Ask Casey – Home Renovation Costs, Blogging as a Business, & More


I get lots of design questions from you guys, but I actually get questions about a lot of other things happening in my life, like marriage, blogging, motherhood, fashion…really every single category! So, I tackle your inquiries in my “Ask Casey” blog post series answering your questions every month or so.

Ask Casey

My go-to fall outfits

If you want to check out previous “Ask Casey” posts, you’ll find them all right here.

The Google form at the bottom of the post has helped me keep everything organized so I can slowly make my way through your inquiries.  So, if you have another question today, be sure to submit it down below.

Our Office Built-Ins

Our new temporary home office setup
How do you like the built-ins that you did in your office? Anything you would do differently if you had to do it again? Was it worth it to DIY vs hiring it out as you did for the built-ins for Rory’s room?

Back in 2020, while I was seven months pregnant with Rory, we spent about 6-8 weekends building our office built-ins. This was back before kids and we had time to do large projects like that during our downtime. I absolutely adore the built-ins and I honestly don’t know what else we could have possibly put in that spot that would have been better. I love the color (Valspar, “Chimney Smoke”), the design, and the storage and I truly wouldn’t change a thing. You can find multiple posts about building these right here.

But is it a project that I want to tackle again? Right now, probably not. But in five more years, when the kids are older, I could see us doing a project like this again. It was just so many work hours – 54 to be exact. We learned so much and I think it would take less time and look even better if we did it again. You just have to be ready to devote the hours to it!

Our temporary home office setup

As for the cost, our DIY version cost $1,500 (you can see the full budget breakdown here) and if we hired it out it would have been $6,000. Note that this was pre-pandemic and lumber prices have skyrocketed since then, which means both numbers would likely be higher!

Home Renovation Costs

Our new main bathroom
Our Main Bathroom Reveal
I know you receive funds through sponsors on your blog, but I’m wondering how you afford the costs of home renovations? I’m going through the long process of getting the equity on my home to complete some renovations and repairs. I try to save extra money for these repairs too, but it’s just so expensive!

Home renovation costs, especially these days, are high! I try to be transparent about the numbers of every large renovation we do because I think people don’t really understand how much things cost! You watch HGTV and think that you can gut and fully renovate your kitchen for $10,000 and that’s just not the case. Quality labor is expensive and materials are higher than ever. I think going into any savings goal with a realistic number in mind is crucial.

Home renovation costs and budget
Our Backyard Renovation

However, I still think it is worth it to invest in your home. We specifically purchased a home under our budget, that needed a lot of work, so we could renovate it, increase its value, and live in a home that is custom to our style and tastes.

But, here’s the big thing – don’t compare yourself to our situation. Improving our home, and sharing the process online, is my business. I do all of these projects, big and small, because it’s my job! We’ve renovated this home quickly because of that. If I didn’t have this business, it would take a heck of a lot longer.

the real costs of home renovations

To answer the question about how we pay for it, we save and put most of our extra dollars back into the house. And, as this reader mentioned, I work with a lot of brands for each project and that helps to offset the costs. So again, don’t compare yourself to our fast-paced renovating situation.

At the beginning of the year, we discuss what large projects we have on tap and we work towards those savings goals. This fall, we had quite the curveball thrown at us with our basement flood, and now it’s a complete gut job that is 10 times the cost we planned. Luckily, we had insurance and savings that we can use to improve the space. If we didn’t, we would have just waited and kept it a construction site until we could afford to renovate it.

Here are some blog posts about home renovation costs that could be helpful.

Our Living Room Sofa

Living room couch
Do you still like your Crate and Barrel sofa?

Finn and I had a blast picking out this sofa. It was the first big purchase for our house and we visited Crate and Barrel (here’s the video) and sat on every single couch to find this one. Yes, I do really like it still. It’s the perfect size and it’s incredibly comfortable.

Ellis and Rory playing

However, it has been looking a tad dingy lately. If I had a do-over, I might go with a slightly darker color. We went with the fabric “Winward Sand.” I would probably stay in the cream family, but with a darker tone. When I purchased it, we didn’t have any kids. Now, it has seen spit-up, milk, pee, and more. I swear by this fabric cleaner and also use this de-fuzzer to keep the pills away. I got it professionally cleaned once and will likely do that again after our basement renovation is finished.

Napping

Do I ever nap?
Do you nap?

This question cracks me up because I get it literally every.single.time I do a question box on Instagram and I have no idea why people are so curious! I do LOVE a good nap, but I don’t nap very often. Maybe once a month? I’m someone who enjoys being productive and sometimes I can’t justify spending a few hours napping when there are things to be done. But, it’s also because I get a lot of sleep at night. I’m someone who needs eight to nine hours of sleep, which often means I’m in bed no later than 9 pm. If I had a night without a lot of sleep, I would likely want to nap the next day!

Blogging & Money

New DIY Playbook website
I don’t really understand how a blog makes money. Is this your real job?

Whenever I tell someone what I do for a living, I think they automatically assume it’s a side hobby or passion project. Back in 2013, it definitely was just that. Now, I wouldn’t spend time working and being away from my family if it wasn’t worth it financially. Daycare is expensive! I do this job because I love it, but also because I get paid much more than I did in my former career in television. That’s why I started blogging full-time in 2018. And now, I even have one employee. (Hi, Lindsey!)

Sharing more about the business of blogging

I don’t say this to boast, but instead, to explain that being a content creator/influencer/blogger (whatever title you want to use) is an actual career that a lot of people – mainly women – have. So many of the women you follow are smart and savvy business owners who wear many hats – photographer, videographer, writer, marketer, negotiator, and more. And I always want to answer that question by asking, “Would you ask a man if his blog was a real job?” I doubt it. But if it’s created by a woman, then it’s not taken as seriously. This isn’t some silly and cushy job that people should look down on. (However, I do also realize that I’m not saving any lives over here!) Advertisers spend more money on influencer marketing than they do on traditional media, i.e. TV, radio, and newspapers. And it’s only growing, with the influencer marketing industry reaching $16.4 billion in 2022. So yes, it’s a real job!

To answer the question, The DIY Playbook makes money in a number of ways. First, through ads right here on the website. Affiliate links are another source of income. (For example, if I share a sweater I’m wearing and you buy it too, then I get commission.) Sponsored content with brands is another revenue source. Lastly, brands hire me to create content specifically for their website or social channels that you will never see here on the blog. That content may include videos, photos, or written articles. You can read more in-depth about the topic of blogging as a business in this blog post.

Is this a job that I want to do forever? I’m not sure. However, I’m definitely enjoying it now and I’m very proud of the business I’ve built from the ground up for the past decade!

Submit Your Questions!

Have a question for me? Submit it using the form below.

Casey


The Year of Casey

Hey there!

I’m Casey Finn, the voice behind The DIY Playbook. I’m married to Finn & mom to Rory and Ellis. Together we’re creating our dream home in Chicago, one DIY project at a time.