February 15, 2013

Category: Money Management

Improve Your Home without Damaging Your Budget

Your home is most likely your biggest investment, but it can easily become a black hole for your hard-earned dollars. A house—regardless of its size, shape or style—requires constant care and repair to maintain its market appeal and value. Often, that includes unexpected expenses that you don’t see, such as a broken water heater, as well as cosmetic or visual improvements that you can’t hide. 

The challenge is to budget for improvements sporadically and find creative, resourceful ways to spruce up your home without putting you and/or your family in the poorhouse.  Whether you're getting ready to sell your home or you just want to enhance your living environment economically, here are three areas where you can make a significant impact: 

  1. Kitchen Conscious. 

The kitchen is the true hub of your home. If you are prepping your house for sale, it’s good to know that potential home buyers head straight for the kitchen. But if you are cooking up these improvements for your own enjoyment, you still want the kitchen to function efficiently and look inviting. For example, a new, modern kitchen faucet set and some fresh cabinet door and drawer handles can provide an instant makeover. A couple of fresh, new lighting fixtures can make things brighter—and more energy efficient. It’s a win-win—all for a couple hundred dollars. Other cost-conscious kitchen possibilities include resurfacing your cabinets—saving you thousands of dollars on replacing your entire cabinet system. If you are feeling handy, you can order your replacement cabinet doors and door fronts from retailers like Lowe's Home Improvement or The Home Depot and install them yourself. 

  2. Bathing Beauty. 

Bathrooms are another high-value home-improvement priority. Let’s face it. You spend lots of quality time in your bathroom, so it’s worth making it as aesthetically pleasing as possible.  With a little ingenuity, you improve the bath—without taking one in the process.  Try starting with a new toilet seat and a pedestal sink. Both are available at your local home improvement stores, and they are relatively easy to install.  Also, you can replace a dull, dingy bathroom floor with easy-to-apply vinyl tiles or a small piece of sheet vinyl. Experts say that you don’t even need to take up the old floor. That saves you time, money and perspiration. Just install right over the old one. If your tub and shower are looking tired, you can re-grout the tile and replace those that are chipped.  There are also ways you can completely cover-up your existing tub with a prefabricated version or applying resurfacing material. Both remedies may require professional installation, but they can still be cheaper than paying to re-tile walls and replace a worn tub. 

  3. Curb Appeal. 

It may sound pretty obvious, but a carefully mowed and edged lawn makes an enormous difference.  Keeping the driveway and sidewalk swept helps, too. If you have teenagers in the house, assign this duty to them in exchange for an allowance each week. This teaches them about the value of a dollar, as well. Another win-win.  Add a couple of few well-placed shrubs and a couple potted plants, and you’ll make quite an impression. Planting flowers is big pots is a great shortcut, because it allows you to switch them out easily if your thumb is a shade other than green.  And hey, your neighbors will love you for it, too. There are hundreds of great ideas—limited only by your creativity. Here are a few more from HGTV

What’s at the top of your home-improvement wish list?