How to Save for a New Kitchen (Part One)

If you’re wondering how to save for a new kitchen, the best advice I can give you is this: start now.

(And no, not only because kitchens can come with a hefty price tag!)

As you might have seen on Instagram, we’re in the early stages of a kitchen renovation. However, even though we’ve officially built *checks notes* eight cabinets and nine drawers so far, and all of our appliances are still very much in their boxes, it feels like we’ve been planning this for a year.

Because we have been planning this for a year.

Almost a year ago, we first cracked open the IKEA kitchen planner, “just to see” how much it would cost us to replace our kitchen cabinets and start playing with numbers in our spreadsheet.

After getting multiple quotes from multiple places—many of which involved sit-down, in-person meetings—we wrapped up our wedding and faced a key question. Are we going to put the kitchen on a line of credit? We decided not to, and so the saving process began.

And while I can’t give you final numbers or gorgeous after pictures yet, and probably won’t be able to for months, I’ve definitely learned a lot about how to save up for a kitchen in the past year.

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    How to save for a new kitchen

    Start early.
    The process of saving for a kitchen is, ideally, a long one. Even the most basic kitchen updates we looked at were going to cost thousands of dollars, which is not nothing, and not an amount we had lying around waiting to be spent. The earlier you start saving for your new kitchen, the less you’ll have to save each month to eventually hit your goal.

    But here’s a key point: You might not know what that goal is yet, so it’s a very good thing to give yourself time to figure it out.

    Get multiple quotes.
    Two of the biggest expenses are going to be your cabinets and your countertops, and while some places (ahem, IKEA) will make it pretty easy to get a clear view of how much your desired choices will run you, other places require you work with someone to get a specific quote base on the materials and options available. This might be something you can handle by email, or you might have to go in person, but it’s crucial information. If you’re interested in an option, make the time to get an accurate quote.

    One thing we ran into was a company that asked us to pay upfront for a quote on cabinets and countertops, and we could apply the multiple hundreds of dollars to our eventual purchase.

    Let me just state for the record: That’s not stand

    ard, and we very much walked the other way. I recommend you do the same unless you’re already positive you want to buy from that place—and even then, I’d ask them to waive the fee. It’s weird.

    Comparison shop and read reviews.
    It’s important to comparison shop for everything in your kitchen project—not just your cabinets and countertops.

    We decided that as part of our reno, we wanted to splurge a bit on new appliances, namely a gas stove and a dishwasher. I’ve never bought either, and I’ve never even used a gas stove, so research was the name of the game.

    We invested $30 in a Consumer Reports membership for the year to help with the decision, and I can’t even lie to you, it entirely saved my life.

    I will own up to the fact that I was ready to get a “professional” gas range (that was within our budget) without really understanding that “professional” meant it didn’t come with the bucketload of amenities that most regular, non-professional chefs need on a regular basis.

    I am nothing if not a non-professional chef. I need those amenities.
    Thankfully, the research we did found us a highly rated gas range, packed with amenities, and it was $500 less than our budgeted amount.

    Decide on your priorities.
    By now you should have enough information to price out at least a few different combinations of hypothetical kitchens. Now it’s time to use that decision to make some key choices about what your priorities are—both in terms of the kitchen and in terms of your broader financial life.

    As an example, you might have a quote for higher-end cabinets that come in the exact finish you want, versus an IKEA kitchen that’s not exactly the colour of your dreams, but will still look great and is much better than your existing kitchen. The higher-end cabinets will cost you a few thousand dollars more.

    Unlike some financial bloggers, I’m not going to tell you there’s a right answer as to which choice to make there, but if you need to spend a few thousand dollars more, you do need to decide if that’s a priority for you. Is it worth saving longer and delaying the project? Would you prefer the IKEA kitchen and doing something else with a few thousand dollars, like taking a trip?

    Only you can answer those questions, but you do need to answer them.

    Estimate your budget—and account for wiggle room.
    Ask any project manager, event planner, or interior designer and they’re likely to tell you the same thing: Whatever you’re planning to spend, add 10%.

    I’ll go a step further and say add 23%—10% for the inevitable things you forget you’ll need, like grout for your backsplash tiles or takeout while your oven lives in the living room like a houseguest who is entirely useless and won’t leave, and 13% for Ontario’s sales taxes. Sales tax might be different where you are, but when you’re calculating your numbers, don’t forget it.

    13% of a $10,000 project is $1,300 that you definitely need to save for.

    Set a savings timeline and automatic contributions.
    Once you have a number in mind, it’s relatively easy to figure out your savings timeline. Take your total goal, subtract the amount of money you might already have available for it, and then divide it by the amount you can afford to save every month.

    Here’s an example. If you have a $15,000 budget for your new kitchen, you’ve got $5,000 saved already, and you can save $500 a month, you’ll need 20 months to save up $10,000.

    Two of the best ways to make sure you stay on track with that goal are to set up an automatic savings contribution, and to open a high-interest savings account separate from your day-to-day banking. You’re going to be saving a fair bit of money, and keeping it out of sight will make it much easier to avoid spending it on non-kitchen-related things. Check out my best tips and tools for saving money to see where I’d stash it if I were you.

    So how much should I save for a new kitchen?

    Sadly, everyone who has told you “it depends” or “it’s a wide range” about specific numbers to save for a new kitchen is 100% correct.

    We went with an IKEA kitchen, but we could have easily spent five-figures more than we did if we opted for custom doors on our cabinet frames and if we didn’t have the skills to install it ourselves. On the other hand, we probably could have saved thousands more than we did by opting for different counter materials and cheaper appliances.

    That’s why it’s so hard to give an estimate—your kitchen project is going to depend on your preferences, priorities, skills, the options available in your area, and your willingness to DIY. It could be $800 for a decor refresh, $8,000 for new IKEA cabinetry, or $80,000 for a fully-installed custom chef’s kitchen.

    That’s why starting early, doing your research, and comparing different options based on your budget and what’s most important to you is so key. There really isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer, and coming up with your perfectly sized kitchen project is always going to be personal.

    And really, that’s the hardest part of saving for a new kitchen, at least in my opinion.