Blog Series: Building A Home ~ Planning to Save

From the word go, I knew I was going to hunt down any possible savings there was among the home-building process. I had heard horror stories of builds getting wildly out of control and people ending up with houses far above their intended budget and I knew that was not going to be my frugal ass. 

(Cheap. Some people say cheap. I prefer frugal.)

So, I did my research and I did my utmost to secure savings wherever I could.

Here is where we saved (and where we ended up spending) on our own build and how.


 (The things you find at your local favorite vintage store)

(The things you find at your local favorite vintage store)

1. Don't Go Custom
Here's the thing. We thought we WANTED to go custom. Our FIRST plan was a custom plan. I didn't want another big huge box of a house devoid of any personality. I SOLD our old house because that's pretty much what I thought it was. A big box. 
I felt like if we didn't go custom, we were going to end up with a house that looked like all the other houses the builder had built, but I was wrong.

Once we discovered that a custom build was way out of our reach, we met with a home builder who showed us what they could do to "customize" one of their pre-drawn plans. This saved us thousands. In the end, the little tweaks we wanted were just that....pretty little tweaks. A wall bumped out here, a barn door, etc. 

Savings Tip: Don't be a plan snob, there's a lot that can be done with pre-drawn plans.

2. Purchase Your Lot Wisely
Your land can eat in to a TON of your budget. Case in point: we were, last year, 24 hours away from signing on a .25 acre (yes...that's POINT 25) lot in Oconomowoc for $89,000. It was right on top of its neighbor. In a subdivision much like the one I was trying to escape. Thankfully, we thought better of it.
We did some digging (figuratively) and happened upon a mass of lots out in the country (be still my heart!) in a subdivision of acre to 3 acre lots, ponds, and trails. The lots ranged in cost from $15,000 to $30,000....a veritable STEAL from the other postage-stamp sized lots. 
We decided upon one that was already cleared (saving us about $20,000 in clearing costs).
If your builder HAS lots for sale, they are likely already cleared for building which will save you that clearing cost....but you may have to compromise with regards to neighborhood and lot size. 

3. Build A 2 Story
Two Stories are cheaper than ranch homes. Their footprint is smaller. So, this saved us and it was what we wanted anyway. A house make up of simple rectangles and squares is cheaper than a house with complicated angles, etc. If you want to expand your living space, consider a finished area of the basement or a 3 season porch, which adds to the resale value of the home. 

Savings Tip: Think of ways to maximize your living areas without adding to the footprint of the home, such as the option for a finished basement area in the future. 

4. What We Cut
I'm sure our builders may have thought we were insane, but we cut some of the stuff that some people consider "must haves" when building out home. This saved us a ton in the long run. 

First, we cut the fireplace. This was an upgrade with our builders anyway, but with some homebuilders fireplaces are standard. We had one in our old house and RARELY used it. It basically just took up a whole wall and led to a drafty living room. This saved us at least a few thousand. 

We also cut any tub in the Master Bath. I never used the tub in my old house and a shower is just fine. This saved us at least $1000. 

Other things we decided against that are common upgrades:  hardwood flooring, cathedral ceilings, quartz or marble countertops (we did a solidstone Hi-Macs from LG which looks just like quartz at a fraction of the price), the stone option for our porch (I went with a cheaper vintage brick, which I preferred anyway). We went with basic, included options where it just didn't matter, like toilets (the basic options were fine) and a slight upgrade where it DID matter (like waterproofing the basement).

Savings Tip: There are some "niceties" you REALLY don't need and you'll never use, trust me.

5. Stay Within Your Allowances
Once I started talking to our vendors, I realized that most people look at allowances as "suggestions". I took them as BIBLE WORD OF BUILDING GODS. I went SLIGHTLY over on our flooring allowance by adding a subway tile backsplash to our kitchen, but it was the CHEAPEST backsplash option. Otherwise, I was gonna be damned if I busted our allowances. I'm sure this drove the vendors crazy, but I like hard-fact numbers. Not "suggestions". 

I remember going to one flooring vendor and falling head over heels in love with this tiny 1940s type tile for our bathrooms. But, it was crazy expensive. So, love died that day. Don't allow yourself to be "sold" on something far out of your reach. 

Savings Tip: Don't be afraid to pester your vendors for quotes. They like to just give you ballparks. Get NUMBERS. Don't be surprised.

6. Remember, You Can Always Upgrade Later
Remember, you can always paint or replace the cabinets. You can get that amazing tile down the road. Don't let yourself be talked into all the expensive amenities right off the bat. 

7. Take Advantage of Sales and Mix and Match
I went ALL OVER for our lighting fixtures. I scoured the internet for sales and clearance items. I happened upon the LAST TWO of our bathroom light fixtures at Menards for $22 a piece!! 
So, you may have to do a little leg-work, but you don't need to spend $500 on a light fixture. That's just insanity. 
Our lighting allowance was IN.SANE. I just said to my husband "Oh, watch me WERK."

Same with furniture. I've found a ton of cute pieces at a local vintage shop. Our couch was a Wayfair find that didn't break the bank. 

Just remember, you don't ever need the biggest, the best, the nicest.....when middle of the road or even ON MEGA SALE will do just fine. 

 Here are some of the mad-inexpensive items I was able to score just on AMAZON for the house (Affiliate links included):


Coming Up......Saving AS You Build......