Kitchen Remodeling Without Having to Break the Bank

The following guest post was submitted by Jennifer Kardish. Jennifer is a communications coordinator at Kitchen Cabinet Mart. You can check out their free design tips for your kitchen and home.

A good kitchen remodel can get really expensive really quick.  Aside from the daunting price tag, you also have to consider that it may take weeks or even months, throughout which you will not have a workable kitchen (eating out equals empty wallet).  Of course, this is assuming that you opt for a contractor (or several) instead of the DIY approach (which may take longer, but only affect certain areas of your space at one time). If you do opt for a contractor, I highly recommend vetting them with a site like Angie’s List.

East Wall - Kitchen by nickytheblade on Flickr

However, the benefits of a remodeled kitchen are certainly appealing, whether it’s for your own use or as a selling point (or both).  And surprisingly, you can save a lot of money by following a few simple steps.

1. DIY as much as you can.  Whether you have the chops to operate a table saw and the electrical know-how to install recessed lighting, or if all you can do is lay tile, doing it yourself will save you a ton of money.  There are all kinds of manuals and guides to teach you how to do home improvement projects, but be aware that if you go into it with no idea what you’re doing, you may end up spending more money to have it re-done, so do some research and try to tackle projects that you feel you can realistically complete on your own.

P.S. Ask for help! You probably have plenty of friends who are handy with a hammer and willing to work for pizza and beer.

2. Be a bargain hunter.  All kinds of websites offer discounts on materials from cabinets to tile to appliances and hardware.  You can usually find a much better price by letting your fingers do the walking.  Just keep in mind that going to a local store could yield a better price on installation.

3. Don’t be afraid to haggle.  We’re in a buyer’s economy.  Everyone wants your business, which allows you to be choosy.  So see if local businesses are willing to price match or give you a better deal for purchasing multiple products or services.  You’ll be surprised how much you can get by simply asking.

4. Wait for sales.  If you’re not in a rush to get the job done, wait for one of the big holidays (Easter, Independence Day, Thanksgiving, etc.) to take advantage of mega sales and seasonal blowouts.  Most stores use these times to get rid of old stock at exceptionally low prices.

5. Get it used.  You can check garage sales, but you’re better off using the internet.  There are all kinds of resources for used kitchen items, including cabinets, flooring, and hardware.  You can save a bundle and often getter better products by recycling used parts.  There are websites for everything used, or you can check on eBay and Craig’s list for specific items.  Just remember, pre-owned items are usually buyer beware, so make sure your purchases are the quality you desire.

A kitchen remodel can seem like rocket science (and cost just as much) if you work from a model-home mentality, so forget about the designer kitchens you’re lusting after in those magazines.  You can still get close to what you want for a fraction of the cost by shopping around, waiting for sales, and talking down sellers.  And with a little ingenuity and elbow grease, your dream kitchen won’t cost you an arm and a leg.


  1. I agree with Sam. Craigslist is a great place to find kitchen appliances such as fridges, stovetops dishwashers. I have a buddy that flips homes and rentals and he finds plenty of items like this off of CL.

  2. OPNe other thing – you can check places like Criagslist & pickup leftover building materials for cheap there.
    I got the durock for my kitchen from three different people & saved a ton of dough & no one will know once the floor is down that the durock isn’t all the same.
    I got solid Ash kitchen cabinet there, my kitchen light, over half a 5gal bucket of drywall mud, asst tile.
    One other source that I don’t know if other towns have – my region has a “hazardous household waste” drop off site. This place takes anything that’s still useful and put out on shelves for the public to grab. I’ve gotten most of my paint there, stain, polyurethane, grout & mortar. Now I admit on the grout & mortar I had to mix different packages together to get a large enough quantity to match but it was free and the custom color looks neat & matches my tile much better then what I could find in the store.
    Also, our Habitat for Humanity has a store for donated building materials they can’t use. The one for my town is expensive however, the one in the next town over is full of bargains.

    • I agree with find Kitchen appliances off of CL. My buddy flips homes and does rentals and he has found a lot of really good fridges, stove tops and dishwashers to use in these homes at major discounts.

    • I agree. My buddy finds great deals on kitchen appliances for his real estate rentals and flips through CL. Mainly fridges, dishwashers and stove tops that are very functional and at a major discount.

  3. Planning ahead can eliminate a lot of the expenses that result from not having a functioning kitchen.
    1. Before your old kitchen is decommissioned, do a lot of batch cooking and stock the freezer with completed meals. Even just precooking and bagging up ground beef, chicken etc will help later when you don’t have proper facilities for cooking or doing dishes.
    2. Set up a temporary kitchen. Move your old fridge to another room (laundry, spare bedroom, basement, garage etc). Set up a temporary table with a washable surface. Set up your microwave and any useful cooking appliance you have – toaster oven, crock pot, electric frying pan, etc. Find/borrow a small bookcase, or storage cupboard you can set up nearby and convert it to a pantry/dish cupboard. Even a few rubbermaid bins can work to store canned and packaged goods.
    3. If you haven’t got a laudry tub or somewhere you can do dishes you may have to resort to paper plates.
    4. Well in advance, start a list of all the meals you can make with minimal equipment and potentially no handy access to running water (you may have to fill pasta pots in the bathtub, and drain them there too). You’ll soon get sick of microwaving frozen, prepared things so keeping to your normal meals as much as possible is ideal. Crockpots are great – think stews, chilis, soups etc. If the weather is suitable you may find grilling meals is easiest of all and no pots to deal with. Meatloaves, fish, chicken and mini pizzas can be done in a toaster oven.
    5. If possible arrange to occassionally “borrow” a friend’s kitchen. Do some batch cooking to restock the freezer with completed meals and meal components (cooked chicken, ground meat, etc). Use the opportinity to prepare a meal that requires a proper kitchen or equipment you don’t have in your temporary kitchen.
    6. If you have a friend who loves to cook, offer to buy the ingredients for a double batch of something. Have them cook it and keep half as compensation for doing the work.

    Here’s a chili recipe we used a lot when building our home and did our cooking in the woods on a constrution site.
    1 can corn, drained
    1 can kidney beans, drained and well rinsed
    1 lg can of diced tomatoes (do not drain)
    1 onion, chopped
    1 green pepper, chopped
    1T chili powder (more or less depending on your love of spice)
    1 lb cooked ground beef (we batched cooked at a friend’s and froze in 1lb bags).

    If you haven’t got precooked ground beef, either cook it in an electric frying pan, or cook it slowly in the microwave, breaking up the meat, stirring regularly and draining fat off during cooking. Microwave the onion and green pepper until soft.
    Combine everything in the crockpot. Stir well. Cook on low for 6hrs. Serve with corn chips. Reheats well in the microwave for days and days….

    **make a double or triple batch when you’re at it and freeze the extra for an even easier meal another time.

  4. Oh & I forgot – some thrift stores will take building materials. I found my cast iron kitchen sink that way & I’ve seen kitchen cupboards in there too.

    January & February are when many home materials stores (like Home Depot & Lowes) get rid of their floor model stuff for new product lines so that’s a good time to find towel bars, knobs, faucets, etc.
    Also, any special order stuff that gets returned gets put on the clearance shelf at those stores too year round (at least it does here).

  5. You can cook in a crockpot too. That’s what we’ve been doing since Novemeber – I make a huge batch of something & put it in the fridge.
    I moved the fridge to the living room with a sturdy table next to it for the crockpot and the dish rack to sit on.

    We keep a 5gallon bucket with soapy water in the bathroom for dishes to go in. Amazingly we haven’t had any dishes break yet. I thought for sure the kids would drop something or knock it over but not so.
    Hoping for the kitchen to be done by end of summer – we were set back by a contractor issue so we’re just doing it ourselves now.

  6. Don’t forget the BBQ grill. If you can do your renovations during grilling season, it helps a lot.

    I almost think it’s easier to do a DIY approach vs contractor. My husband was great with regards to keeping the kitchen functional during our remodel.We were only without running water/stove for 2 days when he swapped cabinets. He just worked on other parts of the kitchen (opposite wall, upper cabinets etc) and did things like setup makeshift countertops out of plywood, etc. Contractors want to start from scratch, gut everything and then build it all back up vs doing it piecemeal. Yeah, it took a lot longer, but we had a working kitchen for 99% of the time vs weeks or months without a working kitchen.

  7. We remodeled our kitchen just over a year ago. We had a contractor do it because we are completely incompetent. Actually, I found making all the choices down to the cabinet handles a bit overwhelming, so doing the actual work would have sent me over the deep end.

    One piece of advice though is if you have decent cabinets/counter tops that you are getting rid of, call Habitat For Humanity and have them remove it. You can get a great tax write off, and then someone gets some cheap cabinets. However, they do have to be in pretty decent shape.

    • Nice idea…and I like that you aren’t just chunking functional cabinets into a landfill. If Habitat can reuse them that’s the best solution. Besides, you’d be amazed what a new coat of paint and hardware can do for old cabinets.

  8. Sandy – I agree.
    We gutted because of severe water & electrical problems. Our electrician said we had to gut so he could reach all the wires and I really, really regret listening to him. I should have just found another electrician who was willing to work with what we had – all the wiring for our house was with a 3 foot span of the wall and we could have just cut that drywall & worked form there.

    Hind sight is always 20//20 and I’ve learned a lot. The smartest thing I ever did was kick out the contractors – they have no concept of a budget. I have one friend who is a general contractor I run things by to make sure I’m up to code & not being hair brained but otherwise the kids & I work on it whenever we’re not washing dishes in the tub.

    • I had a contractor spend my deposit for my bathroom remodel at yeah, if you can do it yourself, it’s so much better off.

      In my experience, contractors are sloppy and try to do things as fast as possible and definitely don’t do it up to our standards. Quality contractors are worth their weight in gold (i’ve had exactly 3) but they are few and far between.

      The last electrician we had in our house (doing a furnace, we didn’t hire him but our furnace installer did), puched a hole in our wall like the incredible hulk to run a line and wires were hanging all out of it. Because it was in the basement, he deemed that as acceptable form of finish work.

      My friend was gutting a room and he found leftover mcdonald’s between his joists because the sheetrock installers were too lazy to throw the stuff in the trash..gross.

      Oh contractors. My husband says they are self employed because 99% of them would get fired if they ever had to work for someone else.

      My brother in law is a contractor and he is one of the few anal ones. I wish he lived closer.

  9. Awesome Tips! I am going to show #2 tip to my dad because I always feel that he buys things so expensive when he does remodeling in their house. And also he always likes to do things himself and then it takes him twice or even three times as long. 4 summers ago he re-did our bathroom and 4 years later it still is not fully complete. My mom doesnt know what color she wants the towel racks! It’s crazy he has a brother that lives so close and yet he never asks! I’m going to push at him to ask his brother for help!

    Thanks for the tips frugaldad!

  10. $500 for used cabinets, beautiful wood from early 60’s –
    12 running feet, both tops and bottom cabinets, times both sides of the kitchen. for 24 running feet. Then I remodeled the broom closet into shelves for even more storage.

    I lived from May til Nov with NO kitchen at all, not even counter tops nor cabinets. Was not a problem.
    Dishes were done in the shower and bathroom sink.
    Microwave, crockpot, electric wok, electric frying pan, and a cast iron dutch oven on the woodstove. The microwave sat permanently on top of the dryer, and when needed, the crockpot, fry pan, etc were on the washing machine – nice flat surfaces 🙂 I did miss baking, but that was it.

  11. Since we get the EIC we don’t get any benefit with our taxes for charitable giving. I use software to do my taxes & the amount of the refund doesn’t change when I put in the contributions or delete them.
    I still give to charities but i thought I’d throw in a suggestion for others in the same tax situation –
    One thing you could do too is sell them on Criagslist or some other free classified site. That’s how I got my “new” better cabinets and I’ve seen people buy used ones for use their garage & such too.
    I’ve also seen people sell them at garage sales but I don’t know if that worked for the seller or not.

  12. Also, ask your contractor if he has any fixtures or leftover materials that will work for your project. This year we remodeled our ONLY bathroom and the contractor told us we could have (no cost to us) a pedestal sink that he had taken out of another client’s house. I was skeptical, but when he showed up with the sink it ended up being nicer than the one we were planning on purchasing and was in great condition. He also had some leftover grout from another job that we used in our bathroom.

    BTW, he also kept a plate mirror and the vanity out of our bathroom – both were in good condition – to recycle somewhere else.

  13. I got my dishwasher & microwave off of there with happy results but, I’m not just talk’n appliances – I’ve gotten drywall, durock, tile, asst plumbing supplies, shingles, roofing tar paper off of there too.

    If your patient or start looking a few months before the project you can significantly reduce the costs.
    I shaved $1500 off my re-roofing project last year using CL.
    My kitchen, I’m not sure since it’s not finished but my solid ash cabinets were $300 so that right there probably saved me over $1200. The microwave was free so that’s another $120 saved. My kitchen light was $20 and sells new for $175 – 200.
    I’ve had some success getting finding odd things on trim tile) and Ebay(roll out trays for the base cabinets) but the prices weren’t as good as CL.

  14. Ach, don’t even get me started about kitchen remodelling, we had a disaster with ours. Now don’t get me wrong I have nothing against carpenters and I’m a brick layer by trade but they do cut too many corners sometimes. With kitchens it’s no different, ours was left in a mess.

  15. We hope to remodel our kitchen some day, if we live long enough 🙂 We’ve done everything to our house, inside and out, except for our 1940ish kitchen in the middle of it all. I hadn’t given much thought to eating & cooking during the process, so thanks for the comments on that aspect. Money spent on a bunch of crappy fast food meals could turn out to be the equivalent of some potential fixture/surface upgrades! Maybe we could pay for groceries for my MIL and she would feed us – she’s a great cook and lives less than two miles away!

  16. Haggle, haggle, haggle. While I personally have not done one, that is what I have been told regarding kitchen remodels. It makes sense – most contracting work I have been involved with has had some wiggle room involved.

  17. We hope to remodel our kitchen some day, if we live long enough 🙂 We’ve done everything to our house, inside and out, except for our 1940ish kitchen in the middle of it all. I hadn’t given much thought to eating & cooking during the process, so thanks for the comments on that aspect. Money spent on a bunch of crappy fast food meals could turn out to be the equivalent of some potential fixture/surface upgrades! Maybe we could pay for groceries for my MIL and she would feed us – she’s a great cook and lives less than two miles away!

  18. I dont know… Our kitchen is central to our home, that’s where we spend a lot of time. We make food at home most of the time, and we need the kitchen running and in good order, especially since we have food allergies, and cant really eat out that much. changing a kitchen is very disruptive. So I say, make sure you get your kitchen replaced fast, don’t cut corners, its a multi year investment. Even if it costs you a few more bucks. Look for savings somewhere else. commit to making food at home for the next year, that alone will save you a bundle.

    My 2 cents

  19. While yea, changing/repairing a kitchen is very disruptive – rushing it for the sake of convenience can cost thousands extra – not a few bucks.
    Our kitchen even in construction mode is the heart of our house, most of our time is spent in there- we can’t afford to eat out and have been continuing to cook at home fine & dandy. The meals are simpler & we haven’t been making as much bread but otherwise it hasn’t been that big a deal – contractor issues & washing the dirty dishes in the bathroom have been more disruptive then the food/cooking thing.

    I guess it depends on how flexible and adaptive a person is and how much they value their time/money.