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Renovating 101: Spend vs Save

Renovating Oct 15, 2018

Spend vs Save

Let’s talk about money, and how to spend it.

As I’ve mentioned before, unless you’re absolutely rolling in dough, you’re going to need to make a budget when planning a renovation. And trust me, that budget is going to be hard to stick to! Particularly if you’re inspired by all the beautiful interiors in magazines or on Pinterest. But let’s be honest, spending more than you should is a really bad idea, which is why Ben and I worked hard to create a space we love without going overboard. Luckily Ben had a lot of insights about where it’s worth spending your money and where it’s best to save (along with a few hacks). And I wanted to share that with you! Read on for more.

Renovating 101: Spend vs Save


When developing a budget and scope for your renovation, there are things that are worth spending on because they’ll make a big design impact on the space, last longer and/or give you a better return on your investment. Here are some of those:

Layout Working with an architect or interior designer to get the layout of your home right is such a good investment. We spent a lot of time getting the layout right. I for one thought it would be easy to look at plans and know where things should go, but there are just so many things a professional knows that I (and you, most probably) don’t. Things like how doors should open, the size of corridors and even something as simple seeming as where switches should be placed can make a big difference to your space.

Natural Light If you only have a $100 to spend on your house, spend it on letting more natural light in. Trust us! Even if we hadn’t done anything to our little cottage, putting a few skylights into the space would have made it so (soooo) much better. It’s so worth it! So prioritise some money towards upping window size and adding sky lights.

Storage Ever lived in a home with zero storage? It’s the pits. So if you want to spend money on something useful that will make your whole life better (and also appeal to potential buyers), spend it on integrated storage. We did some cool things with storage in our renovation, including putting huge new wardrobes in each room (a little DIY hack for that coming soon) and creating built in pantry cupboards in the kitchen that are flush with the walls, a trick that wasn’t that expensive but looks it.

Benchtops I ummed and ahhhed about including bench tops as a spend, but in the end decided they are something worth spending money on, just not allll your money. I guess for me it’s the added value that comes with spending a little more to have wood rather than laminate. However, at the same time, throwing all your money at marble isn’t the best idea (unless you have money to spare, in which case then do it because they do maintain their value). That said, if your money is super tight and you have to go for laminate, Ben has a hack for this – you can get a laminate bench top in a flat colour but add a square wood edge, something that adds a nice, more luxury feel. You’ll notice lots of cafes do this!

Contractors I know I know, you guys are probably thinking “Geneva this I a DIY blog and you’re telling me to spend money on paying someone else to do it?!’. Hear me out. Even thought Ben and I are very crafty/handy and I know Ben can make anything he puts his mind to, we were practical about the things that we could and couldn’t do. If money is tight then save some by doing things yourselves, but when allocating your budget if you can afford it, consider contractors for major works. Read more here about what to DIY or leave to the professionals.


Every little thing adds up in a renovation, which is why you want to be practical and not overspend on things that aren’t worth it or don’t make a huge difference. It’s easy to get caught up in the process and start spending like your budget is Monopoly money, but it’s a good idea to put it into real terms – marble bench tops cost one month’s salary or a brass basin is equal to two week’s rent (if you plan on renting it out or currently rent). Then, try to get creative!

Tiles Man, I could shop for hand made tiles all day. Honestly. They are just so gorgeous. That being said, expensive tiles really add up and to be honest, don’t make much difference to your functional use of a space. If you have the money they can be worth it, but if you are on a budget choose a simple tile and lay it in an interesting way, or choose a smaller feature wall to use the special tiles and do simple tiles for the rest. And remember to also think about the cost of labour involved, the more simple your tile and lay out the less it will cost to lay.

Taps & Fixtures If I had cash to splash it would be on super expensive tapware. That said, I’ve found that there are plenty of inexpensive options on the market now, so you don’t really have to go all out. These guys are a great option! After all, expensive taps and fixtures aren’t going to increase the value of the house all that much either.

Kitchen Cabinets I am so into bespoke cabinetry, but it’s something that most of us can’t really afford. And in most cases (so Ben tells me) cabinet makers use simple off the rack carcasses (the white inside structure of the cabinets) and then add  custom doors and panels. So don’t begrudge those inexpensive flat pack kitchens, they aren’t that bad! And if you want to make them feel more expensive, swap out the handles and paint them a bespoke colour (like we did here).

Lighting Fancy feature lights are surprisingly expensive, so to save money, pick a few accent lights (like the vintage ones in our kitchen) that you spend on, and then buy cheaper down lights for the rest. And these days, you don’t have to skimp on style to save energy, modern LED lights are long lasting and energy efficient, just make sure to opt for a warm bulb (around 2700k or maximum 3000k – any higher than that and they will be too white/cool and give you that fluro feel).

Any thoughts on where you should spend and save?

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