Bringing your kitchen into the 21st century is less expensive than you think if you know which upgrades to invest in. Just how expensive can it be?

Bringing your kitchen into the 21st century is less expensive than you think if you know which upgrades to invest in. Just how expensive can it be?

In order to compare cost, Remodeling magazine uses a 200-square-foot kitchen with 30 linear feet of cabinetry and countertops as the base for three kinds of kitchen remodels.

Minor kitchen remodels include raised-panel wood doors, new hardware, a mid-priced sink and energy-efficient appliances. National average in 2007: $21,185.

Major kitchen remodels include stainless-steel appliances, a 3-by-5-foot island, new flooring and custom lighting. National average in 2007: $55,503.

Major-upscale kitchen remodels include custom cabinetry, high-end sinks, faucets, glass backsplashes and under-cabinet lighting. National average in 2007: $109,394.

If you're balking at even a minor kitchen remodel, here are five alternatives that won't have you spending five figures.

Paint, Paint, Paint

Painting cabinets, including wood cabinets, can completely transform a kitchen. "Paint is your best friend and your biggest bang for the buck," says Kenneth Brown, Los Angeles interior designer and host of HGTV's "reDesign."

"It's better to have a high-quality painted finish than a medium-quality wood finish."

2. Add New Kitchen Hardware

Even if you're stuck with hard-to-paint laminate cabinets, you can still update your kitchen by changing all the cabinet handles and drawer pulls.

Similarly, replacing your kitchen faucet with a new, modern one can also give the kitchen a whole new look. New stainless-steel faucets for less than $100 can add modern freshness, as well as function, to the entire kitchen.

3. Create or Invest in a New Backsplash

Kitchen backsplashes provide much-needed focal points for many kitchens, and are a great way to add new life to an old design. On one tightly budgeted project, Brown and the homeowners decided to put money into a dramatic backsplash, and spend less on other features. "We found glass mosaic tile (in shades of red, aqua and gold) and created our own pattern and had it installed," he says. It immediately draws the eye into the kitchen.

4. Creatively Upgrade Your Kitchen Floor

Spending money on quality flooring is well worth it, because flooring is so crucial to the overall look and feel of the room. Extend the hardwood flooring from your dining room into the kitchen, for instance.

5. Light Up Your Kitchen

"Layering the lighting can definitely change the mood" of the kitchen, says Brown. He likes under-cabinet "hockey puck" lights available at most home-improvement stores, which are easy to install.