The Strategic Homemaker

learning to follow the Father, care for the clan, and redeem the resources


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Home Improvement Purchases and Hold-offs

We have been steadily plugging away at the home improvement and furnishing around here, and I have been trying to balance the issues of improving the home’s value, preparing for a winter with a newborn and toddler, getting furnishings that we will want to keep long-term, and not storing up treasures on earth. It is not something with obvious conclusions, and I have been praying for God to give me wisdom in making these decisions. Anyway, here’s where we decided to spend:

–Organization for the books and puzzles. So far, this has worked great! I got two bins on clearance at Target ($7 each), and bought some jumbo-sized Hefty bags for puzzles. (My daughter loves puzzles, and I think we have around 20.) It was getting annoying to hunt through pieces for 20 puzzles to try to do one, or feeling the need to put them all together at the end of the day. Now, there are usually fewer than 3 out at once, and it is easy for PG to put them away in the correct place.

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–Curtains and thermal liners for the front rooms (office, dining room, master bedroom). Curtains cost more than it seems that they should. And since we had the previous owners remove the old curtain rods due to our perceived ugliness of them, we also had to spring for rods (4 at about $25 each). I finally decided that the potential heat loss prevented would be worth it to have thermal liners (3 pairs at around $28/pair), and since I saw the same curtains I had been imagining at Bed, Bath, and Beyond on clearance (still averaging about $16 a panel for six panels), we got them. I’m still working on sewing a second ruffle curtain for our bedroom, so not showing that right now.

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–A new light fixture (see above). Several of our lights burned out, and with it getting dark early here, we had noticed that the original lights were especially dim anyway. TSH didn’t feel like replacing the tiny bulbs the fixture called for. We got a new chandelier for around $50, and have been enjoying that. I never thought I was a chandelier type of person, but I am really liking the way the dining room is coming together. Here are a before and in-progress pic to remind you what it looked like earlier:

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Oh, and we also got a new solid wood table for free from some of our neighbors, but it needs a new coat of finish on it, so it’s in the basement right now.

–Insulation for the attic. We discovered this summer that our house was really poorly insulated, and thanks to a government energy grant, we are able to get about $3000 worth of insulation and air sealing done for around $500. All the workers are backed up right now, but we are in the line-up to get that work done in the next couple of months.

Now, the following are where we decided to hold off:

–Replacing the carpet in the living room. We had originally been planning to replace this carpet before winter (it’s wrinkled and a bit dingy at the doorway), but as it’s been rug doctored a couple times (once when we moved in, and once after the mudding adventure), and we have a lot on our plate right now, we decided to hold off on that $700 expense until another time.

–New curtains for the living room. I’ve figured out what I want–something patterned navy and white, but since this was one of the few places the previous owners left up the curtains and rods, we decided to just use what we have for now and save ourselves an additional expense.

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–Buying a changing table to set up a baby station downstairs. After shopping around Craigslist and furniture stores for a dresser or changing table we’d want to keep longterm, we decided to just move the one we had downstairs. Also, the baby room upstairs won’t be ready for a couple more months anyway due to the wall issues.

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–Rugs. I really am looking forward to having rugs in several rooms, but at roughly $300 a piece for large soft patterned ones, I have decided to put that off. In all honesty, I had decided to go back to Homegoods and get this one rug which was exactly what I wanted for the office, but after sitting on the decision for a month, it had already sold. God’s way of telling me I didn’t need it right now.

–All the furniture for the office. I’m starting to figure out want I want in here, but right now we are content using the living room for everything, and are going to wait before we furnish another room. Plus, I want TSH to make a couple of the furniture pieces.

So those are the home improvement updates. You also might have noticed that we got some of our art up on the walls, although no new purchases there. That went a long way toward making the house feel like ours.

And finally, here’s a sneak peek at the wall progress in the bedroom. TSH has been hard at work!

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Budget Breakthrough!

No, this post has nothing to do with the federal government, although I would like to see a breakthrough there as well. This post is to show how I actually kept track of our budget in time for it to affect my spending in the month of October.

In my defense, I didn’t have to pay rent the first 5 years post-college, so we saved lots each year without trying too hard. And we did make budgets, we just didn’t keep track of our spending quite in time for it to affect our further spending.

Anyway, the situation is different now, and I needed to learn to keep a budget and adjust my spending accordingly.

I had tried to keep track before, but gotten behind on the records. I think the problem was that I was trying to keep track of every piece in, and every expenditure, including bills, some of which only come once or twice per year. This time I started out the same: I made a chart of spending I wanted to keep track of, but I simplified the list of payments to only ones that were optional, i.e. no bills. Maybe someday, the amount spent on bills can affect the rest of my spending, but we had to start simple.

Here’s the chart:¬†Monthly budget sheet

If you have a set income, you can put the number in the first column which is the max spending in that category. Mine was a little trickier, because other than food, I was trying to limit my optional spending to money I made in odd jobs that month, so the amount I could spend changed.

I put the chart right next to my computer on my desk, and every day or two added in the new expenditures. For October, I just added each expenditure individually, but then I had to go back with my calculator every once in a while to total things up. For November, I’m keeping a running total, which is working much better.

Regardless, I made it to the end of the month with $3 extra. Haha, not much, but I also had an additional $40 that I had worked for and would get paid in November. That’s all. Not too deep, but it’s taken me a while to be successful.

Let me know if you are good at sticking with a budget, and any tips you have. Hopefully this can help some of you!