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  • Lisa Gardener

Building on a Budget

No matter how big or small your budget build is, it's still a budget and keeping within it is key to making sure you don't run out of money before your home's finished. It's inevitable that some things will cost more than expected. When this happens, you must have a few tricks up your sleeve to make savings and balance the budget. Here are 10 tips.

1. Consider scale and complexity

Carefully consider what you want to build. Scale and complexity are the two biggest killers when it comes to budgets and building a home that is larger and/or more complex that you can really afford is often the root cause of most budget disasters. At planning stage think about how square metres can be saved without compromising the form and functionality of the design. Also consider the complexity of the build.

2. Figure out where you add the most value to your build

Every self-builder brings value to their build, but some are better at this than others. The fact that you may never have built before is not a barrier to adding value - think about what transferrable skills you have and how these can be offered to save you money. For example, if you have time and good organisational skills then you could consider project managing the build yourself.

3. Be decisive - make timely decisions

Additional expense often occurs as a result of poor decision making. Always try to be one step ahead of the game and work out what you want along with the answers to tradesman's questions before they start work on site.

4. Avoid changing your mind.

Changing your mind isn't a problem when it's in good time but changing your mind when the work is in full flow can prove expensive particularly when alterations have to be made to work already done.

5. Don't fight the flow

Understanding the "natural" build sequence and following it will certainly help to keep budget on track. Always ensure you understand what must be completed before the next stage starts and plan ahead to make sure materials and trades are available to keep the build continuously moving forward.

6. Buy wisely

There's a skill to buying materials and appointing contractors which is often overlooked with significant consequences to budgets. Be clear about what you want and try to second guess assumptions that suppliers and subcontractors will make in putting together their quotations. Focus on the interfaces between trades as well - think about what one trade will leave for another to follow and if everything has been included for the next trade to continue. Read and understand quotations carefully to make sure you know what's included and what's not.

7. Source materials yourself

Sourcing materials yourself can offer significant savings provided you buy the right things at the right price. If you are prepared to do the leg work and find where those special products can be sourced at the best prices, significant savings can be earned as a result. Think about sourcing materials second hand, ideally from other self builders, who may have over ordered for their projects.

8. Remove the hassle factor

Help the people helping you to build your home and make sure you and your site are always sufficiently organised for everyone to do their work well.

9. Manage your waste

Always keep a close eye on the quality of materials being ordered and thoroughly check what you need to do the job. Depending on the material involved, "make up loads" may be allowed for you to firm up the final quantities needed to complete the job - always take advantage of this facility.

10. Buy a trailer

Finally, and this isn't everyone's cup of tea but invest in a trailer. Having a trailer with a decent load carrying capacity is very useful when self-building and earns far more than it will ever cost. Not only will you be able to collect materials but more importantly you will never be stuck waiting for a delivery which would otherwise delay progress on site.


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