Monday, October 5, 2015

Improving Your Home on a Budget

Our kitchen before we took the cabinets down

Have you ever caught yourself saying, "One day, when we have more money, I will do . . ."? I know I have. I will confess, I am a very visual person, and I am energized by beautiful surroundings. This doesn't mean that I wish we lived in a mansion, or had top-of-the-line furniture and kitchen appliances, but I do appreciate a clean, serene environment.

Of course, there are always the realities, like our bathroom, with its Peptobismol tub and sink, or the emerald green carpet in our basement. I know we can't afford to change those things right now, or as Amy put it, we have other priorities, mainly paying off our student loans.

We have several years to go till we get to zero, though, so while we work toward a debt-free state, I also want to find ways to make our home nicer on a budget. This past week, I was really inspired by a post at Miss Mustard Seed called "Dear Reader: To the One Who's Waiting for the Next House." In it, she talks about her own longings to have a farmhouse that have yet to materialize.

One of the tips she gave that has stuck with me is to build skills even if you don't have that much money. Over the past couple of years, I have started to get into basic building and have asked for money for tools for birthday or Christmas presents. Whether it be for cooking or building, I think tools are some of the best presents you can give yourself, because with a little time and money for building supplies, you can learn how to make things that would cost much more than if you were to pay for them in a store.

After the cabinet removal - now we have a much better view!

Our current budget for home improvement (a tiny $20/month) is being used for paint for our kitchen and family room area, but once we get an extra paycheck in January, we plan on setting some aside for some building projects as well as homeschooling and clothing needs. Here are a few things on my list to do, with estimated costs in parentheses:

  • re-shape and re-upholster our current sofa with a dropcloth ($50)
  • re-upholster two thrift store chairs for our living room ($50)
  • make triple pedestal dining table and bench ($200)
  • add board and batten trim to our living room ($50)
  • add a mudroom area to the entrance from our garage ($50)
  • build headboards for our bed and our sons' beds ($75)
  • make quilts for our bed and our sons' beds ($250) - this would be a multi-year project, and the reason I have more money earmarked for it is that if I'm going to spend so much time making quilts, I want to be able to afford fabric that I love
  • finish adding bookshelves to our media unit ($0 - we already have the materials)
Now you may be wondering: do I know how to do all of these things? Not really. I have never sewn a slipcover or re-upholstered anything. I know how to sew, and I have just about finished my first woodworking project (an adorable play kitchen from Ana White), but beyond that, I am still very much a beginner. 

But here's where it's great that we have a terrible sofa - I can't really mess it up, or if I do, it won't be any worse off than it was before. Having $12 thrift-store chairs gives me a freedom to try new things and learn.

I don't plan on getting all of the things on the list above done this year, but it's good to refer to when we have a little extra money.

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