10 Best Ways to Update Your Kitchen on a Budget

Updating your kitchen doesn’t have to be expensive. Read our guide to learn what small changes can make a big impact without breaking the bank.

Renovating your kitchen may seem like a daunting - and expensive - task.

After all, many of a home’s big-ticket features, from appliances to countertops to cabinets, are all typically found in the kitchen.

If you want to refresh your kitchen, but feel overwhelmed by the cost and scope of a major renovation, there are plenty of steps you can take to give your space a facelift without spending a ton of money.

To help you make the most out of updating your kitchen while sticking to a budget, we’ll teach you some helpful design hacks, reveal what features can be updated vs. what should be replaced, and share some budgeting ideas to make designing your dream kitchen more affordable.

Give Your Kitchen a Fresh Coat of Paint

Something as simple as a new paint color can completely transform the feel of your kitchen.

Purchasing new paint for your kitchen can be an affordable way to make a major impact, especially if much of your wall space is covered by cabinetry or a backsplash.

If your walls are currently dark, opt for a white or light-wash paint instead to brighten up the room.

Or, if your kitchen is a bright white, try out a moodier hue to add some new interest.

Even a fresh coat of your existing paint color can help to hide the inevitable scuffs, scratches, splashes, and more that tend to happen in such a busy part of the house.

You can also try painting a fun accent wall to transform your space with a bright pop of color without needing to paint every single wall.

Refinish Your Cabinets Instead of Replacing Them

Painted Kitchen Cabinets

Getting new cabinets can easily be the most expensive part of a kitchen renovation.

In fact, new cabinetry can easily cost thousands, if not tens of thousands of dollars, especially if you’re seeking lots of storage space.

If your cabinets are in decent shape, you can save a ton of money by simply updating them rather than replacing them entirely.

One of the best ways to update your solid wood cabinets is to sand and restain them.

Sanding your existing cabinets will help you to cover any scratches or normal wear and tear, and also gives you a chance to switch up the stain color so that they look and feel new again.

Another option to update the look of your cabinets is to sand and paint them an entirely new color.

A crisp white paint job on your cabinetry can brighten up your kitchen and give it a clean look, or a different shade that matches your preferred color scheme can transform your space entirely.

One of the easiest and most budget-friendly changes you can make to your cabinets is to simply update the hardware.

Switching out the drawer pulls and handles on your cabinets can give them a more modern feel, and you can choose hardware that fits in your preferred budget.

Or, if your existing hardware is in good shape, you can simply refinish them with a coat of spray paint to cover up any signs of wear, or to change the color with minimal impact to your bottom line.

Update Your Kitchen Hardware

Kitchen Hardware

Actually replacing all the knobs and pulls on your cabinets and drawers is probably one of the most inexpensive ways you can make an immediate impact in your kitchen.

If you plan on refinishing or repainting your cabinets, go the extra mile and get new pulls and knobs to really create the wow factor in your budget renovation.

Replacing hardware can cost you just a couple of hundred bucks or less.

You can even find vintage knobs and pulls at a thrift or salvage shop or order customized hardware from a site like Etsy without breaking the bank.

If you don't want too much work for yourself, just make sure that the screw holes line up with the old ones.

Add a New and Interesting Backsplash

Tile backsplash

Another relatively easy area to update that can transform your kitchen on a budget is your backsplash.

Whether you have an outdated backsplash or don’t have one yet at all, adding or changing the tile in your kitchen is a great way to make a noticeable change in a short amount of time.

Swapping out old tile for a modern, updated version is something that can be done over the course of a weekend, and you can choose a tile that works within your price range.

If a traditional tile backsplash isn’t within your budget, opt for a peel-and-stick tile backsplash instead.

Peel-and-stick backsplashes can be found in a range of colors and styles, offering an updated look that’s both temporary and affordable.

How to Update Your Countertops Inexpensively

Updating your countertops can be one of the more costly aspects of a kitchen renovation.

The good news is that there are ways to save money on this, whether you plan on replacing your countertops or simply updating your existing ones.

If new countertops are high on your list of priorities, consider shopping around for discounted granite, or waiting for a major sale at a big-box home-improvement store.

Salvage Granite or Stone Remnants

If you don’t have your heart set on a specific color, you can likely find a great deal by shopping around or even purchasing leftover granite slabs that were cut for custom jobs elsewhere.

Much of the scraps leftover from other projects are available at discount prices.

Switch to Wood or Butcher Blocks

Another way to save on new countertops is to consider alternate materials, such as butcher block.

Butcher block countertops can be much more affordable, while still offering an updated look to your kitchen.

Transform Existing Countertops

When replacing your countertops is beyond your budget or the scope of work you wish to undertake, there are still options to refresh the existing countertops that you can easily do on your own.

Look into purchasing a countertop paint kit, for an easy DIY update that’s super affordable.

Covering existing counters with paint or even resin can create a look that’s similar to more expensive stone, granite, or even marble at a fraction of the price.

There are even DIY kits to remake your countertops to look like concrete, which is an exciting look these days.

It requires more work and patience but the end results can be stunning without requiring a special skill set or breaking the bank.

Switch Up Your Lighting

Kitchen pendant lighting

Lighting is a factor that can be easily overlooked, however, it would be a mistake to forget about it as it can make a huge impact in your kitchen.

You can change up the whole ambiance of your kitchen by adding wall sconces and/or pendant lighting or replacing old ceiling mounts with new ones.

Pendant lighting usually has the biggest impact as it's very visible, so choose wisely.

Any drop lighting should be placed over work areas or eating areas where no one will bump their heads.

Another way you can change up the mood is to add countertop lighting.

These light fixtures normally get put under wall cabinets and over your countertops.

Not only do they illuminate your kitchen but also function as task lighting when you are working in the kitchen.

Upgrade Your Faucet for Increased Functionality

Swapping out your existing faucet can make a huge difference in both the feel and functionality of your kitchen.

From taller faucets, to modern shapes and fancy finishes, there are plenty of options to choose from that will give you the features you need at a price point you like.

Upgrading your basic faucet for a more modern fixture will make your entire sink setup look and feel more luxurious.

Plus, many newer faucets are designed with features to enhance functionality, making both cooking and cleanup run smoother.

Hire Day Laborers for Extra Help

Just because you can't afford to hire a contracting company to do the renovation in your kitchen doesn't mean you have to do the whole thing yourself.

Sites like Taskrabbit make it easy to find verified individuals who are willing to help out with odd jobs and projects for an hourly wage.

Of course, this might also mean that you have to supervise but it's usually all hands on deck when it comes to budget renovations.

This is a great option if you don't have a lot of time to complete a major DIY project such as refinishing/repainting cabinets or your countertops.

Take out a Home Equity Loan or HELOC for Your Renovation

If the renovation you have in mind is beyond your current budget, there are still ways you can fund a kitchen update.

Using your home equity to finance a remodel allows you to leverage your home value and borrow money for your project at a low-interest rate.

Funding your Kitchen Renovation with Home Equity Line of Credit

If your kitchen renovation plans will be ongoing and take place over a long period of time, a Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC) might be for you.

Based on the amount of equity you have in your home, a lender can approve you to borrow up to a certain amount to use toward your renovation during a draw period, while using your home as collateral.

You can borrow as much as you need anytime during the draw period, similar to using a credit card.

The benefits of a HELOC include lower interest rates than traditional loans, and smaller payments at the start of the loan. Interest paid is also tax-deductible.

The downsides to a HELOC include variable interest rates, meaning your monthly payment can fluctuate.

Once the draw period is up, you may also be required to pay back the loan in full, which can be

costly if you funded big changes using this method.

Using a Home Equity Loan to Pay for Your Remodel

Another option to fund a kitchen renovation is through a home equity loan.

Similar to a HELOC, a home equity loan allows you to borrow money while using your home as collateral.

With a home equity loan, however, you will receive the full loan amount to use toward your renovation, with a fixed repayment plan over a period of time, similar to a mortgage.

The benefits of a home equity loan include low-interest loans that are tax-deductible, as well as fixed payments over a long period of time.

The downsides to a home equity loan are that you typically must pay fees and closing costs, similar to a mortgage.

Can You Use a Personal Loan For Kitchen Renovations Instead?

Yes, and it might be a great alternative for those who have little equity in their home.

If you haven't paid much of your mortgage off yet, then chances are you may not have too much borrowing power from your home equity to actually take out a HELOC or a home equity loan.

How Is a Personal Loan Different From a HELOC or Home Equity Loan?

A personal loan is a lump sum loan taken out to pay for a high-priced item or project or to pay off your debts.

It's usually not a loan that's big enough to buy you a house but it may just be enough to get those renovation projects done.

Unlike a HELOC or home equity loan, your qualification does not depend on your home's value or equity or any collateral for that matter.

Instead, your credit history, as well as your debt-to-income ratio, are examined to determine your eligibility, the amount to be approved, as well as the interest rates.

The lowest rates are reserved for excellent credit ratings.

The inclusion of some collateral may also help you qualify for better rates depending on the lender.

Renovate Your Kitchen In Stages

If you prefer to pay for your kitchen upgrades without borrowing money, you can still do this while working with a tight budget.

Instead of making all of your updates at once, renovate in stages instead.

This way, you will have control over how much you are spending at one time, and can take time to save up in between each individual project.

It might mean that your kitchen goes through changes over a number of years rather than weeks or months but it'll ensure that you have the money to complete your renovations.

Planning Ahead Can Save Money and Time

If this is the route you want to go when updating your kitchen, be sure to make a plan first.

After all, you don’t want to repaint your existing cabinets after installing brand new countertops, or you can risk damaging them in the process.

Instead, start with bigger or messier projects first, such as painting or any demolition, and move on to smaller upgrades such as hardware, finishes, or small appliance upgrades later, once they fit in your budget and the bigger work is done.

By making smart decisions and prioritizing what parts of your kitchen you want to replace, and what parts can simply be refreshed, you will be able to give your space an entirely new look and feel, no matter your budget.

Kirsten Rispoli
About the author

Kirsten Rispoli is a writer based in New Jersey. She regularly writes on topics ranging from real estate and interior design to e-commerce, business, and wellness. Kirsten Rispoli graduated from Penn State University with a bachelor's degree in Journalism.