I know somewhere along the way someone told you it is rude to talk about money. Well, we are going to do it anyway. Because it’s important. Screw etiquette.
There is no simple answer to this question. It will vary greatly from household to household. But we all like a good rule of thumb, right?!
In his book Apartment Therapy 8-Week Home Cure, Maxwell Gillingham-Ryan, says you should plan to spend “a sum comparable to one month’s mortgage payment or what rent on your apartment would be if you rented it” per year for small annual updates. So, if you mortgage payment or rent is $2,000 per month, you should budget $2,000 annually for your home. He adds, “For larger, onetime projects, such as when you move in or hit the seven-year mark, consider spending as much as you would on an automobile.”
Gulp! When I first read that I got a lump in my throat. The yearly amount seems do-able, but the seven-year mark amount sounds like a lot of money. And, I will be the first to tell you I enjoy spending money on my home. But thinking of it in a big lump sum was uncomfortable.
Maxwell explains, “The logic here is that the amount you will spend on a car is an accurate, personal number. It is closely linked to your style and what you can generally afford.”
I love that he didn’t throw out a flat number for everyone, like $40,000. A set number might be too high for some people and too low for others. By relating it to your rent or mortgage payment and the what you would spend on an automobile he is illustrating the relative investment you should make in your home annually and periodically.
I like it.
But it got me thinking. Why were the lump some amounts so uncomfortable for me to think about? Why do we work so hard to NOT spend money on our homes?
For some it seems frivolous. Or wasteful. Or materialistic.
But we freely spend on beauty in other areas of our life. You spend that amount on a car every 7 years or sometimes more often. You probably get your haircut (and colored) every 6-8 weeks. You might get your nails done even more often. And, you buy new clothes regularly (even when all the old clothes still fit).
Let’s go with the personal beauty examples here. You probably already get your hair, and maybe your nails, done regularly. What if I told you to budget $1200 a year for you hair and $500 a year for your manicures. Sounds ridiculous right? That’s $1700 a year on personal beauty. But that is what you are already spending for beauty. You just spread it out into individual payments and don’t notice the total annual cost.
Why then do we groan at the cost of a $200 mirror or a $1000 chair, both of which are sure to last way longer than that gel manicure?
You would never go to the place that promises a $9 haircut and color, right? Heck no. You want good-looking locks and you know that costs more.
Why do we always hunt for a bargain for our homes? Using the leftover money scraps, if any.
You wouldn’t buy your entire wardrobe from Walmart, right? No. Instead you’ve learned the art of mixing and matching inexpensive and designer pieces.
Why is it so hard for us to bring ourselves to do the same in our homes?
I applaud Maxwell for putting a number out there. Now, he framed it to his clients in New York as spending on their homes what they would have otherwise spent on a car. But whether or not you own a car, I think you should be investing in your home.
We routinely budget for things that bring joy and beauty to our lives. We earmark funds for movies, haircuts, flowers, vacations, yet we don’t consistently put money towards our homes (unless it is a repair of major renovation).
If you don’t already, I say it’s time to add a home spending category to your monthly budget. Maxwell’s price ranges seem like a good starting point. With his method, you would budget an amount equal to 8-9% of your house payment per month. And save separately for larger periodic improvements.
Once you make budgeting and investing in your home a habit, it won’t be nearly as difficult to save up for the pieces you really want or to handle an emergency repair.
So how much should you spend and on what?
Well, it depends.
I know. Sorry that isn’t the crystal clear answer you were hoping for.
I think the point is to add purposeful home spending to your budget. Don’t put yourself in the position of needing to find a bargain. Plan for the things you really want in your home that will create joy and beauty. Tweet that!
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In Free Decorating I share a simple process to reflect on your current spending, then I show you how to create a sustainable home spending strategy, so you can create a home you love without stressing out about the balance in your bank account.
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"This book is so inspiring, I'm a self confessed "decor" addict, I buy anything I think "may" work only to take it home and be disappointed. After reading this book I can't wait to shop my own home and make more meaningful purchases." - Cori I.