Budget-Friendly Tips For Home Improvement

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Budget-Friendly Tips For Home Improvement

Sunday, October 18, 2020

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As we approach the end of the year, it is important, now more than ever in these uncertain times, to be mindful of how we spend money. This is typically the time house-proud Jamaicans shell out money on our homes: A paint job here, a new living room set there. This need for spruced-up environs at Christmas is practically in our DNA. But remember we're still in a pandemic and unsure of what our financial fortunes will be after the calendar rolls over on December 31.

Home improvement projects have a way of spinning out of control, but they don't have to become existential nightmares.

Here are three tips for not breaking the bank even as you contemplate your project.


As with all money matters, a budget is essential. Hopefully the money you're using for your project will be taken from the short-to-mid-term savings fund you would have set up for exactly this purpose and not, say, your emergency savings fund for retirement or medical emergencies. If this is not the case and you plan on using “found” money (maybe you're one of the fortunate ones anticipating a bonus this year), it is critical to make a home improvement budget and stick to it.

How much money are you allotting to this project? Let's say you're planning to re-tile your bathroom. You've decided on a flooring choice that your pocket can accommodate. Then you go to the store and see the most divine (but expensive) marble counter-top tiles inlaid with black agate and mother-of-pearl.

You've always wanted to do that, you think. Maybe you could swing that too? Exhaust your savings fund, perhaps? Reach for your credit card? A home improvement loan? Suddenly, you're in debt, and contemplating why your life choices have led you to this unhappy pass with a kitchen you've already begun to regret.

Leave the countertop for another time; stick to the original budget for the floor.


As noted before, if you're a Jamaican, chances are you'll be experiencing an almost inexplicable urge to give your home a face-lift. An overstuffed leather armchair for the home office, maybe? Don't worry about it; it's likely that, growing up, you witnessed your mother change all the drapes in the living room as Christmas Day approached, songs from Kenny G's Christmas album filling the room, and the smell of one of her numerous batches of sorrel being drawn wafting out from the kitchen.

If you're spending money, you always want to ask yourself how much of your income or your savings is being allotted to making the purchase, whether you're shopping for elements of a killer wardrobe or simply items for the home. During this time of year, before you start consulting the ubiquitous furniture store catalogues or checking out store sales, ask yourself this: Is an investment in brand-new furniture the best use of my resources at this time? The classifieds are among many good places to find second-hand furniture pieces that can, with a minimum amount of cash outlay, look as good as brand-new. Or you can even consider reupholstering a living room set you already have, to give your space a completely new look.


As the silly season approaches, be mindful that this current pandemic has many of us in our “feels”. The prospect of an altered way of being for the festive season – including being separated from family and loved ones – can bring on a full-scale urge to self-medicate by indulging in retail therapy for our living spaces. I don't think it's sexist to say that, as women, we're prone to doing that. Nothing wrong with it if it makes you feel good and, importantly, if you can afford it. The key is to count the cost before embarking on any home project, especially if you know it's really about filling that little pandemic-shaped void in your life.

Remember, credit cards are essentially loans you pay interest on for the privilege of using them. So, wherever possible, try to use available cash for your purchases. This means that you will strive to cut down on costs in order to conserve on these resources. Sometimes, rather than expensive new furniture, a room simply needs a little refreshing that even moderate DIY skills can offer. (If you have none, that's what YouTube is there for.)

That dingy dresser in your bedroom, for the relatively low price of a few funky print wallpaper swatches, as against the higher cost of purchasing a whole new dresser that you'd purchase with your credit card, how about kicking up the design quotient et, voila, tricking it into looking like something straight from the pages of a design magazine?

Home renovations can be fun if you don't get in over your head. Remember, an inspired living space isn't worth the stress of the prison of consumer debt in the New Year.

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