10 Smart Home Upgrades Starting Under $100

If you’re receiving a refund from the IRS, here are some good ways to invest it in sprucing up your home.


This post comes from Iris Price of partner site ImprovementCenter.com.

No one likes paying taxes, but if you overpaid the IRS last year and you are owed a tax refund, home improvements are a smart way to invest your windfall.

Even if you get less than $100 back, you can still do some sprucing up, rearranging and reorganizing to make your home feel fresh. Whether you’re planning to live in your home for decades or are thinking about selling it this year, here are some suggestions for what your tax refund dollars can help you buy in home improvements. Remember, if you need help with installation, that may add to your cost.

Home improvements based on what you get back from the IRS

Less than $100:

  • Paint: Invest in a fresh coat of neutral-color paint for a dingy or unusually colored room, especially if you are planning to list your home. If you know you’ll be staying put for a few years, indulge in painting an accent wall or an entire room in a favorite trending paint color. New paint can instantly improve the appearance of a room, either for buyers or yourself. A gallon of matte finish interior latex paint runs about $24 per gallon and up, plus the cost of rollers, brushes, drop cloths and other painting equipment you might need.
  • New kitchen cabinet hardware: New handles or pulls cost less than $2 each and up. A small kitchen may have as many as 25 doors and drawer fronts, and large kitchens can have many more, but it’s a relatively inexpensive way to revive tired cabinet doors.
  • Storage containers: Drooling over the clever organizing systems at The Container Store when you have less than a C-note to spend can only frustrate you. Get the most bang for your buck on simple but effective storage solutions at a dollar store. Even discount stores like Target and Wal-Mart carry enough of an assortment of bins and baskets to corral all the little things that have been making it hard to find what you need on your shelves and in your cabinets, closets and drawers.

Between $100 and $500:

  • Bath and kitchen upgrades: Replacing old, lime-encrusted faucets with some shiny new ones can breathe life into a tired bathroom or kitchen. Touchless bathroom faucets run about $250 and up at The Home Depot. A touchless Moen kitchen faucet from Lowe’s is less than $400. You can buy a single vanity set for your bathroom from around $270 to $500. Have everything but the kitchen sink? Floor & Decor offers an 18-by-30 inch travertine farmhouse sink for $399. They also carry travertine flooring for as low as $1.99 per square-foot tile.
  • Ready-made closet organization system: Custom closet systems can be costly, but some ready-made organization systems like the Simplicity 10-feet Closet Organizer or an 8-feet Martha Stewart Living closet kit are less than $500.
  • Professional home organizer: The going rate for a professional home organization expert is around $100 an hour. A five-hour session generally consists of decluttering and reorganizing a single area of the home, such as a kitchen and pantry, a bedroom, or a home office. If you are planning to sell your home, this might be an essential part of making it ready to stage for buyers. If you plan to stay in your home and make additional home improvements but don’t know where to start digging out from under months’ worth of accumulated stuff, having the help of a professional can be an invaluable expenditure.

Between $500 and $1,000:

  • Quiet dishwasher: Few things in your kitchen can be as consistently disturbing as a noisy dishwasher interrupting your evening activities. If your tax refund home improvement is nothing more than a quiet dishwasher, it can boost the quality of your home life immeasurably. KitchenAid makes a 46-decibel dishwasher that is one of the quietest you can find, even among more expensive brands.
  • Electric radiant heat bathroom floor: If you have a small bathroom and want a radiant-heated floor, choose a less expensive stone or ceramic tile flooring to keep costs down. A kit that includes the heating membrane, cables and programmable thermostat to heat 60 square feet of flooring runs $723 at The Home Depot.
  • Built-in fire pit: You may not need one, but if you enjoy your patio in the evening and into the cooler months, you’ll appreciate a gas or wood-burning fire pit, either of which can be built for less than $1,000. Be sure to first check local codes, permitting and homeowner’s insurance implications.
  • If you are lucky enough to get $1,000 or more in a tax refund, home improvements for less than $2,000 that offer good return on investment include a small (250-square-foot) wood deck, a steel entry door or a garage door replacement. As long as you don’t need that refund to pay existing bills, spending it on upgrades for your home that you’ve needed or wanted all year can be a rewarding investment.
Stacy Johnson

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