Before buying our fixer-upper, we created an elaborate spreadsheet with all of our project costs. We designed it with automated calculations to track our renovation expenses and estimate the future "sweat equity" we'd have after we had finished. These days, we open it up not so much to track costs but to get a good laugh at how naive we were about the real costs of renovation.
He says: "Budgets are a good starting point."
She says: "Budgets are sacred."
Survival tip: Do your research ahead of time and be as realistic as possible. Then forget the conventional 10 to 20 percent overrun—add 50 percent. Write out a plan, start a spreadsheet, and keep on keeping track. You'll want to know where the money went.