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MARRIAGE MONDAY | TACKLING A RENOVATION AS NEWLYWEDS Guest Post by Sarah Roberts

Hi all, this is Sarah, Jill’s assistant!  First off, a BIG congratulations to Jill and her family on their newest addition! I am so happy that Jill can cherish this time with her sweet new babe and her family.  If there is anyone who deserves time off and LOTS of baby cuddles, it’s Jill! 🙂

While Jill is on her maternity leave for the next few weeks I get to fill in for her on her Marriage Monday posts as one of her past #jillgumbrides and from the perspective of a (somewhat) newlywed! We don’t have years and years of marriage under our belt but we are about to hit our two year anniversary in May, and we have definitely learned a few things along the way.  I hope this will be helpful to any newlyweds or even those who are getting married soon!!


It goes without saying that we live in a society that LOVES fixer uppers—Chip & Joanna Gaines are definitely the #goals of many (myself included!!). We see how it works on demo day, staying within budget, and the entire design process which always includes shiplap. They make it look effortless.  Well, only a few months into our marriage Jacob and I tackled a big renovation: our kitchen.  When we bought our house it had the charm and history we loved (it was built in the 1905), but the kitchen had seen many remodels over the years and none of them were kind! We stripped out over 100 years worth of paint, wallpaper, wood paneling, more wallpaper, and horse-hair plaster from those walls!! It was a MAJOR process!! After tackling a kitchen remodel last year and just starting a remodel of our living room and dining room this past week, Jacob and I have come to a comfortable spot when planning for a renovation. So, here are some of our top tips to consider before tackling your  first big remodel as a newlywed: planning, finances, and timeline.

1). Get on the Same Page

Before we began even looking at purchasing anything, we sat down and discussed the quality of what we wanted. Did we want top of the line of everything? Did we want the cheapest of everything? Did we feel ok splurging on certain items rather than others?  It would’ve been very difficult to plan our remodel and communicate effectively if we both had different things in mind—for example, if one of us wanted to splurge on marble countertops but the other wanted the cheapest option.

In order to decide the quality of what we wanted, we  considered our home and where we might be living in the future.  So, ask yourself: Will this be the home you live in forever? Will you be there 5 years? 10? 20? Because this is our first house and we know we will outgrow it if we decide to have kids, we couldn’t justify putting too much money into it. We knew we needed good quality and we wanted it to look pretty, but marble countertops and backsplash and hardwood floors were not in the picture for us, so we decided to research good brands for the lower-priced options!

In addition to looking at our situation, we made sure to discuss our individual “must-haves” for the kitchen and we tried to accommodate those as best as we could.  Jacob wanted as much storage as possible, I wanted a gas range, and we both wanted tall cabinets. We needed to put it out there, because it is so easy to eliminate your spouse’s must-haves when planning and trying to stay under budget if you don’t even know what their must-haves are!! These discussions might seem like a no-brainer, but it is so important to discuss each aspect because it sets the stage for successful conversations and planning later on–because trust me, at one point during the renovation you will argue in the middle of Menards!! I hope this tip will help you avoid that!! 🙂

2). Finances

Let’s just face it. Most of us aren’t the people on Fixer Upper who have at least an 80k budget to spend on renovations and improvements to their house. And renovations are always expensive…always!  After we decided what we were envisioning for the kitchen, we made sure we discussed our outlook on spending for the project.  Thankfully, we both agreed!  Once we had decided an absolute max budget and figured out what supplies we needed to buy, we always saved up enough to pay for the supplies in full. We never wanted to be dependent on credit during a remodel—we had the outlook of: if we don’t have it in our account right now, we wait.  This allowed us to have the best of both worlds, we got to utilize our Menards card’s 0% financing for 6 months so we could stretch out those payments but we could always pay those in full if needed.  Having that safety net was how we felt most comfortable, and because we did all of the work ourselves, we were able to spread out those purchases and continue with the project whenever we were ready because weren’t tied to a contractor’s timeline.  However, others might not like this method and would rather charge everything or pay for everything in full up front.  Everyone’s view on spending is different which is why it is essential to discuss before purchasing anything for the project because every little thing adds up fast!!

3). Plan your Timeline and Budget…then Double it!!

This advice is a little bit of a “debbie downer,” but remodels rarely go as planned.  Orders and delivery of supplies get delayed. The flooring you want goes out of stock. Something breaks mid-renovation.  Or, if you’re us, you realize a waste pipe (yes, waste—yuck!) has a crack in it, which takes an entire Saturday to remove and replace.  There are hidden expenses and delays all throughout a remodel and it can definitely be stressful and a strain on a marriage if you don’t plan ahead! That’s why we are SO glad that we had a little cushion in our budget because we saved extra in case we ran into issues during the remodel.  I did not want that broken pipe to eat into our budget for the shiplap wall!!

Not only do these unexpected hiccups require money, but it also cuts into your renovation timeline.  With some renovations the timeline isn’t as strict but a kitchen remodel is such a hassle!! The longer the renovation takes, the longer you are without a kitchen and are washing your dishes in the bathtub, searching through the boxes in the living room that now contain your pantry, and are eating fast food or cereal for the third night that week (I loved it for a while, but trust me—it gets old!! And if you know me, that’s saying something!! Ha!!).  The daily hassle and frustration of just trying to find the silverware in the midst of the renovation chaos can cause tension, especially if the remodel was only supposed to take 4 weeks and you’re now on week 7!! Even when we did plan for the worst and hoped for the best, things still got stressful and tense, but we both believe it would’ve been much worse if we didn’t expect the project to take much longer or cost more than planned!!

Now I know this is a lot to consider but we are both glad that we tackled such a large renovation together in the first year of marriage!  And because we tackled that large project and adjusted to life as a married couple in year one, we know we can handle the stress of the projects to come!

Happy Renovating!

PS- if you want to see two of Jill’s favorite takes on renovating at her and Michael’s house, click here and here!

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I'm Jill, a wedding and portrait photographer based out of Chicago and Central Illinois, and available world wide! I'm also a photography educator, wife to my favorite person on the planet, mama to 3 amazing kids and an energetic Aussie, and obsessed with statement jewelry and all desserts (especially fruit pies!). 

As a past high school teacher, I have a major heart for education. After going full time in my business, I have built a business I love that gives me an almost 6 figure salary and allows me to be home part time with my kids.  I dream for you to run a business that enhances your life and lights you up, and I believe I can help you learn how to do it with a little hustle and a lot of heart!

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