16 Wallet-Draining Mistakes To Avoid During a Kitchen Remodel

Discover the top 16 wallet-saving secrets for a stress-free kitchen makeover.
Updated Sept. 27, 2023
mature couple hugging while cooking

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Many homeowners dream about taking on a major kitchen renovation. It’s exciting to think about shiny new quartz countertops and perfectly organized cabinetry.

However, a kitchen remodel can come with a high price tag if you are not careful. Avoid these 15 wallet-draining mistakes and lower your financial stress as you tackle this project.

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Underestimating expenses

LIGHTFIELD STUDIOS/Adobe plumber holding clipboard

Whether you’re just replacing countertops or ripping out the entire kitchen, you might be tempted to gravitate toward estimates on the low end of the prices you find online.

But wishful thinking is not a good plan. Instead, get quotes from contractors in your area before you create a firm budget — and then add 20%. 

From unexpected plumbing issues to electrical problems, there will inevitably be expensive surprises throughout the renovation journey.

Not hiring a professional

auremar/Adobe plumber repairing sink for old lady

Even if you know exactly what you like and have a good sense of how the renovation should flow, it’s still typically worth bringing in a professional to help guide the process.

That might mean hiring a contractor to help with tile installation or working with a kitchen and bath designer on the cabinetry. Spending the money on professional help can save you from costly DIY mistakes.

Going in without a plan

auremar/Adobe woman with contractor at kitchen discussing repair

If you neglect to adequately plan before starting a kitchen renovation, you might put yourself in a situation where you have to choose contractors, vendors, and supplies in a hurry.

That can prevent you from getting multiple quotes to find the best deal. Or it might put you in a position where you have to buy whatever items are available rather than having the time to find budget-friendly options.

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Selecting unfriendly flooring

Budimir Jevtic/Adobe couple doing chores

Kitchens see a lot of wear and tear, as well as spills, crumbs, and everything in between. The flooring in this room needs to be durable.

That means the marble flooring you fell in love with might not be your most practical option. Flooring that has to be sealed regularly will be an expensive endeavor, so opt for tile, vinyl plank, or hardwood.

Choosing an expensive backsplash

Gina/Adobe modern white kitchen

An eye-catching, trendy backsplash can be tempting, but it might also look dated within just a few years.

Instead, consider choosing something more timeless — and less expensive. Simple white subway tile or wainscoting are affordable options and never go out of style.

Buying the first materials you find

Andrei/Adobe woman choosing wood laminated flooring in shop

Don’t let yourself get carried away when you find a tile or flooring you love. Bookmark it, and then shop around.

You might find the material cheaper locally or even through a liquidator. There are almost always ways to save on materials, including waiting for sales around major holidays.

Moving appliances

New Africa/Adobe male electrician repairing power socket in room

Avoid moving any refrigerator, sink, oven, or other appliance hooked up to plumbing or electrical.

When you start moving these items, you need to bring in more professionals, and you might have to pull permits. This can rapidly drive up the price of your renovation.

Doing things piecemeal

kerkezz/Adobe couple looking at color swatch

When you’re trying to save money, it’s easy to convince yourself that doing one small renovation at a time is the best way to make a remodel more affordable.

But this can lead to doing work twice if you damage a countertop when replacing appliances or ruin a backsplash when you install new cabinetry.

Buying fancy kitchen gadgets

New Africa/Adobe couple preparing fresh aromatic coffee

You don’t need a built-in wine cooler in your fridge if you don't drink wine. And you probably don’t need two dishwashers unless you entertain regularly.

A specialized matcha maker and barista-grade espresso maker aren’t a must for most people. All of these may be adding to your expenses unnecessarily.

Not considering daily life

BullRun/Adobe estate agent showing kitchen

Many kitchen designers will recommend you plan a kitchen around the working triangle, which means the sink, oven, and refrigerator should all be within a few feet of each other.

These are the spots you’ll use the most often day-to-day, so a functional kitchen should prioritize their placement.

Skimping on counter space

kerkezz/Adobe Man with dog building kitchen cabinets

Counter space should be a top priority if you cook or prepare food daily. This is one place where not spending money could cost you more money later.

For example, you might find that you need to spend more in a year or two to get extra countertop space that will make your daily life easier.

Making decisions based on Instagram

goodluz/Adobe man texting casually in kitchen

Open shelving, moody cabinet colors, and brick floors all look striking on Instagram. Perfectly styled kitchens start to fill your Explore page as you dive into more and more renovation inspiration.

But making decisions based solely on these tiny squares can be an expensive mistake. Think about what works in real life, not just on your feed.

Splurging on appliances

auremar/Adobe Woman looking at an oven

Unless you’re a gourmet home cook who truly appreciates the bells and whistles of a $20,000 French range, skip the fancy appliances.

Instead, buy from reliable, affordable brands. Rein in your magazine-worthy expectations and build a functional but also budget-friendly kitchen.

Unnecessarily replacing cabinets

Piotr Marcinski/Adobe Handyman fixing kitchen's cabinet with screwdriver

Cabinets are one of the expenses that can quickly drive up a kitchen renovation’s cost. Yet, homeowners often believe that any remodel must come with brand-new kitchen cabinets.

Take a look at your existing cabinets. Are they in good condition? Would a coat of paint spruce them up? Could you get new fronts if you prefer a Shaker style over the existing traditional look?

Either of these options can save you serious money.

Letting costs balloon

Paolese/Adobe expensive appliance repair

Once you start spending money, each additional expense can feel like a drop in the bucket. Upgrade the tile? Sure! Splurge on the fancy built-in coffee maker? Why not? What’s another few thousand at this point?

But each of those small decisions can cause your budget to spiral out of control. If you aren’t careful, you might soon find yourself looking for ways to climb out of debt.

Bottom line

Studio Romantic/Adobe mechanic handshakes woman

Kitchen renovations can be expensive, but they’re also one of the remodeling projects that can change your home life. They also can add value to your home.

Just make sure to avoid the expensive mistakes on this list so you can keep more money in your wallet.

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Author Details

Heather Bien Heather Bien is a writer covering personal finance and budgeting and how those relate to life, travel, entertaining, and more. With bylines that include The Spruce, Apartment Therapy, and mindbodygreen, she's covered everything from tax tips for freelancers to budgeting hacks to how to get the highest ROI out of your home renovations.

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