroom to cut the cost a bit.
7. Built-ins, in general. Originally my daughter was going to have a window seat and shelves built in her room and we scrapped that when we went over budget on light fixtures. We could always add it down the road, built-ins are an easy addition. It turned out to be a happy accident because she loves her hanging swing chair instead.
8. Countertops you can swap out. If I could have, I would have put quartz everywhere. Alas, it didn’t fit the budget. Laminate counters are very economical compared to much more expensive quartz, and by putting laminate in our kid’s bath’s, laundry room and wet bar, we saved a ton. I’m hoping to swap out the wet bar countertops sometime this year if I can find a good remnant.
9. Add backsplash later. Originally I had wanted a tile wall in our pantry and I’m glad I skipped it because I love the wallpaper in here instead. You could apply this to your kitchen too and skip the backsplash for now. Again tile is another easy addition down the road.
10. Landscaping in phases. Once you finally make it through the building process you need to grade, add grass, and plants! We had our landscape architect draw up our plans in phases. We have phase 1 done which was just general plants and grass. We plan on adding phase 2 (a firepit down by the lake) and phase 3 (changing the landscaping by the pool across the street, the fenced area, and adding an outdoor kitchen) someday down the road.
Someday we plan to add an outdoor kitchen area to this space by the pool. (If you are new here, it’s across the street from our house – you can see the front door in the background).
11. Hardscape. We just have plain old concrete everywhere like our patio in the backyard and our front porch. Eventually, I would love to put Blue Stone over the top of everything probably when we do phase 2 or 3 of landscaping someday. But for now, it’s totally useable space that a pretty area rug dresses up.
Probably my biggest advice, especially if you are building your forever home, is to think in phases. I love to have a project (clearly!), so the thought of not having everything all done perfectly at once can be fun. For us, it gives us space to dream and really live in the space to see how we are going to use each area in our home/yard.
No matter what your budget, I think the idea of figuring out your priorities and where to splurge vs. save is useful to everyone who may be building or planning to build in the future. It’s really tempting to throw the budget out the window (for me at least) and get everything you want now. I’m really thankful that the Mr. and his spreadsheets reigned us in (for now at least – maniacal laugh, maniacal laugh!).