Category Archives: Home

Home Renovations and Projects: Go DIY or Hire a Contractor?

Turning a house into a home can be a rewarding part of being a homeowner…or it can be a nightmare. Get tips on how to figure out if going DIY or getting a contractor is the way to go!

Should We Hire a Contractor or DIY This Home Project?

If you had to rate yourself on a scale of 1-10 on how handy you are, what would it be?

First off congrats if it’s a seven or higher.  However, even if you’re more in the one to three range, chances are you had those moments and conversations about how cool it would be to tackle some projects. 

It could be as simple as a splash of paint, switching up the decor, okay sprucing up a room, or even tackling a renovation. 

Maybe it’s because you’re stuck at home and you’re thinking, ‘yeah, we need to change this up. 

Or it could be the not so subtle influence of that HGTV binge of 

But then you hit this wall. Let’s call this wall reality.

And the reality is telling you that updating your kitchen is going to cost you a whole lot of money because you’re going to need a contractor and a team to execute your dream. 

Or you hope to save some money and do the work yourself, but you’re the person who just gave themselves a two. 

What do you do? 

First, take a step back and relax. There’s no rush or deadline. 

Second, enjoy this episode because we’re digging into figuring out how to tackle your home projects, big or small! 

In this episode we’ll get into: 

  • How to decide whether or not to DIY
  • How to find the best contractor for you and your budget
  • Expanding your DIY skills

Ready? Let’s get started! 

Resources to Make Your Home Renovation Project More Affordable

If you’re planning on doing a home renovation project and you want to keep it stylish and affordable, here are some resources to check out! 

Thank You to Our Partner Coastal

Support for this podcast comes from Coastal Credit Union!

If you’re living in the Raleigh Durham area and you’re at the stage where you’re planning and saving up for your home project, you really want to check out Coastal.  

Besides having competitive rates with savings, they also have loan options for home improvements, including a home equity line of credit (HELOC)!  

How to Decide if You Want to Get a Contractor or Go DIY with Your Home Renovation? 

Before you decide to go DIY or hire a contractor, there’s some homework you should do that will make your decision much easier and make the process go smoother.  

You can really do a deep dive into this and if you’re tackling a big project, like renovating your kitchen, you want to do this. 

You need to look at: 

  • Scope of the job: May seem obvious, but you need to break down the job. When we were looking at updating our kitchen, we analyzed what had to be done.  What’s the timeframe for it (both DIY and with a contractor)? And what are the costs? Is this structural or cosmetic? 
  • Level of the skill/expertise needed: Try and get a sense of the skill needed for the project. There’s a difference between changing a light fixture or ceiling fan compared to rewiring your house, right? Our take is to go with a licensed professional when it comes to major gas, plumbing, or electric work.
  • Safety: Last and certainly not least, I don’t care how much money you can save, safety is the priority. Never try to do a project without having the proper equipment. 

You should also look up whether or not a permit is required, but that in itself doesn’t mean you need to go with a contractor. 

There are some projects like putting in a fence that requires it, but you can still do it yourself. 

Now, this might seem like a lot of legwork up front, but it can really pay off whichever route you choose. 

If you go DIY on it, obviously you’ll be better prepared. 

If you hire a contractor to tackle the project, this knowledge can make communication easier which hopefully will mean you’re more likely to get what you want and it’ll minimize the chances that you’ll be overcharged for unnecessary or unwanted work. 

I hope these tips make deciding which route to take on your home projects. And if you have any suggestions, please join us in the Thriving Families facebook group. 

We love to swap ideas, share tips and stories and support one another in our goals. I’ll have a link in the show notes or you can head over to simplifyandenjoy.com/fb. 

We’d love to see you there! 

Finding the Best Contractor for You and Your Budget

Alright, you two have decided that you want some professional help.  The problem is you don’t know any contractors in the area. What do you do? 

Depending on your project, there are a few different routes you can go with contractors

Having the right contractor can well worth their fee because they’ll not only be able to perform the actual work, but they can creatively solve problems that will usually pop up in the middle of a project. 

The really great ones can find ways to save you money in certain areas and perhaps redirect it to those details that matter most to you. 

But where do you find that almost mythical talented and affordable contractor? Time to do some leg work again my friend.  

  • Ask family and friends for recommendations
  • Check reviews from other clients. 
  • Sites like Angie's List and HomeAdvisor

We’ve done this and so far have been happy with whom we’ve worked with.

You may think you save hunting for your contractor for when you’re thinking of starting your project, but it’s actually good for you to do this sooner.

Most contractors are happy to do this as long as you’re upfront.  

Earlier this year, we had our kitchen updated and shared the process on an episode so I won’t rehash everything, but whether you’re financing or saving up ahead like we did, it’s important to get estimates.  

The obvious is to make sure that this stays affordable and to be honest, it’s your first time doing a renovation, it’s hard to get an idea of what’s realistic. 

You’ll also discover that estimates can vary greatly between contractors.  

And yes, we want to get a good deal, but this is not the time to go cheap. Sometimes the cheapest quote isn’t the best. 

We’ve gone with ones who not only offered a reasonable price, but could walk us through. I think that’s a big reason why we’ve been able to keep these typically expensive projects within budget. 

Look for a knowledgeable contractor, not simply the cheapest. 

And as you’re getting this estimate, take the chance to talk and get a feel about how well you and the contractor can work. 

Having had big projects done, like finishing the basement so it can become usable office space and redoing the kitchen, we absolutely see how communication is important. 

Sure, you have an idea of what you want, but there are things like code, your house’s particular issue that maybe you’re not aware of and don’t know how to work it out. 

That’s where having  the right contractor is essential. 

You may decide that you want your contractor to take care of everything from A to Z, but in most cases, you’ll want someone who can take your input and ideas. 

And just because you’re getting a  contractor, doesn’t mean you can’t find ways to save. 

You can still keep your budget by taking care of things like shopping for your own materials. Be an assistant on certain tasks, haul some of the debris out. 

But make sure you talk this over with your contractor ahead of time. 

Between the projects with the basement and the kitchen, we’ve been thrilled with the work done with contractors. 

Having gained a bit  more confidence,  I have to say I enjoyed learning how to install tile while we were doing the kitchen backsplash. 

So you may want to see if there’s an opportunity to not only have a professional take the lead on the project, but for you to pick up a skill that you can use for another project down the line. 

Getting the right contractor can take some work, but it can be a fantastic partnership in the years to come as you make your house into a home! 

Expanding Your DIY Skills

Okay, maybe you’ve decided you want to do something around the house yourself. Kudos my friend! 

Surprisingly even if you’re not the most handy person, there are plenty of ways you can fix up your place without having to be a licensed expert. 

For those looking for a starter project, let me offer a few suggestions and then we go over some resources to help you knock out your design. 

  1. Transform old furniture
  2. Organize your space
  3. Beautify your yard
  4. Update a room
  5. Build something

Transform Old Furniture

  • Sand/Stain/Paint
  • Change Hardware
  • Upcycle It

Organize Your Space

  • Build a Custom Closet (kits)
  • Shelving 
  • Cubbies for your mudroom

Beautify Your Yard

  • Build a Fire Pit
  • Grow a Garden
  • Compost Bin

Update a Room

  • Paint 
  • Tile/Wallpaper
  • Rearrange the Layout 
  • Add Details like crown molding, wall paneling

Build Something

  • Shelves
  • Sofa Sleeve
  • Table

Now if you have a friend who can walk you through the process (well, virtually now), that’s fantastic. 

If not, here are some resources we use.

  • Pinterest – not only get ideas for projects, but get tutorials
  • YouTube
  • Libraries (books and sometimes classes)
  • Communities 
  • Magazine (yes, they are still available!) 

You can use apps like Houzz to organize your ideas and hone in on what you need to get and learn for your project. 

Support the Podcast!

Thank you so much for listening to the podcast! If you enjoyed this episode and found it helpful, here are some ways to support it.

  • Spread the word! If you enjoyed this episode and think it can help a buddy get on the path to dumping debt and become financially free, please share.
  • Leave a review. Honest feedback and reviews make a big difference and gets the word out about the podcast. Leave your review on Apple or Stitcher.
  • Grab a copy of Jumpstart Your Marriage and Your Money. My book is designed for a busy couple to set up their finances in 4 weeks. Get tips and tools that have worked for other couples on their journey of building their marriage and wealth together!

Music and Audio Credit

Like the music in this episode? Music is by Staircases, Joshua Luke Smith, and Arms and Sleepers from Audiio. Additional audio comes from FreeSound.org: EnjoyPA and balloonhead.

How to Productively Work from Home When the Kids are There Too

I’ve lost count of how many days we’ve been home lol.

I want to say we’re starting our third week all together at home today.

To be honest working from home with kids around is both a joy and a challenge. We absolutely love the extra time with the girls and being there as they tackle some projects.

Like right now, they are making these short films and animations.

Image
The tough part – getting work done by the deadline when you have a five and eight-year-old.

Thankfully, I’ve been able to maneuver things a bit, but I still have client projects I need done every week and month.

It took a bit of time, but I think we found a rhythm that works for now.

Last week Andy Hill and talked about what we’re doing to balance kids and work on Thriving Families over on Facebook (come join us – it’s free!)

I also did a podcast episode years ago about it too.

Here are a few of my tips for those looking at running a business from home with little ones.

Create a Schedule

You don’t need to (or really want to) have things planned out minute by minute, but having a routine is a lifesaver for running a business.

With a podcast, I have to set aside time to do interviews and record shows.

After testing things out, I have a fairly set schedule where I can handle these tasks while the kids are napping or my husband is at home.

Shift Your Work Schedule

With remote work become a reality for many parents, you may find that shifting your schedule can allow you to remain productive with minimal disruption on your employer's side.

It's not an available option for all work places (I heard some employers are checking in login times to make sure schedule is kept), but it can be a handy option if okay with emp

Create (and Enforce) Boundaries

Many entrepreneurs who work from home say it can be hard to separate things. They’re checking email on the weekend in the middle or family.

My advice is to be clear with your clients about your availability. You also want to sit down with your spouse and your kids if they’re old enough and explain the situation.

My oldest knows that if I’m recording it’s a quiet time for her while she plays in her room until I come and get her. On the other hand, I respect that she’s a kid and I keep my recording session short – no more than 30 minutes.

Getting what I need to be done at that time means I have to be prepared and have already done my research for the guest, but it’s been worth it for me.

Communicate Regularly

To be able to stick to our schedule and keep those boundaries, Rob and I talk daily about what we have on our agendas.

We also loop in the girls, telling them which points at the day they need to be quiet.

As a reward, once we've finished that task, we'll take time to go outside with the girl, play a game, or give them one of their favorite snacks.

Connect with Me

Speaking of we've covered the topic of shifting schedules I’m doing some new stuff here.

While the podcast takes time to produce, I’ll be using Instagram and YouTube to create shorter, but more ‘in the now’ videos.

They may not so polished (I’m not a videographer ?), but I’d love to help you out any way I can.

Don’t forget to join us in our free Thriving Families Facebook group. We’re focused on helping one another our with our family and money goals!

Frugal Foodie: Enjoy Great Food & Save Money

Food is usually one of the biggest expenses families have. We dive right back in with ways you can save a significant amount of money while still being a foodie!

Becoming a Frugal Foodie

Frugal foodie is back!

During our first season last year, I did an episode eating well on a budget and becoming a frugal foodie

It was one of the most popular episodes by far. I had a lot of fun doing it because we not only looking at ways to save on food – which can be a huge expense but how to do it in such a way that you’re still enjoying fantastic meals. 

Simply going for the cheapest foods is not a smart option. For one thing, there’s a lot of highly processed food options out there that are cheaper, but not good for you.

Your health can take a dive which can affect your quality of life and really the since the podcast is called Simplify and Enjoy, you can’t take advantage of the second part if you’re unhealthy. 

And if you consider yourself a foodie, you probably want your meals to be not just healthy, but tasty and full of flavor. 

Now based on the last show, I saw that I missed a critical step for many on their path to becoming a frugal foodie. 

It’s that actual transition from regularly enjoying a meal out with friends to becoming someone who can invite buddies over for meals. 

What if you love food, but hate to cook? What if your idea of meal prep is ordering in? 

So in this episode, we’re going to get into:

  • essential kitchen items you need to whip up a fantastic meal with 20 minutes or less of work
  • whether grocery delivery services and meal planning services can save you money and quickly level up your cooking 
  • My favorite resources for quick and easy recipes

Let’s get started!

Resources to Become a Frugal Foodie

If you’re looking to eat better while sticking to your budget, here are some resources to check out:

Thank You to Our Sponsor Coastal!

Support for this podcast comes from Coastal Credit Union! If you’re living in the Raleigh Durham area and looking to bank better, come check out Coastal today.

If you’re looking for a rewards card that fits you, Coastal has a Signature Premier Rewards Visa Credit Card with some great benefits!

Support the Podcast!

Thank you so much for listening to the podcast! If you enjoyed this episode and found it helpful, here are some ways to support it.

  • Spread the word! If you enjoyed this episode and think it can help a buddy get on the path to dumping debt and become financially free, please share.
  • Leave a review. Honest feedback and reviews make a big difference and gets the word out about the podcast. Leave your review on Apple or Stitcher.
  • Grab a copy of Jumpstart Your Marriage and Your Money. My book is designed for a busy couple to set up their finances in 4 weeks. Get tips and tools that have worked for other couples on their journey of building their marriage and wealth together!

Music Credit

Like the music in this episode? Our theme song is by Gentle Regime. Additional music by Lee Rosevere.

Designer Kitchen on an IKEA Budget?

We're planning on renovating our kitchen, but we don't want to break our budget. Is it possible to have a designer kitchen on an IKEA budget? We’ll find out today! 

Kitchen Reno on a Budget

One of our big goals for 2020 is finally updating our kitchen. When we moved into our house four years ago, we knew there were going to be some projects. 

While the house definitely had some great bones and had a timeless quality to them, there were rooms that felt a bit…well dated. 

You got the stylish parquet floor in the dining room butting up against the dingy tile in the kitchen. 

While a kitchen update is in itself a challenge, there are some factors that came into play to require some more creativity with both the budget and design. 

For one, our original plan was to work on the kitchen this winter and then come summer we were going to buy a replacement commuter car for my husband. 

There’s a lot to juggle and besides having a kitchen we love, we also want to keep it affordable. 

Today Barret Teague, Consumer Lending Analytics Manager at Coastal Credit Union, is going to help us crunch the numbers. 

In this episode we’ll look at:

  • How to figure your kitchen budget + ways to finance your remodel
  • Finding a wonderful contractor  
  • Ways you can save and make your dollars go further

Let’s get started! 

Resources to Make Your Home Renovation Project More Affordable

If you’re planning on doing a home renovation project and you want to keep it stylish and affordable, here are some resources to check out! 

Thank You to Our Partner Coastal

Support for this podcast comes from Coastal Credit Union!

If you’re living in the Raleigh Durham area and you’re at the stage where you’re planning and saving up for your home project, you really want to check out Coastal.  

Besides having competitive rates with savings, they also have loan options for home improvements, including a home equity line of credit (HELOC)!  

How to Budget for a Kitchen Renovation

Let's start off with the biggest question we had and you're probably thinking – how much is this renovation going to cost?

The answer is …it depends.

Whenever you are tackling an entire room or area like we are with this kitchen, there are several factors at play. You have to consider, for example, the materials that you're going to be using.

With our kitchen, some decisions we had to make were:

  • what cabinets are we going to be using
  • what countertops do we want?

Since we're dealing with a kitchen. we also consider appliances. Are we going to go for top of the line or something more affordable but still stylish and functional?

And then, of course, the layout. If your house has a good flow to it, you might just want to let it be there.

We do like how the cabinets run in our kitchen. So the new cabinets are basically going to be in the same spot.

If you do decide that you're going to shift things around the room, just also consider you may have additional expenses like permits.

Finally, you may decide that this is going to be a major renovation, which includes breaking down, moving, and shifting walls.

In that case, if you're opening up walls, there's a good chance that your expenses are going to be higher because you're more than likely going to need permits in skilled trades, like electricians and plumbers to move and run these new lines.

So your decisions on these factors can either keep whatever renovation you're doing affordable or have it balloon past your initial budget.

Pay Attention to the Details (They Can Quickly Add Up!)

Now, for our work in the kitchen, we are actually focusing on a few minor adjustments that we think will have a big impact.

We're going to be unifying and having the same flooring in both the kitchen and the dining room. Ross going to be upgrading some of the appliances and fixtures.

Even though we're keeping the same layout with the main cabinets, we're actually going to be losing some uppers on the opposite walls.

We're taking advantage of better storage options that are now available with the new cabinets and we're putting in a pantry.

So with these choices, our kitchen renovation is going to be on the lower side than what's typically given for the range, which is currently $13,000 (updating your space) to $37,000 (renovating your kitchen).

And just doing this, walking through what you want in the kitchen can help you define the scope of the project so you can get a more accurate estimate of what you could expect for expenses. So how do you find those numbers? It's by going online and offline, as Barrett explains.

Barrett Teague: You know, really the best thing to do is to just go big and kind of map out what you want and get in touch, reach out to some contractors.

I prefer personal referral myself. Like, you know, you reach out to on your maybe your neighborhood Facebook page and see if there's someone else in the neighborhood who can testify that so and so does great work.

You know, invite them out, talk to them about what you want to do and just start getting some cost estimates, you know, and those cost estimates, you're either going to feel really good about the information that you get or you're going to realize that maybe you need to dial things back a little bit.

It really just starts with getting some numbers from some real people that are going to do the work.

Support the Podcast!

Thank you so much for listening to the podcast! If you enjoyed this episode and found it helpful, here are some ways to support it.

  • Spread the word! If you enjoyed this episode and think it can help a buddy get on the path to dumping debt and become financially free, please share.
  • Leave a review. Honest feedback and reviews make a big difference and gets the word out about the podcast. Leave your review on Apple or Stitcher.
  • Grab a copy of Jumpstart Your Marriage and Your Money. My book is designed for a busy couple to set up their finances in 4 weeks. Get tips and tools that have worked for other couples on their journey of building their marriage and wealth together!

Music Credit

Like the music in this episode? Music is by Lee Rosevere and Audiio.


How to Afford Your Dream Home Renovation on a Budget

Thinking about doing a home renovation? Today we’re talking about how to get an HGTV worthy home on a budget!

Home Renovations on a Budget

Last episode we got into the house hunt; finding one of the gems at a great price.

Louis Guillama shared how you can snag a fantastic deal by going up with a fixer-upper with solid bones.

Now we’re getting into the nitty-gritty – turning that house into a home you love.

We love those designs we see on HGTV and Pinterest, but we don't want to blow thousands of dollars on a renovation.

So how do you get a beautiful home on a budget?

Actually, that’s what my husband Rob and I are tackling with our place. We bought a ranch home with a full basement a few years ago.

We’ve tackled a few projects here and there, but the room that has gotten the most attention by far is the basement.

It’s a great sized space around 900 sqft, but when we first bought it, it was well, a basement.

Now after a few projects, we’re using it as a dual office space for when we work at home and it’s been fantastic.

And so far we’ve been able to do these renovations debt-free.

So today, Rob and I will share our take on the basement renovation as well as tips on how we saved money with it.

I’ll also include tips from home renovator and author Kathi Fleck.

In this episode we’ll get into:

  • Coming up with your renovation design and wishlist
  • Creating a budget and saving up for your project
  • Finding a fantastic contractor who will work with you and keep the project on budget

Hope you enjoy!

Resources to Keep Your Home Renovation on Budget

Here are some handy resources for your home renovation projects!

Thank You to Our Sponsor Coastal!

Support for this podcast comes from Coastal Credit Union!

If you’re living in the Raleigh Durham area and you’re at the stage where you’re planning and saving up for your home project, you really want to check out Coastal.  

Besides having competitive rates with savings, they also have loan options for home improvements. You can find at more at bankbetter.org!  

Renovating the Basement

Elle Martinez: All right, so I want to talk to you about the basement renovation because by far we've put the most amount in terms of home projects here.

So I guess we should start at the beginning, which was we were house hunting in neither one of us. I don't think put basement on the list. I mean, we saw split levels, but that wasn't there was more like depending on how this flotilla was arranged.

Rob: Well, yeah. Basement wasn't on the list because basements don't exist in North Carolina.

Elle Martinez: Well, this part [of the state]. I don't know about others.

Rob: Oh, yeah. We got in the area. Basements aren't a thing here. Yes. I mean, basically, that whole area, as we found out, they do exist. You know, they're rare, but they're not common enough that you would put them on your list.

Elle Martinez: Yeah. So when we looked at the house and you saw that it had a basement and yeah, there were definitely issues going on there.

What were your initial impressions?

Rob: Well, well, big space, lots of possibilities.

Elle Martinez: But before we talked about in this idea of it being a home office, we had to definitely get some work done.

The first one was that wall and getting the brace. And that was a few thousand on that. Correct?

Rob: Yeah. We'll call it that.

Elle Martinez: I went ahead and checked and looking at the old invoice, the total was $3,800.

Crucial Home Repairs Before the Renovation

Elle Martinez: And then we get that done. And we found out. What was it. I forgot the weekend. It was. David, in anywhere in town and what was the storm? Was it Matthew? And by storm, I meant hurricane. That's when we realized we had more work to do with. Yes, I believe this, Matthew. Yeah. So who saw that first? I remember pulling up the driveway.

Rob: David. Yeah. He urged the water coming out first and then noticed. And I was like I brushed it off before we had open. The doors are open going through the basement door because it was pouring down rain. And it's like that doesn't make any sense through the door and. Oh, yeah, and less and less water. I mean endless one inch high water. But, you know, an unlimited amount.

Elle Martinez: Yeah. Water in the basement. Never. Good thing. And I think. I should like take a second to mention the reason we were surprised is because there was work previously done with the house. There was a French drain that was installed and then there were to some pumps in the basement. But we found out they don't work quite as well as they were supposed to.

Rob: Yeah. In the case of Matthew, we lost power so the pumps weren't pumping. The next year there was another high rain time period. But instead of. But we didn't lose power.

Even so, the sump pumps were still overwhelmed. One of the pumps was an active didn't activate properly, and the other one got overwhelmed.

And then at another point, the pump actually stopped working. But I think that was after the. That was after we had redone the drainage.

And somehow along the line there, the pipe guy was broken. So it actually wasn't pumping the water out at all, but did matter because we have the drains, the new drainage that way.

Elle Martinez: Yeah. And that was about $5,000 six thousand to get the gravity fed kind of drain around the basement or something like that.

Rob: Ok. I don't recall the exact number.

Elle Martinez: I went ahead and check the invoice and it was just over forty eight hundred. Happy to say we haven't had any flooding or water in the basement since having that installed. So, OK. We had to do the prep work. We had to make sure there is no water that's going to come in and base because it makes no sense to finish it and then have those problems. So when we did have that cleared away, we had the brace. We went with the natural kind of drainage system. What were you thinking in terms of. Okay, now we're actually going to have some fun. This is more like repair work. Now we're gonna do a renovation project. What were some of your thoughts for how this basement could be used?

Rob: Ah, yes, the point where the possibilities have to materialize into actual usage. Still didn't know what to do with that projectors with the space just yet.

Elle Martinez: And I think you have to acknowledge that as part of the renovation process is making decisions on how you think you're going to use.

Even before you call contractors and you get estimates, you just want to have an idea of the potential uses that you could get out of it. And when you have a space like a basement, where there are many different directions you can go to, it can feel a little overwhelming.

But when I had spoke with home renovator and author Cathy Fleck, she gave good advice, which is at this stage in the game, while you're still trying to save up for this renovation, it's a perfect time to think about the possibilities.

Kathi Fleck: One of the things that I like to help people with is go ahead and put everything out there as far as what they do dream what they might want to consider, because this is the time to do it before they get started with this needed to go through some ideas if I really knew what to do with it, because we had a couple of ideas gathering around.

Rob: We have… it could be a guest room or part of it can be a guest room in the entertainment area. I do think that. The office is having these offices and having a little bit of a play area for the kids is a good use.

Elle Martinez: Yeah, but I think because we couldn't exactly nail down the usage, it did lead us to like keep it very simple for the first phase of the renovation, like we wanted an open concept, almost like a studio in a sense of getting the electrical work done, getting the drywall and the framing and everything, but not partitioning any rooms yet. So it's one large room, of course, with the bathroom.

Rob: But yeah. We had I think I had suggested it would be that we would sort of try to create pseudo rooms using various pieces of furniture or dividers so that we could play around with the space before we made permanent walls.

Elle Martinez: I also want to mention how grateful we are. We had a family friend who is very talented in design.

That's her expertise and she gave us a general layout that we could follow with these room dividers that made the most sense for how we planned on using in living in this space. And it's been a tremendous help now.

Elle Martinez: I think a big challenge a lot of families have. And we kind of had was we knew for us we wanted to do this debt-free, save up ahead and pay for it.

The question was like. Do you call contractors and get several estimates for something that you're not going to do for another year or how do you get a ballpark figure?

I remember the very, very initial estimate was when we were getting the drain done. And the contractor was working their bond and his crew. And just asking for it like it was such a ballpark figure, but I told him that I was like, we just want to get an idea of like, how much would it take or how much should we start saving up for?

And I think the original was like fifteen thousand or something like that.

Elle Martinez: And even though this wasn't a concrete estimate, it was really helpful for us, as I mentioned before. We wanted to do this debt-free. So it was important for us to have that money in the bank.

I also want to tell you that there are some fantastic resources out there. If you just want to get a rough idea, such as home advisor and home wise, where you can give an estimate of the materials and get an idea of how much that's going to cost, including labor.

It's not perfect, but it can give you a general idea of what to shoot for. And as you get closer to renovation and you're talking with contractors, just keep in mind that costs can still vary greatly depending on the materials you use.

Kathi Fleck: A lot of times people will say to me, I don't know when it's going to cost. So I really have a hard time giving you a budget. So they're trying to focus in on what they think it's going to cost. But in reality, most of us don't really know what it's going to cost until we get into it. Oftentimes I'm asked. Can you do a green model for a certain dollar amount in the dollar amount is realistic?

But then when they start getting into picking out products, they might choose very high-end ones in that frozen budget way out of line. I won't know that till we get further down the path on picking out the products.

So if they have an idea of what they want to invest in their project and it might be able to make a harmless value, there's a certain dollar.

So I don't want to overspend or maybe I can't afford to put more money into it. So if we start with that, then it's okay.

Here's the budget that you want to work with. What can get done in that time frame or in that budget? Is it going to be realistic for the products that they want or how much they want to do? And sometimes it's not.

Sometimes they have to save a little bit more money or maybe they can't do it at all or they decide they have to pick different products. So by talking about all of these with somebody that they feel that they can work with, then they can start to zero in on what they're remodeling going to be.

Elle Martinez: With the basement, One of the things was it was a significant amount, I think, altogether for the renovation part. It came out to eleven thousand.

So, I mean, that's not chump change. I know we saved monthly and then you're a natural saver with that. And then we decided late tax returns and we tried to find ways to keep costs low, to have as much as we could automated with savings. Right. Am I missing anything?

Rob: Yeah. Basically, he's basically made sure that we had the money and that it was in the accounts that we worked. And so we didn't actually pull the trigger into a new that we had enough money, plus still some extra buffer left over in case anything went wrong.

Elle Martinez: Yeah. Yeah. Because one thing I did know for sure is every time I watched any kind of renovation show or just like from experience says, you have an estimate that you don't know, especially when you're doing something like messing with electrical and walls, that there could be unexpected expenses.

And there were. But I would say Mike did a good job. Contractor finding ways to either offset that or minimize it. When we did come up with those extra costs. Yeah.

Finding a Great Contractor for Home Renovations

Kathi Fleck: They'll tell me. ‘I'm not really going for the low price', but they're still going after price because that's the only comparison that they can have. The bottom line, the price. So I think, Jeff, all the different approaches to take a look at what they want to work with. And so there are ways to find good contractors, but a business burial is one. And that's something a lot of people are familiar with. And they can go online and check out that company and see if there's any problems with them, what their rating is. There's also association one belong to Nari, which is the National Association of Remodeling Industry. And there's also another something like Pinterest, which is called How to Use the dot com. And there's reviews for those of us who are on how often have people find me through houses like they're looking for ideas. And also contractors. So if somebody is very visible and is out there in the community and you can find them, know that they're going to be around. Our reputation is extremely important. And the last thing I want is a negative hit on any of those associations because it's totally not going to help me have a positive approach with others. And then I suggest interviewing the contractor and finding out who has a good fit for them or not. Everybody does. And that doesn't mean that they're a bad contractor. It just means that they may not yet be a good fit for that homeowner. So once they find the contractor that they want to work with and they talk about budget as far as what they want to put into it, and then they get the help of the contractor to work with the products that are going to fit within that budget, there's already that working relationship that is starting before they start tearing something out in time to do the job. But many times homeowners are in a hurry and they say, well, I really want to get this down. They're excited. They've been thinking about it for a long time. They have the money saved up or put away until they're ready to get started and then they're in a hurry to find the contractor. And even though they may have met with three or five different contractors, it still may not be the right one.

Elle Martinez: So you might be eager to jump into the renovation. But please take Kathy's advice, interview the contractors.

Hopefully they're interviewing you back, making sure that it's a good fit for both that their style and design and also how cost conscious they are, if that's a major concern of yours, is in line with what you are imagining or expecting.

Finding the right contractor is going to make your home renovation a lot easier.

Elle Martinez: So if anyone's listening and they're going to do a home renovation. Any tips or any piece of advice you want to give them?

Rob: If possible, do it piece by piece to see how you want to use it. I mean, if you have enough to do all of it all at once, great. But if you want to do it piecemeal and you're in a situation, you can do that. I don't know if that's advice or not. That's just what we're doing.

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Music Credit

Like the music in this episode? Music is by Lee Rosevere and Music for Makers.

How We’re Tackling and Reducing Waste Around the House

As we simplify things at home, one area that we're constantly going back to is our trash and recycling habits.

We've seen improvements with reducing our trash. We have service every week, but I'd say we only fill up our garbage bin about every two weeks.

Our recycling bins, though, well they're usually packed. While we're happy about that being the majority of what we toss, a recent episode of 99% Invisible reminded me, recycling has kind of taken the spotlight with waste management while reduce and reuse have been pushed off to the side.

So for 2019, we'll step up our game and see if we can knock done the amout of waste we throw out in the first place.

If you're in the same boat and want to become a more green family, I'll share what we're doing now along with some ideas we're going to try out.

Reducing Food Waste

Sarah from Smile and Conquer has laid out some fantastic ways she's tackling her food waste.

Two big components of her master plan include meal planning and composting, both we employ here around the house.

They're very effective to cut back on waste and with saving you money.

Composting Kitchen Scraps

Composting is pretty straightforward for us. We have a pail underneath the kitchen sink where we put our kitchen scraps and any veggies or fruits that have gone bad.

Every few days we head outside to add it to our compost piles in the backyard.

We use two tucked away behind some trees and the kitchen scraps one takes about breaks down fairly quickly about 6 months.

They each hold about 200 gallons (around 12 lbs per gallon) so if we had to buy the equivalent amount of compost from the store, we'd have to pay $720 (basing on a 40lb bag being $24) to cover one bin.

So yeah, doing so good for the earth also means we get to save quite a bit of money!

Better Meal Planning

We don't lay out a menu per se with each meal listed, but rather we design our meals that week based on what we already have and what tasty ingredients are in season (aka on sale).

You'd be suprised at how easy it is to throw together delicious meals that are cheap.

One our go-to one are tacos. You can mix and match any protein (we like pork), some crunchy greens, along with veggies.

Knowing that, we have a stash of tortillas in our pantry so we can make some for those busy night when eating out or delivery is a temptation.

Better meal planning (and upgrading our cooking skills) has helped us to reduce waste and saved us some cash.

Even by cutting back on eating out once a week, we're able to save around $120 (estimating that a dash for take out is around $30 for our family of four).

Being Wiser with Our Purchases

With trying to be more responsible around our home is also being careful before we brings into it.

This means when we're purchasing we're giving some attention to how either:

  • how easy packaging and the item can break down and be recycled
  • how durable it is
  • how well it can be used for more than one thing

An example of this thought process is with our kitchen wares and utensils.

We have been cooking more at home over the last few years and so we've bought stuff, both for and serving.

Cast iron pan is still our absolute best buy by far. (Can't tell you how many meals we've made with that!)

Thoughts on Reducing Waste In and Around the House

As you can see it's a work in progress for us. We're trying to be wiser with that we have and smarter with our purchases.

So there's my take on things, I'd love to get yours – how do you handle waste around your home? what steps have you taken to reduce and reuse?