Tag Archives: budget

Before & After ~ House Transformation

Isn’t it amazing what a little (or a lot) of paint will do?  We purchased this house in April and have been doing major renovations ever since.  The painters just finished with the exterior last week and we absolutely love the transformation!!  The color before was a very tired and dull blue/gray, which we think did the house a disservice.  We chose: Behr Palomino Tan as the body color, Safari Brown as the accent color, Classic Taupe for window trim, Espresso for front steps and Allure (dark red) for front door.  The painters color matched our sample selections with Sherwin Williams’ “Resilience” paint.

The color palette we chose resembles some we saw in a Ralph Lauren paint brochure.  We think it suits the house well and was a much needed face lift.

We also had the painters spray fifty corbels in Espresso and my husband will install them under the soffits in sets of two several feet apart.  I’ll have to take a picture of them now that they’ve been painted.  They look so good!  They’re a neat architectural accent and will add a lot of interest to the front of the house.  (By the way, if you’re ever interested in any type of architectural trim/molding/accents, Architecturaldepot.com is worth checking out.  They were just under $9 each whereas Home Depot sells them for $25 each!  Huge savings!

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Our house is definitely not your typical Florida style home, but that’s what makes it so refreshingly unique.  In subsequent posts, I will share some of the distinct features of our house and other renovations we’ve done. You’ll be able to see just how very “one of a kind” it is.

What normally would have taken the painters one week to finish, wound up taking a month just about to complete due to the unusual rain pattern we’ve had!  June 1st through November 30 is Florida’s typical hurricane season with daily rains around 4p.m.  However, the pattern we’ve been experiencing has been intermittent torrential downpours throughout the day that seem to come out of no where!  Very unpredictable.  We are thrilled at the job they did and especially the transformation of our formerly pink steps!  Yes, you read that right.  They were 80’s pink tile and a poor welcome to visitors in 2015.  So, we are very pleased with the Espresso facelift.  It just adds such a rich and welcoming tone.  And, to think, painting the front steps were kind of an afterthought.  It was worth every dime.  🙂  They were an afterthought because initially we planned to replace them (eventually at least).  But, the more we considered our options, we arrived at the brilliant (if we do say so ourselves! Haha!) decision of painting them!

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They also painted our pool deck and back patio, which really refreshed the back of the house!  (Sorry I don’t have a better shot, but you’ll just have to take my word for it.  Haha)

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Stay tuned for more “before and after” renovation pictures!

We are so grateful to God for blessing us with this house and plan to enjoy it for many years.  We lived in Florida before for nearly eleven years, moved back up north for five years and now, are back home!  We’re ecstatic to live close to our grown son once again.  We just celebrated his birthday for the first time in person in five years!  It was extra special, needless to say!  Things are nice, but they’re just “things”.  There is no price tag on family relationships and the friendships God blesses us with!

I hope you enjoy seeing our renovation pictures and coming along for the ride during our house transformation!  We did most of the demolition work ourselves to save some money but hired contractors to do the majority of the renovations.  The kids and I painted the entire interior (3,400 square feet) prior to moving in!  And most of it was done in 90+ degree weather with no A/C.  (One of our A/C units decided to give up the ghost shortly after we closed on the house.)  Somehow, we managed.  We replaced that unit right before we moved in, which was an expense we did not anticipate right away.  We had to wait until some of the work (like sanding textured ceilings and spraying texture on the walls) was completed before we could replace it.  We’ve worked really hard and are slowly, but surely making it our own.

Let me know what you think.  🙂

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We’re Under Contract…

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After four, long months of feverish house hunting, we are seriously under contract on a house!!  If all goes as planned, we should close next month.  Yay for us!!  🙂  God has answered our prayers!

To say the Florida real estate market is rebounding would be more than accurate, particularly in our area.  As soon as one comes on the market, it is swiftly scooped up.  It seems out of state investors are in full force and my only prayer is that it doesn’t lead to a repeated bubble.  At any rate, here we are.  Elated doesn’t begin to describe our feelings at the thought of being liberated from our tiny abode, otherwise known as our apartment.  I really shouldn’t complain as 1,500 square feet is not small, however my disdain for it has more to do with my desire for a more permanent situation.  I’m so looking forward to hanging curtains, unpacking all of our boxes, organizing and decorating!!

Before any of that happens, the house needs to be painted and new flooring!  So, despite a possible closing next month, we will not likely move in until sometime in May.  But, at least, things are headed in that direction!

The master bathroom also needs to be gutted because of mold behind the shower wall, so we’ll completely renovate the master bath prior to move in also.  The thought of a claw footed bathtub sounds delightful!  I think I have finally convinced my husband of their popularity and how nice it will look!  I love all things antique-y and he leans more toward trendy, although sometimes we actually meet in the middle of what I’ll call “classic” style.  Haha.

We definitely will take loads of before and after renovation pictures and I hope to have a few spare moments to share them with you!

I have a “coastal” theme in mind for the living room … a white couch with coral print accent pillows paired with turquoise or slate blue print accent pillows; a white coffee table and end tables (one end table square & one round perhaps); two coral print accent chairs… This is what my thoughts are so far for this room.  The white couch has a slip cover, which can be easily machine washed.  I’m all for practical decorating ideas.  This is so exciting to me because it’s the first time in our twenty year marriage that I’ve actually hand picked our furniture.  Most of what we’ve owned in the past has been second hand or a concession I’ve made to my husband’s tastes.  This time around, I actually have a firm idea of what I want!  Only took me twenty years!  Haha.

We will have a large family room downstairs, but we already have a couch, love seat and tables for that room.  We sold our formal dining room set before we moved so we will need a new set.  I really like the farmhouse tables I’ve seen around and would love something very durable, yet pleasing to the eyes too.  A cross between casual farmhouse and elegant every day style.  Does that exist?  I don’t know, but what I do know is we will have many family dinners around this table and that they will eventually include grandbabies.  I don’t want to worry about every nick and scratch on our new furniture.  So…that’s the idea behind that.

We already have friends who want to come visit us this summer and my dad is already planning his visit for Thanksgiving!  So, we’ve got to get settled in quickly!  🙂

The house we’re purchasing is a short sale and, honestly, there have been very few “updates” since the house was built in 1988!  It’s as if the house is stuck in a time warp.  Now 1988 was a great year.  It is, after all, the year I became a mother for the first time!  However, homes need a little TLC and updating every now and then!  The previous owners had a cat and the carpet has long done its duty.  So, that is one reason the floors need to be redone.  I have bad allergies to cats, so that’s a non-negotiable.

The 80’s watercolors cornice boards will be one of the first things to come down.  Hideous!  Haha.  I personally adore natural lighting and the back of the house allows plenty of that with all of the gorgeous windows.  So, I’m not sure I’ll want anything but blinds.  We’ll see.  At least that’s not something that requires immediate attention.

My husband and I made a list with two columns.  One for immediate items that need renovation and the other for items that can wait, but definitely need attention.  We also attached approximate dollar amounts to each area, so we have a general idea of our future expenditures related to the house.  We weighed our total investment against the average CMA in our area.  In the end, our investment still makes sense.  We showed our analysis to our trusty realtor (who’ve we’ve spent a great deal of time with over the last four months!!) and he commented that he’d never seen anyone ever do this before!  I couldn’t believe that!  Especially when one is purchasing a short sale that needs a lot of work, one must count the cost!

We’ve had every conceivable home inspection performed recently!!

We had the following inspections:

  • the general, extensive home inspection (including the pool)
  • mold & radon
  • termite
  • structural engineer (to check an area of concern)
  • well (& sent water sample to lab for testing)
  • septic (& had it pumped out)

I think that just about covers it!  Whew, what an exhausting time!  Although these inspections can add up to a big chunk of change, we feel like they offer a bit of insurance or, at a very minimum, a glimpse of what upcoming expenses may be. After all we went through with selling our previous house and having to pay so much for items that failed the home inspection, we wanted a very thorough picture of what we might be dealing with in advance!  This way, we limit our surprises!  Word to the wise…

This house is really special.  If we didn’t feel that way, we would not be willing to invest so much into it.  It’s in a wonderful neighborhood that is close to everything you’d need, yet in a peaceful surrounding.  There is a creek with rushing water that runs along the backside of the house, which funnels into a big river.  Yet, we are not in a flood zone.

Once we close and the dust settles, I will take some pictures, particularly of the back of the house.  The scope of the glass on the back of the house is amazing and beautiful!  I call the house a “diamond in the rough”.  Haha.  For some, maybe the present state of the house would be alright, but for us, we know it can really shine and be so much more!

We’re looking forward to the transformation!  Hope you’ll join me on this journey…

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Home Improvement Update

Well, we’ve been pretty busy around this place lately.  As I previously mentioned, we replaced three toilets a few weeks ago and my husband did a bunch of repair jobs around the house, which makes this wife very happy!  And we just had a valve replaced and other work done on our HVAC system to the tune of $809, so prayerfully, this will help make our electric bill more palatable.  January’s electric bill was $719, February was $597 and March was $556.  Triple ouch!!  That hurts just typing those numbers!  Hopefully those insanely high bills are behind us.  Our family has grown rather fond of eating afterall …

We recently had a contractor come out to give us a quote on replacing all of our windows (all 25!) and are waiting to hear what the final figures are.  (We’ve received several quotes and they want an arm and a leg!) At a minimum, we will have the kitchen window and frame replaced as the wooden frame has been rotting for some time.  He’s also going to give us a quote on power washing the siding and roof, which would be an awesome improvement.  So, we’ll see how reasonable he is.  This contractor was referred to us by a good friend of mine, who just had 17 windows replaced, and she was very pleased.

We’re focusing on spot cleaning the carpet throughout the house this week.  Fortunately, we have more wood floors than carpet, but the bedrooms are carpeted.  My daughter is actually pretty talented at getting stains out with baking soda and lemon juice, which is very helpful.

I declared 2014 a year of simplicity and have been purging like mad over the last few months.  My teenage son’s room was on my recent “hit list” and, boy, did I have my work cut out for me!  First, I got the back hoe … Okay, maybe not, but was tempted …  I completely filled a kitchen trash bag with garbage and two other kitchen trash bags with donation items for the Salvation Army.  Mind you, it hasn’t been that long since the last purge in his room!  I decided to remove an old bookshelf from his room and put it on Freecyle.  The shelf needs new support pins.  But, more importantly, my son needs fewer items in his room in order to maintain some sense of organization.  The shelf just winds up being a great landing spot for junk, so it’s for the best.  No worries, he has other furniture.  What a transformation!  There actually is carpet in his room!  So, purging is part of our overall home improvement plan as well.

How is it that we wind up with so much stuff?!?!  It honestly perplexes me.  I hold onto way too much little stuff.  Lately as I’ve considered parting with more, I’ve realized that it’s hard getting rid of things that were given to me.  I’m not even referring to family gifts or heirlooms or anything that special … just stuff.  Nonetheless, I’m getting better at releasing items to good homes and have been a weekly contributor to the Salvation Army for the last couple of months.

Here’s to more home improvements in 2014!  What’s on your list?

 

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Target Deal

Life is busy.  I don’t coupon.  Maybe I should, however I do a lot of my shopping at Aldi (a discount grocer), so I guess I’m not as motivated as some.  I feel like I’m already getting things at about half price.  But, when a deal smacks me in the face, I am wise enough to engage!  Such was the case the other day!

Okay, don’t laugh … but, sometimes I’m techno “challenged”!  I was doing a little grocery shopping at Target the other day when I saw these signs that said “Save $10 when you spend $50 on groceries”.  Well, I’m no rocket scientist, but I know a good deal when I see one.  Despite my “challenges”, I was going to make this work!  I grabbed my trusty iPhone and texted Target and entered the coupon code.  Voila!  Presto Change-o!  It actually worked!  I did it!  For you teeny-boppers, you’re probably ROFL, but I’m the mother of teeny-boppers, so this is a big deal!  I only used a coupon on my phone once before and that was at Michael’s.  Sadly, the yuppy cashier had to assist me in getting to the proper screen.  Hey, the important thing is, that I got the discount!  I digress …

The best part about getting groceries that day at Target was that most of what I purchased was on sale as well.  For instance, the Folgers coffee was $6.99 each, which is an awesome deal for a big container!  It’s double that price at the regular grocery store around here.  I bought two.  Should’ve bought more in hindsight.  Anyway, I got some lunch meat and some other necessary things.  The icing on the cake was the fact that I also had a $5 gift card from the last visit when I bought 3 sets of Suave Naturals mint shampoo and conditioner.  If you bought 3 sets, you got the $5 gift card.  They were $3.87 per set, which was pretty good.  Not great, but pretty good.  I just saw them at another store for $2.50 each, which is normally what they run for.  So, to get the gift card on top of that was pretty decent.

So, my grand total of savings on this Target shopping day was $15 plus the difference between the sale items vs. regular price.  (which I didn’t tally up)  Not bad for a non-coupon clipping lady!  (not to mention, a limited-techy lady)  I just love when I stumble upon an amazing deal!  Thank you, Lord!!

Have you found any great deals lately?

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Praise Report: Auto Style

Can I just tell you that I spend entirely too much time worrying about things?!  Just Wednesday I was provided with fresh worrying material when the Toyota mechanic at the dealership informed us that our 2002 Sequoia needed new front and rear brakes, rotors, wiper blades, terminal for the battery, and on and on their list went!  Yes, fresh fodder for this weary mind that has a lot going on at the moment!

Well, the total for the above repairs would have cost $1,400 as I mentioned in a previous post, which nearly gave me heart palpatations just thinking about it in light of other recent expenditures.  We’re a one income family on a fairly tight budget, so huge unforeseen expenses are unwelcome financial intruders!

Our good neighbor across the street happens to be a Toyota certified mechanic and we’re also good friends with them.  I tell you, the Lord planted them there to be a blessing to us and vice versa.  My daughter often pals around with the young mom and her toddler, who is cute as a button!  We called our good neighbor last night to see if he could install the parts if we picked them up.  He said that it was no problem to order the parts and he could do the work today!  Wow.  Not even 24 hours later, he had our SUV up and running!  He picked up the parts this morning and paid with his employee discount too!  The parts cost $440 and he wanted to charge only $110 for labor.  We couldn’t let him do that, so my husband will give him a check for $650.  I know he doesn’t want to accept it and just wanted to be a blessing, which he was!  But, we also believe in treating people fairly and showing our appreciation.  We’ll have to bake him a cake soon.  He loved the last chocolate cake my daughter made for them.

What a tremendous answer to prayer this is!!  A savings of nearly $1,000!  (If the parts only cost $440, that means the dealer’s mark up and labor was $1,000!  Insane!)

God truly is so faithful to provide for our every need.  Why do I spazz out and doubt then?  “Lord, help my unbelief!”  Ah, somehow I think trusting God is a lifelong lesson.  God always provides and it’s not as if I didn’t think he would in this instance.  I just didn’t know how!  The timing couldn’t have been worse, but that’s when a pause is in order and deep breaths.  How I thank God that His favor lasts a lifetime.  “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life!”  He is so good to us, full of mercy, compassion and love!

So, the lesson here is trusting God no matter what the circumstances or the timing are.  And, the bonus lesson is remembering how God provided this time when the next financial challenge comes along!  In the Old Testament, they built a monument in the desert when God performed a miracle.  Sometimes we need to also do that in our spiritual life today.  Write down the praise reports.  We’ve instituted a “Blessings Jar” where we write down all the great things God does for us throughout the year.  And at the end of the year, it’ll be great to reflect back on!  This testimony definitely qualifies a submission in the Blessings Jar!!

How has God provided miraculously for you lately?  Have you praised Him for it?  Built a monument?

 

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Frugal Challenges: Auto Style

Frugal living does not necessarily mean a life of total sacrifice.  It, conversely, has more to do with saving money where you can so you are free to spend money on the important, quality things of life.  So, that’s our mode of operation in general.  It’s all about intentional living … Redirecting our money away from useless, fleeting expenditures (like Starbucks coffees, pedicures, fine dining, etc.) and toward the things that strongly matter to us.  Choices.  All about choices.

Well, we were presented with an opportunity to choose to be creative with our finances today…

Yesterday we dropped our 2002 Toyota Sequoia off at the dealership to have the oil changed and fluids topped off.  And today they called us with the ugly news!  It seems our twelve year old SUV is in dire need of front and rear brakes, new rotors and a fresh air filter.  *Sigh*  The ugliness of it all is to the tune of $1,400!  Ouch!

It would seem our money tree out back is bare at the moment, so my husband has a better idea than to line the dealership’s pockets.  Our good neighbor is a Toyota mechanic so we’re going to see if he can help us out.  He also happens to be a Christian and we like their family a great deal, so prayerfully it works out.  He often does work on the side.  We figure between the cost of the parts and labor, we’ll likely save half.  That’s frugality put into practice.

We did, however, pay $88 to have the oil changed, etc. because my husband is sold on the idea of using synthetic oil and we always have.  So, that costs more and it likely needed quite a bit.  That said, we’ve owned this SUV for about seven years now and it has never given us a bit of trouble.  We always maintain it and since it’s my baby, it is driven for leisure only, not to commute to work.  It has about 181,000 miles on it and has traveled extensively along the eastern seaboard.  I always say that it will last however long we need it to!  🙂

Lately, it seems every time we turn around, there’s an unexpected expense!  We’ve had three:

  • Garage door spring repair – $450
  • 3 New Toilets – $600
  • HVAC repair – $809

Not to mention, the last three months of electric bills were: $718, $597 and $565!  And, now this … Ugh.  It’s a good thing we have no car payments!  I’m so thankful that old man winter has had his run for this year and we are slowly marching into spring weather!  (which means lower electric bills!!  Praise the Lord!)  Also, our electric bill will be lower anyway due to recent repairs and freon being added, thankfully!

Today I went to the discount grocery store we usually do a fair amount of our shopping in and reflected on the $86 well spent!  I stocked up on a ton of fruits, vegetables, and a lot of things.  At the regular grocery store, it would’ve been more than double that price!  So, we save where we can, like I said.

Oh, and I was so excited to use my $5 off coupon at Target this evening (if you spent $35 or more)!  Not bad considering I’m not much of a couponer.

And my 16 year old daughter has announced that she’s in need of a new summer wardrobe.  To the thrift store we go…

Also in the mix is our desire to do a few household projects, but we’ll see about those.

I cannot complain really.  We are so very blessed.  God is always so faithful to us and has never failed to provide for our every need!  We are firm believers in tithing and offerings.  One thing I’ve learned over the years is that you can’t outgive God!  He owns everything, afterall.  It’s all His.  He gives us the ability to work and earn a living, and blesses us on top of that!  What a kind and loving God we serve.  May we be wise and faithful stewards of all that God has entrusted us with!

When unexpected expenses arise it reminds us once again of the importance of an emergency fund and savings.  Like I’ve told my daughter, you will never be sorry for saving too much money!

So, here’s to increased savings!

 

 

 

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Home Improvement Projects!

It’s springtime!  And spring is synonomous with home improvement, isn’t it?  It is around here anyway.  The natives are restless from a long winter and anxious to get some things done now that we are beginning to thaw from an arduous winter.

Our house was built in 1977, and while it possesses many fine qualities, there are some issues to be reckoned with.  In our nearly twenty years of marriage, we’ve only owned new houses up until three years ago.  We’ve done more interior painting and installing wood floors, tile and lighting fixtures than we’d care to reflect on in years’ past, but a house this old has a mind of its own!  Take, for instance, a simple thing like our doorbell decided to give up the ghost.  My dear husband attempted to repair it, but noticed an inner part had been damaged beyond repair.  So, we ordered a new one ($19.99) on Amazon.  The configuration of the new receptor is much smaller now, so we would have to try to match up the old wallpaper border if we hung it where the previous one was.  But then my husband had the bright idea to put the old one back on the wall for now (no wallpaper repairs necessary) and we’ll hang the small one in an inconspicuous place.  I thought that was sheer genius!

Shortly after moving in, our kitchen drawers began literally falling apart.  I’m pretty sure they’re the original cabinets and drawers and are made of some hideous pressed wood on the sides, which is warping by the minute.  Right now we have two drawers out of commission.  The cabinet/granite guy came out again yesterday to re-measure, and if he and my Negotiator Husband agree on the price (which I think they will), we will have a new and improved kitchen soon.  Goodness knows, we need it.  I’ll post pictures when and if it happens.  We have a walk through kitchen, the smallest we’ve ever had, with virtually no pantry.  We’ll be adding two upper cabinets, which will offer much needed additional space.

We have four bathrooms.  Yes, 1, 2, 3, 4!  That’s a lot of bathrooms, considering I grew up in a humble home, where at one point, 7 people shared one bathroom!  And, somehow, we survived!  But, I digress… Four bathrooms.  My daughter’s toilet has never behaved properly since we’ve lived here.  My husband has gone to specialty plumbing stores in an attempt to purchase parts and, invariably, it doesn’t work out.  He’s pretty handy too.  This toilet is blue and definitely circa 1977 .  We’ve wanted to replace it but have held off.  Our first quote was over $400 for a plumber to replace it.  I called another plumbing company last week to get a quote and they said $618!  Can you imagine?  For one stinkin’ toilet?!  I hope it was gold plated at least!

Then last weekend, the day before my sister was due to visit, the upstairs hall toilet decided it needed some attention and repairs.  This one is mustard yellow.  Definitely 1977.  What was up with all the colors back then?!  That bathroom needs a complete remodel, but that’s another matter for another day!  And then we have the master toilet, which is white, but older, although not quite 1977.  It sits very low as a previous owner had polio and must’ve been made to accommodate him.  It’ll be good to replace it. The downstairs hall toilet is relatively new, so it’s fine.

Initially my husband and son ran to Home Depot yesterday to purchase a toilet valve kit, but then he got the idea just to replace them.  Yep, all three!  The Lord was truly with us, though.  We got a multiple product discount, making each toilet $78, plus a break on the installation fee.  So, a total of three toilets installed for $600!

They wanted to charge a haul away fee of $35 for each toilet, but my thrifty husband declined.  (Yay for him!) His initial thought was to haul them to the landfill himself, but we may put them on Freecycle or ask a home improvement friend if he wants them.  Then, our disposal cost is $0!  So, we’re pretty thrilled about our overall deal!

It seems lately a number of things have gone on the blink around here!  We just had our garage door repaired to a tune of $450, which was lowered from the initial quote of over $650! (thanks to my wonderful, negotiator husband!) Last week I discovered a leak under the kitchen sink.  It’s only a slight leak, fortunately, but will no longer be an issue once we remodel soon.  We’re getting an undermount sink with granite countertops.  I’m so excited that I’ll have a sprayer hose that actually works!  What a concept!  😉  Our current sprayer has never worked since we’ve lived here.  Truly disappointing.

This Old House … Ya gotta love her!  Our house has a lot of charm, really, it does.  It just demonstrates the fact that houses require a lot of upkeep and constant care.  I’m really surprised that the previous owners didn’t upgrade the upstairs’ bathrooms, but I think they rarely used the upstairs once their kids were grown.  So, it wasn’t a focus.  They did, however, do some updating on the main level, which is part of the charm that sold us.  If we stay here long enough, the windows are next!

Our unspoken motto is:  “We never pay full price.  Ever.”  No matter what the project is, we try to do it ourselves first.  If a professional is required, then we comparison shop until we find the right price.  The right price is the price we are willing to pay.  Our budget dictates being as frugal as possible, especially since we are a one income family in a high cost of living area.  We would never sink more money into an investment than we anticipate realizing in the future.  That goes for any investment, particularly a house.  It’s called wisdom.  For example, if we didn’t think the kitchen was an ideal room to invest money in, we wouldn’t proceed. However, since we know that prospective homebuyers focus on the kitchen first and bathrooms second, those are worthy investments.  We are always thinking in terms of resale.

Do you have home improvement projects in mind?  If so, care to share?

 

 

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