Can I start planning BEFORE I have a home remodel budget saved up?

10 min read You might be doing your home remodel budget the wrong way …

Surprise bonus podcast episode today. This one goes out to all the homeowners waiting to plan, or dream about home improvement projects until you’ve saved up the home remodel budget. 

I hope you’ll take this the right way when I tell you … you’re doing it wrong.

I know … you’re being responsible.  You’re waiting to plan util you’ve got the budget in the bank.  But … ACTUALLY it’s more responsible for you to plan your remodel now, before you have the budget for it than to blindly save for years and then start planning. Let’s talk about why.

Starting to plan when you feel ready to start remodeling is too late for a satisfyingly speedy process. And Saving without a plan is actually pretty unrealistic.  So if your question was: Della, how can I plan before I have my home remodel budget saved up? 

I’ll ask you this, how could realistically budget when you don’t yet know what you want to do?

If you want a great home remodel budget – you need a great plan for your home improvement projects. Don’t wait another minute to get started! Enroll right now in Ready to Remodel and join the Fall 2022 cohort of fellow mid-century homeowners who are going to be planning great remodels for their homes!

get your remodeling goals in order with the Ready to Remodel program!

Resources to help you set a home remodel budget


Read the full episode Transcript

This episode goes out to all the homeowners waiting to plan or even dream about their home remodel projects until you’ve saved up the money. I hope you’ll take this the right way when I tell you you’re doing it wrong. I know you’re being responsible. You’re waiting to plan until you’ve got your money in the bank. But actually, it’s more responsible to plan for your remodel now before you have the budget, than just to save blindly for years and then start planning.

This special episode is going to wrap up season nine of the mid mod remodel podcast. And I’m dropping it a few days early in case this very objection is what has stopped you from joining us inside of ready to remodel this cohort. I don’t want you to hear it after we’ve already started our session because it’s something that I hear from homeowners all the time when I tell them what I do. We have a little chat about the process, and they’ll say, “That’s amazing. We’ll get in touch with you in a year or two when we’re ready to start remodeling. When we have the budget fully saved up.”

I’ll tell you what I tell them. Starting to plan when you feel ready to start remodeling is too late for a speedy, satisfying process. And saving without a plan is actually pretty unrealistic. So if your question was “Della, how can I plan before I have my home remodel budget saved?” I’ll tell you this, how could you realistically budget when you don’t yet know what you want to do in your home?

Hey, there! Welcome back to mid mod remodel. This is the show about updating MCM homes. Helping you match a mid-century home to your modern life. I’m your host Della Hansmann architect and mid-century ranch enthusiast. You’re listening to season nine, episode nine.

All right. Our free design resource this week is the replay of the free masterclass I just gave. Maybe you were already there live on Saturday. If so, thanks so much to everyone who showed up, shared their challenges and stories, asked great questions and contributed to such a fun masterclass. If you missed it, it’s not too late.

There’s an on-demand video replay available through Wednesday. This is your best chance to see everything I believe about planning a great remodel in one session. Uh, full disclosure. It was supposed to be an hour, but it ran to 105 minutes with all the questions at the end, but it’s so worth your time. This class is the framework for everything I expound on in the podcast. It’s very helpful to see it all in one place. So I hope you’ll take the chance to watch the recording before it has to go away on Wednesday.

I also wanted to say welcome on the podcast to all the newly enrolled, ready to remodel homeowners. We’ve got 10 who are going to be coming through the program with me this fall so far, and it’s going to be so much fun to watch the remodel plans come together.

I’m super excited to go through this process again, because it’s always satisfying, energizing, and really warms the cockles of my black architect heart to see people making great choices for their home, thinking outside the box, where they come up with creative brainstorming solutions to change the way they think as a couple, to make good choices that are gonna simplify and beautify their mid-century home.

It’s…it is my favorite thing. So now’s your chance from now until Wednesday at 5:00 PM to jump in and join this cohort of ready to remodel. If you wanna make it happen this fall, basically, if you wanna do remodeling work in 2023, join us now and we’ll hold hands together and skip down the path of planning a great remodel together.

If you’ve got questions about this, please send me an email, send me a DM on Instagram. I will be very available this week to talk about any questions you might have about the remodeling process, the ready to remodel program and what you get out of the content.

Not only do we have coursework that will walk you through the master plan process step by step, but there’s a lot of bonus material to help move obstacles out of your path around planning a great remodel, including things like contract or selection, how to make choices for specific materials, making the best design decisions for different rooms that are common to mid-century houses and where even to find the time to plan a remodel.

I have workshop video lessons, workbooks spreadsheets, calculators guides, and more to cover all these scenarios. All right, as always you’ll find show notes with links to the references I’m making and to register for ready to remodel and a transcript of this conversation on my website at midmod-midwest.com/909.

All right, let’s get into it. I get it. If you feel like you need to save first and plan second, it makes sense. You feel like you can’t start planning without knowing or having your home remodel budget in the bank account. I hear this so often, but I really believe the opposite is true.

I’m not saying money is no object. Plenty of my clients feel nervous even to tell me what their budget is in their mind when we get started. They’re worried I’ll use that number to figure out what the most they can pay is and charge them that. Now it’s possible in a worst case scenario, that could be the outcome when you’re talking to a contractor, but really most of the people in the building world, and certainly designers, are here to try to give you the result you asked for not to jack up the bottom line to see what is the most you can pay.

And if you’re trying to set your home remodel budget in a responsible way, you don’t wanna get in over your head. So look at it like this. You can’t realistically budget without a plan of what you want to do. If you don’t know what you’re trying to accomplish in your home improvement projects, you won’t be able to assign dollars to remodeling projects in any realistic way. It can be hard to be objective about something as substantial as your home remodel budget.

So let’s micros size this. Let’s look at it on a smaller scale. What happens if you walk into a Target with a hundred dollars in your pocket? Probably as you go through the store, you’re going to encounter a whole bunch of fun things you could spend your money on. You’ll see snack food, home goods, gardening supplies. The odds are you’ll spend every cent of that a hundred dollars or possibly more.

It could be a very dangerous thing to do. A much better approach is to think about what is the thing you wanted or needed from the store. Ideally have done some research in advance so that you know, which of several brands might be the best. What kind of scale of product you really need? Is it actually in the store before you make the trip?

Knowing some of these things will help you make a more informed decision. I’m a big fan of the personal budgeting software You Need a Budget or YNAB. This is a system that works a little bit like other online financial tracking apps like mint. Basically it asks you to think about the dollars that you have in your life right now, and assign tasks to them. Choose what you’re gonna spend your money on based on the money you have. It also helps you plan for the future.

I use it to budget for my remodel projects and also to track spending in all the parts of my life. I use it not only to track that spending, but to plan it. When I have purchased something, using the YNAB process, I always end up feeling more satisfied, more confident, more happy in that purchase than I do when I sometimes just pull the trigger on something out of what I think of as disposable income.

When you apply this thinking back up to the scale of a remodel, a lot of people will say I have $40,000 and I want to do this home improvement project. There’s actually no real relationship between that amount of money and the work they wanna do other than that’s what they have. And that’s what they want.

It’s not a very realistic way to plan because it’s not based on research about what is available in the market right now. What are costs for labor and materials? What is the scale of the project they have in mind?

The other thing it doesn’t do is ask you how much of the project that you decided you were going to do with this amount of money, perhaps because you did a little bit of Googling to see average cost of X type of remodel, is really what you want in your life. Rather than just thinking it’s gonna cost you about $40,000 to do a certain specified project. And therefore you can’t even start thinking about that project until you’ve got $40,000 in the bank.

It’s much smarter to start thinking about what you want to change in your home. Researching, developing, pulling together a master plan for that work, talking to contractors, falling out real world, current pricing and timelines all while figuring out what exactly you need to save.

And by exactly, I mean, what you think it will cost, plus at least a 10% overage, 20 to be safe, and then making the plan happen at exactly the scale you have predicted. This is such a better way to end up with a remodel that actually fits the budget you have, and to have a great emotional outcome since you’d like for your home to be based on what you wish for and to get started right away, so that by the time you save that money up for your home remodel budget, you don’t have to begin the planning process and the waiting in line for contractors and the materials supply line process, et cetera.

Essentially, if you’ve been holding back on your remodel plans, because you don’t have the money in the bank yet, that’s a perfectly normal situation to be in. But I don’t want that to stop you from starting the dream process now. Instead, master plan everything you hope to do for your home remodel now, and budget for it accordingly, then start or continue to save the money you need to make that actually happen.

There’s also the question of timing. As I was saying, you don’t wanna wait until you start dreaming about your home improvement projects until you’ve saved up everything. You might need to start making those changes because planning takes time getting on a contractor’s list, takes time. So start that dream process before you’ve saved even $1 for the job.

And then use the dream, use the specificity of your master plan as your motivation to save faster. It’s so much easier to put money away for something specific than a vague future plan to update the kitchen. You could actually think of yourself as saving up enough money for one handle for all the cabinet handles, or for your dream faucet, for the work of replacing a faucet. You could begin to break it down that specifically.

You can also use the dreaming process to save yourself money in the budget. If you take out the time to suss out what you really wanna get out of your model, not just what you want it to look like or the number of your rooms you want to modify or the square feet you want to add. You may find that you can brainstorm less costly ways to achieve the same result.

If what you dream of is a bright, well connected kitchen, then what you really might need is just a handyman to install a new window, remove some upper cabinets and open a wider connection near the rooms. You might have talked yourself into marching into a kitchen store saying $40,000 and easily spending that entire budget on a set of new cabinets and counters for the existing space.

The end result would be a kitchen that’s shinier and newer, but has the exact same issues as the original one. So bottom line, don’t limit yourself to the bottom line. Dream first and set a dollar value on what you plan to do once you’ve really figured out what you want.

Perhaps this episode really spoke to you. Or maybe, you know, someone who’s been holding off on remodeling plans and you think they could use some encouragement and advice.

Send this episode to them. This might be the exact kickstart they’ve been waiting for to start their process of dreaming. My friends, dreaming up your remodel plans is free and making sure you spend some time dreaming before you lock in your plans might just save you significant dollars from your home remodel budget.

The master plan process isn’t meant to be an everything and the kitchen sink additive event. It’s meant to help you figure out the exact right remodeling choices to improve your life, make the most of the house you’ve got and match your home remodeling budget.

So one more time if you’ve been hemming and hauling and waiting until you feel 100% ready to have contractors start demolition tomorrow, before you start on your planning process, you are slowing yourself down artificially and actually you risk taking on a more expensive remodel. It’s always better to research and soul search before you spend. So this is your invitation to start on that remodel planning process before you spend too much time saving up your home remodel budget.

All right, this will be our last episode for a little while. As I turn a hundred percent of my attention to serving our one to one master plan design clients and supporting the next cohort of ready to remodel homeowners taking on their master plan process.

To find out more about that work, to enroll in ready to remodel right now, or just to read the transcript of this episode, go to midmod-midwest.com/909. If you’re hoping to find me in the meantime, while we’re on hiatus, I’ll be popping in and out of the mid mod remodel Facebook group and ever present on Instagram where I share fun inspiration, examples, and ideas about how to make the most of your mid-century home. So long for now mid mod remodelers.