Budgeting for a home upgrade
February 26, 2021 4:20 AM   Subscribe

We are soon moving to a much bigger house (2 bedroom flat to 5 bedroom house) and I am very excited to make it a home! Maybe too excited. I am fantasising about all the things to renovate and organise and furnish and decorate. It is not practical or financially responsible to follow through on all of it at once. Any advice on how to approach and plan this transition?

I don’t know if it’s our “forever home” but it is certainly for the long haul, let’s say 15-20 years. I have this vision of what I want our home to look and feel like, some of which includes some heavy renovation work, like redoing the entire kitchen layout.

We can of course set up a savings plan to achieve this goal, but I’m wondering how to balance saving up for that vs budgeting for shorter term desires.

The more we save for the dream kitchen, the sooner that can start. But as an example, does that mean keeping our gross couch for a few more years? Getting a cheap IKEA one that I won’t really like? Or get the right couch but that’s money out of the kitchen reno.

I’m feeling this thought paralysis about everything for the new home. Furniture, paint, appliances, even really “small” things like organising baskets for the cabinets.

I know part of the solution could be to just budget for different goals, but how granular should the different buckets get?

Anyone else have experience with this kind of lifestyle change and have tips on how to adjust?
posted by like_neon to Work & Money (27 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Congratulations on your new home! Unless you have the money already saved or are willing to go into debt for it, something like a new kitchen is going to be a while. I don't have experience in the U.K., but here in the states, almost every homeowner will tell you about the things they had to fix that were not in the inspection report or the thing that broke out of nowhere in their first couple of years in their new home. I, for example, woke up one morning with no warning to a pipe burst in the ceiling'floor between the upstairs bathroom and the lving room, resulting in the ceiling getting flooded and collapsing, having to replace the broken pipes and then oh yeah all of the other plumbing issues found by the plumber while doing that repair (like a GIANT whole in the pipe that went from the toilet to the septic tank outside).

A house is a money pit, which is the disadvantage of owning one. There is never not going to be something to fix either from desire or necessity. Start saving now for the kitchen but put it on the 5-year wish list. In terms of the other things, it helped me to think of it this way: go slowly and add something to the home like appliances and furnishings one at a time. I like to think of it like I am curating what goes into my home, so my purchases are intentional. You likely already have anything you need since you live in a flat already. What are things the house has but the flat doesn't? I know it sounds obvious, but we moved into our house in the winter and then in the spring I was like oh yeah, I need to buy a lawnmower for the yard and some rakes! I also once painted our dining room 4 different colors in one week because I just wasn't happy with it and then eventually had to have a laugh about it all.
posted by archimago at 4:32 AM on February 26, 2021 [2 favorites]

First I'd go for a general energy housing fund. Even when you buy a solid, good, there are no problems here house, something always comes to up that first year that needs to get done right away. (Mine was an ice dam and subsequent leak, the joys of owning a home in a place where it can snow)

And moving is so much work, Oh my god. I had so many plans for my home when I bought it and then I moved and was like let's push those things back a few years.

Keep a fund for those remodel dreams and repairs, but at first I'd keep a general house fund for the stuff it will need.

Don't forget, you will get there, it just takes time.
posted by AlexiaSky at 4:38 AM on February 26, 2021 [2 favorites]

My style is to live with a new thing for a while. Something that seems odd or awkward at first may turn out to have unexpected virtues. Or, maybe there is no excuse for it. Time will tell. Besides, the obvious things, like curtains, and rugs, and the right color towels, will take a while.
posted by SemiSalt at 4:56 AM on February 26, 2021 [5 favorites]

I'm in the US, but my house is old enough to be old. (1860's victorian)
First - expect things to break the moment you buy them. Particularly houses. In the first two weeks we had changed out the U joint on the sewer line because it failed, resulting in our basement flooding with the prior owner's discarded toilet paper... yes. seriously... prior owners... First visit to snake the drain: $550, Second to replace the U-joint: $1800
Examine the bones first. The basement windows were single pane and with the landscaping the prior owners had done - water poured in them from the outside and the wood was all dry-rotted: Home depot trip... I think I went ~$1100 all in replacing 4 basement style windows.

Also in the basement, was the oil boiler from ~1953 operating at likely 5% effiecency. It was also the hot water heater, meaning it ran *all the time*. We are currently 7 years into a 10 year HEAT loan to convert to Natural gas. I think the price tag was ~25K all in to have a separate hot water tank and a gas boiler put in.

So the prior owners also changed a mud room into a sun room (it stands on pillars), expanding it massively but apparently ran out of money because they did not insulate it properly on the underside. So, by using the insulation they did and installing it properly, effectively during the winter, the cold air gets sucked up into the room and intensifies: They also jam-packed the insulation on the wrong facing, resulting in the vapor barrier failing and allowing for potential mold... so $600ish bucks for proper insulation, then $100 for the correct external insulation, then $200 to make it look mildly attractive.

Did I mention our house had a pool installed in 1972? It doesn't anymore, but pool removal cost us $13K. The coping stones (the ones that hold the liner in place) were so old that they could no longer be purchased, which meant the liner could no longer be purchased, which meant that while we held it together with *literally* gorilla tape for 6 years, on year 7 we said goodbye and flooded our lawn with chlorinated water. To be fair, the cost included re-seeding the lawn.

But the kicker of kickers is this.
When we bought the house it had two beautiful bathrooms. In July of 2019 a sewer line split on the second floor causing the upper floor to leak into the downstairs bathroom. We band-aided it together and saved and saved and saved because - holy shit... we knew what it would cost. So. I demoed the downstairs bathroom in February of 2020. We went into lockdown in March... and I can say... renovating two bathrooms simultaneously because *the sins have really been found* will cost us upwards of 50K, as we have now vented all the plumbing (which should have been done when these were rennovated) and replaced the main vent for the house.... We removed PVC->Copper-> Cast Iron -> PVC -> Cast Iron -> PVC... any plumber that just read that just shook their head and promptly swore at the amount of time that must have taken but also at the amount of money that could have been made on that job...

So... my advice? Save. Inspect the bones... fix what has to be. and then plan on fixing what you don't expect to fix.
posted by Nanukthedog at 4:58 AM on February 26, 2021 [9 favorites]

You’ll be sooooo tempted to start buying new furniture, etc. If possible, try to avoid those decisions and purchases for awhile until you’ve lived there and learned your living patterns. You’ll figure out where you want new chairs, lamps, storage stuff, rugs, etc. You’ll figure out that you need/want things you never thought of, and you also may decide that certain things you wanted aren’t a priority anymore.
Good luck and congratulations!
posted by bookmammal at 5:12 AM on February 26, 2021 [7 favorites]

To be clear: the 4th inspection of the upstairs bathroom (insulation, after plumbing, rough electrical, and structure) is happening right now - as I type this. My family is showering in a makeshift downstairs bathroom that resembles the karate kid shower scenario...

So we are still 3-4 weeks from having one complete bathroom. Then we'll be onto the downstairs bathroom... But - our major plumbing issues have all been resolved.
posted by Nanukthedog at 5:15 AM on February 26, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: When moving into a new place, I generally prioritize things by what I hate the most will get addressed first. My first house was all pink. inside and out. There was literally one room that wasn't pink. The bedroom was hot pink, and I wasn't going to sleep for one goddamn night in that hideousness! so that was the first thing I did. The front of the house That I would only see for 20 seconds a day when coming home from work? didn't get painted until I was selling it, and that was fine.

Take a look around your new house, make note of anything that really jumps out at you as awful, and put that high on your list. Having a living space that greets your eye in a pleasing way will be a gift every single day.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 5:23 AM on February 26, 2021 [6 favorites]

For what it's worth, as another UK-based person, I've heard way fewer "I moved into a new house and immediately had to spend four figures on something that was broken in a way that made the house unliveable" horror stories from other people in the UK who've moved house compared to the chorus of US-based MeFites who come into threads like this one advising not to spend any money until you've figured out the one weird thing that's going to break in your new house. And I've known plenty of people who've moved house in the UK. Maybe our surveys are better, maybe it's because we have more national-level regulation and less micro-level regulation at the state/city/county level compared to the US, but my perspective is that this is less of a thing over here. Probably still prudent to keep enough money aside in case you're unlucky on this count, but I wouldn't assume you're doomed to have something expensive break or need fixing right away just because that's common in a different country where you don't live.

On the kitchen side of things, many of the major retailers offer a free (currently remote) quote & design session. If you're up for doing that stage now, it might at least give you a better idea of how much you'd need to save and some ideas for design and layout that you can start dreaming about a little more concretely. Also, I get the sense that home renovation companies are looking to make money right now from people who'd otherwise be spending that money on travel but can't because of the pandemic, so there are a decent amount of deals and sales around. Wren Kitchens, for example, currently have a seven-year interest free credit deal, which might be an option if you know you'd like to get it done sooner rather than later but don't want to wait to save up the entire balance.

As for how to stagger home improvements and what to prioritise saving for, I can't help as much there as I struggle with those questions myself, even having been in my current home for coming on four years this summer. My sister bought a house recently and has had everything she wanted renovating done upfront before she moves in, and it does seem a lot more seamless to do it that way compared to my situation, where I can't imagine how I'm going to tetris all of my stuff around long enough to get most of the house refloored, the kitchen & bathrooms done etc., but she's in a particularly fortunate position there and I realise that's not an option for a lot of people.

I tend towards inertia, but that's not necessarily a bad thing when it comes to house stuff. One way to prioritise might be to move in and then start making a list of what you'd like to get done, with the priority defined by whatever you find hardest to live with once you've tried living with it for a while. As an example, we got the shower replaced immediately when we moved in because the existing shower was extremely crappy, and I have no regrets about that. On the other hand, while I think our kitchen is kind of ugly, broken and gross in many ways, it's still completely functional, and I can live with its non-pleasing aesthetics and the horrible gap next to the oven that all manner of crap falls down for at least a few more years, even though I would very much like a new kitchen within that timescale.
posted by terretu at 5:29 AM on February 26, 2021 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks so far! Just to head off the “save for an emergency because that will happen” advice - please assume this is already well covered. I’m looking more for advice and experience with how to approach the more “discretionary” house funds.
posted by like_neon at 5:33 AM on February 26, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: One concrete way that I might start is to pick one room that you are going to LOVE. Maybe not one with plumbing first since that gets pricey ;) but your bedroom or living room or office? And then get everything else that you regularly use to a livable, at-par-with-old-place level, while focusing your fantasies and big plans on your current target room. For me, that's a way to manage the decision paralysis *and* keep the spending under control. When you love it, bask in it for a few months, instagram it if that's your jam, show it off to family/friends... and once you've really wallowed in how great that room is, pick the next one!
posted by february at 5:35 AM on February 26, 2021 [8 favorites]

I definitely recommend furnishing your house with things from Freecycle and Ikea to start with, and then living with everything for a while and rearranging things a lot to see how it works with you living in the space.

Then once you're really comfortable with the layout, you can start replacing pieces with nice ones slowly over time.

In my house it took a couple of years of living there for me to figure out all the little things that made the difference, like moving a couple of doors to improve the flow, knocking through an internal wall, and bricking up a pointless window that was right where coat hooks should go in the hall. So I was glad I hadn't spent a ton of money on things earlier.
posted by quacks like a duck at 5:37 AM on February 26, 2021 [2 favorites]

We lived in our house (UK, built 1925) for a few months and came to the realisation that the layout of our upstairs was impractical for our growing family. It had a wide landing, three large bedrooms, one weird L-shaped tiny bedroom, and a tiny bathroom. I made the decision to take out all of the non-load-bearing walls upstairs and re-balance the size of the rooms, and a builder friend of ours happened to be between jobs, so it was the perfect time. So now we have rooms that are actually sensibly-sized for our needs. This wasn't something we'd remotely foreseen when we purchased the house, but makes a world of difference now. I'm really glad we didn't invest in carpets, paint and furniture until later.

It's exciting to have big plans for your new home, but living with the building for a while will have a big impact on your priorities.
posted by pipeski at 5:44 AM on February 26, 2021 [3 favorites]

Do your painting and your flooring before you move in. That way you don't have to move everything out of the room(s). This is the best time.

Other stuff, see how you use it and what works for you and what doesn't. That can help you "rank" what you want to do next. I'd keep the furniture for now; if nothing else, you have more rooms so even if you don't sit on that couch all the time anymore it can go to a less-important room.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 5:55 AM on February 26, 2021 [4 favorites]

Paint is always worth the investment in my opinion. It's pretty changeable although it's a time investment even if you hire people.

I am a simple person so I will give you the most budget-conscious method:

We've mostly worked from the walls in from that point, so flooring and ideally window treatments next (we haven't done the treatments in this house which I kind of regret right now) and then furniture and rugs. Art is important to us but we've collected over time, so for me that's next.

For furnishings we've always sort of accepted freecycle/curb/hand-me-downs from people as a first cut, to get furniture into the space and really feel it out in terms of size, materials, etc. For example, we had deacon's chairs in the dining room (which is part of my kitchen, it's L shaped) which I thought I would love, but ended up hating; now I have like THE old honey oak set where I do not like the colour but the solidity of the oak and chairs has convinced me that my next and probably final set will be custom made. But overall, we pick the free/cheap piece we like least and shop for that, rinse and repeat. Lately I've come to love the solidity of antiques and so I'll just look around for that for like, 6-8 months until I find the right one.

Couches and beds (and desks) are an exception to my bare bones approach, we like well-made pieces for those items.

I agree that living in the space will give you a fair amount of insight. For me, I always need one room that feels cohesive and together, but as long as I have that one room to sit in when I need good aesthetics, I'm okay with a bit of jumble.

For larger renovations I'm a bad one to ask about kitchens because our kitchen has been lousy since we moved in in 2005, but I am waiting to pay off the mortgage first. I will say that my ideas about what I want in a kitchen have changed radically over time from when we bought the house and I think it would have been a costly error if I'd done it right at the start. Bathrooms, however, I wish I'd done right away. (Except for the $$ issue.)

We have so much joy in there among the lousy lousy 1982 cabinets and melamine counter though. I'm glad we went slow - I think if we'd done the "full reno show home" it would actually have taken us longer to feel at home. It is very personal though!
posted by warriorqueen at 6:09 AM on February 26, 2021

We are in theory doing the 'one room at a time' approach, because we don't have any major works to do. We don't have to do either the kitchen or the bathroom and we bought a house that already had the layout we were looking for. We, in theory, began with our own bedroom and will complete the upstairs before moving on to the downstairs. However, our progress has stalled for many reasons.

What has actually happened, is that I have measured and planned the layouts of the whole house, have outline colour scheme in mind and a good sense of the style I am going for. We've then been buying pieces of furniture as I've found them, either because we need them and don't have them (we upsized in some respects) or we always intended to upgrade and the existing piece has just become too irritating. I don't like to spend real money on temporary solutions.

I would recommend measuring the house as fully and completely as possible as a first step. I would also recommend thinking about layouts carefully, for which you might need to live in the house and see what the space is like, but you might not if you already have skills in that area. I also recommend, thinking about the order in which you will need to do things, and whether you for example want to change the flooring in multiple rooms. It's worth taking the time to narrow down the style you want, but you may well know that already.

For the kitchen specifically, I would recommend spending real time thinking about how you will actually want to use the space, and what kinds of cooking you do, and researching things like recommended spaces between things (eg distance between gas hob and nearby unit, size of worksurface you like between hob and sink). If the kitchen is either completely unusable or you will be combining or extending rooms, then it might be worth doing it before you move in. But investing quite a bit of time on thinking about the design yourself will pay off. When I renovated my last kitchen, I initially planned to replicate the layout that was there which functioned acceptably well. But after playing with the space with effectively a blank sheet of paper, I arrived at a much better layout. I actually find it harder to plan a new kitchen for a space the longer I've spent living with the existing one, but also find the 2nd or 3rd layout I come up with substantially better than the 1st.

Lots of your approach to this depends on your preferred approach to doing things. I like a vision for the whole thing, and then filling in the details. My partner infinitely prefers to dealing with one thing at a time.
posted by plonkee at 6:13 AM on February 26, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: In my last house, which was built around 1900, and needed a lot of updating, I made a spreadsheet with different tabs for each room. On each room tab, I had an inventory of what I had, what I thought I needed new, and what needed replacing, then a list of projects. I did a quick budget out for all of those, and then was able to use that to prioritize accordingly. So I painted nearly every room immediately, and did the kitchen before I moved in, but was able to see where I could wait on other projects. Having the estimated budgets helped because if something didn't seem critical, but was cheap, I could decide whether to go ahead and put it in or not.

The house I bought last year was built around 1950, and didn't need a whole lot more than cosmetic things, so I just kind of painted and moved in. I wish I'd made that spreadsheet this time around though, because the COVID lockdowns hit about six months after I moved in and that shifted how I wanted to prioritize some projects.
posted by pixiecrinkle at 6:27 AM on February 26, 2021

1. Essential work to fix/ prevent critical failures so that you actually have a house rather than a ruin
2. Essential work to ensure livability (drains, running water, heat)
3. Essential work to ensure safety (mold, fire etc.)
4. Interior semi-essential work to ensure daily functions (ability to cook, working door bells, etc.)
5. Exterior semi-essential work to ensure you can actually use the outside property
6. Things that will save money (insulation, etc.)
7. Things that enhance quality of life to an expected minimum standard (floors that don't give you splinters, washing machine that doesn't have a collection bucket for the leak, etc.)
8. Functional things that enhance quality of life beyond the minimum standard (barbecue for the deck, somewhere to sit that is comfortable, raccoon proof outdoor garbage bin, etc.)
9. Cosmetic: stuff that just looks or feels nicer but is not obviously much more functional than the previous stuff you were using. (matching towels, the right colour flooring)

From 7 and up you have some flexibility, as you may want that new couch more than you want the family safe to go around the house bare footed, or you may feel that exterior paint while not strictly necessary yet will provide the family with the status boost and reputation that you require, more than you care about having to use tweezers and sticking plasters a couple of times a month. Mental health matters, so if you notice that every time you use the downstairs bathroom you feel anxious and depressed, swapping out the flooring and the towels and putting up some mirrors can move the cosmetic work higher up in priority.

Do not worry about not knowing yet what you will be able to get. Consider this stage the very wise stage of keeping your options open until you have more data. It's like being worried when you don't know which classes you really want to take at university. You're not supposed to make up your mind until the last date for dropping classes because you need to be prepared to be flexible in case that linguistics class is being taught by a professor whose accent you can't understand. You decide on your major after you look at the mark you got in statistics. You're not supposed to know what you will be spending money on the house for yet any more than you magically know if a garment fits before you try it on.

The two things you need to balance are security and quality of life. Money not spent is security. As long as you have it, it is there to be thrown at any critical needs. You don't buy a couch before you both experience wishing you had one, and have evidence that a new couch will get used. If nobody but you is using the old couch this gives you a chance to consider if getting an armchair would be a better investment instead, or if a loveseat would split the difference and give you room to get at the bookcase. But you won't know that until you have tried out the living room and find out that the kids have taken it over as their primary play area and your couch is also a pirate ship cum toy bin, or find out that the light in there is so bad that no one ever sits in there, and without investing in some lights the couch will remain deserted.

Having a house is like having a gifted child. From now on there will be a constant track in the back of your mind, remembering things that will need to be done, and things that could disaster out if you don't monitor them, and looking forward to chances to see your child shine. This is gonna be great, yes, but it also is going to unfold in ways you can't predict. Happiness comes from being open to what will be.

Depending on your budget you might make a personal commitment to something small, like once a week ten dollars on something nice for the house, or every time you go to the Home Depot you get to spend ten dollars on joy inducing frivolous things. This will not break the budget as you can easily absorb the ten out of your grocery budget but will give you the fun of nesting and spending money. After a couple of months when you have a better idea what your financial picture is you can make a budget and allow yourself a reasonable amount, such as $500 for frivolous enhancements. Depending on your financial picture you may want to up this fun money budget to $100 per week and $5000. My figures are to give you a sense of the ratio you can spend. Right now it should only be money you won't miss because it would have been spent anyway.

The biggest and most important discretionary spending you should consider making is additional payments on your mortgage, if you have one. Eating mac'n'cheeze for the first two years and using a brick to keep the bathroom door closed from the inside while throwing money into your mortgage will make a huge difference at the end of the mortgage. Every dollar thrown at the mortgage in the first two years is several dollars at the end of the mortgage that you won't have to pay. A new couch is nice now, but if you already have a couch that is okay, keep in mind that additional mortgage payments is the equivalent of three very nice couches, or to a very nice couch, a very nice TV entertainments system and some dental work later. Paying off debt is always worth more than savings. A good mindset for a home owner is to try to consider alternatives, such as throwing a bedspread over the couch to hide the damage the cat has done and putting the money into the mortgage or into the fund for installing solar panels.
posted by Jane the Brown at 6:47 AM on February 26, 2021 [1 favorite]

As a homeowner who has bit-by-bit renovated 60% of my house over the last 12 years, my only advice (outside of the aforementioned “live in it a bit to establish a lifestyle and know what would make it better...” is find the balance between acting too soon and waiting too long. I’ve seen many homes renovated to be sold. This seems like it would be heartbreaking — losing the opportunity to live in the house the “way it should be.” I like to include in my calculations the notion of amortizing over the remaining years my family’s enjoyment of a specific enhancement.

We took it step by step, but each physical improvement reaped significant lifestyle improvements over the last 10 years which we celebrate and appreciate daily.
posted by nandaro at 7:05 AM on February 26, 2021 [3 favorites]

I agree very strongly with nandaro.

It's quite common to want to dive into improvements, but setting aside the question of money that's a bad idea -- you should live in the house for a while, figure out your routines within the space it has, and only then make changes.

Anecdotes from my most recent move (there are more, I'm being briefly illustrative):
- I bought a new couch I liked, and after about six months realized it was entirely wrong for the space and my usage patterns

- I paid an engineer to design plans to substantially renovate the center portion of the house in order to change the kitchen, which involved removing walls, adding new structural members into the ceiling and outer walls, et cetera. I then realized that whole plan was unnecessary and just some kind of psychological hold-over from my last condo, and that none of it was a good idea. Fortunately I realized this before commencing construction, and so I went with a redesign that used the existing space instead.

- once I began renovations, on literally the first day the foreman walked in, looked around, and said "wait, why are you doing this [specific part of the renovation] when you could just do [alternative plan]?" Dude was totally right, and fortunately I had the presence of mind to agree on the spot despite the expense incurred by changing plans mid-stream.

Learn from my expensive mistakes. I am now very fond of my house, but I wasted time and money getting here when I could have just spent a little bit longer thinking before trying to act.
posted by aramaic at 7:51 AM on February 26, 2021 [2 favorites]

Many of the home renovation/interior design blogs I follow advocate the following which strikes me as good advice:
1) live in the space for a while before making big decisions (particularly if you are thinking about taking down walls or redesigning the space)
2) you can consider doing phased renovations. The bloggers call this phase 1 and phase 2. Maybe a full kitchen renovation needs to wait, but you can paint the cabinets for $500 and suddenly the house feels more like 'you' while you save up money and sort out plans for full-on renovation. Young House Love and Chris Loves Julia have good examples of this.
posted by avocado_of_merriment at 8:16 AM on February 26, 2021 [1 favorite]

Since you mentioned you do have budget saved for repairs, I think you could splurge on a couch or something fun like that. I would pick one room to decorate or splurge on first - for me that’s been either my bedroom or a living room, but you may want to pick say a great kitchen appliance or a dining table you’ve always wanted, maybe a great desk chair for a home office. Paint the room a great color, maybe replace the light fixture (I’ve found deals on my local Facebook marketplace for new fixtures). I think it can be exciting and inspiring to do one design project & it will help you define your style for the entire house. Maybe you’ll decide nah, I don’t like bright walls and end up repainting white, maybe you’ll love the color and pick complementary shades in other rooms. If a couch feels too spendy or if you think your living room size might change, another living room option is a nice chair and footstool.
Also wanted to mention to include curtains or Roman shades in your budget. That’s something I always find I need soon - especially in a bedroom- and it’s more expensive than I expect.
While I agree it’s best to live in a space for 6 months or a year before doing a large remodel, I would warn you that the economy and Covid may be impacting availability of contractors and cost. And When the economy is down, contractors are often more available and may even charge less. During the pandemic I’ve found it very difficult to find any contractors who are available & I’m comfortable with. So I think it might be a good idea to start getting bids and scoping contractors out sooner than you plan to start the actual work. In that process, you may meet a specialist who ends up guiding the process with you. I once met a friend who was incredible at restoring hardwoods and so that was the first project we did in a new house, for example. Another project was inspired by some incredible tile I found for free. Also: there’s an appliance shortage & furniture delivery delay at the moment, just something to be aware of. I know people who ordered new furniture this fall & are being told it won’t be shipped until April. Had a similar situation myself with appliances, although it was only a two month delay.
posted by areaperson at 9:48 AM on February 26, 2021

I forgot to say congratulations!!! I hope you have an opportunity to take time, look around at your exciting accomplishment and appreciate and enjoy your new home.
posted by areaperson at 10:00 AM on February 26, 2021

It sounds like you're asking more about saving things up - but it's not clear whether you've decided what it is you want to do in the first place, and if that's the case, I'm not clear how you'd know how much you need to save.

So maybe that is where to start. Figure out what you want to even do to your kitchen - upgrade everything, maybe focus on just one bit, DIY stuff, have a contractor do it all, etc. Once you have a handle on that, then you can start looking to see how much that would cost, which would in turn let you figure out how long saving up would take.

Maybe you'll be really lucky and you'll realize that "you know.....I think maybe all we need to do is cut a bigger window and get a better oven, and the rest can just be spruced up with some paint." That may not take as long to save for as "we're building a whole addition onto the house so we can expand the kitchen an extra 20 square feet and build a nook in with a window that overlooks the back garden" or "we're upgrading all of the appliances to ones with 'smart' software and we are getting a dishwasher as well because we don't have one". If you're going to go hog-wild, that will take a while to save up for no matter what, and you may decide you don't want to wait that long for a new sofa, so you'll come up with a savings plan that will allow for "we want the new kitchen but we also don't want crappy sofas while we wait".

If you aren't sure where to start figuring out what you want to do - you are in luck, because a lovely Youtuber I follow is just now beginning to plan out making over her bathroom, and she just released a video all about "how you can start making decisions about what you want to do".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:51 AM on February 26, 2021

Best answer: Similar to others, we made a list of things we needed to upgrade, and then prioritized based on urgency/cost... Very much fix the critical stuff first, paint walls if you need too before you move in, and then go from there. When I say we made a list, we literally put everything on it. From "buy nice hand soap" and "get ironic welcome mat" to things like "paint glossy brick" and "paint bedroom" to "kitchen renovation- fix layout, electrical and floor" and "find out how long we can go before replacing the deck on the terrace" some of the things on the list got ticked off before we moved in, while others took a little bit longer (or are still on it) so we still reference the original 'wish list' when deciding on projects. It's also adorable to consider that past me thought 'fancy hand soap' was more important than bedside lights, but we did go a year before we got bedside lights.

For example we knew we needed to update the electrical in our kitchen and have the floor leveled before ever moving in, so that was a MASSSIVE pit of money up front... so the fake Italian villa vibe bathroom that I DESPISED, got a clean coat of white paint, and then an ikea mirror/sink/vanity for less than $500, and honestly, 3+ years down the line the 'temporary fix' still holds and I probably won't redo the bathroom while I live here, since the tile and the plumbing are otherwise in great shape, if not exactly to my taste. Similarly, we knew we needed a new couch when we moved in (ours was 40+ yrs old and a hand-me-down), but we wanted to invest in a higher end couch, so that took some saving and researching.
posted by larthegreat at 12:59 PM on February 26, 2021

Kitchen budgets are a bit 'how long is a piece of string' but I think that £5k is very cheap and £25k would probably get you mid-range mass market units and appliances plus a mix of quartz and wood worktops in a kitchen big enough for an island. If you want a Plain English kitchen it's £20k upwards for just the units, and you need appliances, flooring, worktops and fitting too. Whether it's better to save up for a new kitchen first or buy other things would for me depend on how bad the kitchen is, what quality point (and so price) you're thinking of, and the rate at which you can save up.

For kitchens specifically, options I've seen or heard people use include British Standard, Naked Kitchens, DIY kitchens and Ikea, as well as high street names kitchen fitters are often used to like Wren, Howdens, and B&Q.
posted by plonkee at 2:46 PM on February 26, 2021

It's easiest to paint right away. Paint everything you think will need to be painted. Even if you change the color later, it's easier to paint over fresher paint and repaired walls.

For me, it's then room by room, with detours. If your couch is yuck, make it a habit to stop at ReStore; I was just at the local and saw a couch so pretty I considered it, and there is absolutely not any room for another couch in my house. It was $150. Beautiful couches and other furniture crop up on Craigslist/free. It's an easy way to upgrade a bit, cheap. You can spray a couch and wrap it in plastic for a week if bedbugs are a concern.

My kitchen is Ikea, 8-9 years ago, still happy with the cabinets. They have at least 1 annual sale, so keep an eye out.

Measure every room in your house, use the Ikea tools for kitchen planning. Keep the info in your phone. Be ready to snag a deal. A friend walked into ReStore as they were unloading a donated kitchen, and did her kitchen in great quality at a low price.

New home ownership? Budget for tools, necessary fixes, etc.
posted by theora55 at 2:52 PM on February 26, 2021 [1 favorite]

All I can say is, while you feel this way now, once you move all your stuff into the house you're going to get used to a lot of it. You will probably feel less urgency about doing all the big and little things you're dreaming about now. You may also think you know exactly what you want now, but after you live there you'll probably change your mind about some things.

So, think about what really needs to be taken care of before moving in, and what can wait. Moving will be stressful. Once that's over with, you will look at your new house with a fresh perspective, and that will help guide you on how to proceed.
posted by bananana at 8:21 PM on February 26, 2021 [1 favorite]

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