How to Avoid Going Overboard on Home Upgrades

by Christy Bieber | Updated July 19, 2021 - First published on May 16, 2021

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A father paints a chair with his daughter while remodeling their living room.

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These tips can help you avoid a spending frenzy.

When you're building or remodeling a home, it's way too easy to go over budget.

Once you start making decisions about what to remodel, you'll be bombarded with choices -- some of which will be out of your price range. It's really tempting to stretch your budget when you fall in love with a specific vision or feel something's a "must have." You may want to buy it even if you have to borrow more to do so.

But it doesn't make sense to take on extra debt to fund home upgrades you don't really need. You don't want to get stuck with a mortgage that's too large or end up with unnecessary credit card or personal loan debt. These five tips will ensure you make rational choices when deciding what should go into your space.

1. Consider comparable properties

It can be a big problem if you over-improve for your neighborhood or put in upgrades that don't make sense given the price of your home. You may spend money you'll never get back.

For example, if you have a normal house in a typical neighborhood, it probably won't make sense to spend tens of thousands of dollars on a fancy chandelier or imported marble flooring. The risk is that you won't improve the value of your house enough to justify your expenditures.

To make sure you're making rational choices, look at the level of fixtures and finishes in similar properties and try to stick with similar quality items.

2. Look at the big picture

During the remodeling or building process, it's easy to get hung up on making every single little detail perfect, from the paint color to the hinges to the finish on the drains. However, the reality is that you probably won't notice some of these tiny details after a while.

So if you're weighing up an expensive upgrade, think about how often you've paid attention to that item in your current home. Consider how much of a difference your decision will make in the end. If it's a feature you barely notice that won't hugely impact how the end product looks, opt for a less expensive option.

3. As yourself how much value the upgrade provides

Another way to decide on an upgraded feature is to think about the amount of happiness it will bring you over time.

Let's say heated floors are something you'll enjoy every single day and that will make you really love your remodeled bathroom. You may decide it makes sense to splurge on that one particular item since the extra money will be worth the pleasure it provides.

But unless you're confident a more expensive item or an add-on feature will truly justify its value, it's not worth paying for.

4. Explore cheaper alternatives

If you fall in love with something expensive, scour the internet and local home improvement stores to see if you can find a similar item that costs less.

Of course, you don't want to compromise too much on quality or functionality. But if you can find something that's hundreds of dollars cheaper and fulfills 90% of your goals, it may be worth going with the budget item.

5. Enlist the help of a friend

It's easy to lose perspective when you're immersed in the details of your project. So ask a friend or loved one for their opinion. Share each option, along with a rough idea of the price deferential, and see if they think a particular upgrade is worth the extra money.

These five steps should help you avoid letting remodeling fever get the best of you. Hopefully, you'll end up with a project you're happy with that's comfortably within your price range.

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