Kitchen Remodel On A Budget: Part 1

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The thing is, we weren’t even planning on remodeling the kitchen. Like at all. We were annoyed with how small it was, that’s for sure. We bought the house to entertain, thrown fun parties and host BIG family holidays, but the kitchen has always been sorely lacking.

Then everything changed.

Buy Nothing Project: Free Fridge

I’ve told you before about the Buy Nothing Project. I CANNOT OVERSTATE HOW MUCH TIME AND MONEY THIS GROUP HAS SAVED OUR FAMILY. We have saved a lot of time and money since joining the group a little over a year ago. We have been truly blessed by that group and community.

About 3 months ago, Michelle tagged me in a post on Facebook. I thought she wrote something like “Jake is really, really ridiculous good looking” or something like that. Almost. I clicked on the notification to find that she had tagged me in a Buy Nothing post where a lady was giving away a Samsung French-door stainless fridge. The fridge would not get cold enough and they were sick if it ruining food. I said “Sure, I’d love to give it a shot at repairing it.”, not expecting AT ALL that I’d be picked with the 50+ other people who commented as well.

Well, I was picked.

After a few brief seconds of joy, I remembered “oh crap, now I have to go pick up a HUGE, BROKEN FRIDGE.


New Fridge, Now What?

After a crazy night (6 hours to move the fridge. Don’t’ ask.), the broken fridge was in our garage, and I owed my friends a few beers. I had done a little bit of research on possible issues, and was able to pinpoint it to a $13 part. I replaced the thermostat, and voila! We had a fully functioning French Door stainless fridge. WHAT THE WHAA???!

The new fridge was much taller (and wider) than the old one, so Michelle and I were talking one night about how we would get it to fit. Watch closely how Michelle directs this conversation. She is truly a master of persuasion.

Michelle: So, the new fridge is too tall. I measured, and it will not fit under the existing upper cabinet.

Me: Oh yeah?

Michelle: Yeah, so basically, we’re going to need to remove the upper cabinet. Sooo, if we’re going to re-hang a cabinet, we might as well re-hang a new one.

Me: Yeah…

Michelle. Soooo, we probably should look at replacing the upper cabinets with those nicer ones in our garage. I’ll get the tape measure!

Me: Wait, wha?

And the kitchen remodel was born.

Free Cabinets

The main costs of a kitchen remodel are the cabinets, countertops and appliances. We were blessed with a free fridge (well, $13 total) and we also had access to free cabinets. When we first moved in, the previous homeowners hung some very nice kitchen cabinets in …. yeah …. the garage. Not sure why they did that, but we left them. We had always talked about possibly repurposing them, and now the conversation GOT REAL!

Michelle got to measuring, and found a combination of cabinets that would actually work to replace our upper cabinets! We measured, re-measured, and measured again, and we had found a way to replace all upper cabinets in our kitchen. We checked with Michelle’s dad, who is a contractor specializing in cabinet installs, and he confirmed that we would have spent AT LEAST $400 per cabinet if we had bought new. We would never have considered replacing the cabinets at that price, but at the price of Free-99, we were a GO for a full remodel! WOOP!

To get an idea of our current layout, here are some BEFORE pics.

Old Kitchen 1 Old Kitchen 3 Old Kitchen 2

The Plan Was Coming Together

So we had a fridge ready to move in, found that we had all the cabinets we needed  and were ready to move forward with an actual full-on kitchen remodel. A few days earlier, it wasn’t even a thought in our mind. Now we were ready to tear down our cabinets and install a new fridge.

Oh, but it gets better.

After realizing that we could replace the upper cabinets, we knew that the kitchen would still look dated. The lower cabinets were old, and we had terribly dated countertops as well. Plus our kitchen layout wasn’t what we wanted it to be.

What Michelle figured out next was genius.

Current Costs and Savings

The current costs were very minimal at this point. We spent $13 for a thermostat for the free fridge and $50 for beers and dinner to friends who helped us move. The cabinets were just sitting in our garage, so nothing out of pocket at this point. Pretty incredible.

Totals so far:

Costs: $63

Stay tuned for Part 2!

Jacob Wade

Jacob Wade

Jacob Wade has been a nationally-recognized personal finance expert for the past decade. He has written professionally for The Balance, The Spruce, LendingTree, Investing Answers, and other widely-followed sites. 
He’s also been a featured expert on CBS News, MSN Money, Forbes, Nasdaq, Yahoo! Finance, Go Banking Rates, and AOL Finance.

In 2018, Jacob quit his job and his family decided to sell everything (including their home) to take off on an adventure. They traveled the country in an RV for nearly 3 years, visiting over 38 states, 20+ national parks and eventually settling in the sunshine state!

16 thoughts on “Kitchen Remodel On A Budget: Part 1”

  1. I found it a little funny that you referred to your kitchen as small. It reminded me of how things, circumstances can be relative. I think your kitchen is a great size even for entertaining. I live in an apartment with a much smaller kitchen and have actually never thought of it as small. I don’t feel cramped in it and it is adequate for what I need it for. All the same good luck with the remodelling, that fridge is definitely a score. Bragging rights for sure and a great story for when you are finished with the remodelling and do entertain.

    • It’s true! Small is relative for sure. We came from an apartment, and though it was technically smaller, it had the same amount of usable counterspace. So buying a house and have the same counterspace made it feel “small”. Now we’ve more than doubled the usable counterspace, and it feels more open at the same time. But yes, we are truly blessed to even have what is there, so this improvement is definitely icing on the cake 🙂

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  3. What an interesting group to be part of. The idea of getting used home products that need some TLC, is really awesome. That really could be a great way to DIY a kitchen renovation.

  4. Wow, I’m amazed you’ve only spent $63 so far! I’m dreaming up what I want my kitchen to look like, and I would be so happy if that’s all it cost. According to my wish list, it’s going to be about $10,000 though! Aaaaaah! Thankfully a lot of it can be done ourselves, but there are 2 or 3 things we will probably hire a contractor for.

  5. I think it’s rather odd that the previous homeowners had installed kitchen cabinets in the garage. However, I can see how that was beneficial during your kitchen renovations. Like Michelle’s dad said, it would have cost a lot more to buy the cabinets new, so being able to re-purpose the old cabinets is fantastic. Thanks for sharing!


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