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How to Fix Up Your House When You’re Broke


How to Fix Up Your House When You're Broke

Update: I wrote this post about our first house a few years ago and it has been a popular post ever since! It’s got a few updates for you. I still gaze lovingly at the “after” pictures of that kitchen. I loved it so much!

When we bought our house, it needed some work a ton of work.

Our county has a program to help first-time homeowners purchase their home. We bought a foreclosure home and then this program paid to have everything brought up to code and to fix things that were a health or safety hazard. It was absolutely amazing. They made our house livable.

However, just because our house was safe to live in did not mean it didn’t need any work.

Every room needed to be painted. The kitchen was ugly and not very functional, and a lot of small updates needed to happen.

It was actually kind of funny because blue is my least favorite color and everything in this house was blue. Blue walls, blue kitchen counters, and blue carpet. I’m glad to say that not much of the blue remains!

Update: I talked all about fixing up your house when you’re broke in a Facebook live session within our private community group (click here to join the group, we’d love to have you!). You can watch the replay below:

How to Fix Up Your House When You’re Broke

Make a List

Everything can be made better by creating a list, right?

A new house is overwhelming! Write down everything that you would like to fix or change.

Even little things like replacing lighting in the bedroom take time and money, so put it on the list. If you need to purchase any appliances, add those to the list too.

It’s ok if your list is five pages long because you’ll decide what’s most important next.

Set Priorities

It’s time to focus.

We had all kinds of ideas for our house about adding a second bathroom and putting on a deck. While those things would have been great, we needed to set our priorities.

Decide what’s most important.

We focused on painting each room first. It’s relatively inexpensive to do and makes a house feel like it’s yours. We also bought a washer and dryer, the scratch and dent ones from Sears, so that we could finally do laundry at home (hallelujah!).

Since we had a tiny income, we lived in our house the way is was for a while after that. We had a long list of projects, though, and the #1 priority was the kitchen.

Create a Project Budget

I did a ton of research to figure out what we needed to do to our kitchen and estimated how much it would all cost. I came up with a budget of $1000 to update the kitchen.

Research what needs to be done and come up with a budget for your next project.

Don’t forget to add in the little things. All of the tiny finishing touches don’t cost much by themselves, but they all add up.

Read these Posts to Save Money on Birthdays & Groceries:

Save On Your Groceries with this $50/Week Cheap Grocery List

How to Make Birthday Special When You Are Broke: 50+ Cheap Birthday Ideas

How We Live on $1500/Month

Save Up

If you already have money saved up for projects, that’s awesome! Stick to your project budget and make it happen.

If you need to save up, start working on that. Work bonuses or tax returns are an awesome way to get money for a project.

I’m all about paying cash. Save up the money beforehand so that you don’t go into debt working on your house or have to stop halfway through because you ran out of money.

Do It Yourself

Do as much of the work as you can by yourself. Paying for labor is expensive!

We’ve been lucky enough to have family help us with most of our house projects, and it is a huge blessing. Some things are best left to the professionals, but you’ll save a chunk of money if you do a lot yourself.

Read some tutorials and watch YouTube videos to learn how to do your project yourself. You might be surprised what you can do and how easy some of it is.

(Sorry for the bad quality “before” pic, but you get the idea, right 🙂 )

Fix Up Your House When You're Broke | DIY | Kitchen Redo

Shop Holiday Sales

Hardware stores usually have good sales around the holidays.

We’ve gotten paint buy 1 gallon, get 1 free on Memorial and Labor Day weekends.

If you’re going to order anything online for your projects, check Ebates to see if you can earn cash back. I earned cash back for ordering our washer and dryer, plus window treatments. There are SO many stores that you can earn cash back at through Ebates, so it’s always worth checking.

Even if you’re not ready to do the work yet, start checking the sales for what you need for a month or two before you start. You might be able to save money by hitting up a good sale.

We saved money on our kitchen by shopping the sales at big hardware stores and buying stock cabinets and counters. If you buy what’s in stock, it’s always much cheaper than choosing custom finishes.

Shop Resale Stores or Free Sites

Just because someone else didn’t want it doesn’t mean it’s bad!

Shop around at resale shops, especially at a Habitat for Humanity resale shop, for materials. There may be discount home improvement stores in your area to check. We’ve seen nice bathroom vanities, lighting, and doors going for a fraction of what they cost new.

Austin’s uncle redid a bathroom with materials from the free section on Craigslist. He got some nice stuff, and it turned out great.

The more time you have leading up to a project, the more time you have to be on the lookout for good deals.

A tight budget doesn’t mean that you’re stuck with your house the way it is. By setting priorities, doing most of the work yourself, and finding ways to save money, you can do quite a lot!

Related Posts:

Living on $2500/month: Look at Our Actual Budget

The Huge Financial Benefits of Staying Home 

How & Where to Cut Your Budget

⇒ How have you saved money on home improvement projects?

How to Fix Up Your House When You\'re Broke

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Mark Murphy

Monday 10th of September 2018

I really appreciate your tip to try and save up money so you can avoid going into debt if you are renovating your house. My wife and I recently moved into a house that is a fixer-upper, and we want to make sure that we get everything fixed. I will be sure to tell my wife that we should save up money before we start any repairs!


Monday 10th of September 2018

I'm glad it was helpful Mark! Having the cash up front to pay for your projects will take so much stress off. And it may help you stretch your money further when you have to get creative about ways to stick to your project budget. Good luck!

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Sunday 18th of September 2016

Thank you for the info. Where did you get the counter tops....or were they already there? Counter tops and back-splashes are where it gets pricey. Any suggestions please?


Sunday 18th of September 2016

Our countertops are just laminate. We bought what was in stock at Lowes. They have hundreds of options that you can custom order, but you'll save a ton of money if you pick what they keep in stock. We don't have a backsplash. Our counter goes up a few inches and then I used semigloss paint so that it wipes clean easily. It's not perfect, but it gives a nice, updated look.

Anya bayles

Friday 2nd of September 2016

Just curious, what is the program called that you used to purchase your home?


Friday 2nd of September 2016

The program was through a community services nonprofit that only operates in our county. The funding they get is available all over though, I think. So you might have to do some digging, but check local community foundations and county services to see if something similar is available where you are.