9 Home Upgrades that are Cheaper Than You Think

If you are a new home buyer and are looking to buy a new construction home, these are the steps you will need to take to get the most of your money's worth.

Whether you are moving into a new home or just want to liven up one you’ve been living in for a while, you have unlimited options to upgrade and customize your home when you own it. From the bathrooms and kitchen to the garage and yard, your home can become an even better place for you and your family to enjoy every day. And, better yet, you can likely do it on a budget. Here are nine budget home upgrades to get you started.

New and upgraded lighting

When my wife and I moved into our new home recently, we noticed that the bedrooms had no installed lighting. Rather than live in the dark or go exclusive with lamps, we decided to add a light to every bedroom, with some extra cans in the master bedroom for an added touch.

According to HomeAdvisor, the average cost to install a new light fixture ranges from $75 on the low end to $2,000 on the high end, but for most traditional lighting the average is around $90-$250. While you may be able to take care of this installation on your own, it may be best to hire an electrician if you are unsure in any way. A mistake here can lead to safety issues or fire, so when in doubt, hire it out. But if you can get by on the cost of parts alone, this is a bargain upgrade.

USB friendly outlets

Traditional power outlets in the United States give you two plugs, but in the modern age of smartphones and laptops and wearables, traditional plugs are not always ideal. For about $10 to $15 per outlet, you can upgrade to an outlet with two plugs and two USB plugs.

Not only does this allow you to double your plugin ability without a power strip, you can plug a rechargeable device right into the wall without the need for an extra USB adapter. These are great in the bedroom, home office, or even the kitchen. Anywhere you regularly plug in your phone to power up is a great spot for a USB outlet. You can do this with just a screwdriver on your own, no professional required. Just make sure to turn off the power first so you don’t shock yourself in the process.

Overhead garage storage

Bolt together some two by fours and some plywood and you can build yourself a sturdy storage space in your garage. Many garages offer plenty of clearance and open ceiling space, which gives you plenty of room to store suitcases, boxes, and other less important items that are bulky and hog precious closet space.

Depending on your home, this upgrade can be cheap and easy, costing just a few hundred dollars for supplies. It is vital that any overhead storage is property installed and attached to major support beams and not just drywall, so don’t hesitate to hire this out to a handyman if in doubt of your do-it-yourself abilities.

Smart thermostats

If my new home hadn’t already had a Nest thermostat, installing one was high on my to-do list. Nest is the smart thermostat from Google, but there are many others available as well. A Nest runs around $250 while top competitor ecobee charges around $150 for its ecobee3 smart thermostat. Many local utility companies offer discounts and subsidies when upgrading, so check out what your utility provider has to offer before you start shopping. My local utility offers $125 to subsidize the upgrade cost of a smart thermostat.

Smart thermostats are great because not only can you control them from your phone, they are programmable and learn your habits to lower your power bill. If you could cut your summer power bill and winter gas bill by just 5%, the upgrade will likely pay for itself in a few years. But you may be able to save quite a bit more with a smart thermostat in your arsenal of money saving tools.

Sprinkler system rain sensor

Do you ever laugh as you watch a sprinkler system schedule turn on when it’s raining? While it is funny to see water sprayed on an already wet lawn, in many parts of the country water is no laughing matter. California and Colorado are just two states dealing with long-term drought conditions, which makes water a precious resource.

Save the environment and your wallet when you add a sprinkler rain sensor. These inexpensive additions connect to your existing sprinkler system. When it rains, the sensor notices the water and tells the sprinkler system to skip the next watering, if it would be impacted by the rain. With a rain sensor, everybody wins.

Wi-Fi to every corner of your home

Though your wireless internet is generally from a device that is not physically attached to your home, having reliable internet throughout your home is more important every year with the release of new phones, smart home devices, and anything else that requires an internet connection. While you may get a “free” router from your internet provider, they tend to be lower performance than some of the best devices available today.

If you get frustrated with internet at home, consider upgrading to a smart router like Google Wi-Fi. My OnHub router did a pretty good job covering my new property, but there were some dead spots in the yard, kitchen, and other parts of the home. I installed Google Wi-Fi in just a few minutes and the dead spots were instantly fixed. I use my internet every single day, so the $300 price tag for Google Wi-Fi was well worth it.

New colors with new paint

Just because the people who sold you the home thought emerald and gold were great colors for a bathroom or bedroom doesn’t mean they were right, and it doesn’t mean you have to live with it.

Paint is one of the cheapest home upgrades around that offers one of the biggest visual impacts. Whether you want to spruce up one or two rooms or the entire home, you can typically do so for under $200. Even with high end paint and a large home, paint is rarely cost prohibitive. You can paint it yourself for free labor or hire a professional painter if you are worried about those hard-to-reach areas in your home.

Kitchen water filter

For under $30, you can buy and install a water filter so you can skip the cost and environmental impact of bottled water. The filter housing lasts for many years, and filters only need to be changed out rarely depending on how much water you use.

Water filters are a great investment because they can save you money and make you healthier. Water is the best beverage for any time and any season, and a filter can remove particles that make your water less delicious and sometimes less healthy. If you can replace calorie filled pop and juice with water, you could even lose weight and get healthier in the process!

Fresh caulking

The plastic-like, white sealant around your sinks, tubs, and showers is called caulking. Caulk goes bad over the years, and sometimes needs to be scraped away and replaced. There are several options for caulking, including different levels of water and temperature resistance, but none are particularly costly. All you need is a tube of caulk and a caulking gun and you can replace ugly, dingy, and old caulk around your home.

This is an easy do-it-yourself job. In the worst case if you leave an ugly result, you can scrape it off and try again. After following a YouTube tutorial, you’ll be a pro in no time.

It doesn’t have to be an investment

Most of the time, people spend money on their homes looking for a great return on investment. However, every project does not have to be about money. If you live in a home, you should enjoy it. With improvement projects in the $100-$250 range, it doesn’t matter how well they pay off. If you like them and they make your home more enjoyable, that’s what it’s all about.

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