Do you have a wish list of home-improvement projects? Have you thought about what you’ll be able to afford to do this year and how much it will cost?

Over at my house, I’ve been making my list of home improvements and checking it twice. As we end the year, I thought I’d share a little bit about how I plan for upcoming home-improvement projects and offer a few suggestions on budgeting for these outsized expenses.

Next year, I’d really like to replace our carpet. When we bought this carpet, some twelve years ago, we never expected to keep it this long. It wasn’t expensive (we were out of money after building our home addition), and, sure enough, after about seven years it started to fray, so you can imagine what it looks like now.

I’ve also thought about repainting a few rooms that have big cracks, and redecorating my sons’ bathroom. Finally, I’d really like to put in a proper patio.

These are four projects that can be as big or small as you make them, so figuring out how much money you have available for home-improvement projects in the coming year is an important next step. It’s a process my husband calls “What’s the budget?”

I actually hate when he asks me this question, because it forces me to really think about what I want (everything!) and what I can afford to spend (not as much as I’d like!). And that’s the reality for most of us: we always could do more, but we’ll be happy with a little less.

Coming off several tough years in the economy, you might not have the financial resources to pull off even one home-improvement job in 2011—and that’s okay. I’ve put off my carpet project for about four years. With unemployment as high as it is, and a lot of economic uncertainty, you don’t want to go into debt for something that you can live without. That’s especially true if you wind up with a needed or necessary repair, like replacing a hot-water tank or fixing a leaky roof in the middle of winter.

Let’s pick a number. Say you have $5,000 to spend on home-improvement projects this year. And let’s say you have five projects on your list. If you prioritize your list and work your way from the top down, you might only have enough cash to accomplish one or two of your top projects.

At that point, you can go ahead and do those projects, or you can save up more money through the course of the year and do more. Or you can choose to complete three of the less-expensive projects and save a more expensive project for another year.

I can’t tell you which way to go, but keep this in mind: if you are planning on selling your home in 2011, the home-improvement projects you choose to complete should all relate to the salability of the property.

In other words, if the home-improvement project you choose won’t increase the value of the house or make it easier to sell, you should table that project and choose another.

As for me, I’ll let you know at the end of 2011 which home-improvement projects I was able to get done.

Ilyce R. Glink is the author of several books, including 100 Questions Every First-Time Home Buyer Should Ask and Buy, Close, Move In!. She blogs about money and real estate at and at the Home Equity blog for CBS MoneyWatch.