Let’s Talk Money With Michelle of 4 Men, 1 Lady

Something we love about the home-slash-DIY blogosphere is that no matter someone’s renovation budget, there almost always seems to be some great story of money saving. Whether it’s salvaging existing materials, shopping for steals, negotiating a deal, or simply doing it yourself, there are some great stories of frugality and ingenuity out there. So in that spirit we thought we’d periodically share some cash-monay saving tips from some of our favorite bloggers. And maybe we’ll sneak in some eye candy along the way. Sound good?

First up is Michelle from the blog 4 Men, 1 Lady, who has always wowed us with her jaw-dropping transformations. But I should let Michelle take over so you can hear it from the lady herself:

We took a 1970’s rambler complete with gold formica counter tops and rust color carpet and did a complete remodel. We had a good game plan what we wanted to do pre-remodel but once took a sledgehammer to the place we started to see the real potential and the list grew. Thus our estimated 4 month remodel took 9 months. People kept telling us that projects always cost more and take longer than you anticipate and unfortunately, we were no exception to that rule. Seeing the budget quickly go south I knew I had to be really careful about how the money was spent. I made it my goal to shave anything I could off the budget. Here’s what I did.

Cabinets: We exhausted Facebook and asked everyone we knew if they had any good references. Instead of paying a premium price we found a very talented cabinet maker who just quit at a major cabinet company and was starting his own business in his garage. We were able to get inset, custom cabinets for the same price we were quoted at IKEA. Savings: $2,500.

Appliances: I shopped around and found a package deal on high end appliances…”Buy two get one free!” Savings: $1,500. I also was able to buy a floor model hood and the salesman also threw in the family discount. Savings: $700.

Lighting, tile, misc accessories: Home Depot has great prices to begin with but I learned that if you spend over a certain amount you may qualify for contractor pricing. So I made a huge list of everything we needed from doors, lumber, tile, lighting, etc and made one gigantic purchase. Savings: ? $600.

Closet: Every gal knows how important a great closet is. I received several quotes from closet companies which were outrageous. In the end, we used the Ikea Pax system which was really customizable and for a fraction of the cost. Savings: $1,000

Tile labor: Our plan was to tackle installing the tile ourselves. After doing a whole house we ran out of steam and patience. Unfortunately, labor costs more than the product itself…ouch. All the quotes of the tile people were pretty comparable. We asked the sub contractor that we chose if he could come down on his price. We asked 25%, he countered with 15%. We knew very well 25% was wishful thinking but if we would have said 15%, he would have said 5%. (I also talked more about hiring the right sub-contractor in a post here). Savings: $600.

Hardware and misc items: Many stores will have an annual “Friends and Family” month with up to a 25% discount on everything. I waited patiently (or rather impatiently) for these to hit then I made my purchases. Savings: $300.

Thanks for sharing your moneys saving tips with us, Michelle! If any of you want to read (and see!) more about the makeovers shown in this post, check out Michelle’s posts on her Kitchen & Living & Dining Area, Master Bath & Closet, Entryway and Main Bath. She has tons of great photos and full source lists as well.

We’ve already got some other bloggers in mind to tap for some more budget-salvaging tips, but if you’ve got anyone you think would be great to feature, please let us know in the comments and I’ll drop them a line beg.


As a little Friday bonus, here are four fun projects, chats, or questions going on over on the Forums. We also announced this week’s giveaway winners, so you can click here (and scroll down to the Rafflecopter box) to see if it’s you.

by WifeInProgress by GilitC by The_Makerista by juliejm


  1. says

    Thank you for this!

    We close on a house next week that sits on almost .75 acres with three greenhouses and an outbuilding. (Plus the two ponds which need to go away!)

    While I’ve always been incredibly good at finding a deal (2 years of baby clothes in great condition and a brand new crib for free on Craigs List), being frugal and smart with house renos is a new area of learning for me.

    Especially key if we’re going to transform 2 of the greenhouses into play spaces and/or a green cottage.

  2. Jan says

    Not sure I’d want my clothes hanging right next to a steamy shower stall … hope she has a good ventilation system in there.

  3. Erin says

    WOW…that house looks amazing. I’ve always known that a redo makes my house look much cleaner, but there’s nothing like old 70s gold transformed to white and gray to make it look completely fresh and clean. She’s a brave mama having that much white with “4 men” in her life. I went with gray couches instead of white. Too many grubby hands to worry about.

  4. Peggy McKee says

    Michelle’s post was very upbeat and cute, but I would have been more interested in things like a breakout of costs of original scope of work compared with revised.

    Also is the house now for sale? What’s the expected profit?

    • says

      I love the idea of asking bloggers in this series how much they went over budget on projects in the future, because that definitely happens! Perhaps Michelle will blog about some additional money stuff for ya. I don’t believe her house is for sale now though – she’s currently working on a basement makeover of epic proportions!


    • emma says

      Love the new series, but I also I agree. We’re *thinking* about a kitchen/mudroom reno and while I know an easy place to start would be contractor bids I don’t even know a ballpark of what the renovation would be. I’d love to see more about labor costs/unexpected costs/how bloggers save (1 savings pot, or multiple for each project?). Maybe your new home project contractor would be helpful to weigh in!

    • says

      That’s a great idea! I’ll have to tap our showhouse builder for info! He does kitchens all the time. From personal experience, our first kitchen was about 2K more than we expected (we thought it would be around 15K and ended up at 17K) and our second kitchen reno was 3K less than we budgeted for (we thought it would be around 10K and it was under 7). Of course we DIYed a ton more in our second house (and also didn’t replace the cabinets or go for granite counters) so a lot of the price difference between the two projects was just the difference in materials and labor (hiring more out and more expensive materials definitely add up to more than affordable options and doing things yourself). Hope it helps!


  5. says

    LOVE this! Thank you for these secrets! And…I’m obsessed with the white and gray throughout her house. We are about to move (like, tomorrow!) and we painted almost the entire hosue white and everyone kind of thinks we are crazy….

    Y’all are the best!

    Thanks, again!

  6. Jessica says

    The renovation is gorgeous and I like that while she saved a lot of money in many different areas her stuff isn’t cheap.

    I’d be VERY curious to know how all the white works about with 3 boys (and a husband)! Do the kids really play in that all white living room?!

  7. says

    What a purdy little house she’s got going on. I love tips on how to save moolah when renovating because Lord knows we need it! (Did I mention we have a leak in our roof that is wreaking havoc on our drywall? Yep…it’s true.) I’m excited for these new features. Have a great weekend guys.

    My best, Lynn
    *Oooo guess who’s flipping out because a new Habitat ReStore is opening up not even 4 minutes from my house? Who’s gonna save gas now? This gal.

  8. says

    These are such good tips, some of which we used ourselves (particularly the cabinet maker one. We worked with a local cabinet maker in our kitchen and for the built ins in our bedroom and we got custom cabinets for an amazing price).

    A few other money savers for us: we switched to a floating click bamboo floor so we could install it ourselves (now that I’ve read your tutorial I think we could have done nail down flooring too) saving $3,000 on installation. I planned out our projects months in advance and knew what I had to buy so I scoured the Internet for sales to buy then.

    And I bought everything I could through ebates, which is a site that gives you cash back for shopping on sites through their site. Since I was buying the stuff anyway, this was just gravy. I think we probably got about $400 or more back just on house project purchases online.

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