Control your remodel budget or it will control you! Take back your power over your money with my free downloadable bathroom remodel budgeting worksheet.
Why You Need a Remodel Budget
Sticker shock. It comes with most large purchases, and takes some of the fun out of your new toy, car, or well, bathroom. If you’re planning a large purchase it’s wise to have a budget in mind before you talk to a salesperson because their job is to increase your budget. And if you don’t have one to start with, the sky’s the limit.
If your purchase involves several smaller parts, such as a remodeling project that stretches out for weeks and involves multiple contractors and suppliers, a budget is absolutely essential. You need to understand all the moving parts so you can control costs along the way, rather than just waiting for the bill at the end.
While I’m planning our master bathroom remodel (see the before pics here so you can share in my motivation), I thought I’d share my budgeting process with you.
How I Learned Remodel Budgeting
After flipping several houses, I’ve learned a few things about budgeting. I shared most of my general tips in this post about saving money during a home renovation project, but I wanted to get down to details today with the simple worksheet I use when planning a big project.
Much like carrying a wad of cash in your pocket and at the end of the week wondering where it all went, big projects can be black holes for money. When you break it down into smaller pieces, you get a better idea of what changes you can afford and where you should try to cut back.
The first thing I can tell you about budgeting is there is no perfect budget. You will have to make compromises during the project, but knowing where you’re starting from is one of the best ways stay on track along the way.
Before you Start Budgeting
Before you start breaking down the costs of your remodel project, decide what you can spend overall. This may sound backwards because how do you know what you can afford if you don’t know what it costs? But I think it’s a good idea to check your savings and see what your limit is first.
Then, as you’re adding up costs, you’ll know if you’re running into a problem before even starting your project. This can save you a lot of time and heartache, and help you know if you need more time to save up for the perfect project.
Should You Get a Home Improvement loan?
Speaking of saving, let me drop a little advice about savings and loans when it comes to remodeling your house.
On our personal home, we prefer to save up for all our remodeling, as I feel our home loan is big enough already without adding on to it for projects. But I realize that’s a conservative view. In the end of course it’s up to you and your family how to finance your upgrades, but consider the cost before going into debt.
I know it’s totally normal to use a home equity loan or similar financing when undertaking a big home renovation project. The banks encourage this, reassuring you that a new kitchen or bathroom is a good investment.
What Makes a Good Investment?
An investment can be “good” for all kinds of reasons, quality of life being at the top of the list. But be sure to do a little homework before giving yourself carte blanche to spend whatever you want on your home, as an “investment.”
Some home improvement projects really can increase the value of your home, like a well-planned kitchen renovation, but some can turn into money pits, without allowing you to recoup any of the costs.
Several websites can help you calculate the return on your investment for different types of home improvement projects. Run a few scenarios if you’re trying to decide whether it’s worth taking out a loan to finance your remodel.
My rule of thumb is this: do NOT take out a loan for costs that don’t directly increase the value of your home.
Take time to save up for the projects that improve your quality of life but not necessarily your home’s monetary value. You’ll enjoy that soaker tub so much more when you think how hard you worked to save up for it, rather than how much your bubble bath is costing you in interest payments.
OK, enough doom and gloom about debt, let’s get on to the fun part… spending money!
How to Use this Bathroom Remodel Budget
This worksheet is specifically for a bathroom remodel budget, but it can be customized for any room in the house as well.
First, download your budget worksheet in XLS format following the instructions below. You can open the .xls file either in Excel or Google Sheets. (I like Sheets because it’s so easy to share with other members of your team, as well as manipulate on your phone while at the store.)
Before you Meet with Your General Contractor
Each line item on the budget has a column for Materials, Labor and Total costs. Before you meet with your contractor, fill in any parts that you already know. For example, if you have your eye on a gorgeous shower faucet, go ahead and fill in that cost.
Some contractors will quote you labor costs to install the items you’ve picked out, and others will just give you total costs for a piece of the project. Personally, I like to pick out everything myself, so I split up the costs to see what I’m buying versus what the contractor is charging me to make it work.
(The .xls file will automatically total the materials and labor columns, or you can override that by simply typing in the total cost.)
The file also has a column for Size/Quantity, which is not tied to any calculation, but just for your information. It’s a great way to keep track of your measurements while you’re shopping.
Fill in the Blanks with Your Contractor
Once you meet with your contractor, he or she can give you estimates or an average cost for each missing part of the puzzle, or an overall quote for the whole job.
If your contractor gives you an overall quote, take the time to go through each line item on your list with them, making sure everything is covered by their quote. This can save you a lot of “nickel and dime-ing” down the line.
You can add or change any of the line items on the worksheet. For instance, under “Miscellaneous” I’ve added floating shelves, but your room might call for something different.
If you’re adding lines, try to add them before the last line with the green shading, so the formulas remain correct for all the lines.
Check your Totals
Take a look at the overall total budget costs, and each line item. Does everything look like it makes sense? Now is the time to speak up if you have questions about your contractor’s quote or your options that you’ve picked out.
Budgeting Tip: Include tax in your estimates, so you don’t get a nasty surprise at the end!
I’ve added a line at the end of the worksheet to input your local sales tax, and the .xls file will add taxes to your totals for you. That way you don’t need to keep track of the taxes on every item along the way. Simply replace my sales tax of 7.88% with whatever your local percentage is.
Make Adjustments as Needed
Inevitably each project will provide challenges and opportunities. *Eye roll* By that I mean nothing ever goes as planned, and demolition tends to unearth a few surprises, especially in an older home.
Along the way you’ll need to make adjustments to your remodeling budget as issues and unexpected costs come up. An unforeseen cost means you’ll have to decide where else to cut back, and a detailed budget can help you make those decisions.
Or you can do what most people do (myself included) and just watch as your bottom line increases.
Either way, you’ll know where the money is going and whether you need to make different decisions before those decisions get made for you!
I’ve included a line near the bottom of the sheet that automatically calculates an extra 10% of your totals, for your contingency budget. If you don’t want to budget for contingencies, simply erase that box. (But really, don’t. You should always plan for contingencies!)
A Quick Budget Worksheet Example
Here’s a quick peek at where I’m at so far with my worksheet. I’ve filled in several quantities and material costs, but I’m waiting for my contractor to get back to me with labor costs.
I’m keeping notes in the right-hand column, because otherwise I’ll forget what we planned.
I’ll go back and fill in all the holes once we take some more measurements and the contractor gets back to me with his cost estimates. For now, some of the material costs (especially the granite line) are estimates as well. But it’s a good start, and already I can tell this is going to cost me more than I wanted to spend.
Stop Budgeting and Start Buying!
Now for the fun part! Go pick up that shower faucet you’ve been eyeing, and let the money-spending begin. You’ll feel better spending money that you’ve already accounted for in your remodel budget.
Questions about the worksheet? Let me know in the comments below or shoot me an email.
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Now go forth and spend some money!