I just read two articles back to back. One was about how many Canadians are house poor and stressed to the max, and the other was about how Canadian homeowners plan to spend an average of $17,142 on renovations this year.

Home owning can definitely be expensive, and we personally spend more than the recommended percentage of our income on it.

In a previous blog, I wrote about finding our compromise with kitchen replacement, as in just doing part of it. I know, that’s not ideal, but we want to only spend what we can afford (let’s skip over the cost of real estate in Greater Vancouver!). We also need to replace a lot of fence but are focussing on the most pressing, or greatest leaning, stretch of the fence.

And all the original windows in a home from the early 80’s? Yup, lots of them need work in the near future, but we will just knock out the ones in the worst condition. Between the kitchen, fence, and window replacement, we’re looking at spending about $6,000 for renovations this year or a third of the average expenditures on upgrades.

Some who are spending the average $17,000 can afford to do so and some can’t. Some families have a roof over their head but are stressed about buying next week’s groceries, or this week’s for that matter, and paying the ‘leccy (electricity) bill.

Basic maintenance costs what it costs (within the range of what you can do for yourself and varied rates you can hire out at), but when going to the next level of replacement, expansion, or aesthetic upgrade, I’m a big fan of just doing what you can truly afford and living within your means. We have a long list of things to work on here at this house, and, hopefully, many years to check one thing off at a time…while holding on to a bit of savings in case anything urgent pops up.

Don’t worry what your neighbours or friends have or what the new styles on HGTV happen to be. What is essential, flexible, and compromisable for you to find the right balance? If both your kitchen and your roof are in rough shape, which one is the most significant to fix? And what deals can be found so you don’t have to spend as much as average on your new kitchen? (The world’s kitchens managed just fine before granite came along, by the way.) Or can your roof just be cleaned and repaired vs. fully replaced for a fraction of the cost, etc.?

With all the moss on the shady side of our roof, there’s not a rolling stone in sight, but I give great value to the words coming through the big ol’ lips of Mick Jagger – “you can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you might find, you get what you need.”

What can you afford and what do you really need? Keeping the lights on, the food on the table, the mossy roof over your head, and all your other life expenditures in control can make a big difference on how well you’ll sleep when the lights go out.

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