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When doing home improvements, one of the toughest things to do is stick to a budget. There are so many things that can go wrong and so many things that can distract from your original intent that it is easy to suddenly find yourself over budget or worse out of money in the middle of a project.

You can prevent these things. The key is to take some key steps in order to protect your home improvement project and keep yourself from breaking the bank.

Plan Ahead

The time to make plans about what you will and will not do when it comes to certain projects should be decided ahead of time. This means if you are going to renovate your kitchen, you need to decide several things before you start.

For example, are you going to replace appliances or refurbish and clean what you have? This seemingly simple decision can not only affect your budget by thousands of dollars, but it can also impact your timeline.

Also, if you suddenly determine that the old appliances won’t work after all, you have just shot your remodeling budget and can end up with a lengthier remodel process.

The same is true of any other room in your home that you attempt to remodel. From the start, determine how far you will go and how much you need to do for your remodel to be satisfying.

Get Solid Estimates

The better estimates you get on the work you need to have done on your home, the easier it will be to set a budget. If you are a using a painter or replacing flooring, or nearly any other project where you will need a contractor to do the work for you, get a number of estimates from different contractors.

Be sure these estimates are clear about what is and what is not covered by the work they will do. If certain materials could be extra, find that out from the start. Often times, an estimate that is a range rather than a firm number is a better one: the contractor is acknowledging that everything might not go perfectly, and is acknowledging you need to budget for those things.

There are some projects that are notorious for going over budget as well. Replacing flooring often reveals faults in the subfloor or other material, and alerts you that more work needs to be done. Electrical issues are often the same. If you are doing one of these projects, be sure you are aware of this and plan accordingly.

Figure Out Your Finances

Probably one of the most important steps is to determine how you are going to pay for your home improvements. Do you have cash or savings set aside for the purpose? Are you considering a home improvement loan?

Home equity loans are one way to pay for improvements, and there are even home improvement loans with no equity required. Both allow you to increase the value of your home by making needed changes or adding features that are desirable.

You can also use credit cards, and if they are zero or low interest and you pay them back right away or at least use them responsibly, they are not a bad idea. Be careful though. Credit cards can become a trap easily enough, especially if they have higher limits, and you can be tempted to overspend.

Prepare for the Unexpected

Even the best estimates can be wrong in one way or another, and especially if you own an older home, things can come up you were not expecting even with the best of plans. It is usually safe to assume that your project will cost about 20% more than you originally planned, so you should budget or borrow accordingly.

This is also one of the reasons it is important to stay in your budget: if you dip into your “unexpected” fund for something you want, and then something else unexpected comes up at the last minute, it can be disastrous.

The other thing to remember is that you need to account for time as well as money. The unexpected can add days or even weeks to your remodel or home improvement project, and you need to be prepared to deal with that should the need arise.

Don’t Get Distracted

Another common issue with home improvements is that it can be easy to get distracted by something you see that you could do at the same time, or that may even need to be done. The issue is, this takes away from your original budget. Remember, if you spend extra money one place, it has to come from the budget for something else.

These distractions can quickly lead to decisions like renovating only the kitchen instead of the kitchen and bath, or things along that line. Just be sure you are okay with sacrificing what you will have to give up to make your distraction work.

Sticking with a home improvement budget is a challenge, but by using the proper tools and keeping on top of it, it is something you can accomplish. Take these five keys, and use them to keep your budget on track.

How did you stay within your home improvement budget? Do you have any tips and tricks to keeping on track? Share your comments with us below.

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