Friday $avings: Frugal Home Improvement

Are you planning on doing any home improvements in the future? Do you dream of redoing a bathroom or kitchen? Do you sit and imagine what you could do with extra space or a bumped out wall? Well, if so, welcome to my world my friend!

(LEFT) Before - during the remodeling process (all done by us); (RIGHT) After - Worth the work!

We purchased our home nine years ago (wow, that is hard to believe!) and it has been in a continual state of construction or updating since the day we moved in. Literally. We're always dreaming about our "next project", even though we're many years and dollars away from being able to do anything. I'm thankful to say that we have been able to make all the improvements and additions to our home without going into debt or taking out any loans. The number one rule is PAY CASH. When I say that the house has been in process for 9 years, that means that we have paid for items as we go - we still don't have floor coverings for our basement stairs and we're missing some trim around the house. However, everything we see around us at the moment is totally paid for - which makes me overlook what isn't finished yet.

Peter and I have always had the mindset of, "We only want to do this ONCE and we don't want to throw good money after bad." One example of this comes from our kitchen. We didn't want to waste money buying cheap "temporary" cabinets, so we held out until we could get the 3/4" plywood construction cabinets in the style we liked. It also meant that I lived without a kitchen for over a year. Now I realize that if you have kids, it makes it a bit harder to put such a long hold on your kitchen makeover - but my suggestion to you would be to hold off on starting it until you have the cash to redo the kitchen the way you want it that will last for years. By paying more for our cabinets (and skipping the "temporary" stuff), I now have a kitchen that I don't intend to redo again. We saved money by having patience (and going for a classic, rather than trendy, style).

My biggest source of savings are store clearance sections and the internet. All of my brushed nickel cup pulls and knobs in the kitchen (the style I wanted) came from eBay for cheap! I can't even begin to tell you how many things in our house were purchased at clearance prices from Lowe's, Home Depot, Target, and even Restoration Hardware. With a big goal in mind and a general idea of what we were planning on doing, we were able to purchase items 2-3 years (or more) before we ever got to the point that we could use them. We were fortunate to have a basement where we could store all the stuff, but it was so nice to be able to "shop" our basement when the time came. The most recent example of this is a basement bathroom that we're currently finishing. I'll show you in pictures how we saved money and have a lovely bathroom for our guests.

Here Peter is working on the tile walls. We were able to find discount tiles at Lowe's in a color we could work with and get the fully-tiled bathroom we wanted. If you find something close to what your "ideal" is, at a good price, go with it. Instead of only being able to tile the shower section, we were able to tile the whole bathroom - YAY!

First of all, back when we were doing the addition to our house several years ago, we thought ahead and pre-plumbed for a bathroom - jump ahead six years and we're now finishing it. Back in the summer when we knew the bathroom was the next project, we cruised around Home Depot one Friday night and found this Kohler toilet (previously priced at $410!) for $68!! Why? It was a display model and the lid was glued on - something Peter could easily deal with at that price! We also really wanted a corner shower, but they were all out of our price range. However, we spotted a box that said, "Missing Parts" and after talking to the manager, we got a $348 shower kit for $200! I spent a bit of time on the phone and emailing with the company who made the shower and I got the "missing parts" sent to me at no cost. Keep your eyes open and don't be afraid to ask if they will give you a deal - in this case, it saved us $148!


These are some of my favorite things in the bathroom. You can see the finished product in the middle. We already had a sink for this room from a previous remodel. However, after looking at cabinets (all cheap!) and a countertop, we realized we could get this square pedestal sink for less and we liked it more. Then we realized we needed a light over the sink, but we were limited on space because the bathroom is under the stairs to the basement. While cruising around Lowe's for something else, I found the track light (right) on clearance and really liked the look and size. Since I'm of the mindset that Peter can make anything work (I know - SO blessed!!), I brought it to him and asked if, for $4.74, he could turn it into a real light. Yes, he could. :-) But my favorite fixture in the bathroom is the faucet. First of all, faucets are INSANELY expensive if you want anything more than a lovely 70's version. We ended up with the old silver and plastic ball for a handle because it was what we could afford - but I hated it. However, before Peter installed it, we headed back to Home Depot (love that store!) and I found a clearance endcap. Be still my beating heart...here was a beautiful faucet (left) for cheaper than the tacky 70's version!! It had originally been $127, but we got it for $60...and now you see the final result. :-)

The biggest thing to keep in mind is that we live in a society where instant gratification is the "norm". But if you are willing to wait and save, you can end up with a beautiful home at a fraction of the price and you will be able to enjoy it all without the credit card bills hanging over your head.

But that's way more than enough about us!! How do you save money on home improvement projects? I'd love to hear from you and see your pictures! In the meantime, go check out more frugal posts at Life as Mom today.


  1. Your kitchen and bathroom look amazing! Good job! Nice to have a handy husband isn't it :) And you can save a bunch if you are willing to wait until you can find things on sale, but so many of us want it done now, that we don't get great deals.

  2. Carrie,
    You guys make an amazing team!! Between bargain hunting and ultimate handiness, you know no limits! I love the look of everything in your house!

    Thank you for sharing this! I think you're a great testimony of "waiting 'til you can pay with cash." That habit was nearly lost after "the greatest generation," but I think it's making a comeback :-)

    With humble admiration and daily prayers, Linda

  3. Great advice! And great looking house! We took much the same route when building our house. We found a deal on clearance tile at a Lowes that was 4 hours from home. (We were actually helping a friend with her bathroom renovation and got a little distracted while shopping for her!) We also got lots of great stuff from our local Habitat for Humanity ReStore. They have lots of leftovers from Home Depot and sometimes have nice donated items. I, too, shopped online for light fixtures (LampsPlus.com) and bath accessories. And, it doesn't hurt to have a husband from a country with an incredible exchange rate! We bought a kitchen faucet, all our cabinetry hardware and some fabric from stores there at 28% of the cost in the US! Fun times!


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