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Q&A: My wife says upgrading our kitchen will increase the value of our home, but is it worth it?

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Welcome back, TJA readers! Heather and I returned from our island getaway to icy cold conditions. NGL, I was hoping the flight would get cancelled. No dice. But unlike the piles of unmelted snow outside our house, this week’s newsletter is piping hot! Enjoy.


My wife wants to upgrade our kitchen. She says it will increase the value of our home, but all I see is a massive expense. I’m really on the fence – what do you think?


Alright, this question hits too close to home, because the number one home upgrade on Heather’s list is a bigger and better kitchen. In her defense, she’s not really trying to recreate Kitchen Stadium to keep up with the Joneses; she’s an amazing chef and utilizes every square inch of our current kitchen to cook delicious meals. But there’s not much we can do with our current footprint besides replace a dying range. She’s written about her crankiness over not moving on here before. 

Forget about the value of your home and focus on the costs first, because that’s what impacts you today. Home improvements cost money. Whether you’re remodeling a bathroom or building your dream kitchen, large projects can easily run tens of thousands of dollars. It’s a serious financial decision that requires serious scrutiny. Is this new kitchen a want or a need? Obviously, needs are more urgent than wants, and you’ve got to label this project so you can set a budget and a timeline for when to pursue it. 

It’s worth mentioning that there are cost-effective ways to improve your kitchen without spending a small fortune on a complete gut renovation. Facelifts can be just as effective as a remodel. Swapping out old appliances, painting cabinets, and replacing lighting and hardware can make a huge difference in both appearance and cost. Can you get away with just that? Whatever you choose, though, make sure to shop around. Don’t go with the first contractor or proposal without obtaining comps.

Once you understand the costs of what you need (or want) to do, it’s time to figure out how you’re going to pay for it. TJA readers know how I feel about taking on debt to pay for expenses–it’s not something I recommend. Ideally, home improvements should be funded from savings, or in some cases, your investments. If you don’t have the money to pay for something, don’t do it.

If you’re going to use savings, be sure you leave yourself with enough cash to cover at least six to nine months of your living expenses after the project is finished. Depleting your reserves for a new kitchen is a great way to become house rich and cash poor, and the discomfort that comes from having little left in savings will subsume your enjoyment. As far as using investments is concerned, taking liquid, accessible assets and converting them to a less liquid and accessible asset, like your house, is more of a sacrifice than a trade-off because of how difficult it is to calculate a return on your investment, outside of just…enjoying your house.

Some people believe that borrowing against the value of your home (through a line of credit) is a valid solution, because the improvements will add value to your home. While this is entirely possible, there’s no guarantee. Also, that “additional value” you’re creating is not something you will realize until you sell your home. So, if you’re planning on sticking around another 15 years, it’s unlikely you’re going to ever realize that value. In the meantime, you’re adding debt to your balance sheet, resulting in additional monthly hits to your cash flow. Again, tread very carefully when choosing to finance home improvements with debt.

While the dream of a better kitchen is sexy for some, you’ve got to approach the project with a dose of reality. You shouldn’t risk your financial stability for something like this. Take the time to evaluate your needs, explore cost-effective alternatives, and plan your finances judiciously. A home upgrade should bring joy and comfort, not financial strain. 

Do you have a money question? You know where to find us: [email protected].


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  • I shared my millennial villain origin story with InvestmentNews. Check it out

  • Heather and I went on our friend Doc G’s Earn & Invest podcast to discuss the power struggles over money in relationships and the NL. Thanks for having us, Doc!



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The content shared in The Joint Account does not constitute financial, legal, or any other professional advice. Readers should consult with their respective professionals for specific advice tailored to their situation.