the old barn

Master Bathroom with freestanding tub and shiplap walls, the floor is dark gray 12x24 tiles and there are 2 vanities and a pair of barn doors.

Where to Splurge / Save Money when building your Home

July 23, 2021

Knowing smart ways to save money when building can help you get MORE of what you REALLY want!

Saving money when building a home may seem like an oxymoron, but it can be done!

This beautiful living room has vaulted ceilings and exposed rafters with scissor trusses. The ceiling is made of v groove and it is all painted white. The living rooms holds a neutral sofa, upholstered ottoman and an oversized chair. the fireplace has a tv over it that looks like a painting

I believe you can get your dream home and stay on budget if you spend/save wisely.

We built our home with champagne tastes on a beer budget, with a little creativity, DIY, smart shopping and using every penny wisely.

When you get all your ducks in a row and you’re ready to start building your dream home…and then the lumber bids come in:

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A beautiful home collage with kitchen, bathroom, and living room with vaulted ceilings

Be smart about how we save money when building

I definitely have opinions about smart ways to SAVE and where it’s best to splurge when it comes to building a home.

But I wanted to get input from others as well, so I polled my Instagram Fam.

I’m sharing the full list with you without regard to my personal opinions. For MY personal viewpoint, keep scrolling down.

Also, you’ll notice some of the same items on both lists…it’s all about personal preferences and what might be important to one person, isn’t as much to another.

So without further ado, here are the results of that poll:

Where to SPLURGE When Building a Home

(some answers were repeated multiple times. I have made note of the more popular answers)

  • Good Paint
  • Quality Cabinets (popular answer)
  • Cabinet Hardware
  • Windows
  • Kitchen (popular answer)
  • Bathrooms
  • Skirting, Architrave
  • Ceiling Height
  • Drawers (vs Lower Cabinets)
  • Big Screened in Porch
  • Countertops
  • Metal Roof
  • Vaulted Ceilings
  • Solid Wood (vs MDF)
  • Footprint of the house
  • Flooring (popular answer)
  • Millwork (AKA Trim work)
  • Pocket Doors
  • Lighting
  • Garage Space
  • Appliances
  • Insulation
  • Exterior Doors
  • Painter
  • Basement
  • Central Vacuum
  • Heated Tile Floors
  • Porch(es)

Where to SAVE when home building

  • Lighting Fixtures (easy to change, styles change often) (top answer)
  • Faucets/Fixtures/Taps (easy to change later)
  • Landscaping (easy to add later and in phases)
  • Hardware (easy to change)
  • Windows
  • Bathroom fixtures
  • Bathroom vanities (do not need to be custom)
  • Appliances
  • Flooring (LVP vs Wood)
  • Built-ins (can be added later)
  • Wall Treatments/Accent Walls/Extra Trimwork
  • Carpet in bedrooms instead of wood
  • Labor (what work can you do yourself?)

>>My two cents about where to save money when home building<<

I can categorize my recommendation for splurges in the following categories:

A home office with built in bookshelves 2 chair and a desk, the paint color is Sherwin Williams Sea Salt

Spend Money on Things that are difficult to add or replace later

This would include square footage to a certain extent, although if you have to sacrifice ALL your favorite finishes to get the square footage, then you should definitely consider reducing your footprint.

When it comes to the sizes of rooms, be reasonable about the sizes and how you will use the space.

Use an old cereal box to cut out your furniture to scale (usually 1″ = 4′ on the plan) and try arranging it in the space. Is there room to walk? Is it too big that it might feel cavernous?

Another thing that is difficult to change later are cabinets. If you replace cabinets, you also will most likely need to replace your counters too and that is a very large expense, not to mention the demo involved.

Where you see it/use it the most

  • (kitchen) cabinets
  • flooring
  • kitchen/pantry – size and finishes
  • Public areas like Living Room, Dining Room, and Kitchen
A charming kitchen view of a European farmhouse sink surrounded by white subway tile and reclaimed wood beams and columns. There are 2 windows above the sink and a blue towel draped over the edge.

Where it has the potential to save you money or make you money over time

  • Insulation
  • Efficient A/C
  • Kitchen – we have all heard that kitchens and baths are key when it comes to selling a home
  • Bathroom – see above
Tile flooring that looks like brick in a herringbone pattern
Installing this brick tile floor in the mudroom ourselves saved us money we could put toward other things

Here are my thoughts about where to SAVE money when building a home

  • Things that are easy to add replace later (little to no demo required)
  • Finishes in secondary areas – kid’s baths could have 2-piece shower/tub instead of tiled tub surround (this is much easier to clean too, and you can always upgrade later.)
  • Items whose styles change more quickly like lighting and hardware
  • Labor (Check out this post about Important Questions to Ask yourself to save money when building a home
  • If you need/want to save BIG, the best way in to be your own General Contractor. This is how you can save 25-35% on your home build! We have done this twice and feel it is the SMART way to build, not only to save money, and build wealth at the same time, but also to maintain control of the build, selections, budget, and timeline! We have created a program to help you navigate the construction process and act as your own GC – it’s our Bootstrap Builders Program.

Save on things that are easy to add replace later

  • Landscaping
  • backsplashes
  • faucets – easy to swap later
  • built-ins
  • Glass Shower doors and enclosures (assuming the water isn’t going to cause damage without them.)
  • Wall treatments and trim
  • Lighting fixtures
  • Appliances (This post talks about how we saved thousands of dollars on one appliance when building)
  • You could do an open porch instead of a screened or 3-season room because no demo would be required, and it would be pretty easy to add windows later.

Save on finishes in secondary areas that will be seen less often

  • laundry and mudroom
  • kids spaces (they will likely need updates later from wear and tear) – I’ve added some trim and details to our son’s room and daughter’s bedroom since we’ve moved in and our wallets have recovered a little
  • Basement
  • closets

Save money on items whose styles change relatively quickly

Ultimately you will need to decide what’s most important to you. You may find this post helpful MONEY SAVING QUESTIONS TO ASK WHEN BUILDING A HOME when prioritizing your wish list.

This post may also be useful for gathering ideas and deciding what is most important to you NEW HOME MUST HAVES

2 ranges same look and function, 2 very different prices
We saved money by using a dresser we already had for this vanity. I love the character it adds!

Don’t miss any tips, ideas or inspiration! Be sure to follow me on social media! You can find me on Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook.

photo of Jessica of Old Barn Design weraing a white and black triped shirt in front of a rustic barn door with balck hinges

Hello! I’m Jessica, wife to Cody, and mom to 2 boys and a girl, who are SO lucky because everyday with me is like an episode of carpool karaoke! They get a ride and a show! (What I lack in talent, I make up for in loudness and enthusiasm). I have a background in architecture and designed this home that we just built in a small Texas town. We self-contracted the build…and we are still finishing up a few projects. Oh! And our Floor Plans are available on this website. Most days you can find me on Instagram @the.old.barn so come say hi!

Don’t miss any tips, ideas or inspiration! Be sure to follow me on social media! You can find me on Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook.

  1. Amanda Fernandes says:

    Is there a post about things such as , where you purchased your siding for your house ? Front doors ?.I love them. I love the whole house and I’m very picky. Great job !.

    • Jessica Starr says:

      Not yet, but I will definitely try to get that done! In the meantime, my front doors are from and are the Prestige Entries brand. Our siding we purchased from our local lumber supplier, and it is HardiBoard.

  2. Denise Stocker says:

    Hello! I am searching through your house info and cannot find anything about your shiplap walls. LOVE THEM!! Could you please share what product you use and how you paint them to look so perfect. 🙂 Thank you!!

  3. These are such great ideas! I plan on building a house in the near future and will be using your tips and tricks to (hopefully) save where I can! 🙂

  4. Ryan says:

    My favorite is the double range side by side, genius!

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