New House, No Debts!

This is a continuation of my previous post New House, New Debts? which talks about how I could have justified over $15,000 in new debt after buying a new house last November. I’m planning one more piece about savings but for now here’s the initial justification to spend and what I actually did.

*Repairs – water damage to the drywall resulted in tearing out 2 sections of wall in my living room. Let’s just say it was a long, cold winter. I could have hired a contractor to repair it asap. These repairs would have cost approximately $2,500 with a contractor.

Well, the first thing I did to improve the house was repairs to the flooring and drywall to get it back into the shape that I saw when I purchased it.  My dad came up and helped me tear out the soaked carpet and carpet pad.  Then we used a saw to take out the drywall.  First we took out 2 feet but seeing how soaked the insulation was, we ultimately took out 4 feet high, about 20 feet in length.

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lots of damage

Since I bought a duplex we got a lesson on how common walls are assembled.  It goes drywall, framing (with insulation), drywall, drywall, framing (with insulation), drywall. In order to replace the two inner layers of drywall we’d have to do major reconstruction on a load bearing wall.  We spoke with the owner of the other property and their contractor and decided on a middle ground.  We both dried our side of the walls, bleached the framing and interior drywall and painted the entire area with Kilz primer.

I’d already purchased Kilz for paint priming so there was no out of pocket cost there and the industrial dryer was loaned to us from my mom’s cousin who owns a rental company.  The only cost for the repairs was the cost of the drywall and insulation.

Of course the drywall had to be textured to match the rest of the wall.  My dad mudded and taped the joints and screws but we got a professional to texture it.  Here I agreed to do business marketing consulting in exchange for the texturing work.

Lessons Learned: borrow when you can and keep in contact with family. Do the work yourself and learn a new skill. Trade or barter services to keep costs down.

*Carpet – when I moved in the house was flooded (long story) and I could have plunked down the CC or opened a new one to finance the $900 it cost me to carpet ONE room.

While I wasn’t very happy with no living room carpet for Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s I also was extremely pleased not to be paying on a credit card during these times.  A new house is always more expensive then you expect it to be.  In January the title paperwork finally came in and when looking over the documents I found two checks. One was $1,000 discount because we made a full price offer (beating out other bidders who went low) and the other was about $400 back because we estimated taxes too high.

The money went straight into our mortgage account and I got the green light to shop for carpet.  I took home samples and matched the carpet to the linoleum in the kitchen and hallway.  I put down half as a deposit and paid the remainder once it was installed using a local company.

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New Carpet installed

Lessons Learned: don’t forget about money owed to you, shop locally

*Flooring – and next to the new carpet, the rest of my floors would have looked terrible. I could have replaced the bathroom tiling and put in the wood floors in all three bedrooms to the tune of $2,000

I am still waiting on the floors.  I knew from the beginning that this is a 5 year house for me.  It’s a good investment and something fun where I can decorate and paint and experiment with what I like and what I don’t.  So while I am interested in improving certain aspects of the house I am certainly not going to be putting in top of the line anything.  For now I need to measure the rooms where I would like to put in hardwood floors (office, master bedroom, guest bedroom, hallway, kitchen/dining nook) and then the rooms that could use new tiles (both bathrooms).  I think it would be cute to make part of the garage a laundry “room” with tiles and paint but that’s a ways off.  When I do hardwood floors I’ll get a lot of input from my dad who will be the one helping me install them.

But first I need to save up a lot of money.

Lessons Learned: research first, purchase later; know what you want and what you don’t and when to buy the best

*Furniture – my living room is brown. My couch is purple. I had no dining table or chairs, no bed frame, dresser or bookshelves for the guest room. Approximate costs:

Couch: $800

I still dislike my couch color but I’ve started to see the beauty in recovering the thing instead of replacing it.  My parents bought the couch when I was in high school, it’s Ethan Allen and thus great quality, and it has held together well.  All I dislike is the color.  So I’m shopping for a nice cover that I can alter and complementary fabric for the back pillows.

Dining Set: $700

My dining table was around $140 if I remember correctly and purchased at a going out of business sale. Too bad furniture places don’t have those more often! I picked up two bar stools for my bar table for $30 and those moved to my kitchen bar area when I got six matching chairs from Bed Bath & Beyond with money from my furniture account.

Kitchen nook
a dining place

Bed Frame: $450
While I purchased a new mattress and box springs after moving in ($400 for the set), I still don’t have a good frame.  My dad, sales shopper extraordinaire, found me a queen metal frame FREE and that’s been just fine.  I am still looking for what I want and hope to buy it with savings in 2010.

Dresser: $275
I really like the Ikea catalog. It’s more of an obsession, actually. And their dressers are very nice if not less than sturdy.  So I picked out one that didn’t take too much floor room and would complement my future bedroom furniture.  Then I found it on clearance already assembled and my aunt drove over with her SUV to help me haul it.  I was able to transfer the money from my online furniture savings and it was done.

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New Dresser

Bookshelves: $500

I recently purchased my idea book shelving system.  I made sure the units could be disassembled and thus fit into any room in any house I buy.  I love the look and especially the price.  All of those for under $500.

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new bookshelves

Lessons Learned: it’s okay to buy one piece at a time or change the original plan but when you want a cohesive set, save up and buy it at once.

*Television – the one I moved into the house was small, the sound was going out and it was old. Cost of a new 32″ tv was around $600.

The funny part about shopping for a new TV was how many people told me it was a necessity and hurting my way of life. I survived.  In fact, by waiting until I had enough cash to start shopping I came across an amazing deal and got a great TV about 30% off the regular retail price.

New tv
My $400 TV

Lessons Learned: be patient and you might just find a great deal

*Landscaping – the house needs serious landscape work, I could easily justify new front and back lawns, remove 2 trees, shape and cut back 18 rosebushes, revamp the side yard, plant new flowering bushes and plant 3 new trees. Conservative estimate (with labor) comes to nearly $4,000.

Just this week I wrote a check for the first phase of landscaping: replacing the backyard sod. Before the work started we adjusted the sprinkler system and clarified exactly what we wanted.

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root of the problem

These roots from a neighboring tree had to be taken out; there were jutting out above ground and would only get worse when the heavy watering began, possibly dangering our foundation.  The landscaper I hired cut out the roots, graded the area, tweaked the sprinklers, rototilled the soil, added top soil and installed the sod for a great price.  We paid in full out of savings.

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the backyard sod

I am continuing to learn how to prune the rosebushes and plan to start cleaning up the sideyard and plant some bushes in the spring. Until then I keep it cleaned up and let the dogs play on the sideyard.

Lessons Learned: Pay a professional when it will save significant time and money, start with what will make the biggest impact and slowly assemble the rest.

*Appliances – the dishwasher is broken, the fridge/freezer combo was used, the washer and dryer don’t always work perfectly. To upgrade these appliances I could have spent:
Dishwasher: $350

The dishwasher doesn’t bother me much, most of the time I just let things soak in the large sink until I do a batch of dishes.  My dad is planning on looking at the dishwasher on his next trip so we will find out if it can be easily repaired or if it should be replaced. If it needs to be replaced the scratch and dent store is the first place I’ll look.

New Fridge/freezer: $900
Again, this is low on the priority list because the one I got for $40 at a garage sale works just fine.  Sure it’s a little broken in but it’s still working.  I hope to get five years out of this machine and then possibly leave it with the house when I move or rent it out.

Washer & Dryer set: $1,500

This is probably the only place I wish I had bought something better. As it is, I found this set on Freecycle and didn’t pay a penny.  The dryer doesn’t always work on every cycle and the seal to the washer is weak.  I am planning on getting them both serviced next year to find out if there are easy fixes or if I should budget for a new set. And then I won’t buy a set, probably find something comparable used at the scratch and dent store. Until then the washer works good enough and the rod my dad installed works for drying.

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free isn't always the best

Lessons Learned: make do with what you have and don’t complain. Someone else would be happy to have what you do.

*Chest Freezer – buying a chest freezer enables a homeowner to freeze meals, buy in bulk and cut the grocery bill. The local appliance store has these available for financing $350 for the large one I was pricing.

I think I could have filled a larger chest freezer but as it is the smaller one I bought is working just fine. I spent $99 out of my furniture fund in July and it works great.  The more I freeze and learn to bulk shop the more I will consider upgrading. Until then this one is great.

chest freezer
New Chest Freezer

Lessons Learned: Start with the basics and work your way up, you may never need the biggest and the best.

*Grill – what’s more American homeowner than grilling? One of these is necessary, right? A new grill would have set me back at least $250.

As much as I like grilled food, I don’t often cook meat.  And though I’ve used my grill for fish it’s expensive so I don’t get it often.  This grill was a gift from my grandparents when they upgraded their grill this summer.

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a free gas grill

Lessons Learned: Graciously accept gifts and share your appreciation with the giver. Don’t invest in something you won’t use enough to justify.

*Lawnmower and tools – Gotta keep that newly landscaped lawn mowed and if I don’t hire it out I’ll need a lawnmower, string trimmer and other assorted tools. Minimum cost is probably $500

Again, my wonderful grandparents decided to upgrade their electric mower (Grandma is 88 and still mowing half an acre!) and I got the used model.  I am extremely thankful for their generosity since they could have sold this at a garage sale.  I have picked up the shovels and hand tools and asked my dad to look out for a string trimmer at garage sales for me.

Lessons Learned: let others know what you need and be thankful for their help. Be patient and wait for the right item at the right time at the right price.

The other things I am slowly improving include:

The broken garage door– credit goes to my dad who ordered a new motor and repaired the door as a birthday present. Hard to wrap but saves me a ton of time unloading groceries!

The older furnace – I’ll make an appointment in a few weeks to have my system checked out by a local company I trust.  I would like to have it serviced (oiled and such) before winter hits hard and find out if it’s working well enough. If not, estimated replacement costs so I can start a savings account.

New gutters – besides getting clogged up with leaves, a portion of my gutters are rusting which means the siding of my house is orange from the water hitting the rust and then my paint. I can’t paint the exterior without fixing the gutters first.  I’d like a quote on getting the gutters replaced along with new downspouts.  Probably next year before I can save up though.

Painting the exterior – really it’s in good shape.  Before we bought the house some of the overhang was replaced and a few boards here and there. Those parts were not painted. I might get those primed next spring just to protect the wood from damage but a full house painting (I’d do it myself) is a few years off.

Outdoor furniture – I’m really not spending a ton of time outdoors yet.  I do need to finish adding plants to the backyard and possibly yank a tree before I decide to invest in furniture.  Even then I’ll shop end of season sales in the fall. Until then I have the porch swing that my grandparents used for years

new old bench
family seating available

Garage storage – here I’ve been extremely lucky. My dad built my amazing pantry and put up these shelves.  Another set of shelves I got from my grandparents’ estate and the rest I’ve bought slowly over the years.  And while I may not have the ideal storage for laundry stuff, it was cheap!

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birthday storage
pantry 627
custom pantry

Faucets – It’ll be awhile before I replace my faucets in the bathrooms and kitchen, mostly because $100 or more for a faucet is kinda ridiculous to me. But it’ll get done eventually, maybe when I replace the bathroom floors.

Toilets – my city had a toilet replacement rebate recently but the funds have all been disbursed now. I’m going to keep on the lookout for sales of the low-flow quality model I want and wait to see if another round of rebates is approved.

Curtains – I’m about half done with curtains. I have nice ones in the living room and master bedroom but don’t know where to look for the office and guest room. I like funky and unique patterns that are classic and age well. I’m picky, in other words.

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Master Bedroom curtains

Paint– I’ve been using a paint-by-the-room plan where I only buy what I need when the room is ready. This saves money because the paint doesn’t go bad and yes, paint does go bad and it encourages me to get the rooms prepped so I can buy paint. I love paint samples. The cost per room is about $40 depending on how many coats I need. My guest room was the best, one can of primer $19 and one of blue paint $21.  The white comes from one can I bought a few months ago for all my trim.

Ceiling fans – two of the three bedrooms already had fans. The office fan was purchased on sale for under $70 and my dad installed it this summer.  I would like to add a ceiling fan and light to the dark living room and if I can’t match it to the one in the dining area replace both simultaneously.  That project is a few years off.

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ceiling fan in the office

Screens – at some point I would also like to replace the front door screen and all the windows. I have a roll of screening material in my garage but need the tool (rather cheap) and a weekend with my dad to learn how to use it.

If you can’t tell by now: my dad rocks! He’s saved me sooo much money on repairs to this house it’s crazy.

Lessons Learned: appreciate your dad and his skills.  Know the strengths and weaknesses of the house and property and prioritize.  Plan on spending some money to get estimates before an appliance fails completely.  Regular maintenance is important to extending the life of an item. Rome wasn’t built in a day, neither is the perfect home.

This last year hasn’t been easy.  Everywhere I turn there’s an offer of 0% financing for six months, great deals if you act NOW.  And in many ways I’ve been hardwired to think that it’s okay to buy now, pay later. Delaying gratification isn’t always fun. Hell, the fun is delayed! But, it’s also much sweeter to bring home a piece of furniture and know that I own it. I don’t rent to own it, I don’t lease it, I won’t own it as soon as four easy payments of $49.99 are received and processed.

I own what I bring into my house. And I don’t own any extra debt because of it.

That’s the pride of being a homeowner, to me at least.

Part 3 is going to discuss how I have cut back some expenses (while keeping others) in order to save the money for these items and explore why I went about this route instead of taking out a loan or using a line of credit.

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4 thoughts on “New House, No Debts!

  1. I really like this:
    “I own what I bring into my house.”
    You said it, girl. And the lessons learned – fantastic! (Nice use of parallelism, btw, very easy to read 😉 Enjoyed it!)

  2. You are a rockstar!!

    We are delaying some stuff (dining set, bedroom set, two rugs) but we did splurge a bit, mainly with money we had on hand. The only 0% financing was our tv, which is already almost paid off. Tax refund will take care of the rest of it.

    But good job! I hope you have a warmer winter ahead of you this year!

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