4 Tips that allowed me to save thousands on our office makeover (and get more stuff!)

As part of our recent lease renewal, we'd just had our offices painted, and got beautiful new carpeting, kitchen flooring, lighting, and ceiling tiles.

Giving our tired conference room a much-needed new look was the next logical step, so I got the pleasure. While that may seem like an easy task, we have a relatively small conference room, but needed comfortable seating at a table for 14 people.

With a budget of $20,000, I thought it would be a slam dunk. That quickly changed when my first quote was for $17,000 for a mix of ready-made tables configured to make a space big enough to fit 14 chairs comfortably. Thinking that it couldn't possibly cost that much, my second quote was for $15,000. Seriously?

I'll never forget the day I shared my shock and frustration during a casual conversation with with our building's security guard, who just happens to know about everything that goes on in our building. He told me that the building owner had just had a much bigger conference room table custom-built at an incredibly affordable price. He took me upstairs to show it to me and suggested that ask the building manager about it.

Within a week of being introduced to the woman who designed and priced that conference room table, I had a custom design for ours that was the perfect solution - for $7,500... and I had hundreds of options of colors, patterns, and finishes to choose from. Did I mention that the quote also included a custom side table with a 6-foot expanse for food and beverage service, very generous cabinet storage space, and room for a beverage refrigerator!

Imagine my excitement when I realized that I could use the savings to make even more improvements to our office space. That's when I challenged myself to put on my Retirement Diva hat and have some fun using the tips I recommend as part of the Retirement Diva model:

1. Use your network. If I hadn't shared my frustration at the beginning of the project with our security guard, it never would've occurred to me to consider a custom-made table because I was sure it would be several times more expensive than anything pre-made. It was our building manager who connected me with the person that provided the perfect solution and who suggested the side table.

2. The first solution isn't always the best solution. Most of us know the value of getting more than one price quote when considering a major purchase, but it's also important to consider the possibility that there may be totally different solutions available. Be open-minded and creative, and find vendors who share those traits. Sometimes this can be a lengthy and challenging process, but it's well worth it... and you have the added satisfaction of knowing that you did your due diligence before making a decision.

3. Do your research. Thanks to the internet, there's really no excuse for not doing as much research as you need to in order to explore the options and make the best choices. I knew nothing about laminates, bringing power and internet access to a conference room table by burying the wiring in the concrete flooring and up through the hollow pedestals of the custom conference room table, or how to choose a custom kitchen counter top before I started this project - but I do now.

4. Keep track of your expenses. I created a simple Excel spreadsheet that consisted of rows for each expense item and columns for my initial estimate of the cost, the actual amount spent, and the variance (the difference between the actual and estimated costs, expressed as a %).

Updating the budget after every expenditure helped in several ways. The most obvious is that it allowed me (and my CEO) to know at any time, how much had been spent and how much was left. It immediately let me know that there was more money to spend, and helped me prioritize options on items to add. And of course, it helped me to make sure that I didn't unknowingly exceed the budget, which would not have been a good look!

So now for the big reveal:



Custom conference room table for 14, with power and internet access built-in

16 Conference room chairs - assembled

Hidden wiring for electrical, phone, and internet access

Custom conference room side table for food service and space for beverage refrigerator

Beverage refrigerator

Sofa, 2 chairs and 2 end tables for common area

Workstation in common area for team member

Wire storage shelves for kitchen and supply room to replace old wooden shelving

Stainless steel refrigerator/freezer

Stainless steel dishwasher

Kitchen counter top (faux-marble laminate)

Kitchen sink and faucet

Kitchen cabinets painted

Custom framing for donated handmade art pieces

BOTTOM LINE: $16,953