Where to spend and save on a new bathroom - how to make your budget go further

Planning a new bathroom? Know what things are worth spending on and where to save with our handy guide

bathroom with shower in black finish
(Image credit: Future PLC)

If you want to transform your bathroom from tired and faded to sparkling and new, you're probably wondering where to spend and where to save - and if saving in any areas is even possible.  

There's no denying that bathroom renovation ideas are costly, but if you're committed to upgrading, you want to end up with a fabulous, long-lasting and durable bathroom that will serve the house well for years to come. Fortunately, you can do this without breaking the bank.

'When looking to renovate your bathroom on a budget, there are several items where investing in them can make your whole bathroom look and feel more expensive,' says Lee Reed, Head of Design, Easy Bathrooms. 'Picking these items wisely means you can look to save on other areas and products.'

An essential component of planning a bathroom is looking at which aspects are worth splurging on, and which you're able to cut back on. We've asked the experts to share all so that you can spend your budget wisely and finish up with the bathroom of your dreams.

Bathroom makeover with black walls with copper bath and green tiles

(Image credit: Future PLC / Katie Jane Watson)

Where to spend and where to save when planning a bathroom

So if the words bathroom spend save are buzzing around your head, you've come to the right place. There are plenty of fabulous budget bathroom ideas to choose from, but which aspects are worthy paying a little extra for? Top experts reveal all.

Where to spend – Taps

Gold wall mounted taps, hot and cold handle eitherside of a solo mixer, above a white basin

(Image credit: BC Designs)

Why spend on taps? Bathroom taps need to be robust and durable. Features to look for include ceramic discs, which don’t wear out like rubber washers do, so you won’t find yourself having to screw the tap ever-tighter to turn it off, and anti-limescale technology, which prolongs a tap’s lifespan. New taps might also save water using a spray, which consists of lots of tiny individual outlets that produce gentle drops.

Opting for taps in something other than the standard chrome finish - such as brass or gold - will help transform the practical components of the bathroom into a stylish part of the design. You can then match other metalware, such as the door handle, toilet seat hinges, and radiator valves in the same finish for an instantly more luxurious feel. 

'When it comes to bathroom design, a few carefully selected pieces of brassware can make all the difference,' says Barrie Cutchie, Design Director, BC Designs. 'If budgets are tight, choosing to update brassware or to go for more expensive brassware compared to your ceramics can provide a more luxury and high-end finish to your bathroom.'

Where to spend – Composite baths

Black and white cast stone bath in tiled bathroom with green walls

(Image credit: Aston Matthews)

Why spend on a composite bath? For those who love long soaks, it’s worth investing in a cast stone bath. Cast stone is great at retaining water temperature, so you’ll save the cost of heating any extra you have to add to your old tub. 

The mineral-packed surface will resist wear and tear in the long term, too, as scratches can be easily polished out. Allocate a good chunk of your budget to a stand-out bath if you know it will get used a lot, and you like the idea of it being a focal point in the room.

Where to spend – Shower enclosures

bathroom with shower in black finish

(Image credit: Future PLC)

Why spend on a shower enclosure? The best shower screens will have pre-coated glass protection for easier cleaning, and as an area facing a lot of steam, this is key. Also, its thicker glass is less likely to crack – go for 8-10mm on flat panels and 6-8mm on curved glass.

If your budget will stretch, consider adding a shower wall to highlight the shower as a focal point in the room. This works especially well for small bathroom ideas where there may not be space for a bath. 'Showerwall panels create a fully watertight system, with a seamless, solid and durable surface,' says Steph Harris, Product Manager, Showerwall. 'They can be installed on either a clean plastered wall or over existing tiles, and it’s up to six times faster than tiling, which keeps labour costs down and speeds up your bathroom renovation.'

Where to spend – Storage

Blue tiled bathroom with vanity

(Image credit: Future PLC / Alistair Nicholls)

Why spend on storage? We all need more space to stash our two-for-one shampoo offers these days, but it’s important that storage is well-made. 

Bathroom storage ideas should complement the aesthetic of the bathroom instead of taking away from it. Go for wood veneer where possible or a hard-wearing lacquered finish – neither will date nor look cheap.

Where to save – Lighting

bathroom with wooden finish which contains squared mirrors and white wash basins

(Image credit: Future PLC/William Goddard)

Why save on lighting? Lighting is often overlooked in bathrooms, but your budget doesn’t need to stretch to a professionally designed lighting scheme. The best bathroom lighting ideas can be as simple as fitting a dimmer switch, so you can transform the mood at a twist of a button.

Consider also buying a mirror with lights built into the sides, an inexpensive statement feature. 'Adding in LED lights around a mirror will help create softer lighting for that all-important sanctuary feel,' says Lee, Easy Bathrooms. 'They are also a practical edition, as the even amount of light that is distributed from them creates no shadows on your face - making it perfect for tasks like applying make-up, shaving and any type of grooming.'

Where to save – Tiles

bathroom with white metro tiles on wall, brass shower head over bath and potted plant

(Image credit: Future PLC/Colin Poole)

Why save on tiles? New printing processes can create highly realistic interpretations of natural stone, marble and wood on ceramic tiles, so you can save hundreds on the cost of tiling of your bathroom without sacrificing the overall look. 

'You can save a lot of money by investing in the extremely realistic stone-effect tiles that are now available,' says Helen Clark, Head of Marketing, Utopia. 'They look perfect, cost much less than authentic stone tiles and also don’t have the maintenance issues that real stone does.'

Using mosaic tiling is also a great option for modern bathroom tile ideas: it’s on trend, but also cost-effective, as you don’t need to use much of it. Cut sheets in half or use fine strips between larger plain tiles to create vertical features behind a basin or horizontally around a bath.

Where to save – Bathroom suite

Victoria Plum bathroom with blue tiles and a seamless glass shower screen

(Image credit: Victoria Plum)

Why save on a bathroom suite? If you are on a limited budget, buy an entry-level bathroom suite and allocate the majority of your funds towards premium fittings, such as the shower and taps. Keep the design as pared back as possible so there’s less danger it will date – you can always make a fashion statement with tiles, towels or a striking basin mixer tap.

The suite is often the most costly part of bathroom renovations, so keeping it as simple as possible will make the biggest difference to the overall cost of the project. You could get a budget shower system fitted, but then update the showerhead to make the whole thing look more expensive.

How can I save money on my bathroom?

To save money on your bathroom, it's important to assess how it will be used and prioritise accordingly. Is a bathtub really necessary, or will just a shower suffice? This decision in itself could save you heaps of money, and you could look at investing a little extra in the shower area to make this the stand-out feature.

'It may sound obvious but aim to buy the absolute best that your budget will accommodate', says Helen, Utopia. 'It’s nearly always a false economy to cut corners because a bathroom is subject to daily wear and tear and any compromise in quality will soon make itself noticeable.'

Areas you can save money on include lighting - you don't need to have expensive lights fitted in the bathroom, as it's unlikely to be used for a prolonged period of time. 

Consider also the materials you're using on areas like the floor and tiles. Modern tiling ideas have created inexpensive but realistic dupes of stone, quartz, and marble. You can also upgrade the floor on a budget, which will make a huge difference to the room.

'Vinyl or laminate flooring can be extremely hard-wearing and is available in lots of contemporary styles to suit a range of budgets,' says Ruth Foster, Interior Designer, Victoria Plum. 'The great thing about vinyl or laminate flooring is that it is easy to maintain. A mop and a little bathroom cleaner every now and then will ensure it remains looking as good as new.'

bathroom with tiles and shower

(Image credit: Future PLC)

What is the return on investment for a bathroom?

'A new bathroom will add anywhere between 3 – 5% to the value of your home,' says Ian McConville, Group Procurement Director, MKM. 'If you can’t extend or improve the space you already have, consider creating an additional bathroom elsewhere. For example, adding a small ensuite to a large bedroom or creating a cloakroom with a shower under the stairs are great ways to add additional bathrooms and make the most of valuable space that otherwise would be wasted.'

If your budget doesn't stretch to a full-on renovation, making just one or two updates in the bathroom will add value to your home, such as switching out the tiles. Or you can update the metalware into matching chrome finishes and create an instantly more luxurious aesthetic, which will make the space more appealing to prospective buyers if you decide to sell.

Amy Cutmore

Amy Cutmore is an experienced interiors editor and writer, who has worked on titles including Ideal Home, Homes & Gardens, LivingEtc, Real Homes, GardeningEtc, Top Ten Reviews and Country Life. And she's a winner of the PPA's Digital Content Leader of the Year. A homes journalist for two decades, she has a strong background in technology and appliances, and has a small portfolio of rental properties, so can offer advice to renters and rentees, alike. 

With contributions from