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There are many rationales when it comes to spending money on renovations: "We're redoing the counters, we might as well do the entire kitchen"; "This project will definitely increase the value of our home"; "Good quality comes at a high price."

While this is in some cases true, without a solid plan and a realistic budget you'll end up paying more than you need or expect to. If you plan to tackle a few home projects this summer here are some ways to control your renovation spending plan.

What do I already have?

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Before you buy anything new, de-clutter and evaluate what you already have. Starting fresh and creating a list of needs and wants is most effective in a space that's been cleared. The other bonus is you'll find a few items to sell, money which can be put toward your updates.

Rearranging items in your space can also provide a new look. I occasionally swap pieces with my sister and mom to bring something new - and free - into my space. Before you start physically moving items around, subscribe to free tools like Arrange-a-room or Mark on Call for a virtual makeover that lets you play around with furniture, flooring options, and paint colours.

What are my priorities?

Your first priority should be to add value to your property. The Appraisal Institute of Canada has an interactive guide that helps you determine the return on investment for a number of home improvements. On HGTV's suggested renovation list the number one upgrade is painting and as long as you select a "tasteful, current, neutral" colour the payback from your investment can be as much as 300 per cent. Sherwin-Williams allows you to upload a photo of your interior or exterior space and sample colours to better visualize the new look of your space with your current furniture and flooring.

If you're not looking to do any major renovations, but rather freshen up your space for personal enjoyment, then sites like Apartment Therapy, Houzz, and Design Sponge are full of inexpensive decor ideas and mini DIY projects. Pinterest.com is also full of ideas on using your current pieces to create something new, like turning a coffee table into an ottoman, reupholstering a chair with fresh fabric, or updating your current bedside table with a Pottery Barn inspired mirrored look. If you're familiar with expensive pieces, like the items found at high-end stores, then you can snag less expensive knock-offs when you see them at discount stores or sites.

What is my budget?

Renovations can take longer than expected and cost more than originally planned, which is why factoring surprise expenses into your budget is a good idea. An estimation app like Handy Man DIY can help you figure out roughly how much paint, wallpaper, or tiles you will need to buy for your project. If it's a major expense then consider setting up a sub-savings "home" account and automatically transferring a percentage of your income into it every month.

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I funnel 5 per cent of my monthly income into our home account. The money is currently earmarked for a full interior painting (a tasteful, current, and neutral colour, of course) this fall and a new couch. Even if you don't have a project planned, putting a small amount aside every month saves you from putting the perfect find on your credit card and puts you in a more comfortable spot when you're ready to start a future renovation.

Updates to your space can be cost-effective and chic. Consider what you have, what you can spend, and take advantage of all of the resources available. Spend time planning, researching, and searching for the special pieces at sale prices and invest in projects that increase the value and the enjoyment of your space.

Angela Self is one of the founders of the Smart Cookies money group. Read her weekly column on managing debt and saving money at the Globe's personal finance site.

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