Ultimate guide to constructing on a budget

Do not bite off more than you can chew. An ambitious project can ruin you financially and take ages to complete. PHOTOS BY RACHEL MABALA

What you need to know:

  • Go for affordable areas
  • Find ways to save
  • Do it yourself
  • Scale down

Building on a budget requires commitment, conviction and discipline. Although it is a challenging task, it is not impossible; you will need creativity, flexibility and track-full of tips and tricks for the fruition of your dream home.

Go for affordable areas
You dream of a lakeside home but your reality is you cannot afford it. To avoid straining yourself or acquiring debts, look around for an affordable piece of land for building the home. Choose a place that already has power and water lines and passable roads because it costs more to prepare the land for building if it does not have utilities. Lydia Kyankya Gwina is a homeowner who built her home on a shoestring budget. Her earlier dream was to buy and build in either Ntinda or Naguru suburbs but the cost of land there was way beyond her budget. So she gave up that dream and in 2001, after scrimping and saving for years, she was able to buy a 120x100ft plot in Bulindo near Kira for Shs3m which she paid off in three installments.

Find ways to save
You cannot budget for what you do not have. Knowing exactly the amount of money you have to work with helps you plan out the building project and stay on track with the spending. So the first step is to start saving for your home. Calculate the amount of cash you have available for building the house. Determine how much you plan to finance. Reduce your current living expenses as much as possible. Consider moving to a cheaper home, cutting out extras and purchasing only the necessities. This could free up a little extra money toward your home. When Gwina made up her mind to build a home, she stopped renting and moved in back with her parents thereby saving the monthly rent of Shs80,000. She also chose to walk to work every day and saved Shs50,000.

Scale down
Also consider scaling back on the size of the home to save money on building costs. Boaz Kukundakwe, an architect with Abucus Technologies recommends that while it is good to save on most things, more should be invested in things that cannot be updated which stinting on can result in challenges. “Endeavor to get a quality foundation, electrical wiring, plumbing, roofing and windows because these items are more difficult to update,” he explains. He tips homeowners to move around looking for the cheapest not necessarily poor materials. “In Uganda, it is about knowing where to get what. It is possible to find one item priced differently depending on where you are shopping. Also buy during discount seasons and stock clearance sales, these are usually during the festive season to the end of the year,” Kukundakwe adds.

Do it yourself
While you cannot the major construction work yourself, there are a few things that you can do to save you money. For instance you can paint, install tile floors, landscape and clean up after the work is done.

Buy in bulk and buy now
Buying building materials wholesale can help shave off a considerable amount of money from your budget, without forcing you to make any sacrifices in quality. So list down all the material you will need, estimate the cost of each to determine the amount of timber, concrete and other items needed to complete the foundation, frame and roof. “It is easier to bargain when one is buying in bulk and they know the exact amount they need. Dealers take you more seriously then,” Amber Makula a sales executive at ABC Tiles observes.
Angala Roy, a sales executive at Hardware World advises those building to buy when and where you are offered the cheapest prices. “Due to many factors like inflation, market prices rarely go lower with time so if you find a good deal, do not overlook it hoping to buy next year or when you need the item. Buy now and store it for later,” he explains.

Build in phases
Kyankya says she built her house in phases. “The first one was the foundation. I started by buying 5,000 bricks. Each went for Shs50. I bought 15 bags of cement for the foundation. My plan was to build a two bedroom house but I later changed my mind and added another bedroom which required an extra 2,000 bricks. This cost me Shs250,000 in labour. I took a break and saved more money. The labour up to the beam level cost Shs300,000 and 3,000 brick and about 10 bags of cement,” she explains.

Keep the design simple
Aim for functional and affordable. Keep your plan as simple as possible. One the commonest way to save on design is doing an open plan floor. Find a good architect, who can help you find the best ways to plan and save.

Get the right builder
Your project will be saved or failed by the kind of person you contract to work on it. The right builder can be one of the most important decisions that you make when building. Interview many until you get someone who shares your vision. They should be honest about costs, work schedules and flexible for when there is no money and a break is necessary.

Build it one brick at a time. One level at a time, stop when there is no cash-flow. And eventually you will see your dream come true.

As you get deeper into the project, unexpected needs or costs may arise that could cause you to steer away from your original plan. Don’t. This is why the initial planning and preparation is essential, and where the contingency comes into play. If you calculated and confirmed your costs the right way, then your contingency should cover any extra cost.
However, if it doesn’t, then it’s time to re-evaluate your plan. Did you miss a step? Were there materials you didn’t account for? Are you able to change the budget at this point after it’s been agreed upon? These are all questions that you’ll want to ask yourself, before assessing the risks of going off scope.

First, understand that there are differences between needs and wants. If your construction project will suffer as a result of not getting something you need, then go back and revise your plan and budget.
If it’s something you would love to have that would make your project more aesthetically pleasing, for example, scrap it. You don’t need it. So it’s not worth going off scope.
Keep in mind that anything worth building is worth planning well. By taking the time to put together the right plan, you’ll be much more likely to build smarter, which will ultimately help keep your project on scope and on budget.
[email protected]


You're all set to enjoy unlimited Prime content.