Tuesday, January 28, 2014

House Tour & Status of our $5,000 Budget

Almost a year ago in March, I made a post about our self-imposed $5,000 budget for furnishing and decorating our home from scratch.  As this is our first place, we started with no sofa, no rugs, no wall art...nada.  Given that some time has elapsed without a full update on how that's been going, let's take a look, shall we?

The good news is that we're still on budget and even under-budget with many of the items we have bought so far.  As I'd predicted in the March 2013 post, we have already had some items that fell well under-budget, and so we moved those savings into another item's budget.  An example would be when we got a rug for our bedroom that was $100 under-budget, so I moved that $100 to the living room rug's budget.

There's also been a few things that I did not initially budget for and that I added to the list since, like a kitchen island cart, shelves for the dining room, and a floor lamp in the living room.  I re-allocated funds as I added these items, wringing out every dollar saved from some items to do so, but it's been working.

Now onto the house tour so you can see what the money has been buying and the figures.  It's not all "pretty" yet because we're still in the middle of everything, so these photos really are just "keeping it real" for now.  Someday when we complete a room I'll roll out the magazine-worthy photos (and I look forward to that!)

First up is the...

Living Room

This room has received the most attention.  In the past year after some disappointments, we found our first sofa and armchair from England Furniture, which we love and is still working out to be worth the money.

Since the addition of furniture, the room has evolved with a rug and settee, wall art, refinished bookcases, and other miscellaneous decorations.

Here's a pic from just this past March 2013:

(sofa & chair along with a rug we borrowed from my folks and a free coffee table)

What it presently looks like:

Another "before":


can't wait to put doors on those bookcases to help calm down the craziness of the whole fireplace wall - I don't like that it looks so cluttered and scattered

The room has definitely become a place we can now offer seating to friends and relax in.  It's neat to see how much the room has changed in less than a year!

Cost So Far: with the big-item furniture and rug for this room, the amount spent for this room is the largest at $2,600.  Still on-budget and I aim to have it stay that way by remaining careful with the items yet to come.

To Do:

- side tables
- coffee table refinish
- doors on bookcases
- tv stand
- ottoman
- wall art behind the sofa


The entryway now feels more like an area of its own as you walk in the door; the living room's settee divides the once-single room into two spaces of function.

Budget-wise, the entryway falls under the living room's budget.  The framed art, all which has been thrifted or were photos/art I already had for free, comes in at under $10.  The clock and table were already with us when we moved (and had been gifts).

Here's the "before":


To Do:
- complete the wall art collage in the entryway
- get a 3-4 ft length console table

Dining Room 

After sewing $6 curtains and getting 2 head chairs for the table, I kind of left this room alone for awhile as I turned my attention back to the living room.  But the dining room finally started to get some love again after we painted it this past Fall.  We went to Ikea not long after and got the Vittsjo shelves for extra storage space, and I made it a project and attempted to tweak it into looking like a piece from Restoration Hardware for $100.

This is an older pic of the dining room from this past fall, the reason being that nothing else has changed in this room since except for a bit more decor being added to the bookshelves.

Here's what the bookcase presently looks like:

Cost So Far: Decor & curtains is approx $80, the bookshelf was $100, and the 2 head chairs were $95.  Total of approx $300 to-date.  Still under-budget for the room.

To Do:

- wall art
- buffet table (there's a piano that came w/ the house sitting where we'd like to add a buffet at present)
- replace the dining table (it came with the house and isn't our style)
- reupholster the dining chairs?


It is done and was completed on-budget for decor and an island cart (we got the island from the discount room at Ikea) - all for just under $130 total.


Just squeezed by under the budget, but it's done as well.  I've made curtains ($3) since the pic shown below, but the light coming in from the window kept making them too dark, so you can look here for a sample of the fabric if you're curious.

Total cost: for the shower curtain, woven basket for holding extra towels, pitcher & flowers, curtain, floor mat and wall art, it all came just under $50.


We're about 80% done, and have approximately 16% left in the budget for it.  It's gonna be tight.

Here's what it looked like at the end of last summer:

Still would like: a 2-seater bench with cushion and pillows, which I've been thinking about solving by trying the bed-to-bench idea.

Laundry Room

On-budget - only $20 spent here so far.


Not much work has gone on in here yet except for the rug (free), curtains ($2 total) and the cork board area.  Rather than getting one big (and expensive) cork board, I found these boards for $1.69 each, and the 4 of them make a rather nice space.  I like that I can also separate each board into a certain category, such as one for film projects, one for writing, and so on.

I'd still like to make a standing desk and find a bigger filing cabinet, but they aren't priorities.  I'm pretty good for now w/ the function and look of the room.


Our bedroom is still by far our worst room.  You know how it is: people don't ordinarily see it, so it is the last room you're concerned with.  We have been making small improvements, such as a new duvet, organizing the closet, putting up a temporary cork board to hang my necklaces, sewing window curtains, and installing a closet rod into our otherwise useless wardrobe so that Karl and I both have more room for our clothes (HUGE difference in our daily lives, lemme tell ya!).  We also got the 7x10 Adum plush rug from Ikea to make our bed more defined in the large room, and more importantly, to keep our footsies from the cold bare floors in the winter months.

Cost So Far: the rug, new duvet & cover, and curtains all come in at a cost of $200, most of that coming from the rug & duvet+cover.  Still good on the budget.

To Do:
- headboard
- side tables
- replace/sell or refinish Karl's decrepit dresser
- wall art

Though we're presently on-target, there are some potential future pitfalls. 

We'll be continuing to test our budget these next few months as we try to cross a few more big items off our list. We've now spent more than half of our $5,000 budget and we would still like to get/make a dining table and buffet, living room console, tv stand, side tables....  I've been keeping a keen eye out for items I can refinish from craigslist, facebook groups, second-hand furniture stores and such, but it's slow-going in wintertime, and therefore I am hoping that springtime, and with it the usual spring cleaning people do, brings an influx of furniture to pick from.

Shared on diyshowoff, homestoriesatoz, keepingitsimplecrafts, elizabethandco, rainonatinroof, allthingswithpurpose, modvintagelife, remodelaholic

Monday, January 13, 2014

Skyline Settee Review

It came!

I ordered it a month ago on amazon, and was given the timeline of its delivery anytime in the month of January, so it's nice to have it early on!

As the pic shows, it's a beautiful rich blue color and has a non-bulky, stylish silhouette.  Despite its small appearance it fits two people very well; Karl and I can both sit comfortably on it.  The tall exposed legs allows it to make the room still feel big and airy, and on the practical side makes for easy vacuuming (and not hide the rug).  Add in the very nice quality velvet fabric and it's a pleaser.

It feels very sturdy and has firm but comfortable cushioning.  I've spent several hours using it as a reading chair, and I've grown to prefer it to our sofa whenever we're not watching a movie.

The weight (approx 70 lbs.) is just right so it does not shift when you sit down, but remains an easy piece to pick up and move if you need to.

Advantage of a Settee: I like that a settee keeps its functional use by being a piece which can easily be incorporated into multiple kinds of rooms.  Down the line when we move to our own home (someday) and if we end up switching some furniture in the living room, this settee can be extra seating for the dining room, bedroom, or the office, so I know I can get a lot of mileage out of it.

Overall, I'm super delighted with it and would highly recommend it!

Note: If you're interested, here's a direct link to the settee:

Fyi, this is an affiliate link, and I get paid a percentage if you buy it through this link. I did not get paid by Amazon or Skyline to endorse this settee, but wanted to pass along a product I am happy with. :)

Shared on elizabethandco and cozylittlehouse

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Budgeting 101: Where to Begin

Yes, I said the "B" word.  There's no easy way around this.  You MUST have a budget.  No if's, ands, or buts.

It's not as hard as people may make it out to be.  Finances are one of the top things people struggle with.  Having a budget and keeping to it takes a LOT of stress out of your life.

So where do you start?  Well, you'd like to keep a roof over your head, have heat, water, and food, right?  Let's start there.


Sit down and list out the amounts you pay for rent or mortgage, utility bills, and groceries.
  • Add up receipts, or your online banking or credit card statement for all spending for these in a month
Don't include things like car fuel, cable and internet just yet.  Only the bills you need to pay to keep the essentials of food and shelter.

Now add up all of those bills.  Then add up all of your monthly income.  Compare the total of your bills to your income in a given month.  Are your bills more or less than your income?

If your bills are more than your income at this stage, don't get discouraged.  First, look at your bills and see if there are places you can make cuts.  Are there ways you could lower your utility bills?  Groceries?  Ways to make a secondary income?  Get a raise?  If renting, can you move to a less-expensive apartment, or find a roommate to share the costs?  Get creative.

When I was living alone and renting, heating was expensive, so I kept the heat low and wore more layers of clothing and used more blankets.  However, hot water was included in the rent.  I used to get some extra heating by running my shower water for periods of time on the hottest setting, and leaving the bathroom door open so the steam would filter through the apartment.  Not exactly something I'd recommend, but it was something creative that worked.


List out other monthly expenses that are bills:
  • car insurance
  • health insurance
  • loans
  • cel phones
  • cable and internet, xbox live, netflix, hulu, etc.
  • medications
  • magazine subscription/s or book clubs, newspaper
  • gym memberships
  • childcare/daycare
  • etc. 
Add these all up.  Add your secondary bills total to your primary bills total.  Take another look at your income.  Are you paying more than what you're bringing in?  Even if you're not in the red, how much buffer room do you have?  It is wise to look into ways to cut some costs so you can achieve some of your goals such as savings for emergencies (medical, blown tire, ruined cel phone...), a dream vacation, retirement, etc.

Do you have car insurance on a vehicle that has been sitting in your driveway more days than it's been driven?  You can get a discount for that car.  If you want to be really gung-ho, sell that car.

Have a car that you're paying off?  Sell it and get a car that you can pay for in full, then take the savings you've gained from no car payments and put them into paying off a student loan or towards your next car that you'll also pay in full for. (Bonus: You'll find more negotiating power for lowering a car's price when you pay in full with cash).

Can you exercise at home versus the gym, such as by using the zoomba xbox game?

Have you looked into alternative cable companies with lower costs, or considered how many channels you don't even use?  Do you really need the latest cel phone or a full data plan?

Are there generic medications to the ones you are taking?  Can you arrange for a responsible college student to board in your spare room in exchange for being a nanny?

This may feel like pulling your own teeth, but once you let go of things you don't need and start realizing how many things you pay for that are based on wants, it's rather freeing.

Bonus: Here's 10 simple ways to cut down expenses.

  • Car fuel and/or transportation fees (do the same as with groceries)


Include things such as going to the movie theater, Starbucks coffees, Redbox, restaurants, gifts, clothes, toys, tools, you got in the past month.

ADD EVERYTHING UP for your total expenses and make a game-plan for what areas you can improve on. For the next few months, keep tabs on your expenses/income ratios while you chip away at certain categories and make changes where you see fit, and you'll start to see what works and what doesn't, as well as gain a more concrete idea as to how you can put away money for your kid's college fund, or a vacation, or that you can splurge 2 times this week on a fruit smoothie.  Yum.

It IS possible to have a budget and make it work for you.  Have fun with it!

* If you'd like a great, free template for starting your budget, Dave Ramsey has a wonderful one here

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