How we Fixer Upper’ed our house on a budget (part 2)

I hope you enjoyed seeing the renovation pictures in my previous post! Now I’m going to share with you my top 5 tips for renovating on a budget. Each tip is crucial to pulling off an awesome fixer upper and renovating your house on a budget. Whether you’re flipping a house or creating your dream house, you’ll learn some great ways to save BIG on your next renovation.

Tip 1: Find a reliable contractor

Notice that I didn’t say “best” or “cheapest”, I said “reliable”. Finding a reliable contractor will pay off light-years in terms of frustration and craziness of coordinating contractors. I normally look for contractors on google and use the google reviews to base my decision on. But my wife went on and found a contractor that actually responded and showed up, so we went with him.

Another site I’ve used is, which focuses on getting contractors that are reliable and fast with communication. However you find the contractor, interview them and make sure they understand your renovation needs. Some important questions to ask are:

  • How long do you estimate the renovations will take?
  • Have you done this specific type of remodel before?
  • Do you have your own crew? If so, how many people are in your crew?
  • What projects, if any, will you have to sub-contract out?
  • Can you provide an itemized invoice for parts / labor ?

If you’re working with a professional contractor, they should be able to answer all of these questions. Most of the good and reliable contractors are extremely busy so if they don’t get an invoice to you within a day, don’t stress out. After 5 business days, though, if they haven’t followed up and gotten back to you, it’s probably time to interview the next contractor on your list.

Interview your contractors, they are your partner in renovations

Interview your contractors, they are your partner in renovations

Tip 2: Use a lien waiver form for all contractors

Once you have found a reliable contractor you want to work with, it’s time to get a lien waiver. What’s a lien waiver / why do I need one? Great question! Basically, a lien waiver is a form that your contractor and all sub-contractors, should sign to make sure none of them try to put a lien on your house. I’ll refer you to this article from Bigger Pockets that goes more in detail about why you really need to have all of your contractors and their subs sign a lien waiver!

I learned about lien waiver forms after my contractor sub-contracted out the painting on our house. The sub-contractor (painter) decided he wanted to file a lien against my house because the contractor had not paid him. The solution was simple, I told my contractor that he would receive his final payment only AFTER he had all of his subcontractors sign and return a lien waiver form. Thankfully, everyone did sign a waiver and no liens were filed. But not having that paperwork could have left our house unprotected from having a lien placed on it. The simple solution is to address this matter upfront and talk to your contractor about the lien waiver form and include it in the contract.

Tip 3: Focus on the kitchens & bathrooms

Now that you’ve got a reliable contractor on your side, it’s time to start work on the renovations. Most people know that kitchens and bathrooms sell homes. Those two areas of the house reflect attention to detail you know you won’t find in other areas. According to an article by HGTV, when homeowners put money into the kitchens and bathrooms, the homeowners should expect to recoup over 100% return on their investment. You’ll notice the attention to detail, or lack thereof, by observing the counter-tops, appliances, faucets and flooring in the kitchens and bathrooms. Whether you’re flipping or remodeling your dream home, making smart “splurge” decisions in the kitchens and bathrooms will increase the value of your home.

Our guest bathroom w/ upgraded counters & custom wall design

Our guest bathroom w/ upgraded counters & custom wall design

Tip 4: Use discount dollars to buy

So, you have a reliable contractor and planned all of the remodeling that’ll get done, now it’s time to shop! Using “discount dollars to buy” means that you’re going to shop around to make your dollars go further. I’m not talking about shopping for sales at stores, I’m talking about shopping for sales on MONEY! Using sites like, I saved thousands of dollars by buying gift cards at a discount.

How does it work? Has anyone ever given you a gift card to a store, but you didn’t spend it all? What do you do with a gift card to a store that you don’t shop at anymore?

More and more people are selling their unused gift cards on sites like, at a discount. For our current house, I purchased $3,200 on in Lowe’s gift cards that were valued at $4,000 in total. That was an automatic $800 I was able to save and use on other renovations. THAT’S 20% OFF AND I HAVEN’T EVEN USED ANY IN-STORE DISCOUNTS YET!!! #winning


Tip 5: Buy everything @ a discount

Once I found the appliances, flooring, counter-tops, and everything else we needed to buy at Lowe’s online, I was ready to buy in store. I had $4,000 worth of gift cards (that I only paid $3,200 for), but I wanted an even better deal!

There are quite a few ways to get 10% (or more) off at home improvement stores. Make your money work hard for you and get more bang for your buck! Here are some of my favorites:

  • Promotion codes: Obtain promo codes from sites like to get 10% off at home improvement stores by entering the discount code online. You can pick it up in the store at your convenience or have it delivered, but there’s usually a delivery charge.
  • Memberships: Most companies will offer discounts for service members, teachers or students, call the store before you go to see how much discount they can offer
  • Get contractor rates: At certain home improvement stores, there will be a “contractor” rate, which usually means you’ll get a discount to buy in bulk (like I did with our tile flooring).
  • Negotiate: At most home improvement stores, department managers can negotiate, and can be highly motivated when they get commission for the sales they make. I talked to the dept. manager at Lowe’s to get an additional 20% off the stove, cook-top and range hood.
  • Buy during holidays: If you’re not one to negotiate or don’t have the skills to ask for a better price, wait to buy during the holidays. Many stores will offer flat discounts, BOGOs, or bulk purchase discounts during holiday times, which can pay off big during your home renovation.


I hope you enjoyed this two-part series about how to fixer-upper your house on a budget. Finding a reliable contractor for your next remodel project will make your renovation go so much smoother. Buying at a discount and making your money work hard for you will make your remodel that much sweeter when it’s done!


What renovations have you done? What tips can you share about ways to save on home renovations?



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *