Saving money is often top of mind when it comes to home improvements, whether you’re planning a home addition, remodeling your kitchen, or swapping out your bathroom fixtures.

As you plan your project, here are seven time-tested tips that may help you save both time and money:

1. Make hiring the right contractor your first priority. Selecting your contractor will be the most important decision you will make. The wrong contractor can cost you money and time, and you could end up with an inferior finished product.

Begin by building a large pool of candidates using referrals from friends and relatives. Narrow the list by asking candidates for financial references, a list of previous clients, a list of their subcontractors and how long have they worked with them, and examples of their most recent projects. Ensure they regularly take on projects like yours.

Pick three or four for estimates and check the contractors’ records with the Better Business Bureau and your state’s licensing agency.

TIP: You may not want to hire the cheapest bidder—you often get what you pay for. Make sure your finalist is someone you like and someone who understands what you want. After all, you will be working with him or her daily for months to come.

2. Make all of your decisions before the work begins. Work through your home remodeling project with a professional before materials are ordered or the first nail is driven. Decide exactly where you want everything. Pick out your wood, paint, tile, and trim in advance so they can be ordered in a timely fashion and in adequate quantities. Every change that you make when the project is under way can add to your costs.

3. Save on your product choices. One important way to save money on a project is to cut the cost of your materials. Shop around to determine whether you can get the look you want using less expensive products, and compare prices carefully before you make any final decisions. Work closely with your contractor, as he or she might be able to get what you need at a significant savings. It’s possible that all lumber, bricks, shingles, flooring, dry wall, and other items can be ordered in advance and in bulk, saving time and money.

4. Consider savings over the long term. Spending a little more now on upgraded features or materials, such as prefinished siding or energy-efficient windows, can save you much more over the long term than you spend at the outset. If you are planning to sell your home in a few years, know that quality materials can also add to the resale value of your home.

5. Don’t move the plumbing. After you get an estimate from your plumber, you may have second thoughts about moving the kitchen sink 5 feet to the left. Plumbing work is expensive on its own, and moving the plumbing can increase the cost of a project. See if you can achieve your remodeling goal by leaving the existing pipes and outlets in place and adding new fixtures that make the room look new.

6. Be smart about sweat equity. Unless you have the energy and experience to do serious construction work, leave it to the pros. Put your sledges and muscles to work on demolition and clean up, and let the pros handle the rest. Flooring, countertops, and cabinets can be expensive to fix if they’re installed incorrectly.

7. Be creative. There are often multiple solutions to accomplish a design objective, though some are more expensive than others. For example, it’s much cheaper to add space to a room by borrowing it from a linen closet than by expanding the exterior of your home.
As soon as you have your financing together, create a timeline, and start the process. The sooner you get under way, the sooner you can enjoy your beautiful new living space.

Steve Cook is executive vice president of Reecon Advisors and covers government and industry news for the Reecon Advisory Report. He is a member of the National Press Club, the Public Relations Society of America, and the National Association of Real Estate Editors, where he served as second vice president. Twice he has been named one of the 100 most influential people in real estate. In addition to serving as managing editor of the Report, Cook provides public relations consulting services to real estate companies, financial services companies, and trade associations, including some of the leading companies in online residential real estate.