Once the spring-cleaning bug bites you, you might start to look around your home and think about bigger projects—like finally giving your kitchen a facelift.
Of course, the allure of a stainless steel fridge, high-end stove, and Pinterest-worthy array of customized cabinetry could come at a hefty price tag.
A major kitchen remodel costs an average $54,909 if it’s a midrange project, or as much as $109,935 if it’s upscale, according to Remodeling Magazine.
Even a minor kitchen remodel costs an average $18,856!
It’s not just about what you want, either.
“When making the investment in updating your kitchen, the key is to focus on what you will enjoy most and will also appeal to future homebuyers,” says Michelle Sanchez, an interior design expert with Renovation Realty in San Diego.
Here’s how to spend less, and get a bigger impact for your buck:
Develop a realistic budget.
“Most people don’t realize all the things they need to buy for their kitchen remodel,” says John Bodrozic, co-founder of HomeZada.com.
The site offers a remodel template with features and purchases to account for.
Bodrozic suggests researching a few options for each purchase, to help you mix and match what you like—and can afford.
“The more product and brand research you have done, the more realistic your budget will be and the more you can negotiate with a contractor,” he says.
“Think very carefully about how you use your kitchen, and what things are most important to you,” says Bill Golden, an independent Realtor with Re/MAX Metro Atlanta Cityside.
That might shape the layout of your kitchen or what small features are important.
“We put in two dishwashers and two sinks in our kitchen because we like to entertain, and it makes cleanup much easier,” he says.
Even without other kitchen updates, new appliances provide a big value boost, says a spokeswoman for HomeAdvisor.com.
“Large appliances such as the refrigerator, oven, and stove should be upgraded first,” she says.
Experts suggest looking for energy-efficient picks, as well as ones with home-chef appeal.
On tile, anyway.
“Try and find a backsplash that comes on 12×12 mesh sheeting,” says Sanchez. “This will save you money on labor, rather than paying for each individual tile to be installed.”
Hunt for bargains.
“In my last home I found one of two kitchen sinks on close out at a big-box home improvement store,” says Golden.
“Likewise, many such stores have ‘seconds’ or returned items. So you might, for instance, pick up a stray fixture or countertop for an island or short run of cabinets for a bargain.”
Giving cabinets a new look instead of buying new cabinets can be accomplished for under $100.
“The original finish can be taken off, [and then] a new stain coat added,” says a HomeAdvisor.com spokeswoman. “Or, paint the cabinets a bold color in a good option.”
Add new cabinet pulls, too, for a few bucks each. Or just take the cabinet doors off for a modern, open-shelving look.
Take the remodel in stages, changing only what you can afford to now.
“For instance, a client once built his dream kitchen, went with a cheaper countertop and down the road replaced the countertops with dream ones,” says Golden.
Just make sure the stages line up—for example, if you’re doing countertops now and new appliances later, consider the sizing of those appliances when planning the space.
Use credit card bonuses – wisely.
A spokeswoman for Discover says the issuer is offering 5% cash-back bonus on home improvement and furniture stores through June 30, 2014.
It’s good on up to $1,500 in purchases, for a bonus of as much as $75. Other issuers have similar rewards.
Plus, cardholders can get bigger rebates if they make purchases online through the credit card’s shopping portal.
Just remember to only spend what you have budgeted for and pay off the balance in full each month to avoid paying any interest fees.
Frugal Foodie is a journalist based in New York City who spends her days writing about personal finance and obsessing about what she’ll have for dinner. Chat with her on Twitter through @MintFoodie.