Buying, selling or running a home – everything you need to know about your home and garden!

Budgeting for your home decorating style

As we saw in the previous article, Choosing your home decorating style, you need to plan according to what suits your household’s lifestyle and the type of property you’re decorating. The other important thing we mentioned in that article is that it needs to suit your budget, so let’s look at that now.


Budgeting is probably the driest subject of interior design and home improvement. There’s no real thrill of a good job well done or the gratification of seeing a tired old room spring into vibrant new life. But… budgeting is essential. An overspend could be catastrophic as it could mean that you run out of money part of the way through the task or job, or you might even start to hate what has become a millstone round your neck instead of a pleasure.

First you must be realistic.

How much can you afford to spend?

How much spending does the property merit?

And then you will need to get the spreadsheets on the go, or do the calculations manually if you prefer.

Let’s work through these now.

How much can you afford to spend?

man with pen and paper budgeting his finances

Work out how much you can afford to spend

How are you going to find the money for this decorating project? Perhaps you have some savings which you’ve earmarked for this purpose. It’s possible you could take out a home improvement loan. Perhaps you have a bit of extra income coming in and you think you can finance the project bit by bit. All of these options are fine as long as you know what you’re letting yourself in for. Unless you’re rich, in which case you probably aren’t reading blogs like HouseWiz, you’ll need to figure out the likely costs and what you’ll need to spend.

We’re sure you all know how to do simple household budgets already. (Add up the income and deduct the expenses.) But not everyone knows how to cost a project, and that includes a home decoration project. It’s quite easy to overlook, and therefore not budget for, some of the expenses involved and this can lead to going over-budget which is usually not a good situation to be in.

Theory of Everything

When you’re calculating the cost of a project, you need to include everything. That’s everything, as even small expenses can mount up with the result that the project ends up costing more than you anticipated. Did we mention that you need to include EVERYTHING? Even if you’re smart enough to figure out that you need a paint brush to paint (of course you are!), it’s easy to forget lots of other little bits and bobs. You need cleaning materials too. If you’re using some of the modern water-based paints you can use water to clean your brushes. Otherwise you’ll need an oil-based cleaner. This is a small item, but perhaps not so small if you’re doing a whole house. And it’s just one of dozens, maybe even hundreds, of small things you might have to buy. So do make the effort to figure out your shopping list and the cost before you embark on the project.

Some people don’t factor in the labour costs properly. If you’re a DIY whizz or have friends or family in the trades who are ready and willing to donate their time for you, you’re lucky! That will keep your costs down. Otherwise, a large chunk of your budget is likely to be on tradespeople. Of course, you can learn to do some of the jobs yourself – and even make a good job of it. But amateurs are invariably slower than professionals at everything – and may not be able to achieve such a high standard. Whichever route you choose, do make sure you know how much this will cost in terms of both time and money. We have an article coming up soon on how to decide whether to DIY or hire professionals.

One thing after another

There’s also the critical path of the project to consider. Some jobs can’t be done until something else has been completed. If you get that wrong or if someone lets you down, it can put a big spoke in your wheel.

This happened to us with one of our properties. We had ordered a new made-to-measure kitchen work top and it was agreed that it would be delivered in week two of the project, ie after the kitchen units were in place and the tiling and painting was done. The tradespeople were booked for the following week. Obviously we didn’t want new floor covering put down in a room which still required a lot of building work. The kitchen work top people let us down badly. This created a knock-on effect on all the other jobs we had to get through and delayed the project completion considerably. It’s not just a matter of how late one supplier is, it’s a case of reorganising all the other trades after any lateness, especially near the start of a project. This was a big inconvenience to us, but not a disaster as we had a contingency plan. But, as you can imagine, if that delay had resulted in us running out of money… well, I don’t like to think about what might have happened.

cartoon of couple on a big shopping spree

Don’t get carried away on a shopping spree

Expect the unexpected

Always, always, always have a contingency plan, including a buffer of money so you don’t end up destitute if things don’t work out as you hope. Even one late delivery can knock all your plans out of kilter. If you’re working on the tightest budget of what you can afford, then you’re taking a big risk that nothing will go wrong. And life too often doesn’t work like that, so do give yourself a bit of breathing space to allow for contingencies.

The next article in this series will go into more depth about general styles such as those mentioned in the first article. And then we’ll go on to look at colour and inspirations.