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1.0 Budgeting

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  • Why budgeting is the first place to start when you’re planning a renovation

  • How to predict how much your renovation will cost

  • How to be prepared for unforeseen costs (setting a healthy contingency)

  • How we used the Home Renovation Budget Planner to kick start our budgeting


Whether you are about to buy a fixer upper, you've just got the keys,  or you've been living in the place you're fixing up for a while now doing odd jobs, planning the odd things, you might be thinking ‘Where the hell do we start?’

From all our renovation experience and talking to lots of other couples who have successfully built and renovated houses… the single best place to start is budgeting.

Arguably the ‘boring’ part of renovating, budgeting is so crucial for the development of your project.

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  • Budgeting gives you a realistic view of what you can and can't afford to do which feeds into your design plans

  • Budgeting helps you determine how long your renovation will take to complete (if you have to spend time saving further funds for example) which feeds into your planning phase

  • Budgeting allows you to set a realistic contingency, which will protect you from costs spiralling, or unforeseen costs rising (trust us, they happen, and they’re easy to manage financially when you budget well).

Getting into the flow of budgeting before you start on any layout, design or build plans trains you (and your partner, if you’re doing this with someone else) to spend and document outgoings straight away, which is an important skill to learn on projects. Budgeting in this pre-build phase also gets you understanding at a low level what need to do to the house. You might find yourself naturally beginning to prioritise rooms, but this is something we will look at in more detail together.

Remember this: Every single penny you spend on your house should be documented and deducted from your running total. (From paint brushes to steel beams). This is the only way you can keep control of costs and prevent them spiralling. Completely necessary when you’re spending big money on a renovation.

1.1 Flip it vs. Your forever home

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Before I show you how Neil and I budgeted our renovation with ease, and we get started on budgeting with you, there is something very important you, your partner or whoever you purchased this house with need to decide up front. And that is, what are your intentions for the house?

  • Is it an investment you want to renovate quickly and ‘flip’?

  • Is it a forever home for you and your partner/family/future family?

  • Is it an airbnb project or a buy to let you’d like to make money from?

This is a crucial step to guide you in the direction of how you budget. A house you want to renovate quickly and flip for example, will need to be achieved much more affordably than a house you’d like to live in long term, so it doesn’t eat into your profit.


Write in your interior journal, ‘what are my intentions for this house?’ and underneath, get clear on how long you plan to live there, and any specific financial information you know at this point which could play a role in your early budgeting.

Next, think, what is the max value on my street?

House prices fluctuate, but it is important to have a rough idea of the ceiling cost of other houses on your street before you invest in your home. This is especially important to know if you want to ‘flip’ the property, but can be useful to understand if you’re planning to live in the house long term and sell later. You’ll want to know whether you’ll be able to make your investment back, or whether you won’t and you’re cool with it.

Research this information by looking at how much other properties on your road are selling for, and make a note in your interior journal. Decide a rough maximum value you’re willing to invest if you need to, and write this down in your interior journal.

1.2 Mapping your “Finger in the air” budgets

Now you might be thinking that budgeting early is all well and good, but how can I budget effectively if I only have rough ideas of what I want to do to the house, and no idea how much an architect or what the build will cost?

That’s where “Finger in the air” budgets come in. It’s about using foresight to list everything you know you may need, and what that item is likely to cost.

Any project, from the tallest high-rises, to events or launching businesses, will have started with some level of informed budgeting to understand the financial scope and whether it is achievable. These starting budgets are exactly that, starting budgets. They have a level of fluidity to them that moves and expands depending on goal posts changing (which invariably happens as you learn more about what you want from the project).

Finger in the air budgets gives you something to work with. Now, I don’t mean pull any random figure out of the bag for each aspect of your renovation. I mean, calculated guesses using Google research to find out itemised costs in your area, and calling surveyors, roofers, contractors, architects for ballpark quotes.

At one point before we began renovating, we paid a contractor £50 to visit the house and put together a quote for us to budget with. We didn’t go on to hire him for the actual work, but we paid him for his time and his service was very valuable in informing our budgets.

Budgeting for a house or room renovation can be broken up into three core steps:

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  1. Giving a pre-estimate to work out how much money you are roughly going to need and even if the renovation is viable in the first place

  2. Obtaining actual quotes and product costs so that you can firm up on those original estimates

  3. Tracking the actual costs that are charged throughout the build as these can and possibly will change from the original quotes that you were provided by contractors

You can see how it’s a fluid process, and we will be revisiting the Home Renovation Budget Planner throughout this whole course. Now, to build your finger in the air budgets!


Mapping your finger in the air budgets


1 - Download the BUDGET planner + EXAMPLE SHEET

a) Download the zip file

b) Extract the files on your device

c) Open files in application of your choice (Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets)

*pssst we prefer Google Sheets as it’s kind of easier to provide access to your other half etc



Spend time over the next few days or week (or however long it takes) listing what you know you need to achieve in your renovation, and research ‘finger in the air’ costs, completing the budget planner as you go

As an example we’ve given you access to our own completed budget planner for you to see how we used it and get a feel for our total costs. Please be aware that these figures will be very different for your build and in your area so extra research is needed.

Once you have mapped out as many of your known costs as you can – how does it feel? Achievable? Scary? Like you’ll never be able to do it or afford it?

Don’t worry. In the following modules we’ll be looking at prioritising and a timeline for the work which will help you clarify which room/item will happen when, in line with your budgeting.


If you’ve found yourself coming way over budget:

  • Can you compromise in some areas to reduce costs?

  • Is it possible to introduce a savings plan and do some of the work later?

  • Is the contingency you’re setting realistic? Yes it’s good to overestimate, but are you overestimating too much?

We’ll be looking at timelines and prioritising rooms later on in the course but at this stage, it’s important you (and your partner) agree how you’ll finance a project that is over budget and work together to compromise in areas you can’t afford.


After completing this module you should now have realistic estimates for some known changes you want to make to your house. They won’t be final, they’ll evolve as your layout ideas and designs evolve in the next chapters, but now that you have started your Budget Planner, you can easily chop and change estimates within the spreadsheet to clearly see how your different layout or design ideas change your budgets, and whether you can afford it or not.

Remember: This is a tool you will be referring to throughout the whole course, and your entire renovation, so keep it safe and look after it well. Keep it up to date and track all expenditure with it. Consider it your mini bank book!

Now let’s get onto some layout plans (I bet you’ve got ideas already!)


These are some things we learnt over the course of our renovation:

  • Assign plenty of time to think about all of the items you would need to buy in order to cut down on hidden or forgotten costs.

  • Extensions have a hefty price tag associated with them - if it’s got a proper roof then you’re budget is going to have to be big

  • Try to do as much DIY as possible – this will keep your costs down

  • Borrow or rent large power tools – you might not need them after the renovation

  • Consider whether you definitely need an architect – speak to your builder about your plans first

  • If not using an architect, use an online room designer to get ideas of layouts and sense of the space

  • Can you get away with filling and painting old surfaces – it might take a bit more time but it’s amazing how much you are able to save

  • Old PVC windows can sometimes be saved with PVC cleaner, and if the double glazing seals have gone, it will be far cheaper

  • How are your floors? Renting a floor sander (or getting a company in to sand them) can save hundreds on floor coverings

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