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Getting the most out of your budget, and becoming a savvy spender in the process

Creating your dream Northwoods home is likely one of the biggest investments you’ll make. This handy guide will put you in the driver’s seat, and keep you there — helping you know when to save and when to splurge.

There is a certain thrill that comes with being the benefactor of a good deal. From saving a few cents at the pump to thousands on a major purchase, knowing your hard-earned money is well-spent produces a rush of satisfaction. The same goes for building a custom home. Whether it’s a cozy cabin in the woods or a sprawling lakeside lodge, creating your dream Northwoods home is an exercise in savvy spending. Get it right and you’ll get to reap the satisfaction that comes from doing so. Of course, the building experience also presents opportunity to break the bank, and there are plenty of anecdotes about runaway spending and the resulting impact on the budget. So how do you arrive at the first and avoid the second? The following five-step guide is intended to lead you on your home building journey. Though we can’t speak to exact numbers due to the multitude of variables involved in every building project, these simple, tried-and-true principles are meant to keep you on the right path towards smart spending and away from common budget pitfalls. It is important to keep in mind that no matter how tight your budget, building a custom home shouldn’t be about reaching the lowest bottom line. Cutting corners on quality of materials or craftsmanship will only cost you in the long run. When you’re building your dream home, you want to do it once, and want to do it right. Following these steps will allow you to revel in the feeling of money well-spent and the satisfaction that comes from knowing you created a quality, well-built home.



For most, building a custom home is a realization of years of dreaming. Thankfully, planning ahead will not only help you create a home you’ll love, but it will also help you become a purposeful spender too. Taking ample time to gather inspiration, collect ideas and research your options is the first step toward smart spending. As you move through the design and construction process, you’ll have a clear and confident vision of what you want and what you don’t. You’ll also have time to research the things that move the financial needle in a big way — from choosing a property and settling on a floor plan to scoring good deals on interior finishes. Maybe most importantly, planning ahead will allow you to sidestep one of the biggest budget-busters in the world of home building: change orders. Changing the agreed-upon scope of work with your home builder will alter your original bid, delay progress, and derail your budget. Though some change orders are inevitable, most occur from forgotten details or discretionary changes that pop up along the way. Planning ahead will keep your material and construction costs in check and your peace of mind intact.


If you’ve been interested in building a custom home for more than a minute, you’ve undoubtedly noticed the abundance of swoon-worthy images available at the click of a button. Between social media, TV, magazines and more, it’s easy to become inundated with intriguing ideas that can quickly bulldoze your budget. One of the best ways to keep your plan grounded in reality is to remember “the why” behind your custom home.

Do you want to create a legacy home you can enjoy with friends and family? Is your goal to live at a more relaxed pace and connect with nature? Whatever the reason, remind yourself of it — often! The allure of the newest trend will fade into the background as the big picture comes back into focus.


While this tip may seem counterintuitive, stick with us for a moment. In the end, the goal when building your dream home isn’t to spend as little as possible, but rather to spend well. As you plan out the details of your home during the design phase, one of the best ways to make the most of your building budget is to focus your funds towards the areas you, your family, and your guests will enjoy the most. Think of it this way: more exposure equals bigger impact. Often, this means paying extra attention to the shared living areas. Whether it’s incorporating timber trusses or coffered tray ceilings in the entry, a wall of glass in the great room to capture stunning views of the lake, or a screen porch with wood-burning stone fireplace, focusing your funds on highly visible areas (or places where you’ll spend the most time) is a smart money move.


Focusing architectural features in common spaces is a general guideline, but ultimately special details should be placed where they matter to you. Maybe no one else will see the beams in your primary suite, but you dream of lying in bed (or soaking in a tub) surrounded by special wood details

— by all means, carve out room in your budget for these elements. After all, your home ultimately reflects what is important to you. Keep in mind that allowing your personal preferences to guide your spending may mean skipping out on some otherwise standard parts of a floor plan to instead include spaces that would better serve your family. Perhaps nixing those cathedral ceilings in favor of a finished lower level outfitted as a recreational game room or media center is the better move for your crew. (Bonus tip: Adding square footage via a finished lower level is the best budget-friendly way to boost living space) Or, maybe ditching a dining area in favor of an extra-large island with luxurious quartz countertops is the stuff your kitchen dreams are made of. As you customize your home to your lifestyle, remember that savvy spending is as much about splurging smart as it is about saving smart.



Finally, when building a home from the ground up, even with the best-laid budget plans, you can all but guarantee there will be bumps in the road and an occasional detour or two. Whether it’s an unavoidable environmental issue that impacts your site prep, or material delays that affect your construction timeline, there will be changes to navigate and some re-routing may unavoidable. The good news is that you are in the driver’s seat. Staying on the road to financial success doesn’t mean you won’t veer off on occasion, it just means you continue heading towards your destination — a beautiful, quality home you and your family can enjoy for years to come. And, while you’re at it, don’t forget to enjoy the journey.





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