Give Me Back My Five Bucks

Saving up for renovations

Well, decorating and furnishing my townhouse is going well, and it’s finally starting to feel like home. There are still a few things I need to buy:

Office area: chair, lamp, rug.
Bedroom: 18×24 picture frames (4) – cheap from IKEA, and other decor items from Etsy.
Kitchen: some piece of furniture to fit in my kitchen nook (where the built-in desk used to be) … my dream is something like this.
Outdoors: some sort of chair. I saw two awesome options when browsing antique stores over the weekend, but both stores were asking $150. And I’m sorry, I’m not paying that much for used furniture.

I think I’ll try to hit up IKEA sometime this week. Or maybe next week, before I head to San Francisco. In the meantime, I’m going to scour Craigslist and the rest of the internet for some sort of dream piece of furniture for my kitchen nook. It has to exist somewhere. And not cost thousands of dollars.

Anyway, now that I’m almost done buying furniture and decorating my townhouse, the next big thing that I want to save up for is renovating the kitchen. While the area isn’t entirely tragic, it’s the original kitchen, and it will eventually need to get updated anyway.

My first thought is to do this in 2 stages:

Stage 1 – new counters, backsplash, sink & cabinets (2012)
Stage 2 – new appliances (2013)

I mean, it would probably be way easier just to save up all of the money and get everything done at the same time. I just have a hard time justifying replacing the appliances when they work just fine. Although I guess the same could be said about replacing the entire kitchen. Everything is functional. I just think it needs updating.

I haven’t even begun to price anything out. As you can see, the kitchen is pretty tiny. I would guess that the entire renovation – including material, labour, and new appliances – would cost maybe $7,000? More? Less? I have no idea. The first round of renovations I did ended up being a lot less than I had budgeted. I guess I should start to do some research so I know how much I need to save up.

Author: Krystal Yee

I’m a personal finance blogger and marketing professional based in Vancouver. I’m a former Toronto Star (Moneyville) columnist, author of The Beginner’s Guide to Saving and Investing, and co-founder of the Canadian Personal Finance Conference. When I’m not working, you can usually find me running, climbing, playing field hockey, or plotting my next adventure.


  1. thesoup says:

    Your kicthen has good bones and the cabinets look to be in pretty good shape. Consider just painting the cabinets and changing out the hardware. Those changes, along with a new countertop, wil make your kitchen look like new but for way less cost.

    With respect to the countertop, you might want to check out an option like Granite Transformations. It is basically a stone (quartz) veneer that is attached overtop of your old countertop. We used it in our old kitchen and it looked like a million bucks. You get all of the benefits of a quartz countertop (non-staining, sealed stone, great for cooking), but for a fraction of the cost.

    Also nice to note, all of these option result in less waste to the landfill.

    Good luck and have fun with the project!!

    • Krystal Yee says:

      I thought about just painting the cabinets and changing the hardware… but what drives me absolutely bonkers about this kitchen is that there's no utensil drawer! If I were to renovate the kitchen, that's something that would need to be added in somehow, and I'm not sure that's doable with the way they currently are. As for countertop, thanks for the suggestion! Ideally I'd like a slate top, but it will definitely depend on price. I'm not going to over renovate my place when I know I'm just going to be selling it down the road.

      • Ban Clothing says:

        I agree that the cabinets look okay and could be painted and replacement saved for the second stage. If they are in bad shape and you don't like them then you will be better off replacing them. As for the utensil drawer; older style tables (if you have a dining table area) often had the utensil drawer built in. Convenient for setting the table, not so convenient for cooking.
        My recent post Modest Bridesmaid Dress

  2. walnuttheory says:

    Your kitchen looks similar to mine, which was renovated this February for about 15k. My renovation also included bumping the kitchen out into my dining room about 18", an overhead support beam when I took out a wall, and a reconfigured sink. Picasa link with before and after photos here:

    I used a husband/wife construction/design team and they made the entire process incredibly easy.

    • Krystal Yee says:

      Beautiful after photos! $15k makes me kind of want to cry though. :( I doubt I'd do as much work as you had done, but it certainly puts my estimated $7k in perspective.

      • walnuttheory says:

        The big money thing was cabinets. Mine pretty much disintegrated in our hands when we did the demo. If your cabinets are good quality, you'll save tons of money by painting them or even hiring someone to do the refinishing. Otherwise, for a small kitchen, it wasn't too expensive to do some high-end surfaces.

        I saved for about two years after buying my house for my kitchen renovation and I would spend every penny again.

    • Christine says:

      This is friggen glorious. Where was this husband-wife construction team? Are they comparable to home depot?
      My recent post Email “Couponing”

  3. addvodka says:

    I love renos! Boyfriend is a carpenter so it's so fun to see before/afters.

    I get a lot of inspiration from HGTV and never have anywhere to use it.
    My recent post Spending/Life Report – August 1-7

    • Krystal Yee says:

      That's awesome! You'd probably save a ton of money utilizing his skills. It's so convenient to have a BF that's handy! My ex-BF was also really handy. Except that he was never good at following through, so our old place had so many unfinished projects on the go. Drove me crazy, hahaha!

  4. L@Spillingbuckets says:

    I bought our kitchen table and chairs at an antique store. They will bargain with you. We bargained them down $200 from the asking price for the full set of table, extension, and 6 chairs.

    • Krystal Yee says:

      Yeah I definitely will bargain with them if I decide to buy there… ideally I'd like to pay less than $100… but realistically, I'm not sure if that's possible. We'll see!

  5. shoegal0424 says:

    This is a great start I agree about painting to give it an upgrade. There are tons of on line tutorials. I also have a hard time with replacing things that are still functional, but when all is said and done I am usually happy I did it.
    My recent post one lovely blog award

  6. Anna says:

    Maybe check the IKEA kitchen department for pull out storage you can install in your existing cabinets (for the cutlery). I agree with the others. I would def keep the cabinets. Wouldn't even paint them – just add modern hardware and a black shiny countertop and backsplash.

  7. I was going to suggest the same as Anna (pull out drawer from IKEA) to solve your utensil drawer issue. It really would save you a lot of money to keep the cabinets. Just an idea here: you could paint the cabinets, remove the inner rectangular part of the cabinet door and attach some colored plexi-glass to it and of course some new hardware. I'm not sure how much stuff costs in Canada but here, we could probably spend like $300 to do all that ourselves.
    My recent post Buried Alive: digging yourself outta debt (step 1)

    • Krystal Yee says:

      Yeah I'd love to be able to remove the inner part of the cabinet doors… but… I'm not exceptionally handy (see my spending recap from yesterday for an epic IKEA fail), nor do I have a ton of time to dedicate to renovations due to my freelancing. We'll see what happens. Perhaps it won't be that difficult to do once I figure out exactly how to do it. :)

  8. wmwo says:

    Just a thought, if you're going to redo counters and appliances, you should consider doing them at the same time. You wouldn't want to find your dream stove on sale and then find out it's an inch too wide (appliances can vary in size.

    You could also just replace the doors of the cabinets if you don't like the look of them, rather than the whole unit. IKEA is good for cheap door options.
    My recent post Off We Go

  9. Lisa says:

    If you do end up going with a painted finish or having your cabinets professionally sprayed, you could see about removing one of the lower cabinets (the one to the right of the sink?) replacing it with a drawer unit, and having it sprayed to match. If you're going to be replacing the counter top anyways, it could be fairly simple and save you a lot of money.

  10. Geoffrey says:

    Rather than paint the cabinets, you could just replace the doors and facing material – easy to do if the kitchen is standard (which it looks like it is). Will save lots of money, and not have the less than fresh look of painted cabinets – and you'd get to choose the pattern/wood/look of your cabinets. I'm looking to do mine as well in the next year, so I'll be sure to follow your pricing and such moving forward!
    My recent post Inspiration from Prince Charles

  11. Ban Clothing says:

    I forgot to add… if you are going to go with new cabinets definitely consider getting cabinets that go up to the ceiling. I feel like the space above the cabinets is always a waste and who doesn't need more storage?
    My recent post Modest Bridesmaid Dress

  12. Christine says:

    You have some nice cabinets there! It'll be a shame to lose them… but I understand your desire for an update. New kitchens MAKE the house. Is there a Habitat for Humanity store near you? Sometimes you can get cool things there… you could also donate your cupboards… if you don't end up painting them.

    IKEA kitchens seem to be the cheapest around. Maybe there would be a solution to the drawer problem without switching them all out? white or black painted cupboards, new hardware, a new countertop, and new backsplash would make a huge difference.

    This post excites me. My husband and I have talked about the fact that I'm a sucker for any property with a brand new kitchen… so we're going to try and buy (eventually) a house without one, and then pay for it ourselves. We figure a flashy kitchen always ups the price of houses…

    • Krystal Yee says:

      The cabinets look pretty good from afar. But up close, there's chips missing out of them, looking kind of dated and tired, etc. Still decent looking though. I'd love to donate them if I decide to get rid of them for sure. Will definitely go to IKEA for design inspiration.

      I totally agree with you about buying a home without upgrades. Why pay a premium for somebody else's renovation? That was the best part about the place that I bought – everything about it was original (building is12 years old). I did my first round of renovations guilt-free, because I wasn't ripping out anything new or expensive. And I won't feel too bad about getting rid of the appliances in the kitchen (and eventually replacing the washer/dryer and renovating the washroom), because it will all need to be done anyway before I think about selling in the future.

  13. Kate says:

    Would you be willing to send me the name of the contractor who did your renovations? I live in New Westminster, and I have a few smallish projects I would like to get done in my condo.

    I enjoy your blog a lot! Nice to hear from someone in the Lower Mainland, and not in Toronto.

    • Krystal Yee says:

      To be honest, I wouldn't really recommend him. I mean, he was a good price, kept my costs down low, and did a decent job, but was kind of a pain to deal with. :- I wouldn't use him again for my next renovation project.

      That being said, if you still want his contact info, just send me an e-mail!

  14. LisiCaro says:

    I "flip" houses, and a new kitchen always helps. As your cabinets do look to be in decent shape, have you considered selling them online (like kijiji or craigslist)? You'd be surprised what people will pay (I wouldn't be shocked if you could get $1500 for your cabinets & countertops). Just a suggestion that would help with your budget, reduce landfill, and still get you what you want.
    My recent post Dancing Diva

  15. Ashley says:

    I'm an interior designer and I've specialized in kitchen & bath design.. I would be happy to help you redesign and budget your kitchen! Before you make a decision on what to replace it is really important to consider the future – if you want to sell the property to make a profit, or if you plan to live there for a while. There are tons of options for keeping it affordable!
    Understandably its a ways down the road but I just thought I would throw the offer out there :)


    • Krystal Yee says:

      I don't necessarily think I can sell to make a profit (the previous owners lost money, after closing costs), but I also don't think I plan on living here for more than 3-5 years. I definitely want to make the best decisions when it comes to upgrades, so I'll probably be e-mailing you closer to when the time comes to ask your opinion on, well, pretty much everything! haha :)

  16. I'd warn against the IKEA route based on feedback from friends who have said that their kitchens just don't hold up to normal wear & tear. I don't personally have IKEA cabinets, so I can't speak for myself, but I have seen them in other people's homes where the doors are crooked (no amount of re-leveling could fix for some reason), the drawers no longer slide properly, etc. I love IKEA in general, especially for design ideas, so maybe keep it at that?

    Look into builder's supply warehouses–they'll do liquidation sales on top of the line product for extremely cheap prices. You can also ask around for contractor's suggestions. Most would be hesitant to do this because they want your business, but I have been lucky to find a few willing to help me out with suggestions for where to shop for my own renovations.

    I also agree with the idea to extend the cabinet height (get a cute stepstool & store infrequently used items on the top shelves–you'd be amazed how handy that space is as you begin to entertain more, etc!), replacing one lower cabinet with a stack of drawers, and just replacing the doors/hardware. Save your cash for the extras such as granite, an under-mount sink (this is a must!), and a great back splash/quality appliances.

    Whatever you do, good luck! I'm saving now to add another wall of cabinets/a workspace to my kitchen, and I'm excited already. Renovations are my favorite part of home ownership–it's amazing to see your money and hard work pay off with a beautiful space that you love to be in!

  17. Jacqueline says:

    My husband and I renovated our galley kitchen last year, which looks to be similar in size to your kitchen. It cost us just under $10 000 for close to a complete overhaul (we kept our original floors to save money but also expanded our kitchen by one cabinet on either side). The renovation included new stainless steel appliances (fridge, stove, and dishwasher), MDF custom cabinets, and granite countertops. We also spent some of that cash on a new undermount sink, faucet (from eBay), range hood, and lighting. I think your budget is do-able if you shop around and are willing to make some concessions.

    Consider some of the options other people have already suggested, such as refinishing or replacing the cabinet doors (if your current cabinets are in good condition), changing out the hardware for a more modern look, and upgrading your appliances. As for Ikea cabinets, we seriously considered them. However, make sure that the options Ikea offers match up with your measurements (we would have ended up with an off-centered sink cabinet). Also, the price difference between Ikea and custom cabinetry was very minimal for us ($600), so in the end we went with the custom option in order to tailor our kitchen for our needs.
    My recent post We Get By With a Little Help From Our Friends

  18. Karen Davis says:

    It is hard to replace something that is functioning well, but the kitchen is the place where a lot activities takes place. You deserve a kitchen that you feel proud of and feel comfortable working in. A lot of people would have plenty of uses for your old appliances, you deserve to have something that you like and feel can take less space in your kitchen.
    My recent post how to flirt with a girl

  19. Natalie says:

    Your cabinets are in great shape and are a nice shaker style. I would change the countertop and backspash only. I think when that is completed, the cabinets will look totally different. You could change out the hardware on the cabinets. But please don't install new cabinetry. Painting them or just leave them as is.

  20. SLPH says:

    I like your cabinets too.. you can totally just paint your cabinets.. DIY too. There are tons of blogs online that talk about. Google Censenational Girl.. I think she may even have a tutorial.

    As for appliances, I'm with you.. don't fix it if it's not broken! LOL.. that's my thought.

  21. Katy says:

    I have friends who work in the industry so message me if you have questions the quotes you are getting and wonder if they are fair or not (eg. new granite).
    My recent post Merging 24C + Fitness Journal

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