Money Bomb 2: The Renovation

Previously, I blogged about Money Bomb 1: The Wedding where I shared how we actually budgeted for our wonderful wedding. As the title suggests, that is likely to be the first of many money bombs I will be sharing. (It also helps that the article was pretty popular.) So since it is still relatively fresh in our minds, here we are with the second money bomb: The Renovation.

By depicting them as money bombs, I appear to have attached a negative connotation to these events too. But truthfully speaking, they are actually some of the happiest moments in my life. If getting married to a sweet, caring and understanding wife ranks right at the top, then being the master of your own small castle isn’t that far off the summit either.

They are only labelled bombs because they tend to wipe out a big portion of our savings. And it’s further exacerbated by the fact that these money bombs tend to come right after each other for young couples like us.

I have to admit that I was more of a passenger during the wedding planning process. It’s really pretty hard for a guy to be intrinsically motivated to look through the 100+ designs for the hand bouquet or to have a strong view on the types of wedding favours to provide to banquet guests. However, I guess I probably made up for it during our renovation. Heck, I even wrote a detailed T-Blog (realised I really enjoyed writing after that) on Renotalk to chronicle our renovation journey.

Here’s How We Did It

We had always expected our home to be ready slightly after our wedding and true to our predictions, some of the neighbouring blocks in the same BTO project started receiving their keys in Nov 2012.

We started out with the intention of a $50k budget. $30k allocated to the renovator (contractor/interior designer) and $20k for furniture and electronic appliances seemed just about right.

In the end, the renovator received cheques totalling $40k and we also paid ~$25k for furniture and appliances! You could say we fell prey to the “this is our love nest” mentality and massively exceeded our initial estimates. The saving grace was that we had saved really hard for the renovation and didn’t had to rely on any form of loans or monetary help from relatives.

But money was really a secondary issue. The emotional anguish was more painful as this wasn’t a simple project for the both of us to manage. For a start, it was really difficult to compare the price and quality differences since we were not familiar with the materials. For eg. A non-hollow door is twice the price of a semi-hollow version which in turn is twice as expensive as a hollow one. So which one should we choose? We often adopted the middle ground, as we were unsure whether it was worth it to pay a premium for the best and also worried about the potential negative consequences if we decided on the cheapest option.

There were other types of hiccups too. After approaching several renovators for quotations, we had shortlisted one and invested considerable time liaising with him even before receiving our keys. However, it was really hard to arrange for appointments with him (he was too busy with other projects) and the last straw came when he wasn’t prepared to go through the defects of the new place with us and delayed on the final quotation. We had to cut our losses (luckily it was just time and effort since no money was involved yet) and move on.

Luckily, things turned out fine in the end and we are staying in this beautiful home now. It should be obvious by now that I am no complete tightwad and am willing to pay for the things I value. But still, on hindsight, there are some things which we could have saved on. Here are some of the lessons learnt:


1. Do not overpay for stuff you rarely use

There’s really little regrets for most of the big items. Instead of opting for the Optional Component Scheme, we paid double and selected tiles we liked and better workmanship for the laying of the tiles. The brick feature wall set us back by $3k, but that’s all right too since it’s the most striking component of our Scandinavian theme. Both of us also loved the TV console which costs a ridiculous $3k too. But the fact was we simply couldn’t find a substitute that was close to the one we first set our eyes on.

On the other hand, we purchased a high-end 55″ 3D & SMART TV (also about $3k) but used none of these features even after moving in for 5 months. Switching on the TV for probably less than 5 hours a week doesn’t help in justifying the purchase either. We would have been better off getting a smaller TV with less frills and save $2k in the process. Similarly, we also bought a recliner from the merchant that sold us our sofa and dining table. She offered an irresistible price as a bundled package and unfortunately, we succumbed to it. Placing it in our study room, I have sat in it for less than 10 times thus far.

Moral of the story: Paying a premium for stuff we don’t use is really a waste of money, and vice versa.

2. Own less stuff

Almost $15k went to the renovator to build custom cabinets and cupboards for us. And what are they used for? Mostly to store clutter and other useless stuff which we will not be using the next year. Enough said.

3. It’s ok to make mistakes 

Whenever our 3-year old nephew visits our place, he loves to sit at the coffee table and watch cartoons. Nah, he’s not short-sighted and our sofa is also new and comfy. The problem is that the reach of our 3-blade KDK ceiling fan only extends to the coffee table and you really can’t feel the breeze when you lie back at the sofa. Nowadays, we bring out the ugly but functional stand fans when we have visitors.

On the same note, we overbought stuff on Taobao just because they were cheap. Our light-coloured matt tiles also stain easily and we even bought an additional sofa. (Yes, luckily our in-laws were also moving into a new place and took the one we initially committed into.)

Mistakes are inevitable during this process and there’s no point fretting over them (still recall those sleepless nights worrying whether the wood tones of our furniture would match). Just do your best to keep them minimal, if possible.


Hopefully, these lessons would be of help to both you and my future self. After all, unlike the wedding, we expect to go through more renovations than weddings in our life.  😉

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3 thoughts on “Money Bomb 2: The Renovation

  1. B

    Hi hww

    Wow spending 50 to 65k is definitely not a low budget for renovation. Ive seen friends who hv spent 80k and above but yours definitely ranks almost similar to them.

    If I may ask what is the average spending for couple on renovation? Would 20k be able to give you decent renovation?

    1. My 15 HWW Post author

      Hi B,

      You can probably see that having a nice place to live in is definitely a priority for us. Although I wouldn’t go as far as saying every penny was worth it, there aren’t major regrets. On hindsight, we could have saved $20k-$25k but it’s hard to say if the outcome would be better than now.

      Seriously, renovation can easily range from $10k-$100k, depending on personal preference and ability. The size of the flat matters too. My intuition is that most people underestimate the amount spent (not including items like fans and lightings sometimes).

      $20k is possible (basic renovation with 2nd hand furnitures and probably no air-conditioners in rooms?) but it really depends on one’s definition of “decent”.