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We Paid Cash: A Bathroom Renovation

We paid cash!
A testimony by Julie from The Family CEO

Everyone has their challenge when it comes to saving money. For some, it’s shoes. For others, its travel. For me, it’s my house.

I enjoy homemaking and decorating so much and there’s always something on my to-do list. But finances dictate that many of our home improvement projects are going to have to wait for now because we’re tackling two big goals at once: paying down debt and paying cash for college.

Still, some things around the house demand our attention and the master bath was one of them. The flooring was 20-year-old carpet and the brass light fixtures and hunter green accents were screaming to be replaced.

The first thing you should know is that we are not DIYers. We don’t have the time, interest, or expertise. So we hired a handyman to do the work. He was capable, affordable, and on-board with both our budget and our vision.

Here’s how we remodeled our bathroom with $1800 cash:

First, we identified the three things that most needed changing:

  1. The worn carpet in the bathroom and linoleum in the toilet area.
  2. The dated strip of hunter green tile in the tub surround. (The rest was builder’s grade white tile. Not great, but neutral and in good shape.)
  3. Brass light fixtures, cabinet pulls, and door knobs.

And here’s what we did about them:

1. Floor Tile: I chose an inexpensive stock tile from Home Depot. This time I chose a neutral tile in a beige/gray/white pattern, so it wouldn’t look dated in a few years. In the meantime, I can change the look of the room with inexpensive rugs, towels, and accessories.

I also had the floor tile laid on the diagonal for a more interesting look. This cost a little bit more, but I love the resulting more custom look.

2. Tub Surround Tile: Rather than replace all of the tile in the tub surround, I kept the white tile that was there and replaced just the hunter green strip of 2×2 tiles with a strip that matched the floor tile. This saved both materials and labor cost.

3. Fixtures: I replaced the brass light fixtures, cabinet pulls, and door knobs with brushed nickel.

Extras: I had all of the walls and woodwork covered in a fresh coat of paint. Creamy white for the woodwork and beige for the walls. Again, neutrals that I won’t tire of.

Honestly – when it was all done – it felt like a brand new bathroom. And even better because it was paid for with cash!

In 2006, Julie hired herself to save her family money, make extra money, and pay down debt, all while creating a life she loves. She blogs about her experiences at The Family CEO.

Have you saved up and paid cash for something — large or small? Submit your story for possible publication here.

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  • I’d love to see some photos if you have any! 🙂

  • Wendy says:


    I visited your website hoping to see photos, but couldn’t find any. Could you tell me where to find them? I am getting ready to redo my master bath and don’t have much money.

  • Wendy Jahns says:

    Me too! I would love to see pictures 🙂

  • Jessica says:

    I would like to know how you hired a quality handyman. We’re in the market for some kitchen handyman work similar to what you did in your bathroom. However, some of our friends have recently had bad handyman experiences.

    • Jessica, that’s such a good question. My handyman is a friend of mine from high school, but we’ve had a lot of different ones over the years. My advice would be to 1)Ask around and ask around some more. and 2) Hire them to do something small before you have them do something major.

      Good luck!

      P.S. If anyone in the Kansas City area needs a good handyman, email me @ thefamceo [at] yahoo [dot] com and I’ll happily give you his contact info.

    • Sharon says:

      You might also try Angie’s List ( or Check a Pro ( to find qualified handymen. Also, ask around at your church–you might be able to find someone that’s very handy and would like to make a bit of extra money.

      • Stephanie says:

        I tried to use Angie’s list the other day, but it looked like I had to pay for a membership. I decided against it. Has anyone else had this issue?

  • Angela says:

    Thats great you were able to redo the bathroom and paid in cash…what a great feeling not to be in debt. very inspiring story

  • Diane says:

    Good for you! Carpet in any bathroom kind of scares me (just because it can get wet and moldy so easily). Keep up the great work!

  • stephanie says:

    Your before sounds just like our master bath! Right down to the hunter green tile accents and carpet in the bathroom/linoleum in the toliet area! Kuddos to you for paying cash!

  • How much did it end up costing you in all?

  • Hi all, there are some pictures up on my blog now. Crystal, if you see this and want them for this post, just let me know.

    Thanks everyone for your interest.

  • What a great story, Julie! While we’re diyers, we just haven’t had time to do more renovations. What I like most about your story is that you prioritized what needed to be done instead of “growing” the project.

  • Sharon says:

    We just bought our first home last week (yay!) and have had to do a bit of bathroom remodeling. Actually, we had to rip up all the carpet–it was pretty gross and the ENTIRE bathroom was carpeted, including around the toilet bowl (eewwww). We decided to go with vinyl planks that look like hardware. After shopping around, I finally found them for around $1.25 a square foot. It’s a click-clack, floating floor so it’s very easy to install on your own and because it’s vinyl, it’s waterproof (unlike laminate) and just needs to be scored and snapped to cut. Between the floor and a fresh coat of paint, it feels “new” in our old bathroom now!

  • Andrea says:

    One way to save money on a bathroom update…see if you can salvage the light fixtures. It’s amazing what a coat of primer and spray paint will do for rusty/tarnished/outdated brass fixtures. I saw a how-to in a ladies magazine, but there are plenty of articles on the web.

    In another bathroom, we replaced the fixture with a $15 brushed nickel fixture from Lowes, but re-used the glass globes from the old fixture (the were pretty and in good shape).

    Another way we saved money…the former owners of our house left an almost-full gallon of Behr kitchen/bath paint in the basement. It wasn’t my first color choice, but I took it back to Home Depot and had them shake it in their mixing machine. There was nothing wrong with the paint, so that knocked $25 off our bathroom update.

  • Sounds like an awesome (and frugal!) bathroom reno. It’s amazing what a huge different a few little changes can make.

    We recently re-faced our kitchen cupboards for just over $200. Super cheap… and made a HUGE difference! My most recent post at Freedom 48 is all about refacing our cupboards… complete with pics =)

  • Ashley M says:

    Hope hubby and I can afford to pay cash for our bathroom remodel. We are buying an OLD farmhouse and the for the bathroom walls it has half wood paneling and the bottom half is pleated sheet metal…. SO NOT KIDDING! They did that on PURPOSE! Since it is not AT ALL my taste, that is the first to go.

  • Tiffany Bell says:

    We are almost finished with our bathroom remodel after waiting for over four years to complete it until we had the cash to do so. This weekend my husband if switching out our doors and installing the trim and then it is completely finished. Our bathroom required a complete gutting. The walls had been painted with a textured finish and try though we did, we could not sand enough to make the walls look good. Also, due to mold we needed to replace the walls behind the tile in the shower/tub.
    We were determined to pay off our credit card debt and save for our remodel and so despite some strange looks when people came to our house and needed to use the bathroom to find strange looking walls and very outdated other items, we stuck to our guns. We used bleach and recaulked the shower to get us by until we could tackle the mold more permanently.
    I am so excited to have a new bathroom and even more proud that we were able to pay cash for the whole thing.

  • Katie says:

    We’re still putting the finishing touches on our bathroom remodel. We had to gut it completely because the shower was tiled and starting to sink in. The toilet was also leaking onto the floor. After discovering mold behind the shower, my husband and father-in-law decided to tear down all the other walls. The cabinets were built-in, so we weren’t able to save them. It’s a tiny bathroom too, but we were able to find a corner shower to fit. Overall, we replaced the light fixtures, mirror, walls, shower, toilet, some floor boards. I think our total was around $1200. One way that we could afford our bathroom remodel was through cashing in our credit card points. I hadn’t ever cashed in my points (from when I got it at 18-to when I was 26), so I was able to get $550 of credit. My husband’s card had $300 worth of points. So, we only technically spent around $350 of our money.

  • dona says:

    Have to share my bathroom renovation story. We had the budget, had the money, and we are DIYrs. So we demolish our bathroom…down to the the studs…had the shower stall, toilet, sink, all picked out at our local LOWES. We go to purchase it and the sales person said “So is your house a newly built one?” We said no that it is a house built in the 70s. He looks at us kinda funny and says…”Well, Mame..these shower stalls wont usually fit down a traditional sure you can get it in your bathroom?” My husband and I looked at each with jaws hanging low…never thought about the fact that the shower stall would not fit down our hallway!!! It just never occurred to us! Our only solution was to special order one that comes in two pieces or have it tiled specially (we wanted a shower stall with a seat so this tile job would have been little more difficult than just slapping tile on a wall.) So we ended up buying a special shower stall that …uhhhhmmmmmm doubled our previous estimate of a tub!! Oh, well,….live and learn!

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