Published on May 13, 2021

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Photography by Brittany Ambridge

Olive leather dining chairs, lacquered linen nightstands, mod cherry red pendant lamps—creating your dream house on Pinterest is a thrill…until you realize that your renovation wish list adds up to $50,000. This harsh reality is what spurred Alyssa Greve, director of digital content at Cambria, to get next-level organized when it came time to remodel her home in the Minneapolis area. “That’s really where my love for data and home and design came together,” says the mom of two. “It’s just the way my brain works.”

Once she came to terms with the fact that the project would take a few years (and understanding that not every item she wanted was kid- or wallet-friendly), Greve compiled a multitiered spreadsheet that allowed her to track the best pricing for all her favorite products, swap out anything that might be out of budget, and save investment pieces for later. Here’s how her handy reno tool has helped her save $1,000 so far (and eventually more like $5,000, she predicts).

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A peek at Greve’s spreadsheet in action. Courtesy of Alyssa Greve

Add, Add, Add—Then Subtract

Before you get realistic, go wild. That spacious freestanding tub? Those luxe kitchen island lights? Add them in. Break the spreadsheet down room by room, and collect every piece of info: the product name, retailer, URL, price, quantity, and potential discount codes. “The spreadsheet gives you a bird’s-eye view of the whole picture,” says Greve. From there you’ll be able to tell more easily where you’ve gone over budget and where you can save. Spending $300 versus $100 on a ceiling fixture might not sound like the biggest deal, but when you need three of them, the difference is almost $600 (and it all adds up). 

Prioritize Things That Might Go Out of Stock

With her renovation spread out over five years, Greve has noticed a couple patterns as time goes by: how often products she liked would go out of stock, and which manufacturers rotated new items in most often. By checking on each item on her wish list monthly, she was able to figure out which brands have a high turnover of products—and therefore if she’d need to jump on a find quickly. 

Though she is largely tackling purchasing room by room, Greve makes exceptions for time-sensitive discounts, like a checkered blue wallpaper on major sale for her dining room. “I always bring it up to our family and we talk about it: Is this something we can work into this month’s budget? Will we find a better deal down the line?” she explains.

Track Prices Monthly

Greve’s biggest game changer has been tracking prices every month (or every time there’s a sale). “I just monitor products as if I were shopping for airplane tickets,” she says. “When I see something at the same low cost three or four times, I know it’s the most ideal time to purchase.” 

Along the way, Greve has noticed a peculiar practice at some retailers: “I’d see an item for $500 one month, and then it would be marked 50 percent off the next and it would be $400,” she says. “And I’d be like, wait a minute, that’s not 50 percent off!” By keeping tabs on it all (and with a little patience), she knows when she goes to buy something, she’s getting the best possible price.

Turn It Into a Birthday Wish List

Because Greve is taking her time with renovating and furnishing her house, she’s made a tradition out of it. “It’s become a good gift guide that I send to my husband whenever holidays and birthdays come up,” she says. “He always buys me one thing off of the list.” The spreadsheet that keeps on giving.

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