Implement these 4 ideas to help sell a house or upgrade a home without straining the household budget.

Those Saving money is now back in vogue, especially when it applies to real estate, but homeowners still want to spruce up their houses – either to sell them faster or to enjoy them more. Those who know how to do small home improvements on a shoestring budget can reap big rewards and benefits in a variety of ways.

Here are four ideas that can help save money while also boosting curb appeal, home equity, pride in home ownership, and overall enjoyment of hearth and home.

Embark on a do-over without overdoing it.
Upgrades that are affordable can also be impressive, as long as the money is spent wisely to invest in those specific features that deliver the greatest impact. Use imagination and grand vision to conceptualize the entire project, but then whittle down the wish list to just a few selected priorities.

Rather than replacing functional but less attractive appliances, for example, hold on to them and instead replace only their facades. Many manufacturers of items like dishwashers, refrigerators, and stoves, for instance, sell new face panels or doors for appliances. Screw off the old one and upgrade to a new one for a fraction of what it would cost to buy completely new appliances. By doing just a facelift, get a brand-new look and the option of changing the color of the appliance for a relatively insignificant outlay of cash. Use a similar strategy on cabinetry by replacing only doors and hardware. Upgrade bathrooms with tile, fixtures, and paint – or reupholster instead of buying new couches and chairs.

Go green to save some greenbacks.
Conserving energy is not only a sustainable solution for the planet, but it can also be a great way to save money on household overhead. And being more eco-friendly can be done in incremental ways that generate substantial, measurable results. One of the best energy-saving devices is old-fashioned caulk, and re-caulking the cracks and crevices around windows is easy. They will look better and leak less, and a few tubes of caulk can save an amazing amount of heating and cooling costs. Replacing old water heaters with new “on demand” style units is another cost effective way to go green. For those who choose a more radical approach, many freebies from utility companies or government agencies are available – in the form of financial incentives and tax breaks – for homeowners who install solar panels, wind turbines, or other green energy technology systems.

Create an infrastructure stimulus plan.
With the help of a professional contractor, do a comprehensive evaluation of the property to identify any repairs that need to be done to prevent further deterioration or expense in the near future. Also look for ways to add value through preventative maintenance or to enhance the property without launching into a huge remodeling campaign. Trees with rotted limbs that could fall and do serious damage, sagging gutters, curling roof shingles, and places where exterior paint needs touching up or brickwork has mortar gaps are prime examples of things that are cheap to fix but expensive to ignore. Do them now before they turn into costly problems, and it is possible to take advantage of historically low prices because many contractors hungry for work are willing to offer attractive discounts.

Invest in home entertainment.
Sometimes it is difficult to justify spending money on perks, toys, and treats. But during a recession it is possible to splurge on fun amenities and come out ahead by saving money that would otherwise be spent going out for entertainment. Instead of spending money on movie tickets and $10 popcorn, for example, invest in a sleek home theatre that will pay for itself over time. Add an inexpensive deck with the money saved by not going to restaurants, and enjoy the pleasures of grilling in the backyard. Start growing culinary herbs in window boxes or kale, peppers, and tomatoes in a tidy garden bed to save grocery money, while also adding delicious charm and edible curb appeal.

A bright coat of paint in a bedroom, a fresh coat of wax on old hardwoods, some flowers and mulch in the yard, and new countertops in the kitchen or bathroom can quickly dress up a home. Whether the goal is to sell a condo or boost the quality of life and pleasure of being at home, a few strategically planned changes can generate huge improvements and plenty of return on the dollars invested in making them happen.

Choose remodeling tasks that can deliver a noticeable improvement for a reasonable price tag. Then vigilantly focus on doing everything without spending more than originally planned. To help stick to the budget add a buffer or premium of 20 percent to each project’s estimate, to help compensate for add-ons, price inflation, and other unexpected costs.

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