17 Money-Saving Tips to Stretch a Small Bathroom Budget

blue patterned teardrop-shaped wallpaper in bath
Photo: Nicole LaMotte

Your bathroom is most likely the smallest room in your house. But that doesn't mean it'll be cheap to renovate. If you execute your vision without any compromises, there may be plumbing to reroute, tile to lay, and light fixtures to be hung. And these changes add up. Fortunately, thoughtful selections and creative use of existing space and materials can help you avoid a costly remodel. Try these clever ways to maximize style without blowing your bathroom budget.

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Reach into Your Walls

Bathroom with dark brick and marble
Annie Schlecther

Moving walls can be a real budget buster. Preserve your bank account by building within your bathroom's existing footprint, while still finding creative ways to make more space. For example, install recessed shelves between wall studs to gain vertical storage that doesn't eat up square footage. Similarly, insert a recessed medicine cabinet for built-in storage above the sink.

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Bounce Light with Mirrors

gold pattern wallpaper bathroom with wooden counter
Stacey Brandford Photography

A new window or skylight adds big dollars to a remodeling project. But you're not doomed to a dark bathroom if your budget doesn't allow for one. Try fooling the eyes with a large mirror (or group of mirrors) and bright, light paint colors, both of which will reflect light from your fixtures and brighten the room.

03 of 17

Regrout to Refresh

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If your bathroom has tile that isn't cracked or damaged but feels a little dated, replace the grout to give it an instant facelift. Although the process can be a bit laborious, this refresher saves time and money when compared to a complete overhaul. Choose the same color for a subtle update, or pick a new hue for a more dramatic change.

04 of 17

Consider Going Prefab

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Depending on the size and shape of your space, a prefabricated shower or tub surround might be a great budget saver. Tile, grout, and sealant add up quickly—especially if you have to hire someone for the installation. Plus, tile can require more maintenance over the long-term.

Modern wall panels have greatly improved the look of standard tub and shower surrounds, so this money-saving strategy doesn't have to cheapen the feel of your bathroom. However, if your shower or tub isn't a standard size, it might be harder (and more expensive) to find a prefab option.

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Use a Small Dose of Designer Tile

white subway tile bathroom with wooden vanity
Marty Baldwin

If you hate the look of a prefab shower surround, splurge on tile—but do so wisely. You don't need walls of marble to create a custom feel. Case in point: Timelessly beautiful subway tiles cost only a few dollars per square foot. If you're feeling creative, install them at an angle or in a pattern other than the standard brick alignment. For a pop of color and character, incorporate a small strip of more costly accent tiles.

06 of 17

Forgo the Fads

white and light wood bathroom with small plant
David Tsay

A surefire way to waste money on a remodel? Fill it with fads you like but aren't sure you love. A couple years down the road and that space might look and feel as dated as avocado-colored sinks. Make your investment last for years with a foundation of neutral colors and natural finishes. These classic selections are typically less expensive than their trendy counterparts, and they're more likely to stand the test of time.

07 of 17

Stick to Traditional Finishes

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Although fancy finishes and details on faucets, fixtures, and cabinet hardware may seem like a great place to pop in personality, they can take a surprising bite out of your budget. In addition to being pricier than more traditional styles, these non-standard selections can be harder to pair with existing fixtures, so you may feel compelled to purchase new coordinating pieces, too. Stick with the basics and you'll have an easier time assembling a cohesive look—and spend less of your bathroom budget doing it.

08 of 17

Repurpose Old Furniture

while paneled bathroom with gray-green cabinet
Brie Williams Photography Inc

Instead of spending big bucks on a new furniture-style vanity, achieve the look for less by transforming an actual piece of furniture. An old dresser, desk, console table, or TV stand is an opportunity to show off your personal style and incorporate some much-coveted bathroom storage. This totally manageable DIY project is an easy way to save money and upcycle a secondhand piece.

09 of 17

Give the Vanity a Facelift

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Why buy new when you could update the old? Fresh paint and new hardware will give most vanities the style infusion they need without the big price tag that comes with replacement cabinets and countertops. A new faucet can also easily alter the aesthetic without breaking the budget.

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Choose Splurges Wisely

small bathroom with black and white tiled floor
Edmund Barr

Mimic high-end design without the high-end price tag by splurging on items that give the biggest bang for your buck. For example, just a few rows of pricey designer floor tiles can deliver a big punch of pattern and character. Other bathroom items ideal for letting loose (a little!) include light fixtures and countertop materials, especially if you only have a one-sink vanity.

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Add Extra Bathroom Storage

slate blue cabinet in bathroom with brick column
Kimberly Gavin Photography

If you must replace a vanity, don't skimp on quality in a bathroom where moisture can quickly damage cheap particleboard cabinets. Choose a well-made unit that provides enclosed storage, then add more storage elsewhere with inexpensive open shelves, towel hooks, or repurposed furniture pieces. You can also maximize storage inside cabinet doors with slim wall-mount accessories for organizing toiletries and beauty products.

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Refinish the Tub

white bathroom with tiled shower and angled glass door
Laurie Black Photography

Old bathtubs are difficult and expensive to remove, and you still have to pay to replace the thing, too. But a tub that's been around for a while often shows its age, and it's not typically something a good scrubbing can eliminate. Try refinishing your bathtub to update its look and extend its life. (Professionals are usually your best bet for this project.) The tub will be ready to use in a day or two, which is much less time than a bathroom gut job would take.

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Add Interest with Wallpaper

bathroom with dramatic wallpaper pattern
Nicole LaMotte

Floor-to-ceiling tile gives a bathroom a luxurious look, and it comes with a sizable price tag to match. Save money without sacrificing style by covering your bathroom walls with patterned wallpaper. Avoid peeling and other problems by choosing a water-resistant paper made especially for a bathroom.

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Shower with Style

lime green bathroom with colorful shower curtain
David Tsay

If your bathroom budget can't support a custom glass shower door—or you're simply hoping to hide an old shower surround—shower curtains are your saving grace. You'll find them in a plethora of designs that can match any style or budget. For less than $100, you can buy a curtain that perfectly blends with your room or stands out as the star of your bathroom design.

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Replace your Ventilation

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Think of your bathroom as an investment worth protecting, which may mean replacing inefficient and insufficient vent fans. Proper ventilation may be less visually impactful than, say, painting the walls, but it preserves health and safety by preventing condensation that makes floors slippery and deterring the growth of mold and mildew. Circulating the air also saves wallpaper, wood, and other materials from water damage. Bonus: You'll find that newer vents are often quieter, better functioning, and less obtrusive than outdated fans.

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Work with Existing Plumbing

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Relocating plumbing is simply not an option on a tight budget. But you don't have to leave your primary water feature as-is either. Upgrading the showerhead to one with multiple spray settings can reinvigorate the space without the cost of new plumbing. For a spa-like experience, replace a common wall-mount showerhead with an extended shower arm that allows a rainfall-style showerhead to hang overhead. Look for low-flow, aerated, and other water-saving models that will reduce your water bill.

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Choose the Right Paint

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The right paint can save you money down the road. A semi-gloss finish will stand up to condensation and wiping down, which will help prevent wear and peeling. Some brands even produce bathroom-specific paint designed to battle mold and mildew. As with any room in a remodel, it pays to take the time to apply test swatches and make sure you love the color before painting the space.

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