Allow us to play the role of Soothsayer and warn you right now, before you start dreaming and planning and getting your hopes up for a humdinger of a renovation: nail down that budget. Ask anyone who’s ever been through a renovation and the first tip they will give is to set a budget and stick to it. Don’t deviate when you find a sale. Make a plan, finalize that plan, and make it dogma throughout the process. Always defer to your budget. Can you afford to upgrade to that fancy toilet that whispers sweet words of encouragement while you work things out? Defer to the budget. But they’re having a sale on marble countertops! Defer to the budget. Okay, what if – Defer. To. The. Budget. Are you with us yet? Good.

But how do you know you’re making the right budget? So glad you asked. We maybe didn’t have to work so hard convincing you to create and stick to your budget. But there are a lot of things that go into creating a budget that works for you and your home. Let’s dive in and discern good choices from better ones.

Square One

The first thing you need to figure out is what can you realistically afford. Getting the money can be done in a few ways either by saving, refinancing, applying for a 0% interest for the first year credit card or home equity loans and lines of credit. Paying those loans off is where you need to be realistic. Never borrow more than you can comfortably afford to pay off in a timely manner. That’s a basic rule of loans, but it definitely extends to home improvement loans. Once you know what you can be approved for and pay off, then you can begin the fun phase.

Dream Big And Honest

Start dreaming! What do you want to accomplish with your renovation? Brainstorm and then hit the books. Okay Google. The internet is a powerful tool – yes, its powers stretch beyond cute cat videos – and one you should be using constantly to decide what upgrades you want, what upgrades have the most return value, and what upgrades you can afford. Open floor plans, for example, are appealing and popular remodels but they’re also very expensive to build and maintain, and not always possible to achieve due to structural requirements. Expand your research to include average costs of parts and labor. Get quotes from multiple contractors and interview them all before choosing. Essentially, don’t get your heart set on something it can’t afford.

Emergency Fund

The second thing friends who’ve survived a reno will tell you is to always have a portion of your budget set aside for emergencies. Anything can happen in a reno. The last thing you want is an extra $10,000 accident crashing your reno party. It’s suggested to set aside 20% of your budget strictly for emergencies. Don’t touch that money until it’s over. Leave nothing to chance. If construction is finished and it’s down to the details and you want a new couch, that’s up to you. But remember Murphy’s Law: What can happen, will. Don’t tempt fate.

Your Sanity And Other Accommodations

Depending on what room you’re remodeling there may be other expenses you don’t readily think about because they’re not large ticket items, like a cast iron bathtub, but over time add up to a bigger bill than you anticipated. If you remodel your kitchen and you can’t cook any meals for an extended period of time, that expense is going to add up. Whether it’s dine-in, take-out, delivery or drive-thru the cost of feeding your family through restaurants only is can reach up to an extra several hundred dollars. If you are unable to stay in your home for any period of time, factor that into the budget as well. If you need to store large furniture pieces in an external storage facility, factor that into the budget as well. Moving trucks to transport said items to and fro will add another $100+ to your overall bill. Suss out with your contractor these types of details and plan for them.

Finally, even if you are able to stay in your home for the entirety of the reno, budget for a night or two in a hotel anyway. This might seem like a luxury, but there will come a time during the process that you’ll need a break from the chaos and clutter that ensues with a renovation. Treat yourself in this way and plan for a relaxing escape. You will thank yourself in the end.

And there you have it. The nuts and bolts of what it takes to create and finalize a budget. Making a spreadsheet can help keep you accountable to this budet. Reference your budget and balance the books daily so nothing surprises you. While renos can be unpredictable, your budget shouldn’t be. Hope for the best, prepare for the worst and kick that reno in the pants!