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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  1. Image for Liberty Liberty

    Hi KariAnne! I moved my fridge twice (so it was in three places) before I found the best place for it! Your kitchen is beautiful and I love doing things on a budget, too.

  2. Image for Jeannette Jeannette

    What a fantastic remodel! My hubs and I have done 2 so far and were beginning our new-ish kitchen here but it got put on hold. Fortunately we didn’t get far but that tile is coming down and the subway will go up soon! We will be replacing the door fronts not the cabinet boxes as they are in great shape. Doing a little at a time helps us. Don’t you love figuring out those challenges though? That’s my fave part. Great job on your kitchen !! Love your posts!

  3. Image for Jan Fusco Jan Fusco

    Oh your kitchen is so beautiful. I do have a couple of questions. Was it difficult fitting in the wood flooring to blend with exisiting floor where you added on the island at the end of the kitchen? (The area in that last picture you posted(? And also, did your husband do anyof the work which would help with cost? Thanks.

  4. Image for Cheryll Cheryll

    Believe it or not, I used your kitchen ideas for my re-do as well. We still have one more problem to address. We hired a local company with a stellar reputation and put together a package deal. It is a long tedious story but we are almost done. My space is smaller and I wanted to take down a wall but husband balked. He is not handy, at all. I will have my dear talented son built a plate rack like yours when he has time. I thank you for your inspiration, your creativity. I am a regular reader and have been for a long time but don't comment too often. Keep up the great work, you are a beautiful person, inside and out.

  5. Image for Jeanne Jeanne

    The remodel really opens up the space. I’m a fan of diy on a budget. There are so many ways to save $! Thanks for sharing this transformation 😊

  6. Image for Teresa Gonzales Teresa Gonzales

    Excellent. We are currently remodeling a whole house and I remembered what you did in the kitchen! Love it.

  7. Image for Kim Waldorf Kim Waldorf

    I love the changes you made! Adding a piece of furniture for $75 is an amazing savings and adds so much character. The fixture over the island is sooo beautiful! What a beautiful transformation!!

  8. Image for Lynne Lynne

    The small ranch we bought 3.5 years ago had a small original house that no one knows when it was built. It's been added on to a few times over the decades, the last being a huge kitchen off the back. Two blank walls in such a large space didn't look right. I first added my great grandmother's dresser, used it to hold linens. I then added a small, old porcelain topped table in a corner with an old ladder back chair. I love adding furniture in the kitchen. A lot of cabinets on the other side, hickory that is varnished but not painted. They are beautiful, but have the standard dark granite builders used with unpainted wood cabinets. Our next project is replacing the granite as it has cracked (foundation for new kitchen was done improperly and cost us $8K to fix. The large amount of counter space is wonderful, saving for new counter tops is taking awhile. And, it's hard for me to decide on what type of material to use. Marble scares me, quartz and granite very expensive! Seeing your white cabinets shows how much brighter my kitchen can be!

  9. Image for Vallerie Vallerie

    Your kitchen is beautiful! I’m amazed at your creativity in using existing cabinetry and making it fit in new spaces. You’ve given us many creative examples of thinking outside the box. By the way, you look fabulous.! Love your blog!

  10. Image for Kris Kris

    Ah, kitchens, White pretty kitchens. They make me so happy. We re-did ours back when you lived in Kentucky and we did a lot of what you suggested--maintaining the same footprint, and so on. Something you didn't mention was a backsplash--we were on a very tight budget and went with beadboard and I still love it. Classic and cottage-ey. I know people get very excited about having their kitchen look pretty but as someone who cooks and bakes a lot, function is equally important. We put in an extra-deep sink to accommodate our stockpots and have a high-arch faucet. LOVE my under-cabinet lighting (actually, one of them needs to be repaired, but I digress). We also converted a closet into a pantry, complete with pull-out shelves, and that feature makes my small kitchen live large. For those out there who just can't afford to update (I know that feeling) .... sort through everything in your kitchen and get rid of what you don't use and really think about the functionality of your storage when you put things away. It won't make it prettier but it just might make it an easier place to work.

  11. Image for Stephanie Stephanie

    Thank you for sharing your tips and tricks. You are SUCH a clever grrrl! If I hadn't have known these I would have thought you spent a LOT more than you did, because your gorgeous kitchen looks so high-end! I think you're right: the marble countertops steal the show and make it look more expensive than it is. And on a silly note, is it ANYONE'S business what's up with your drawers?* *Drawers being another word for a ladies unmentionables. ;)

  12. Image for JC JC

    This is such great advice, and timely, for typically the most expensive remodel in the house! Your kitchen is so pretty. You did a great job with it all! My husband and I are doing a complete gut redo of our kitchen, next month, at our little vacation cabin! Unfortunately, there is nothing to save except some lighting. The prices for supplies are literally going up every day it seems for home improvement supplies! So, I have had to be decisive...not a natural gift of mine! We are keeping appliances and plumbing where they are, ordered cabinets that need assembling, are using some open shelving for uppers, and I've tried to shop sales, all trying to stick to that set budget. We will do all the work ourselves except the countertops. This will be our 7th kitchen remodel in diffetent homes over three decades...but this time we are older than before! Add to the list Advil!😳 We are excited and thankful, though! Thanks for the great tips and reminders! I especially love your marble countertops!

  13. Image for Dawn Dawn

    Beautiful kitchen and great ideas Kari! I am paralyzed by perfection in going forward with updating our 20 year old kitchen. I have cherry cabinets that are stained a warm chestnut color not that burgundy color but am afraid to paint them..... Thanks for the inspiration!

  14. Image for Cara Cara

    Hi KariAnne, I always say perfectly imperfect to describe our home! And you know what? It is exactly what I want for our home! We are the ones who live in them and I think when you design it yourself, it just means that much more to you... I love your kitchen and you gave me an idea for our kitchen so thank you for this post!

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