4 ways we effectively budgeted our house renovation

When it comes to house renovation costs, it’s the one area we felt really confident in managing through our house renovation. I manage projects in my full time job handling budgets and ‘getting the job done’, and Neil is a whizz at savings, investing and all things spreadsheets. So together we were confident in managing our house renovation costs from the start, and we successfully made overall costs come in on budget.

So in this post we wanted to share 4 tips for effectively managing your house renovation costs to help you control your budgets and cover yourself for any unforeseen costs.

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How we effectively managed our house renovation costs…

1. We had the right tools for the job

When we were planning our house renovation Neil was chomping at the bit to put his geeky spreadsheet skills to use - seriously I’ve never known anyone who can get so much enjoyment out of those things! He built a simple, clever spreadsheet that captured all the information we needed to successfully predict and track expenditure throughout each stage of the project and even had a display page which showed an overview of the entire renovation, how much we’d spent, how much we were predicted to spend. It gave us a lot of financial information quickly when we were ‘live’ on the build, enough to decide whether we could afford additional items/design ideas or not.

We were so pleased with this tool that we’re now sharing it with fellow renovators. Take a look at the Home Renovation Budget Planner in our shop. We’ve also included our entire renovation costings to date (over 150 items!).

2. We ensured every item was documented

We quickly discovered that, like a lot of projects I’ve been a part of, renovations can get extremely busy, messy and complicated, and that isn’t just the build we are talking about. When you’ve got suppliers and contractors to pay, online orders being placed, it can soon get pretty overwhelming. With a little bit of additional effort and foresight, not only did we list every item we could think of that we would have to pay for line by line, but we also ensured that every unexpected cost we shelled out for was entered and totted up. It meant that there were no surprises at any stage of our renovation simply by keeping the Home Renovation Budget Planner up to date. It’s like a mini bank book for renos!

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3. We made room for contingency to cover us for unexpected costs

House Renovations are crazy, hectic things, lots of things being discovered and changing every day, especially in the build phase. With changes to the build and unexpected work needing to be done, comes unexpected cost and a little compromise needed. So having some contingency in place was a must right from the very start.

As the House Renovation Budget Planner shows, we plotted our contingency percentage in the data (in our case, 10%), and took a phased approach to our finances. We established that house renovation budgeting has 3 crucial stages:

  1. Your original estimate

    This is like a finger in the air “can I afford this reno?” budget, formed from a little research and calls to contractors to suss out realistic, and over-generous costs.

  2. Quote estimate

    This is what you have been told it might cost from various contractors on inspecting the work.

  3. The actual cost

    This is the amount you pay after the work is complete.

Budgeting can be tricky as you could find yourself only having a handful of quotes in (stage 2) but you still want to know a total cost reflective of the quotes you’ve received and the finger in the air estimates for any you’ve yet to get a quote for. Thankfully, Neil’s Home Renovation Budget Planner did the work for us, calculating the quotes we had obtained, and adding this to the estimates for the items we had yet to obtain to give us a true cost at every budgeting stage (1-3).

Sound confusing? It’s really not. We filmed a tutorial to walk fellow renovators through how to use it.

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4. We were pessimistic and brutally honest

In the early days of our home renovation we did feel like proper noobs when it came to guessing the cost of kitchens, labour etc (chances are if you are reading this you can relate? We hope!)

When we started working out the costs of our renovation we heavily relied on Google to understand the scale. Regional differences and costings change with inflation etc so we ended up doing guess work - it is better to have an over-generous guess at costs than nothing at all.

When you’re sitting there thinking of all the things you need to budget for it can be tempting to underestimate (so that your budget looks affordable “oh we only need one tin of paint” or “these guys in the midlands did a much bigger job for about our budget”. Our advice? Although it might be a dent to your happiness estimating items on the high side, it definitely benefited us by bringing us closer to the reality of the situation and reduced surprises.


We really hope this helped you plan your budgeting. If it did, and you’d like to support us, please purchase or share our House renovation costs spreadsheet UK and let us know what you think.

Best of luck with your reno!

Fifi (& Neil) xxx