Without fail, every potential client we talk to wants more house than they can afford. That's human nature, and there's nothing wrong with it. There's also nothing wrong with working hard to get the most house for your money.
It takes more than shopping around for the cheapest builder, though. The builder who quotes the lowest price, or the lowest price per square foot, is leaving something out. That could be a mistake, or it could be some hidden truth.
It takes creativity to get more of your list to fit within your budget. Here are some ideas just to get you thinking.
Stack your floors. Build a two-story home where the second floor almost entirely covers the first floor. You get the benefit of expensive stuff like the roof and slab covering twice the square footage.
Make it a rectangle. You can add some creative touches to the outside so it doesn't look like a rectangle, but keeping it a basic rectangle helps maximize the space you get for a given amount of exterior wall. It also makes the house feel really big inside.
Don't overspend on finishes. Some finishes are really important, and others aren't as important. For kids' bedrooms and bathrooms, you can use less expensive fiberglass showers, inexpensive tile and carpet, and inexpensive light fixtures. You can upgrade those items later, when the kids start helping you with the house payment.
Plan for future upgrades. You might choose a less expensive floor now that you can replace later. If you really want wood-look tile in your family room but can't afford it at the beginning, just put in carpet and plan to replace it in a couple of years. The same idea applies to any other feature or finish. You don't have to do it all at once!
Keep the floor plan open. Fewer walls between rooms gives you more flexibility. Let's say you want a large dining room because you host family gatherings at Thanksgiving and Christmas and maybe a few other times during the year. You're paying for every bit of square footage but only using it 10% of the year. Keeping the floor plan open lets you reduce the space a little because it can overflow a bit into surrounding rooms when in full use at holidays.
Stick with a small garage. A garage adds cost to your home, so keep it as small as you can get away with. If you're mostly using it to store stuff, maybe get rid of some of that stuff when you move and save on total floor space in your home.
Those are just a few ideas for how creativity can help you keep costs down. Think about what's most important to you, and then pay for that important stuff by eliminating or deferring some of your "like to have" items. That way, your dream stays alive rather than being sacrificed for less important things.