“Doing-up” your home can be an enormously satisfying adventure, if you go about it the right way.  However, it can also be a complete curse and drive you to the end of your tether if you don’t plan for success.  Apply these great money saving tips for house renovation and you could be sailing through the process with ease, while staying on budget and having fun.

You may have a small starter home to update, a Victorian terrace to bring back to life, a farmhouse that needs completely renovating or a chateau to rebuild from a ruin!  I cant quite believe that we have actually had all of these projects and survived! But here’s the thing…we have, and we are still at it, mortgage-free and enjoying (on the whole!) the process.

So how do you take on these house renovations, make-overs or whatever, without going bankrupt and losing your sanity? Let me help you save money, stay on track and keep smiling whilst building the house of your dreams! 


First of all, you make a plan. Write down, or mind-map, everything that you need to do, want to do, could do and might do. Write, write, write… get it all down. Keep adding until you have a master list. Then start breaking it down, firstly into the absolute essentials. These could be anything structural or for safety. Work to the roof, shoring up walls, drainage, damp etc.

It’s so easy to get carried away by the fun things like redesigning the kitchen or changing that hideous bathroom suite (ok, if it’s one of those avocado ones, I’ll give you permission to put it with the essentials!), but rein it in for now. If you’re on a budget (and who isn’t?) you have to be sensible and get those boring jobs done and dusted before you go any further. Besides, when they are completed, you will know what you can spend on the next stage without guesstimating and getting in a pickle.


But, we did save €8,000 on glass just by shopping around! So, the next category to consider is obviously the bones of the project. Do you need to move walls, make new openings, change the kitchen, add a bathroom, build an extension, convert the loft? List it all down. Then if you’re not doing it yourself, get some quotes…like several. And then compare them to your budget. You might just find you need to tweak your “wants”.

Always ask yourself if you are getting value for money.  Will that ensuite bathroom really add value, either to the house or to your life? Do you need a new kitchen or could you change up the worktops and paint the doors? We always think long and hard about whether we really need something, or could we get a similar effect another way and spend the money on elsewhere.  Being creative, looking for inspiration on Pinterest etc., considering alternative layouts and so on really can save you a shed full of money and time.


If you have the time to do this, do it! Builders will always add on a percentage if they purchase items on your behalf. And why shouldn’t they, of course. But if you’re in this on a budget, that’s something you can do.  Look online, often cheaper than on the high street. Check out stores that sell end of line goods, bankrupt stock or even seconds. We were quoted €23,000 for windows and “made do” with perfectly good ones (ok, not as super duper as those we were quoted for, but good enough) for €5,000. So that was €18,000 to spend on something else…yes €18,000!!!


And another thing… if you do source your own products you have all the choice. Taps, for example, there are so many to choose from. And yes, you may be swayed by some swanky, ultra modern creation, that probably would look wow in your new bathroom, but is the expense worth it? Or could you make do with a slightly cheaper model and buy a shower head too? At the end of the day, you can’t leave the price tag on it for all to see, so as long as it looks nice, and suits the scheme, then all well and good. Go spend your hard-earned cash on something more exciting.



I know, this is such a lame saying, but it does work. Weird things happen when you come across blocks, especially financial ones. We built a “faux stone staircase” out of concrete and it looks amazing, and cost us peanuts (tutorial to come if you’re interested!). In fact, we made lintels and mullions for our chateau out of concrete too because we had no other alternative and they look great, did the job and no-one is any the wiser. You just need to be a little bit brave and creative.


We have always invested in machinery as opposed to manpower. Labour is so expensive and you have to be super organised to make sure that workmen always have what they need. Every last stage has to be meticulously planned. Although progress happens quickly, you don’t always have time to let the project evolve organically, tweaking design on the way. The other big plus for buying plant or machinery is that it can be sold again at the end. It’s not all money lost.


Scaffolding for example can be very costly to hire and therefore adds pressure timewise. We needed A LOT! I learned monkey agility and a love for heights whilst building our tower and repointing every stone wall in sight.

Our small portable sawmill has saved us literally thousands in timber. We are lucky to have oaks to use on the property and it is so nice to have  beautiful home grown beams.

I don’t know how anyone survives without a digger! We use our’s every day for something! And it rarely digs these days. But from groundworks, lifting and clearing rubble to pouring concrete, pulling out roots and even moving bales of hay, it is indispensible.

I know our build is quite extreme, but our second- (or probably fourth-) hand crane has made the whole project possible. As this has literally been a two-man project (well, one man and one woman!), the crane has done all the lifting to the extent that we didn’t even use a wheelbarrow until the roof was on. Struggle no more with heavy timbers, cement and stone!


I have seen so many ideas on Pinterest for using pallets, for example. They are cheap and readily available. Create a cocooning atmosphere by lining walls with them. Build simple furniture. Create storage solutions. Build shelving. Check out some of the gorgeous chalet style home ideas for cosy and intimate room decor that can be done on a serious budget. So many good ideas to be found there. Delve deep into the Internet and profit from your findings. 


Finally you have all the smaller jobs, decorating, soft furnishings, titivating left to do. These can wait if you are short on dosh. Much as it’s frustrating to wait, it’s so much more rewarding… and often you change your mind before you even get there and go off in another direction designwise. Don’t waste time and money that you will live to regret. Act in haste, repent at leisure. Yes, yes…that old cliché, but still worth considering.


I was always brought up with the concept that if you can’t afford it, you can’t have it. I used to have 50p a week pocket money and was saving for a horse, so I’m quite well trained! And it has really stood us in good stead for where we are today. Obviously sometimes borrowing can’t be avoided, but it really should be minimised as much as possible. I really can’t stress enough, if it’s not life and death, just wait. All in good time, as they say.


There are so many things you can do to progress in your house renovation adventure that cost nothing, or very little, while you save for the fun stuff.

  • Research. Shop around. Get more quotes. Source products yourself to avoid builder’s mark-up.
  • Consider re-using and repurposing stuff you already have.
  • Visit boot sales, charity shops and salvage yards; scour the free-ads and Facebook groups; even visit the tip! My mother has come back with all manner of gems from there!
  • Get on with some decorating.
  • Sand and varnish or wax your woodwork.
  • Make-over your doors. Strip or revamp with beading.
  • Remove plaster from feature walls and repoint.
  • Clear the garden, start a vegetable plot (save money at the supermarket – every little courgette helps!), take some cuttings from friends.
  • Watch YouTube tutorials to learn new skills. Tiling, dry-lining, repointing, laying a floor etc. are all relatively easy once you know how.
  • Keep designing and planning. If you’re in a new house, you really need to live in it to see how you’re going to use it. More often than not your ideas change and you would have missed out on opportunities if you had just got straight on with Plan A.
  • Move furniture around. Can you make a partition with a bookcase, that will save you building a wall, and give you storage as a bonus?
  • Start a budget spreadsheet and really keep tabs on your spending.
  • Learn how to use a sewing machine. Curtains, cushions, wall hangings, throws…you name it, will be within your grasp for a fraction of the cost. And personalised to boot.


Staying on budget is never easy, but it is totally acheivable with a little bit of thought and lots of effort. It will all be worth it in the end, so enjoy the journey!