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 also work for a simple refresh.

Are you ready?

Here’s a little advice from someone who just walked the kitchen walk on how to save money on a kitchen remodel.

Because our kitchen used to look like THIS.

how to remodel a kitchen on a budget before pictures

YIKES.

Before we can tell where we are going we have to look at where we have been.  Here’s the original kitchen picture I took a couple of days after 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. My mother put up a wall in the middle of the kitchen when I was in college to make a butler’s pantry.

Someday I will tell the story of the phone call that happened when the wall came down. 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 (which we had to move because it was located in the wall we took down).

But keeping the original floor plan saved us so much money.

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 the 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).

(total aside: I get asked about those marble countertops all the time. I would NOT add marble countertops again (that’s an entirely different post, too). They are so difficult to maintain and look messy after a while. Instead? I would recommend quartz countertops that look like marble.)

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 (the wall that we took down).

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.

A cozy and elegant kitchen featuring a blue island with a marble countertop, white wooden stools, a chic pendant light, and open shelving stocked with dishes in the background.

// topiaries // kitchen stools // set of three topiaries //

Here in the left of the photo, you can see the custom shelving unit.

It has three shelves with a simple plywood front. Each shelf 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.

A bright, welcoming kitchen featuring white subway tiles, stainless steel appliances, and a contrasting island with gray cabinetry and a marble countertop, adorned with a woven basket and green plants, illuminated by natural light from the window.

// topiaries // kitchen stools // set of three topiaries //

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 picture 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.

You can see the step-by-step of this DIY process here.

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.

// topiaries // gold towel bar// set of three topiaries //

The key to this (if you don’t want to DIY it yourself) is to find a contractor who likes being a little creative, too. Simple details like this can make your kitchen look so custom without spending a lot of money.

This is where I store all my big milkglass pitchers and oversized pieces.

To see how to style glass cabinets click here.

Bright kitchen sink area with a modern faucet, behind which sits a small realistic faux houseplant in a wicker basket. Daylight streams in through a window illuminating the clean white tiles.

// similar faucet on incredible deal now// here’s another option with cleaner lines //

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 the 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 in the kitchen and why were they a little mismatched. I told her I live in a house that was just like me—imperfect.)

To see more on these realistic faux topiaries click here.

A cozy interior scene with a rustic wooden table topped with a marble surface, elegantly decorated with a woven basket containing an assortment of green plants and flowers adding a touch of nature, under the warm glow of a classic chandelier with crystal accents.

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.

Why?

You can spend only $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.

But then?

Sometimes you have to learn from your splurges, too.

I would NOT add marble countertops again (that’s an entirely different post, too). They are so difficult to maintain and look messy after a while.

Instead? I would recommend quartz countertops that look like marble (which can be a splurge, too).

Here’s where we started.

A cozy and elegant kitchen featuring a blue island with a marble countertop, white wooden stools, a chic pendant light, and open shelving stocked with dishes in the background.

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. 🙂

Let me know if you have any questions that I didn’t answer.

PS YOU GOT THIS.

A cozy bedroom scene featuring an elegant beige tufted headboard with crisp white bedding and two pillows. A bedside table holds a bouquet of yellow flowers, offering a budget-friendly way to enhance ambiance.

PPS In news completely unrelated to anything kitchen—that famous sheet deal is back if you missed it the first time with a 30% off coupon, too.

You can see it here.

An image displaying a kitchen under remodeling with dismantled cabinets and exposed walls, featuring header text: "how to save money on your kitchen remodel.

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Comments

  1. Image for Kathleen Ann Nelson Kathleen Ann Nelson

    I know the “centerpiece” on the island is a matter of taste, but to my eye it makes the entire kitchen look cluttered and takes up valuable space. Do you remove it when the space is needed? Change it out seasonally?

    1. Image for KariAnne Wood KariAnne Wood

      I actually love it. It's hard to tell from the pictures, but it truly balances out the space. I change it out all the time for different seasons, etc. When we have a party I move it to the end of the island so we can add drinks there.

  2. Image for Kris Kris

    Your "before" kitchen was much better than mine was! We did much of what you suggested--keeping the same footprint was HUGE money saver. I tried to think about how I would feel about my kitchen reno 10 years after I did it, which meant sticking with fairly classic styles. It's now 10 years out and I still love my kitchen, so that approach worked for me. :)

  3. Image for Jodena Beale Jodena Beale

    Such a pretty kitchen. I would like to find someone who could cut the center out of a few cabinets et doors and install glass. I love the look. You are always creative.

  4. Image for Linda L Linda L

    What kind of paint did you use on your cabinets? My white wood cabinets seem to collect dirt on the rims of the trim and they are a killer to clean. I'm thinking they need a plastic type paint and not a flat finish.

    1. Image for KariAnne Wood KariAnne Wood

      We used a semi-gloss paint that helps repel dust. It's SW Extra White. The island is painted SW Peppercorn in an oil based paint.

  5. Image for Michele M. Michele M.

    You are so talented and clever. Wonder how your momma feels about it? (Seeing as she did the wall and created the butler's pantry originally, just curious.) Bet she - like we- love this. Great advice. I very much need to give my kitchen some love. The longer I wait the less urgent it becomes now that I have a grand girl who I want to have a secure future - so budget ideas are very well received by me. Thank you.

  6. Image for Renae Renae

    Can you tell me what's happening with the space where your tile and counters meet? Ours seems a tad unfinished and I think I like the looks of yours!! Thanks for sharing!

    1. Image for KariAnne Wood KariAnne Wood

      Of course! It's a budget fix. There was a gap when we pulled out the countertops, so instead of retiling the entire wall we added quarter round and painted it white. I keep meaning to retile the wall, but it really looks fine with the quarter round.

  7. Image for Shelley Shelley

    KariAnne....it's all so beautiful, and I love the basket/tray on the kitchen island! I agree, it gives balance...and you can change it out for the seasons. Lovely decor. Blessings!

  8. Image for Rizae Rizae

    I am stealing your idea on how to make high end upper cabinets. You have one of the prettiest kitchens I've seen and I absolutely love your style. P.S. How is Buddy doing? Big Hugs,

  9. Image for Amy Amy

    Hi. Are those Ballard Design stools? Are they comfortable? I had wood seat ones and my family hated them, said they were too hard. So I got leather ones from Frontgate and they say they are to squishy. I am still within my return window and have been eyeing up this style.

  10. Image for Patricia Patricia

    Ms. Karianne…. I have seen the changes of your kitchen over the years. Each time I catch myself saying oh my God that’s so beautiful. Your kitchen is always been warm and friendly. Thanks for sharing.

  11. Image for Becky Becky

    So many charming details! No wonder you love your kitchen. Where did you find the sweet little topiaries in clay pots on the wall across from the island? I have just the spot for them in our kitchen. Thank you for all the creative ideas!

  12. Image for MARY-ANN (FROM CANADA) MARY-ANN (FROM CANADA)

    KariAnne, I love your kitchen remodel. It's so beautiful -- everything! It was a lot of hard work and mess in the process but just look how lovely your kitchen is now. I'm a wicker tray on the island gal too -- and I love changing it with the seasons. I have always liked this idea and love wicker trays. We are keeping your precious Buddy -- and all of you -- in our prayers.

  13. Image for Diana Diana

    I missed yesterday's post had to help my Mom. I love your kitchen, it is very creative. To be honest I'd rather have a creative kitchen, rather than a "perfect" kitchen that looks sterile. You go KariAnne.

  14. Image for Donna Donna

    I love your kitchen...but I know about renovations and to tell you the truth, it took years out of my life. LOL I have granite counter tops and a marble top kitchen island. You are so right, the marble stains, etc. I purchased some caustic cleaner and it takes forever to try to get spots out! Not to mention the chemical smell! The Chef Michael Simon once said, he loved marble and all of it's marks and life that is added by using it. He stated that it has been in Italy for years. I guess, now that I have it, I have to go with that thought. But like you said, Quartz is the way to go. Thanks so much for always giving us your honest and wonderful ideas. I appreciate it!

  15. Image for JC JC

    Your kitchen is happy and so you! I think it is safe to say, we all feel like we could stroll down your lovely street, ring your doorbell, and if you're at home and not at a yard sale😉, you would invite us into your kitchen to sip sweet tea, laugh, and chat for hours. Your kitchen is the heart of your home and your heart is beautiful. ❤️

  16. Image for Susan Sims Susan Sims

    There is always something I can use on your blog! So, I had decided that I was NOT going to reuse my cabinets and was going to get custom RTA cabinets to save some money and demo my kitchen so that I can splurge on marble. (And yes, I know, but I really don’t like any of the quartz look-alikes. I can tell, and the etching and staining is part of the charm.) In any case, I have a rental townhouse that has ugly 1980s Formica cabinets and I was going to update it with to-the-ceiling cabinets from somewhere, but voila!! My old cabinets with plywood and trim will be perfect, and I have plenty to fit the space!! Now, I can splurge on not only my marble countertops, but maybe some other goodies at home!!

  17. Image for Susan Sims Susan Sims

    Oh, one thing about marble - get the honed, but not polished! The polished shoes more etching than the simply honed! (Think marble steps in old buildings like Grand Central Station, etc.)

  18. Image for Karen B. Karen B.

    KeriAnne, I love your kitchen and the minor mismatched drawers add history and character. That is worth its weight in gold to me. I like homes that have character, and your home possesses that in spades. What a great job you did. It's wonderful you live in the home you grew up in. Priceless. Karen B.

  19. Image for Nancy Hanselman Nancy Hanselman

    It looks beautiful and not even like the same kitchen! We did a similar thing in our old cottage. We were gifted free cabinets that were white and from the 90/2000s but very cottage like. We got butcher block at lowes which is really reasonable for the quality. My husband is handy and turned two upper cabinets into a coffee bar area with two shelves in the middle. They worked great because we didn’t have a lot of depth in the area. Creativity and resourcefulness can go far!

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