How to Save Money On a Kitchen Remodel

Planning a kitchen remodel, but you’re worried about the cost? No worries. Here are some simple tips on how to save money on a kitchen remodel.

I have literally been working on this post for a zillion years.

Every time I add something to the kitchen or put away a dish or clean off a countertop or talk on the phone and stare up at my kitchen cabinets…

…I think of you.

And how I need to tell you something.

Like how to take what you have in the kitchen and make it cuter.

Like how to put your money where it counts in the kitchen and save your pennies where it doesn’t.

Like how to make every dollar count.

And the best part?

I did it first. I put my money where my kitchen mouth is. This is the kitchen that we remodeled for about 1/3 of a traditional kitchen remodel. Yep. This kitchen cost only cost us 30% of what a standard kitchen would cost. THAT’S OVER 60% SAVINGS. Every time I think about it the kitchen gets cuter.

Even if your kitchen doesn’t need an overhaul—these tips work for a simple refresh, too.

Are you ready?

Here’s a little advice from someone who just walked the walk on how to save money on a kitchen remodel.

how to remodel a kitchen on a budget before pictures

Before we can tell where we are going we have to look at where we have been.  Here’s the original kitchen when we purchased the house.  Here was a list of things on our to-do list (ie what we kept and what we changed).

  1. Take down the wall between the butler’s pantry and the kitchen
  2. Move the refrigerator to the other wall
  3. Keep the stove and dishwasher
  4. Buy a new refrigerator
  5. Keep the existing tile and sink
  6. Keep the lower cabinets
  7. Keep the kitchen island
  8. Change out the countertops
  9. Change out the light fixture over the island
  10. Move the cabinets from the butler’s pantry to the upper cabinets in the kitchen

how to remodel a kitchen on a budget moving cabinets

1. Save money on your kitchen by keeping the existing floorplan

Keeping the existing floor plan is KEY. One of the biggest money zappers is moving plumbing, stove pipes, electricity, new flooring. This is the kitchen after the wall was removed. Even though we took down the wall, we kept everything else in the same place except the fridge.

For example, I wanted to move the island down slightly to make more room for traffic flow, but that would have increased the budget by almost 10 %.  The wood floor didn’t go under the island, so I would have had to replace flooring, have the island rebuilt and have the cabinets reconstructed.  Just keeping the island in place, gave us room in the budget for my big splurge—marble countertops (more on splurges later).

how to build in an island and save money on a kitchen remodel

2. How to save money on your kitchen remodel by using what you have

These were the cabinets from the butler’s pantry. Instead of pricy new cabinets, we just used the ones that we already had and framed them in. We used one large cabinet and one smaller cabinet to frame out the new island and then added a wider countertop to create a bar to make them feel even more substantial.  They actually were a little too short, so we found a creative solution that only cost $50.

Here’s the back of the framed out island.  I added this picture so you could see the plywood back we added to make the cabinets feel built-in.

You can see the cabinets we added from this angle.  See the larger cabinet with two drawers on the left and the smaller cabinet with one drawer on the right.  Then, see the space in the middle?  That’s where we added a gap to make the cabinets fit.  I just had the carpenters leave the gap, then frame it out and add shelving to create a custom shelving unit for the space.

Here you can see the custom shelving unit. You can see the existing corner cabinet that was already there and the smaller cabinet that we added. Next to that is the gap from the previous picture transformed into shelves.

It’s three shelves with a simple plywood front. Each of the shelves was only 1″ thick, so I had them add a 1 x 2″ piece of wood to the front to make them appear even more custom. The top basket holds dishtowels.  The second basket holds paper plates and napkins and the bottom basket holds plastic silverware. The shelves are so deep that I can fit stacks of melamine dishes behind them for all the littles that eat at our house.

3. How to save money with molding and plywood

Molding and plywood are your friends. Seriously. A little molding and a little plywood and a little paint and a little caulk can transform any kitchen for a fraction of the cost.

The upper cabinets in this kitchen came from the butler’s pantry. We removed the existing upper cabinets and open shelving and replaced them with these cabinets.

The challenge?

I wanted the cabinets to go all the way to the ceiling, but they were too short. We simply attached the cabinets at the right height and then added a piece of plywood to the top to give the appearance that they were about 12″ taller than they actually are. If you look closely, you can see where the cabinet ends and the plywood starts. I’m planning on adding a piece of finish molding to cover the gap.

After we added the plywood, we trimmed it out with crown molding.

On the end of the cabinets closest to the island, we had a dilemma. The cabinet just ended into space.

It left the awkward impression of being unfinished. I came up with the idea of adding this corner cabinet. It goes all the way to the ceiling to mimic the other cabinets and it’s built out of plywood and caulked and painted.

This is where I store all my big milk glass pitchers and over-sized pieces.

To see how to style glass cabinets click here.

4. How to save money by shopping big box stores for sales

Don’t overlook the big box stores and sales. I price shopped everything. Lowe’s gives a discount to military, too and that helps.

I wanted a faucet like this and had priced them out and they were SO EXPENSIVE. I knew I was keeping the sink, so I had extra money in the budget for a faucet—but instead? We were able to find a similar faucet to my dream faucet at Lowe’s for 1/3 of the price.

(total kitchen aside: I had a reader just ask me what was up with my drawers. I told her I live in a house that was just like me—imperfect.)

To see more on these realistic faux topiaries click here.

5. How to save money by adding in furniture

Instead of building in cabinets at the end of the wall? I brought in one of my favorite thrift store pieces and filled the wall with it instead. Everything in the kitchen doesn’t need to be built-in. This wall of cabinets was going to cost us $4000 to add to the kitchen.


When you can spend $75 on a hutch and bring a little personality to the kitchen. Look for opportunities to add vintage finds or built-in vintage pieces instead of purchasing new cabinets. You will save so much money and your kitchen will be one-of-a-kind.

To read about all the yard sale finds in this kitchen click here.

6. Pick one place to splurge

Sometimes finding the perfect ______ (fill in the blank with whatever your splurge is) makes the rest of the kitchen feel so high end.

When you stop by for sweet tea and you are sitting at the plywood and molding kitchen island next to the $75 hutch and the cabinets that are built-in to look higher ended than they are and the painted cabinets—you don’t notice any of that.

What you do notice are these marble countertops.

They are the star of the show.

This was my one splurge. I started there in the budget and worked backward to make sure they fit. I’ve never regretted it for one day. I love the classic, simple appeal of the realness and authenticity of marble.

Here’s where we started.

And here’s where we are now.

I’ll leave you with this.

You can remodel a kitchen on a budget.

Yes. Yes, you can. You just have to decide what your budget is and look for creative ways to make it work.

Because you know what’s even sweeter than a remodeled kitchen?

A remodeled kitchen with enough money left over to fill that refrigerator for years to come. 🙂

PS Let me know if you have any questions that I didn’t answer.


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