These days, cheap kitchen cabinets do not always refer to shoddy quality. In fact, some great options are easy on the pocketbook but as strong and good-looking as their more expensive counterparts.

Thanks to big-box stores, you can have the latest in designer kitchen cabinets, without the designer price. Knockdown cabinets -- stock cabinets shipped flat and sometimes unfinished -- are available at a fraction of the cost of custom cabinetry in similar designs and styles.

Another way to save money on kitchen cabinets is to get creative with your kitchen design. You don't have to line the walls in your kitchen with cabinetry. In fact, some homeowners forgo cabinetry altogether. If you want a look for less, you'll love these ideas:

  • Incorporate wire shelving and stainless-steel tables from kitchen supply stores for an of-the-moment industrial look.
  • Use "real" furniture in your kitchen. Antique armoires and dressers make great storage options for the kitchen and have a timeless European feel.
  • Keep your lower kitchen cabinets but substitute shelves for all upper cabinetry. Use fancy wood brackets for a custom look, or choose metal brackets for a modern vibe.
  • Explore opportunities to reuse or repurpose cabinets salvaged from other projects. Check closely to ensure the construction of the cabinets is worthy of salvage, and have a plan for handling changes to hardware or finishes.
  • If cheap is appealing but the cost of replacing your kitchen cabinets is not, consider replacing only the cabinet doors. Another option: removing the doors on upper cabinets for an open, airy look.

Cheap Kitchen Cabinets: Ways to Save

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If you are an experienced DIYer, you can save even more money by installing the cabinets yourself. Many manufacturers offer websites and customer service representatives who can help you with the design specifications and walk you through the process of installation. Another pro for cheap kitchen cabinets is the fact that you can personalize them with distinctive finishes and specialty hardware.

Cheap Kitchen Cabinets: Challenges

Sometimes cheap really does translate to substandard construction. Watch out for joints that are not glued tightly together, corners and angles that are not perpendicular, and irregular finishes. Research the construction techniques and qualities of well-designed cabinetry before you purchase. Know exactly what to expect from your purchase.

If you have the cabinets sent directly to your home, inspect the package as soon as it arrives to make sure there is no water damage or nicks in the finishes.

Make sure you understand the time and skill it will take to assemble and install cabinets if you do it yourself. Know the tools you'll need and the level of experience required to construct cabinets of the quality you desire.

Editor's Tip: Splurge on cabinetry that plays prominently in the room, then match it with cheaper kitchen cabinet options in areas not as visible. Mixing and matching finishes is a way to disguise the use of different cabinetry materials and grades. Unfitted cabinetry, or mixed styles, is a common feature in many kitchen design styles.

Investigate the basics of cabinetry styles, shapes, features, and finishes before you invest.

Use open shelves instead of upper cabinets. Here's how.

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