In 2006, Grand Rapids, Michigan--based couple Sandy and Todd Avis purchased a 1,200-square-foot cottage in their favorite Lake Michigan vacation spot: the village of Empire. Though charming, it didn't have much kitchen, and a tight second-home budget didn't allow for a complete redo. "Band-Aid" fixes helped, but undersize appliances and a tiny sink made cooking and cleanup a chore.
With a mere $5,000 put aside, Sandy launched a penny-wise makeover that gave the space a dishwasher, a modern sink, a new stove and fridge, fresh paint, and extra storage. Now, the whole family is more efficient in the kitchen. The result? "We have more time for hiking, bike riding, and the beach."