7 Ways to Avoid an Awkward Project Question: How Much Will It Cost?

7 Ways to Avoid an Awkward Project Question: How Much Will It Cost?

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David Telford
Mar 15, 2016

It's almost inevitable that when you're discussing a project—be it a remodel, a new build, an extension, or even a coat of paint—someone will ask what it costs. Whether it's family, friends, neighbors, or colleagues, you can bet there will be someone who won't mind asking what you've tried to keep quiet. I wasn't ready for the question of cost—or at least hadn't thought about it enough to be prepared with an answer I was comfortable with—so when my neighbor asked what our extension was likely to cost, I panicked, and in lieu of a better response, I told the truth. And I wish I hadn't. Are there better responses than the awful truth?

1. The Personal Ethos

"Oh no, we never discuss finances in polite company." Polite by definition, this option also emphasizes the point that some people consider it poor manners to discuss money. This could be the preferred option if you don't mind appearing a bit stuffy.

2. The Quid Pro Quo

"I don't mind sharing if you tell me where you found that lovely winter coat." As long as you don't mind eventually giving up your budget secrets, this would be a great way to get some answers yourself.

3. The Almost-Truth
"We're still ironing out some details," or "We're still accepting quotes." Technically true, though your understanding of the budget is probably a lot better than you let on. You could low-ball some estimates here to make them feel like you've not avoided the question, though this has the potential of causing distress if they express shock at even the lower price.

4. The House Policy
Includes answers like "We've decided on a house policy of not talking about the cost until it's done." Hint: then you can always change the policy.

5. The Game Master
"I'll tell you if you can get within $500 (or any amount of your choosing) in three guesses." Playful, yet non-committal. You make the rules and hold all the cards. The reality is if you still don't feel comfortable giving it up, you never have to admit they were right.

6. The White Lie
It's not advisable to out-and-out lie about the cost, but bending the truth a little to save some embarrassment could be an option. "My spouse/partner/financial adviser would prefer I didn't answer," or "I've no idea, we let the project manager handle that side of things." This is a fine option if you don't mind feeling somewhat disempowered and/or appearing a bit superior, as the case may be.

7. The Challenge
"Why do you want to know?" This doesn't have to be confrontational; it can instead open up a dialogue about their own thoughts and ideas. There is a possibility that this can cause some awkwardness or embarrassment on their part, but perhaps shining a light on the confrontational nature of the question is a good result.

Whatever you decide to spend on your next project, it's wise to remember that we spend for many reasons and often when we spend on our homes, it's not important what we put in (the cash) but what we gain from the investment. If you're certain that the end result will bring you and your loved ones joy, beauty, and a special place in your home, then it isn't important what anyone else thinks or believes about your choices.

Have you found more elegant ways to answer the question of costs when discussing your projects with friends, frenemies, and family?

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