How to Save During Home Improvement

I am a big believer in sweat equity for a home. Yes, it’s dirty and hard work but it’s so worth it once you are done!  Plus, you can stretch your budget so much further if you can put the time in and save on labor costs from paying others.

Here are a few ways we helped our budget by doing updates ourselves or making purchasing decisions to keep costs low:

Savings Ideas

Cabinet Hardware 

If you go to Lowe’s or Home Depot, they have a decent selection of hardware but it’s expensive. Most of it is sold individually and that adds up quickly especially when you have 11 drawers and 16 cabinets. Some of the options are sold in “contractor” boxes but it’s only 10-20% savings. My tip is to shop Amazon. In my experience, that’s the best place to get bang for your buck for cabinet pulls. Be sure to measure the distance of the pre drilled holes so you get the correct size for handles. By shopping Amazon, I’d estimate that we saved ~$40.

This is what I bought

Ceiling Fans

My theory is if you have a working fan, it’s better than no fan. But, obviously you don’t want to have something really ugly nor in my case, did I want to spend a fortune (especially since I needed to buy 3). I settled on something very basic from Home Depot for about $42 each. They were an 80% upgrade from what we had. I just couldn’t justify the price jump to $150/fan to get to 100% upgrade.  Plus, I feel like stylish fans go out of style in just a few years, so sticking with something basic is always a good idea.

Tip: Be mindful of the blade length when you are buying fans. I didn’t think it mattered that much if the room was small, but I am glad I went with a less fancy fan but with longer blades (52inch). It may not be super pretty but it works really well!

Sweat Equity Ideas

Painted Kitchen Cabinets

This is the THIRD home we have owned that I have painted it’s kitchen cabinets. Every time I do it, I swear I’ll never do it again… but it makes SUCH a big difference! The lower cabinets were black and I just felt it was too contrasting between the granite color and dark parquet floors. Plus, they weren’t painted well (think silver hinges painted over with black paint). Long story short, they needed a face lift. I’ll do a later post on my cabinet painting technique, but for now, I’m guessing we saved a few hundred dollars in labor costs.


An inexpensive exterior upgrade to your home is to paint the front door and shutters. We spent $50 on a good gallon of paint (Chelsea Grey by Benjamin Moore) and had plenty left over after these projects. It took a few hours to sand, prime and paint but I’m super happy with the result! I’m estimating that we saved ~$250 on labor paint costs.

For more info on our shutter refresh, click here.

Pressure Washing

This was a pretty big undertaking for our dirty house. My husband and I divided up the house to conquer it all. He worked hard on the exterior- cleaning the gutters, soffit siding, brick and patio. I tackled the driveway, carport and wood walkway. Our generous friends lent us their pressure washer. But, I’d happily rent one to see the house sparkle! I’m guessing we saved about ~$700 in labor costs for this project.

Air Vent Covers

We had the air ducts professionally cleaned and a anti-microbial spray applied to drastically improve the air quality of our home. Once they were done, I asked them to leave all of the vent covers off so I could spray paint them with a fresh coat of white gloss. This was a really nice face lift for most of the aged vent covers. Next, we were able to easily re-install them. 

Vent covers range from $6-20 each depending on size and material. I’ll estimate that we saved $75 by buying a $4 can of spray paint.

I’d love to hear your sweat equity projects!  Please share!

learn, brooke

DIY Updated Lighting

Updating Recessed Lighting

Y’all, these are the coolest things.  They replace your old, outdated recessed lights with clean, white, insulated LED bulbs.  

We had old, nasty recessed lights that all looked different.  Some had black lining, some were alabaster and others were “fish eyed” to point on to a decorative wall or piece of art.  Needless to say, they did not match, they looked old and the bulbs in them put off LOTS of heat.  Time to go.  I had never even heard of them before but thanks to my awesome electrician, he showed one to me during our initial consult and I was sold.  

I’d recommend buying the contractor multipack for the best deal.  We ended up paying ~$12 per light.  Since this wasn’t in the initial budget, I scaled back on our ceiling fan budget and added these beautiful little upgrades!

My electrician wanted $10 per light just to install.   Thankfully, my husband found a good YouTube video to watch and figured it out to save us $160!

It’s also good to know that you can buy dimmable ones.  I’m not a big fan of overhead lighting (can give me a headache) so dimmers are my best friend.

Tip:  if you are painting your ceilings, remove the old fixtures before painting so that if the new ones are smaller, you won’t have a ring of color difference.  

Bathroom lighting

Both bathrooms had these tulip style globes.  I tried to twist them off and was unsuccessful and I thought I was stuck with them because replacing them wasn’t in the budget.  Thankfully, my electrician showed me how to get them off:

-To start, I’d recommend turning the light switch off during this activity.  

-First step is unscrew the light bulb and then carefully unscrew the ring around the socket.  Hold on to the globe while you unscrew because that’s what holds it on.  

-Once it’s removed, you can replace it with whatever globe you’d like (that fits).

-Screw the ring back on then add the light bulb.  And wahlah, you are updated while still staying in budget!

Home Depot had a great selection of globes (sold individually).  We got lucky and were able to reuse three globes off a ceiling fan that we replaced.  Then I bought the other four globes at HD for ~$5 each.  So, I spent $20 to update two bathroom lights!  That’s so much less money than replacing two entire fixtures.  👍🏼

Matching Light Bulbs

When we sold our last home, our agent’s awesome marketing pro came to our home to make suggestions on things to do to get our home ready to sell.  One thing she pointed out was to put matching bulbs in light fixtures.  Ever since that realization, I’ve become a light bulb snob.  I pretty much dislike any “bulb color” that’s not soft white.  Personally, I think compact fluorescent bulbs should stop being made.  And they definitely should not stick out of a chandelier to see.  But I digress…

You can imagine my horror when I saw this in our “new” guest bathroom.  I am pleased to say that the offending wallpaper is no more and the bulbs all match.  👍🏼

Hopefully a few of these inexpensive DIY lighting tricks can help update your home without blowing the budget!

learn, brooke 

DIY Emotions

Anxiety 😬

Which contractor should we hire? What unforeseen issues are going to come up? What’s wrong with this house since no one else bought it? Is my budget going to be busted? Will our timeline work out? Will my painter bail on us? Which color should I choose? Will those fixtures get shipped here in time? It rained so much last night, will the basement be dry?

Relief 🤗

Thank goodness that paint color matches the brick. I’m so glad the handyman showed up today since he was a no show yesterday. Whew, I only needed one gallon of $50 paint after all. That repair cost less than what was expected, So glad that wall we demo’d didn’t have an unexpected pipe running through it. Yay for the rain holding off today so we could work in the yard. Woohoo for the electrician working with us on the budget. Thank goodness the county yard waste workers picked up all our yard trimmings. Yay the basement is dry!

Excitement 🙌🏼

I can’t wait to make this house a home. All of our planned projects are going to turn out well. This yard is perfect for our son to play in the sprinkler with friends. I can’t wait to have our housewarming party and have all of the work behind us. I wonder what memories we will make in our new home. We got so much accomplished this weekend!

Annoyance 😫

I’ve done four coats of paint on the inside of these cabinets and they still need another one. We measured twice and cut once but it still need lots of caulk. The one spot I missed on the shutters is right next to the front door and I look at it each time I walk in the house. I’ve bought the wrong light bulbs twice for this fixture and have to return them again. This house is 60 years old and I feel like I’m putting lots of lipstick on a pig.

Pride 💪🏼

After three hours of sweat, the yard looks so nice! We really can DIY a shiplap accent wall! The shutters turned out so well. The cabinets I painted look so much nicer. Our neighbors are so happy we are cleaning up our curb appeal. This house is looking so much cleaner and updated.  

Exhaustion 😴

If I never go to that house again, I’ll be ok. I didn’t know I had muscles in that part of my back. Is it ok if I go to bed at 8 pm? I didn’t know my feet could hurt this much without doing a half marathon.  

Endurance 👊🏼

I just slept nine hours… I’ll jump up and be at Home Depot when it opens to beat the crowd!! Oh, painting without climbing a ladder?!… I can do that all day! I only have three more yard waste bags… let’s go ahead and fill them! Even though I’ve been pressuring washing for an hour, I really want to finish the driveway today, so what’s another hour?! My arms are about to give out but I want these painted shutters up NOW. So what it’s dark outside?!… I can still finish painting the mailbox with the flashlight on my phone.

Hangry 😡

It’s 4pm… why am I starving?! Oh, because I didn’t eat lunch. Who ate the last granola bar?! WTF!! How long will it take Papa John’s to get here?? I should probably wash my hands before eating… but I need pizza in my belly NOW. Why did I just eat half of a pizza?!

laugh, brooke

More Curb Appeal 

Last week, I shared about our efforts to clean up the front exterior of our new home by painting the front door and shutters.  Since then, I’ve been working on some other parts including cleaning, gardening and more painting.


We have this cool front yard lantern that reminds me so much of my grandmother.  She had one in her front yard at the same spot as this new house.  As you can see, it was pretty faded and a few different colors.  I had leftover paint from spray painting the fireplace insert, so I used it on this project too.  The hardest part was getting the lids to come off (rusted screws) so I could spray paint those on the ground.  It took a few coats and couple climbs up the ladder with some blue tape but it looks SO much better!

Sadly, I don’t have a before photo of the mailbox.  Just imagine it being a faded white and the planter box being exposed wood.  The numbers were there already, although, the 7 was actually stainless in color but had been wrapped in black electrical tape to match the rest.  Now, they all match after a coat of the leftover spray paint.  I also painted the post and wood planter Chelsea Grey (same color as shutters and front door).

Pressure washing

Wow, this is a lot of work/time but the difference is astounding!  So much cleaner and newer looking.  Thankfully our kind friends let us borrow their pressure washer so we didn’t have to buy/rent one!

My Tips:

1.  Start on the highest point and let gravity help you.  Once you do a section, go back to the start of it and make sure all the dirty water is blown off.  Otherwise, it will just sit and dry on your freshly washed driveway.

2.  Wear sunglasses or safety glasses.  Trust me, you don’t want mud/dirt/trash blowing into your eye at a fast speed.

3.  Wear closed toe shoes for protection.  Know that they will get wet.

4.  Wear clothing that you are ok with throwing away later (if necessary).

The day after I did the driveway, a friend texted me to say he had an attachment I could use to make the driveway go faster.  I’ll remember that for next time 😉

I also pressure washed this walkway to our back yard.  It had a slimy/slippery coat of dirt on it that made walking dangerous.  Thankfully, it’s not slippery anymore and the wood is in better shape than we expected.


The house came with four giant planters in the front.  Each had a basket of plants put on it but none were actually planted and most of the baskets were on their sides.  I took a few minutes to remove the baskets and plant them appropriately.  The are all doing well now!


learn, brooke

Painting Shutters & My Front Door

Our new house has beautiful wooden shutters but man were they in need of a face lift!  I knew that I wanted to paint them but went back and forth on choosing a paint color for several days.  I wanted something lighter than black that would help update the exterior look without painting the brick.  I decided to go with grey but there are SO many shades of grey.  It’s super overwhelming.  After debating between five color swabs, i finally just decided to go for it with Benjamin Moore Chelsea Grey.  I went with a semi gloss finish in their exterior paint.  It was about $40 for a gallon but it was so worth it!  The paint goes on like a dream and the coverage after one coat was at 90%.  I highly recommend that paint!  Plus, since we did the labor, spending only $40 to update the exterior of our home was a great price!

After the tedious task of choosing a color, the next step was remove the shutters from the house.  Thankfully, two sets of our shutters are on working hinges and they just slide up and off. Only one set is screwed into the brick (aka slightly more difficult to remove). Peck took them all down for me.  I opted to remove them to paint on the ground in the shade of the carport instead of hanging off a ladder in the sun.

Next, I used our electric sander to smooth them out.  One shutter had English ivy attached to it so I used a Sheetrock knife to help scrape those remnants off.  I like to sand wood (especially old wood) before priming because I think the primer adheres much better and then the paint does too.

The next step was to prime them with a grey tinted kilz (leftover from kitchen cabinet painting).  I’m a big believer in primer.  If you do a really good first coat, it prevents extra coats of paint (which is more expensive than primer) later.  I had a fan running in the carport to keep me cool and help dry the primer more quickly so it only took about 2 hours to dry completely.

Next came the paint.  I was relieved to see the paint color and realize I wasn’t making a huge mistake.  I let them dry over night and did a second touch up coat the next day.  It was pretty easy once I got going.  I found that using a brush to hit the joints in the wood first and then using the roller was a good use of time.  I let them dry for about 3 hours and then they were ready to hang!

In hindsight, my only regret for the project was I wish I would have numbered them and marked which way was up.  This would have made rehanging them a bit easier.  Nonetheless, we figured it out with minor complaining from my tall husband.

You will notice that I also painted the front door the same color.  I mean, I had a whole gallon of paint- so why not?  I used wood putty to fill in holes, then sanded, primed and painted it.  I like how the door details stand out more prevalently now.  

learn, brooke

Prepping to Move- Part 3

Last week was my final packing push before we bought the house.  As predicted, since we have closed, I have been spending long days at the new house painting, cleaning, and shining things up.  I am very happy that so much moving prep has already been done, but living in a moving zone is slightly depressing.  Hopefully, in 4 weeks, I will be much happier about how much less I have to pack and it will make up for living in a half decorated/boxed up house! 

Packing Liquor

I tackled my husband’s liquor cabinet.  This was quite a feat.  The man loves bourbon.  I figured he wouldn’t need ALL of it before we moved.  So, I managed to pack up 32 bottles and only this remains for him to “car carry” to the new house.

Packing the Coat Closet

I am slightly obsessed with these giant wardrobe boxes.  They have a bar in the top, so you can just hang your clothes directly into them.  No need to take off the hanger, fold, and box… only have to rehang once you move.  I got lucky and found these 4 boxes for $9 total from someone who recently moved!

Cleaning Out the Garage

Next up was cleaning out my garage storage area.  It was great because we were able to sort out all of our tools, paint supplies, and other things needed for the new house work.  We put them all together and I’ve been able to slowly bring them to new house as work has been done. Then, we consolidated other boxes and put it back in the storage area all prepped for the movers to move in a few weeks.  It felt good to go through all the stuff that we have just been storing for the last two years and remember what we have.  Plus, it saved a good bit of money on not buying supplies for new house since we already found/have them.

Cleaning Out the Medicine Cabinet

I went through all of our medicines and pulled out anything that has expired.  Then I separated out JB’s meds, adult meds, and the first aid supplies.  My organizer took the old medicine to be recycled appropriately.  It felt great to be able to see/access everything so much easier!

Organizing Jewelry

Everyone knows I have tons of diamonds and it can be overwhelming to organize.  NOT!  More like, I have lots of cheap, costume jewelry from Target that needs to be cleaned out every few years.  Plus, I wanted to go ahead and pack as much of it as I can.  

Organizing Memories

I realized I have been keeping JB’s photos and artwork all over the house.  We worked to put it together in one box.  Mentally, it feels much better to know where it all is being stored.  My memories also needed to be organized together and to remember what all I have.  

I have a wonderful box of my grandparent’s UGA memories from them going to all the football games in the 70’s and 80’s.  Their tailgate group was even featured on the front page of the Athens Banner Herald!  It was fun to look through those memories!

What I am learning through this process…

I am self motivated to do a good bit of this cleaning out and packing.  But, the things that I have continually back burnered and that cause me to want to crawl in a hole… I have recruited my organizer’s help for those projects.  For instance, the garage storage area… yuck.  It’s hot out there, lots of bugs, and heavy boxes.  But with her help, we were able to knock it out in an hour!!  If I had been on my own, it would have taken probably 3-4 hours and would have been much less pleasant.  I also have ad a box of real estate paperwork from 5 years ago that I have been moving all over this great city with us.  It’s a box that needs to be shredded.  So, when I told her about it, she suggested we sit down and shred it right then.  It took us about 15 minutes but it felt so good to get rid of those files and no longer move them to a new house!

learn, brooke

Closing Day

IMG_3673For me, a real estate closing day is a whirlwind of emotions. Excitement, nerves, fear, exhaustion, and adrenaline are just a few of the feelings.

The ending of one chapter and start of another is nothing to downplay. In the past, I’ve been so excited about what is to come that I’ve forgotten to reflect on what happened in the “old” home. When I slow down to do this, a flood of memories hits me. We’ve gotten married, adopted a dog, lost a dog, had a baby, lost friends, made friends, dealt with theft and been given so much while in our past homes. I think it’s important to recognize the love that made it a home while still being excited about what’s in store.

Thinking ahead to the new house stirs up a flutter of emotions too. What’s going to break that we aren’t expecting? How much will it cost? What updates make the most sense? Which contractor should we go with? Will JB make new friends on our street? Will he transition ok into a new house/room? Are we going to be able to sell it when we want to? Yes, there are lots of concerns but we are excited to see what God has in store!

We have about four weeks of projects to complete on the new home before we move in. I’m excited to share the process and the projects on this blog.   I’m nervous and hopeful about these next few weeks. However, I know it will feel great to move in after projects are completed instead of moving in now and completing once we close.

Thanks for your prayers and encouragement during this time! Oh, and JB starts preK in the middle of this and we are going to Texas for a family wedding. Fingers crossed for everything to go smoothly!

love, brooke