Being new home owners means we’re facing a number of new expenses. These include HOA fees, property taxes, and of course mortgage payments. In addition, we’ve been working on some home improvement projects that have the potential to be an additional drain on our budget.
This is all part of the process of making a house a home, and we’re intent on not going broke doing while doing it. A big way we’ve been saving money has been to go ahead and do some of the work ourselves.
Do your own painting
When we closed, we immediately took the keys and drove to our new place. It was fantastic to have a home of our own, but something was definitely missing — color. The house was plain white on the inside, and we knew that we needed to get some of the rooms painted before we moved in.
Unfortunately, since we had just made the biggest purchase of our lives, we were on a tight budget. We thus decided to host a painting party, and several of our friends volunteered to help. What’s nice is that our circle of friends includes some professional painters who gave us some tips for getting a great paint job.
We bought the paint and supplies while our friends filled in the gaps, such as lending us their ladders. Sharing these sorts of items amongst friends can be a great way to save money.
Here’s what we needed to complete our painting project:
We bought our paint from Sherwin-Williams and Lowe’s. Depending which room you’re painting, you might opt for different finishes.
- Flat: Bedrooms, Dining Rooms, Ceilings
- Satin: Halls, Children’s Bedrooms, Family Rooms
- Semi-gloss: Kitchens, Bathrooms, Trim
- Gloss: Wood trim, Doors, Cabinets
While people often cut corners when it comes to primer, using it can give you a much better end result. This is especially true if you’re changing colors. For example, when my mom bought her house, one of the bedrooms was black. We had to prime it in order to change it to a very soothing pink for my sister’s bedroom. When we were done, nobody would’ve had a clue about the previous color.
Brushes and rollers
We bought a variety of brushes for “cutting in” and also several types of rollers for achieving different textures. We also borrowed several painting poles for getting to hard-to-reach places.
Finally, we picked up a number of other small items including drop cloths, rags, paint trays, and a paint can opener. You should also be sure to have some basic tools on hand (hammer, screwdriver, etc.) for prepping the room before painting.
Putting it all together
In the end, our painting party really felt like a party, we had the music cranked and were catching up while we painted. We did our best to show our appreciation by having plenty of food and drinks on hand. We also threw a ‘thank you’ party to celebrate moving in and to show appreciation for every one’s hard work.
Installing ceiling fans
When we were choosing options for our house, we asked friends which upgrades we could do on the cheap ourselves and which we should have done professionally. The feedback they provided saved us a lot of money.
For example, we wanted ceiling fans in several rooms, but the builder was asking an unreasonable amount. Instead, we had them install the necessary wiring and we bought and installed the fans ourselves after we moved in.
After searching for the right style and price, I found a great deal on ceiling fan kits at Lowe’s. Unfortunately, when we went to install them, we discovered that the included instructions didn’t match the wiring in our house. Fortunately, we have a couple of friends with electrical experience, and they were able to point us in the right direction.
We now have a ceiling fan in our living room, and will have one in our bedroom soon. We’ll install fans later for the office and guest room, but they’re not a high priority right now.
Buying new furniture
While buying new furniture isn’t technically a “home improvement,” it makes our house much more livable, so I’m including it here. Since moving into our new place we’ve acquired several new (to us) pieces of furniture.
Our biggest find was a love seat in good condition that fits like a glove in our guest/TV room. Someone in the neighborhood had put it out by the dumpster. Most of the time we only see junk out there, but every once in awhile we’ve seen great pieces that were dumped by neighbors who were apparently upgrading.
Will we be buying new furniture at some point? Yes. For example, my old office desk got broken during our move to North Carolina two years ago. I’ve been using a card table, but will soon be in the market for a replacement. While we’ll look for a good used desk, we might end up buying new.
Another trick that we’ve learned is refinishing furniture instead of replacing it. For example, we repainted our dining room set rather than buying a new one. It really has breathed new life into it, and allowed us to work on rebuilding our savings instead of plunking down a bunch of money on new furniture.
Budgeting for home improvements
I’ve read and have been told that you should set aside 1-2% of your home’s value for ongoing maintenance and improvements. We haven’t been homeowners long enough to say if this is accurate or not, but it seems prudent to automatically set aside some of our cash for little projects. And if you don’t end up using it all on household projects, you’ll have a handy savings account that you can use for other projects in the future.
I should also note that we’ve really enjoyed these little projects. While it’s technically work, getting these things done has made us feel incredibly productive, and has allowed us to spend some quality time together
So now it’s your turn to share… What types of home improvement projects have you tackled? And what tricks have you learned for saving money along the way? Do you have any funny stories to share from your experiences?