Designing a Budget Friendly House


When I asked what people were curious about the house designing process a friend asked how we were handling the daily decisions of wants vs. budget. So I’ve taken my limited house designing knowledge and wrote this post for “Designing a Budget Friendly House” so you could get a peek into our minds during this process.

Fact: We could build the legitimate “house of our dreams,” a farmhouse mansion, with all the things— we would just place ourselves in a crazy amount of debt for the rest of our lives.

Plan: 59379ND Charming Craftsman Columns

Living Debt Free

After we sold our house in 2017 we entered into a debt free life. No college loans, no car payments, we’ve never had credit card debt, and no mortgage! We bought our property with the cash from our house sale and have been trying to keep putting money towards our future build. We strive to live below our means so we’re not enslaved to debt. That goes for our building loan we’ll take out sometime soon too. We want to build a house that we will enjoy, but also one we can afford and foresee the end of mortgage payments on. That way we can enjoy other fun activities with our kids and friends!

Plan: 130036LLS Exclusive Modern Farmhouse Plan with Rear Screen Porch and Fireplace

Designing a Budget Friendly House

Now let’s be clear, I’ve only ever designed this ONE house (that’s not even completed yet at that!), but we’ve done research on what will make this build budget friendly.

  1. Square footage
  2. Layout
  3. Windows
  4. Attached Garage

Square footage: How big the house is. 2000 square feet is going to cost less than 4000 square feet no matter the layout. We’ve been hovering around the 2700 square foot size for our house design. Our builder said that adding a few square feet here and there wouldn’t raise the cost as much as changing the…

Layout: Layout expenses can start growing exponentially depending on a few things. These are the reasons why we are doing a long, narrow, very simple house.

  • Foundation: How much concrete you need to pour. Concrete is expensive. It’s cheaper to build up than in and out and around.
  • Exterior Complexity: How many pop-outs and overhangs there are. This usually correlates with how much extra roof you will need.

Windows: Windows are pretty expensive, especially if you want those fancy and popular black pained windows! This is actually where we decided to put more of our budget towards. We want to enjoy as much of our view as we can right?! We have to keep reminding ourselves that the windows will make a huge difference on our design simplicity and that they mean more to us than a fancy exterior.

Attached Garage: This one was a hard one for me guys! I love love love the look of a detached garage, but the truth was in my face all over google that a detached garage can be over DOUBLE the price of an attached garage. We’re talking $30k to 50k more. Attached garages share a wall, a foundation, electrical, plumbing, and sometimes heating. A detached garage has to have all those utilities installed as a separate entity ($installation and labor$). On our property, we’d also have to move a lot more dirt and the space is a bit awkward. Thus we have an attached garage.

Plan: 62544DJ Modern 4 Bedroom Farmhouse Plan

Hired Labor vs. DIY When Building a House

We plan on hiring out/using the builder for probably everything from the excavation to the drywall finishing. After that we’ll be weighing the pros and cons of doing each piece of the finishing work ourselves! We have experience and confidence in most all of these areas and it would just cost us materials and time. 

This debated list includes:

  • Painting
  • Bathrooms
  • Light fixtures
  • Wood flooring
  • Tiling
  • Baseboards
  • Doors
  • Kitchen cabinets and sink
  • Appliances
  • Built in shelves and wardrobes 
  • Counter installation (depending on materials)
  • Deck 
Plan: 62544DJ Modern 4 Bedroom Farmhouse Plan


Budgeting for Interior Finishes

I have a good idea of what style I want the majority of spaces to be like in the house. However, I have a hard time purchasing anything yet in case those tastes continue to change! My goal at this point of the process is to hone in on what I love, find where I can get the most bang for my buck, and save up for the pieces I can’t take my eyes off of. I have a feeling that we’ll be making a lot of purchases during the biggest sale events of this year and storing big items until we’re ready. I’m excited to spend time researching what and when we’ll need to be buying and sharing it with you. Likewise, if you have any tips or sources, send me an email through my contact page!

Plan: 82068KA Modern Farmhouse Plan with Two Master Suites And Outdoor Living

Not hiring an Architect

We’re saving another few thousand dollars by designing our own house vs. using an architect. We’re using this software to draw up the plans. Our plans will then go straight to a Home Designer that can stamp of everything from the toilet’s appropriate whereabouts to the structural integrity of the house. By using the software we’re just skipping a middle guy. There’s a steep learning curve to the software and we only have a single license, which means it can only be used on one computer at a time, which means it’s currently on his work laptop! Therefore I get limited time to goof around on it, at least for now. I’ve received requests for tutorials on it, but I think the pros have done a much better job at that then we could! So check it out on their site and YouTube! 

Plan: 62728DJ Classic Farmhouse with Two-story Great Room


Designing Your Own Plan with Software Pros:

  • You can do it over a long period of time and let the design evolve with your tastes and knowledge. We bought this software as soon as my husband started his new job and we began dreaming of living out here. Next, we started learning how to use it. After that we researched cost effective building strategies and conferred with engineer friends about other technicalities like appropriate truss sizes etc.
  • It doesn’t cost you anything but time to make changes to your design. An architect, on the other hand, will charge you by the hour for those changes, some of which you might not even keep.
  • We can add and change minute details that make the house come alive to us as we further explore our style.

Designing Your Own Plan with Software Cons:

  • It takes a lot of time to learn the software. For many of us, time is money.
  • There are TOO many options for house layouts. In short, if decisions are hard for you, let someone else take the headache away and do it for you.
  • You can get caught up and design your dream house that way exceeds your budget. An architect might just have a better idea than you regarding how much house’s cost. Or, at the very least, which ones will cost more and which ones will cost less!

Buy Pre-made House Plans

Boom, done. Just look and drool over this site of modern farmhouse house plans. Use the menu bar to narrow down your needs. Warning, this is completely addicting.


These are the biggest factors that have played out in the design process of our modern farmhouse and just what I’ve picked up so far in designing a budget friendly house. We’re having so much fun, but also taking the process seriously. Can’t wait to share more when this design actually takes off out of our PC to the designer!

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Petite Modern Life

Petite Modern Life

I'm Karisa. I live just outside of Seattle with my husband Michael {Mr. G}, our two cats, Rue and Archimedes, and our new Australian Shepherd pup in crime, Moose. We are do-it-yourself enthusiasts. I'm the dreamer, he's the strategist, and teamed up we get it done. In January 2014 we purchased our first house! The many adventures of remodeling, decorating, and inevitable redecorating will be documented here. I was born and raised in the PNW & I love the PNW life. Mountains, lakes, rivers, ocean, trees, rain, and sun: every sight & season has its own flavor & tune. It inspires in me activity, coziness, and sprees of creativity. I'm rather obsessed with white paint, natural light, homemade pizza, and a glass of red wine.

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