Photo of renovation money being squeezed – illustrating the point that it's wise to make strategic choices when renovation and updating your home

One of the unintended effects of the recent financial crisis is that many homeowners are opting to fund necessary renovation projects out of pocket instead of taking out a loan. When every penny that is invested in a project is, shall we say, more personal, homeowners are often less likely to indulge in those little “extras” that normally would be financed over a period of years. Yet if you scrimp on items that will make a real difference in your comfort, enjoyment or the functionality of your space, you actually may be sabotaging the success of your renovation.

So where does it make sense to save or splurge when your renovation budget is coming out of pocket? Here are a few ideas when it comes to kitchen remodels, which are among the most popular renovation projects.

Splurge: On solid surface kitchen countertops over tile surfaces. Whether you are considering a classic tile look or the newer granite tiles that are designed to bring costs down, tile is not the best option for food prep areas. Grout was never designed to be a sanitary choice – bacteria from raw meats and other types of foods can stubbornly attach itself to the nooks and crannies inherent in grout and create a dangerous situation for your family’s health.

Save: If you’re happy with how your kitchen flows and lives, it may make sense to opt for a facelift rather than a complete renovation. This is a great option if you have a functional layout and mainly desire to update the appearance of your space. You can get new appliances – or even keep your existing ones – update the cabinet doors and hardware, add decorative extras like a striking backsplash, and create a whole new look in a fraction of the time and at a smaller cost than that of a complete renovation.

Splurge: On what’s really important to you. It all comes down to how you intend to function in your kitchen. Some people would opt for takeout over a homemade meal any day, and those people don’t need to invest in professional-style appliances that they don’t ever plan on using. Other people love to cook, and if that describes you, we recommend that you invest in appliances that fit your needs, your cooking style and how you want to use your space. Some people really enjoy the benefits of cooking with a gas range but don’t have an existing gas line or proper ventilation. For those homeowners, getting those items in place is a necessary splurge. It really comes down to understanding how the homeowners ultimately envision using their space and building in the splurges that are most important to them.

Save: This is perhaps the most difficult save to swallow for many homeowners, but if you simply don’t have the funds to complete your dream project right, we often advise that it may be best to wait. Depending on the type of project, we may be able to break it down into stages so that you can easily complete certain parts over time without incurring any additional expenses. Yet other times, it really is much better to do it right than to do the job halfway. You have to have the best vision for the space and meld that with the realities of your budget, and see where you ultimately come out. If that means waiting, it’s sometimes best if you wait. After all, you want to do a project correctly, the first time, and enjoy it for years to come.