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Sunday, March 16, 2014

Saving and Spending: How We Did It

Last weekend left us busy entertaining and enjoying time with some of our college friends so I was not able to get this massive post done in time for my regular Sunday evening post, but I got myself around for this Sunday...so here ya go!  :-)

I have been thinking about writing this post for a long time because it has been so central to what we have been doing for the last year.  Its all about how we spent and how we have saved during our big home renovation. 

 

7 Ways We SAVED:

1. Live below our means. 

This was/is huge for us as we were saving and planning for our future.  Our secret? We budget and keep track of our expenses.  I will be the first to tell you that I was not all that thrilled about budgeting when we first got married.  In fact, it was probably our biggest source of conflict our first year of marriage.  But now, I love it -OK, love is a bit strong but at least I see the value in it.  Michael and I sit down at the beginning of every month to talk about last month's expenses, how we did, and our progress in saving for our goals. It is very empowering and it allowed us to work together to reach a goal.  In this case our goal was buying and renovating a house! By living below our means, we have been able to build awesome credit scores which found us awesome interest rates.  Also we were able to save a sizable down payment allowing us to avoid private mortgage insurance as well as having to pay interest on a larger principal.

 

2. Ask for help from family! 

This saved us BIG BIG bucks! Not only did my uncle, who is a super talented carpenter help us out BIG time (we payed him for his expert work, of course, but he gave us the "family discount") but we also had the help of my brother-in-law with tiling our backsplash in the kitchen and the bathroom. Now, you do have to be sensitive to boundaries and feelings - you want to be able to look these family members in the eye at thanksgiving when you ask them to pass the gravy.  But having your family's help has another perk-other than money. It was really fun to make memories with them.  I think any two people trying to dodge yellow jackets on top of 18ft scaffolding becomes bonded for life.  Right Steve?! So if you have family that have skills, ask for help! The memories are guaranteed -the savings are just a bonus. 

 

3. Shop around. 

Having 5 months to plan a renovation before it started and having 7 months to actually do the renovation, gave us a lot of time to plan.  I recommend planning as much as possible before picking up a crowbar (even though you can't wait because the feeling of ripping a door frame out is what dreams are made of, you must resist until you have your ducks in a row! Trust me!).  For bathroom fixtures we saved over $1000 by buying them through Amazon and Lowes compared to the fancy local showroom.  (Caveat, we love buying local but we can't pass up on $1000+ savings!) And you may say, well they aren't the same quality... But they are.  Exactly the same.

 

4. Don't' Be Afraid to Buy Second Hand.  

I am a big big fan of the Habitat ReStore, here's the website for our county.  I scored enough tile for all of our kitchen backsplash and even some for our shower for $20 (I bought the rest from Home Depot).  I bought lights for our dining room, bedroom, office, and hallway all for $45.  And I bought the brackets that frame out the openings in our main living area for $8.  Just typing all that out gets me feeling all excited.  I love a deal! And not only that, but I love a deal that gives me a huge bang for my buck and I think those do!
 
Another way we saved second hand was through Amazon.  A lot of times you can buy "used", which is actually new, the box has just been opened.  This saved us a moderate amount - but hey, it all adds up! We even did that with our security system. We bought refurbished pieces from the company which were probably used minimally before they were returned, and we get to enjoy the savings.  Every little bit counts!

 

5. Have a big picture in mind.  

Because we are renovating top to bottom, we had to think long term.  Since we are going to put a porch on the front of the house, why add new gutters?  Since we are going to add on a larger garage down the line, why reside the old garage?  Since we are already rerouting the plumbing, why not just plumb the upstairs bathroom while the walls are open?  These things just made sense.  Some of them aren't pretty, but we can live with it when we have a bigger picture in our mind of what our home will be like.  And some of them cost us upfront now, but later on we can get to the fun stuff without having to fork over the money for additional work. 

 

 6. Use what you got

One thing we did not do a great job at was using what our house already had in it.  We stripped our house of most everything it already had: walls, insulation, plumbing, electrical, appliances, cabinets, lights, trim, doors, siding.  The list goes on.  Sidenote: Renovating this way can be very overwhelming and not for the faint of heart. You have been warned.  But we were able to find a use for some of the original things in our home.... when we scrapped them for money! Yes we scrapped things like the old siding, appliances, copper pipes, wires, etc.  "Cha Ching" to the tune of  $812!

 

7. Do the work yourself.  

A lot of people have said to us "oh but you are doing most of the work yourselves, right?"  I just have to laugh.  Do I make it look that way on the blog?  I don't mean to! Because I certainly don't feel that way! I feel like we have had soooooooooo much help and hired a lot of that help.  But, on the flip side, we have done as much as we felt safe and capable of to take on.  We did 90% of all the demolition ourselves (which was fun! I highly recommend it!).  And there was a lot of it.  So I can't imagine how much that saved us.  I helped SS as much as I could when I had days off - installing windows, putting the housewrap on, prepping the trim.  We, along with SS and some other family, hung the drywall.  We dug trenches.  We sanded.  We primed.  We painted.  We have learned so much through that process and I would love to expand our knowledge and take on more and more as we begin the future phases of our home renovation.  
 

 3 Factors in Deciding When to Spend

It is VERY easy to spend during a home renovation.  Sometimes it may feel like all you are doing is shelling out money.  Luckily, if you are balancing it out with all the savings (see above), you may be privileged enough to be able to sleep soundly at night (or during the day for us night shifters) without worrying about your hemorrhaging bank account. 
In every renovation you should be allowed to splurge - on something.  I am pretty sure that is a written in stone somewhere.  But what is worth the splurge?  There are three factors that I think can help when making the decision.  I will use my kitchen as an example. 

 

1. Longevity.  

How long will you use this item?  How long will it last?  How long will it be in style?  For our kitchen cabinets, we wanted to go for something simple, timeless and with a little bit of a cottage look.  That's why we chose the white shaker cabinets with the black beadboard cabinets.  Black and white: simple and timeless.  Shaker and Beadboard: cottage.  We plan to have these cabinets for a long long time.  In the future, we realize that we may have to switch out appliances and maybe even the countertops may go someday.  But hopefully, the cabinets will stay for many years to come. That is another aspect about longevity.  How long will you be in your home?  For us, we will be here until they are checking us into the nursing home or until we are singing with the angels in heaven- whichever comes first.  So we feel a little more free to spend the money now on the things that we love and are important so that we can enjoy them for years to come - Instead of renovating with the plans of selling in the future.  If that would have been our plan I think we would have made a lot of decisions differently. 


 

2. Priority.  

How important is it in your daily life? If aesthetics are important, how much of a visual impact does it make?  What are you willing to give up in order to purchase this?  In the case of our kitchen, obviously the kitchen is an integral part of our life.  It is the heart of the home - especially since it is open to our living and dining room.   In order to offset the cost of our nicer kitchen cabinets, we decided to go with the more economical cabinets for the master bath.  So we sacrificed in the bathroom so we would be able to splurge in the kitchen. 

 

3. Love.  

Is there a statement piece that would be the perfect accent to bring the whole room together?  Is there something you keep coming back to and that you are seeing in your dreams? For me, one thing I kept coming back to was the light fixtures for the kitchen.  I loved the black and white theme of the kitchen, but it was feeling a bit monochromatic (probably because it was).  So when it came time to consider lighting, I had a lot of thinking to do.  I wanted something with personality, with color, and with a farmhouse feel.  It struck me one day - copper! So I hunted and hunted and hunted for copper fixtures for over the sink and over the island.  I found them at a local lighting store - Wabash Electric.  They were the most expensive light fixtures that we purchased, but we could do that because the other lights in our home had been thrifted from the ReStore. 

So obviously, even if you love something, see that you use it every day, and will use it for a long time, it doesn't mean that you should jump the gun and splurge. The #1 rule is the #1 thing I listed in this post: Living below your means.

Patience is key sometimes.  My mom always taught me, "Good things come to those who wait".  And if you love it enough, and its important enough, you will wait and save, and wait and save some more.  And really, isn't that when it means the most? Because in the end, its all just stuff.  What means more is the journey and the memories. 


What are your saving and spending secrets? What are you saving on?  What are you hoping to splurge on? Any regrets about past purchases or non-purchases? I'd love to hear from you!

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