As a first-time home-owner who has finally got possession of my flat — after waiting 10 years — I have some practical tips on how not to go overboard (or do so semi-cautiously) when doing up your home on a budget. Here are some of my very personal learnings:
Taking possession of the flat
Builders offer the option of a raw flat or a finished one. What should you go for? Here are some points to consider. In a finished flat, you know what you’re getting — the doors, sanitary fittings, and whatever else your builder has promised for the cost of the flat. In a raw flat, you get a bare shell, which you get to decorate as you like. You may get a discount on possession, but be aware that you may well exceed it once you decide to make your vision a reality. But, hey, if you are good at balancing expenses, go ahead; it’s your dream home after all. But, for the rest of us who aren’t, think twice, count to 20, and write down the pros and cons before coming to a decision.
Where do you start?
Most brands, contractors or carpenters offer a package deal for the kitchen and wardrobes, plus grill doors and bathroom cabinets. Again, decide your budget. This will prove helpful when you’re tempted to splash on a drool-worthy kitchen from a brand that’s high on your wish-list. When you’ve crash-landed back on firm ground, call the prospective bidders and get a quote from them for your kitchen, wardrobes, etc. Also, figure out whether a steel kitchen floats your boat, if MDF is fine and particleboard is on the outs. Look up kitchen backsplashes, whether you prefer a granite or marble surface, etc. And if a contractor is quoting less, make sure they’re not compromising on the quality of the material. There are also lower categories for those planning to rent out their flat. Finally, take a deep breath, try to marry your budget with your vision, and sign on the dotted line. Remember, it’s not the end of the world…really, it isn’t…yes, seriously!
If a contractor says they’ll take 10 days to deliver your kitchen and wardrobes, nod sagely but make a mental note that they won’t. Unless you’re very lucky, add a month to the timeline. And if you’re supremely unlucky, add six months! Go and check the progress physically; don’t sit back and admire images sent on WhatsApp as they could be fake (yes, it can happen). Get friendly with a neighbour, preferably one who is staying there already and can visit your flat occasionally, join the residents’ group online and stay updated.
This is the most fun you’re going to have, in a while! If, like me, you’ve been waiting a decade to upgrade your existing furniture so that it goes with your new home, this is your chance to splurge. But, hand on heart, proceed with care…make a list of priorities. Do you need beds in all the bedrooms and, do you really need all of them now? How much storage do you need? Pretty much everything comes with storage now — sofas, beds, poufs (or your humble ‘modhas’) — but it costs more. Are you fine with engineered wood, which costs less or do you prefer solid wood like sheesham? Hydraulic beds push up the cost by about Rs 10k. Do you need a headboard and one with storage? Every yes pushes up the cost by a few grand. And, should you shop online or in flea markets? Try either, but if you’re shopping online, wait for the discounts…especially on weekends and around festivals. And before you click to order, save it in your wishlist for a few days or weeks, go back and see if it inspires the same love and then seal the deal.
The surprise expenses
Curtains…they’re expensive. Along with curtain rods, they may cost as much as your wardrobes or more, depending on how much you indulge. And don’t forget the gas stove (do you need a built-in?), the chimney (auto-clean or not?), you get the drift. Coming to the bathroom, first off, do you need to shut out the area below the sink, where you can stock your cleaning material? Of course, you do…and do you want marble under the sink to cover the unseemly portion visible around the sink? Well, yeah! Add to that, your regular, shower racks, towel racks, hooks to hold clothes, plus toilet paper holders (one with space to keep a mobile phone or without?).
Should you take a personal loan?
First off, write down all your expenses. Keep a folder / document / diary handy. And if it looks like your credit card EMIs are going to be difficult to track, it may make sense to take a personal loan instead. But, before you do that, consult someone you trust or an expert for guidance.
All this is sure to keep you busy, so we’ll leave you to get started. Remember, this is just the beginning!