The kitchen is a popular gathering place in many homes; after all, most people love food — and this large space often represents and serves as a place for nourishment, comfort and companionship. But, like anything, kitchens can quickly become outdated. So what do you plan to do when your kitchen begins showing its age?

Ultimately, renovating your kitchen can freshen the feel of your home and may even increase its overall value. Of course, undertaking a modern, on-trend remodeling project can be very expensive. However, by optimizing your renovation budget, you can save while enjoying an impressive kitchen.

Here are five tips on how to optimize your hard-earned cash on a kitchen remodel.

1. Have a Plan

When renovating on a budget, a great plan will make the difference between a so-so kitchen and one that’s mighty impressive. With that in mind, you’ll need to be real with yourself about your actual DIY skills. While it may seem counterintuitive, you may actually save money if you outsource crucial aspects of the remodel for which you lack the requisite skills.

For example, if you don’t consider yourself adept at plumbing, you may ultimately save in the long-run when hiring an experienced plumber. However, if you’re talented at woodworking and wood refinishing, then find ways to put those skills to work. Additionally, having a good plan will help you better prioritize various remodeling tasks.

As such, make a list of the essential features you need and ask any family members to do the same. Rank those features in order of importance and plan accordingly. Planning is also important, as your remodel options are often limited by the space in which you have to work.

Thus, get an accurate square footage measurement of your kitchen and plan your space to scale on graph paper. Many seasoned DIYers do this, but some make the costly mistake of overlooking this essential step. But don’t confuse this tip with an actual building plan that a designer or contractor might develop.

2. Comparison Shop

Much like you would do when shopping for a new car or home, you’ll want to shop around to find the best prices on parts, materials and contractors for your kitchen remodel. But unless you know the best, reasonably priced electrician, ask around for recommendations and read online reviews before choosing the contractor that offers the most value for your budget.

However, know this doesn’t always mean hiring someone on the cheap. When comparison shopping, it helps to have a general idea of what things usually cost. In fact, one of your best bets is to scour online resources, including guides developed by Angie’s List, which often provide helpful estimates on the costs for various kitchen features, including permits, specialized labor, cabinets, countertops and flooring.

3. Work With What You Have When Possible

Does your current kitchen already have amazing tile or hardwood floors? Or, perhaps your cabinets have good bones, but just need a DIY makeover to look a bit more modern. Anytime you can use or improve on existing fixtures, you can ultimately save money on your renovation budget. Consider taking a detailed inventory and assessment to decide:

· What you want to keep

· What you can easily work with

· What you would prefer to update or change

· What must go

This isn’t about scrimping, but it is about fully optimizing your space and your budget. This approach may be especially effective if you bought a home decorated with someone else’s taste.

4. Know When to Splurge and When to Save

Sometimes that high-end splurge makes all the difference and actually elevates the look and feel of other more modestly priced kitchen features. Other times, however, someone with an eye for quality can find materials that look more expensive than what they actually cost. In fact, many budget-friendly decorators combine one or two status elements with coordinating modestly priced fixtures.

When done well, the end result is a high-end look at a fraction of the cost. However, the trick is learning when to save and when to spend a bit more during a kitchen remodel. Moreover, experts recommend not scrimping when safety is at stake. However, affordable tiles and lighting provide opportunities to save money while improving your kitchen’s overall appearance.

5. Think Beyond Your Immediate Budget

Kitchen appliances represent a significant portion of your home’s water and energy use. Thus, if your kitchen renovation involves upgrading outdated appliances or plumbing, then you’ll likely save money on future monthly utility bills.

Unsure of your current energy use and how making energy-efficient changes can help you save money? The U.S. Department of Energy offers a calculator to estimate how much energy individual appliances typically use. To save on energy bills, use the Energy Star appliance directory to find efficient appliances that meet your needs.

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