Walking around your home you likely notice a few small items here and there that need some improvement. Well…maybe some of them are actually kind of big items. Okay, fine: Your roof shingles need to be replaced and you’ve been meaning to install a new kitchen sink. You’re avoiding a growing list of home improvement projects, and we get it. The longer that list gets with items you don’t know how to tackle, the more stressed you get. When we’re stressed we procrastinate.

Two homeowners painting wall after deciding to prioritize this home renovation project in their budget

It’s also true that we feel much better when we complete a to-do list, so Indow is going to give you the tools to figure out how to budget for multiple home improvement projects. Our renovation project prioritization and renovation budget templates are what you need to get your projects off the ground.


General Budgeting


Before we get to creating your project budget, let’s briefly discuss income and general budgeting practices. Knowing what is coming in and going out each month is the first step to creating a project budget.

If you use a banking app on your smartphone, you can access a list of your transactions. Your app might even include features that show you right away if more money is coming in or going out each month. It likely will have a breakdown of expenses by category. If so, or if you already have a handle on your monthly budget, you can skip down to Creating a Prioritized Home Project list. 

In your banking app, access an itemized list of all transactions that occurred during the most recently completed month. Add all incoming transactions that occurred during that month. This is the amount of money you make in a month and the amount from which we are going to subtract expenses to get a breakdown of your monthly financial situation.

Make a list of all expenses, and break them up into these categories: Essentials, Food, Entertainment, Transportation, Savings, Childcare, Pet Care, incidentals. Categories will vary based on your circumstances, but these are generally the categories under which a person’s expenses can be categorized.

Pie chart of monthly expenses: financial awareness is how to begin to remodel a house step by step

There are percentages of your monthly income that should be going to each of these areas. Let’s break them down.

Essentials: This is rent/mortgage, bills, medical/dental insurance. Typically, no more than ⅓ of your income should go to rent/mortgage, leaving 17% for the other items in this category to total 50%.

Food: This is groceries for cooking and eating out. It should be around 10% of total spending. It’s very possible that you spend well over 10% of your budget on eating out. If you need to consider an expense category to adjust in order to make room for home improvement projects, this will be one of the first to change. Think happy hour!

Entertainment: This is going to be your recurring costs such as Netflix, Hulu, Spotify. It’s tickets for your favorite artists’ concerts. Entertainment is another area from which you might consider temporarily shifting funds to pay for home projects. It’s difficult since this category really is the spice of life, but you might need to consider reallocating some of this 10% for a period of time.

Transportation: 5%. This is a tricky one to try to cut back on. Can you walk, bike, or take public transportation instead of driving to cut down on gas consumption? 

Savings: Planning for the future is critically important, so we don’t recommend cutting back on this 10%.

Childcare: Daycare and other expenses can be extremely difficult to avoid or cut back on, but ideally you won’t spend more than 10% of monthly income on this category. 

Pet Care: We love our furry family members, and they deserve the best. Food and vet visits are essential and unavoidable. And maybe an occasional toy or two. About 5% of your budget will go to these items.

Incidentals: Clothing, birthdays, holiday gift buying, toiletries. There’s a good chance you aren’t going to max out on this category each month, so you might have wiggle room here to reallocate. This should be 5% of your monthly budget.


Creating a Prioritized Home Project List

Now that you know where your income is going each month and where you can make shifts to accommodate home improvement projects, you’re ready to create a budget. 

The first step is list every home improvement project you would like to complete. Categorize them between safety, aesthetic, comfort, and performance projects. In terms of prioritization, safety-related items should go first. You might tackle comfort-related items after. Projects for aesthetic reasons are the least pressing. If you don’t have the budget for all of your listed projects, those under aesthetics can be put on hold.

 Frost-covered window with snow outside: window repair or replacement might not actually be necessary

Once these are all categorized properly, there are some other questions you should be considering when building a budget and action plan. Are any of these projects seasonal? You probably don’t want to remove your windows for replacement in winter if you live in New England. Are there any projects that are blocking another? Maybe you want to replace shingles on your roof before updating the landscaping immediately around the home.

Are there projects on your list that you can complete with existing materials and skillset? Shortening the to-do list before ever opening your pocketbook is a huge win. Which of these can you knock out yourself after you’ve purchased materials? That’s the next step. And lastly, which are going to require you to both purchase materials and hire a contractor?

Here’s a downloadable home project prioritization template to help you categorize your projects based on importance and materials and skills you do or don’t have. The example below shows three home improvement projects which demonstrate this method of categorization. Safety-related projects should be considered first. If the materials are on hand and you have the skillset to complete it, the project should be at the top of your to-do list.


Creating a Home Renovation Budget

Once you have identified all home improvement projects and figured out where they fall on the prioritization list, you are ready to consider a budget. Download this home renovation budget template to keep track of cost estimates, actual costs, difference, price metrics for materials and contractors, and how much of your budget is left over after each completed project.

Project Prioritization Template: Indow can help you mark repair or replace windows off your list.

When filling out your project budget template, start by completing the estimate column since that’s typically the easiest information to acquire. A quick online search for “staircase carpet installation cost” will return national averages, as well as minimum and maximum costs based on per sq. ft. cost of carpet. Special “charge by” metrics are important to take note of for your projects. Contractors might charge for a staircase carpet project by the hour or by the step. 

Once you have an estimate for each project, you will have a better idea of which projects are the most immediately feasible, and how long it might take to save up for others based on your income and how much of your monthly expenses can be temporarily reallocated.

At this point, it’s time to identify the cost of materials and/or contractors. For larger projects, such as roof replacement, utilize websites like thumbtack.com to identify appropriate professionals in your zip code and receive estimates, which will be the actual cost of the project for your area.

As we mentioned previously, being able to complete projects, or strike projects from your list entirely before ever swiping your credit card, is a huge win. It means more of your budget can go to other home improvement projects. Or can be directed back to those spice of life expense categories that you identified earlier! 

If you have repair or replace windows on your home improvement projects to-do list, Indow can help you strike that from your list at a fraction of the cost of a window replacement project. A Standard Grade Indow insert costs $30 /sq ft. For a 3×5’ window, that is $450. The national average to replace a vinyl window of the same size is $1,938.50. If you are replacing a 3×5’ wood window, that national average is $2,321.90. Indow inserts help your underperforming windows perform at the level of new replacements. Installing an Indow insert in your wood frames instead of replacing the window will save you $1,871.90 per window. That is a huge price tag (and large holes in your walls) that Indow inserts will allow you to avoid entirely, freeing up a substantial portion of your home improvement budget. 

Want to find out what that price tag will be for multiple Indow inserts for your home’s windows? Fill out our Get a Free Estimate form to connect with your Indow representative and get a free, formal estimate for your project to include on your prioritized home renovation budget form.