Gymless and loving it!

>> 9.30.2009

With a new mortgage payment coming up (tomorrow!) and about a million things I want to spend money on fixing, the monthly budget needed to be streamlined big time! Although I loved going to my boot camp classes and watching The Biggest Loser while I ran on the treadmill, having a $50/ month gym membership is just out of the question. At first, there was a giant hole where the fun in my fitness routine was, but I’ve come to find a few ways to fill the gap:

*Mix it up with the small screen. Now that I’m stuck with cable for the next year, I’m making the most of it by recording programs on FitTV. With the variety of shows that FitTV airs (yoga, boot camp, belly dancing, etc) and my cheapo stash of workout dvd’s, I’m never at a loss for some selection in my workouts.

That's right, I have Paula and Kathy... I never said I was cool.

*Get into training. I have some big races coming up in the next few months (including a marathon) that I’m hard at work for. Knowing that I have to keep up with a schedule so that I can complete the event really helps me to focus and do the workouts.

*Keep it social. One of the best additions to my workout routine has been my new running partner. We meet two or three times a week and talk to each other the entire time we run, making things fly by! In addition to those workouts, I do a group track workout on Tuesdays (on a free school track) and long runs with my boyfriend on Saturdays. With so many people to see, I look forward to the sweat.

*Multitask by adding purpose into fitness. My dog needs daily exercise so I take her out on runs and hikes whenever I can. In addition, I try to walk or bike to restaurants or shops in my neighborhood when possible. The feeling of accomplishment after doing these workouts keeps me coming back for more.

Anyone else give up a gym membership lately? Maybe you’ve been going without one for years… how do you keep things interesting?


MIA Contractor Remedies

>> 9.29.2009

Well, it has been two weeks since I last mentioned my excitement about finishing up the bathroom renovation ... and zero work has been done on the room. Including this time, we are officially a month over the estimated completion timeline.

I’ve found that there are two easy ways to remedy this type of situation:
*Never pay in full until the job is absolutely completed. When my contractor asked for money, I gave him 2/3 of the job’s cost. That amount was plenty to compensate for the work done, but with enough of a balance remaining so that he would need to come back again.
I learned this lesson from my mom’s recent renovation. She paid off her contractor with one drawer front and cabinet face unfinished. The contractor hadn’t been paid for the $200 or so remaining balance, but he found a bigger job in the meantime and left her stuck without a finished space.

*Reel him back in with your wording. Being rude or acting extremely upset never solves anything. Remember, although you are paying them, they are still helping you. At the same time, they need to sense that you are serious about holding him to his promises.
After a phone call that I made last week solicited no response, I knew that I needed to use more serious wording when communicating with my MIA contractor. In an email that I sent to my contractor, I included the sentences: “I’m ready for this job to be completed.” and “If you don’t have anything lined up, I can go ahead and call so-and-so to do the work.” in between more lighthearted, understanding sentences that would keep him on my side. Guess who’s coming back to take care of the final projects today… :-)

I don’t have any big reveal moments to share (yet), but let’s look at a mini before and after of the space:

The boyfriend modeling in my tiny shower.

And I quote, "I've never been able to stand under the showerhead before!" (he's 6'3)

Have any good MIA contractor remedies?


A Lesson Learned

>> 9.28.2009

A couple of weeks ago, I watched HGTV’s special: My First Place Lessons Learned . Having recently signed my life away to a loan on my house, I felt a little nervous watching the episode in which first time homebuyers previously featured on My First Place come back and share their “I wish I knew” moments. I knew I couldn’t go back and change anything about my process, but I was still interested to see what they slipped up on. One man lost a home (bid) due to his lacking of bank approval, another woman ended up having roofing issues when the “new roof” description on the sales flyer didn’t actually end up applying to her home, and a young couple became stuck in a home at the top of their budget with a dysfunctional bathroom. Luckily, I haven’t found any giant issues (yet) with my home, and although there are cosmetic issues, I was aware of them when I purchased the place.

Well, since watching the show, I found one of my lessons learned: look into the neighbors before moving in. So far, the only snag I’ve come across with my neighbors has been the noise level... specifically the engine of my next-door neighbor’s racing car as he tunes it up on Saturday mornings (we’re talking loud). I suppose this one thing wouldn’t have been a deal breaker, but it sure would have been smart of me to look at who I would have been living around- I can just imagine what it would have been like to move in next to a frat-like house and deal with wild weekend parties instead. I guess, for now, I’ll just have to stay thankful for the engine and move thicker-paned windows up in priority on the list.

Yes, please!

Have any home-buying lessons learned? Has anyone given you any great tips you're glad you knew about?


And then I bought a crowbar…

>> 9.25.2009

With the bathroom reno, I was spending hundreds left and right and feeling a little helpless with the whole thing. I learned first hand how much I could save by doing the dirty work on the popcorn ceilings myself and since then I’ve been trying to do every job possible on my own. At the point where painting just wasn’t enough work, I said to myself , “why not do some demo?!”

Before: the bathroom had a dated mirror and black hole of a cabinet
After: the wall is ready for an update!

Before: the galley kitchen had a set of cabinets that created a semi-open feel

a little hammering...

some prying and jiggling...

After: now that's an open kitchen!

What’s the deal with the lack of action shots?? I couldn’t take any because I was busy doing all of the demo alone. (Yeah, a little dangerous)
How much did I save? I’m not quite sure. I do know that I succeeded in creating a giant void in my kitchen that needs to be taken care of and a few holes in the bathroom wall that need to be patched… but it did feel nice to know that I could do the dirty work if I needed to.

Ever do any demo work yourself to save money? Also, anyone have an opinion on what I should do with the kitchen void? I’m thinking about adding an open shelf and pot lights… or pendant lights.


Paint samples… money savers or wasters?

>> 9.24.2009

I alluded to the painting problems I’ve been having recently in my home as well as mentioned a quick, money saving fix I made the other day… so as you can guess, it has been a painting mess around here! I’m excited how things are turning out now, but I’m wondering if I took the thriftiest route to get where I am.

In the past, I’ve hopped over to the “Oops” (or ‘opps’ as they spelled it in my Home Depot) paint section and bought a gallon or so of any color that sparked my interest. With the new house, I decided that it was time to go the grown-up route and choose coordinating colors that flowed though out the house. This task was a little more difficult than I expected it to be! I wanted to go with grey tones, but I didn’t realize all of the choices that I would have…
With chips scattered across the living room and being unsure of the difference between Smooth Stone or Silver Drop, I decided to go ahead and grab some testers…

Two trips to HD later, I did find out that the darkest was too dark, but I also found out that Smooth Stone and Silver Drop were basically the same color. I ended up picking both, but after spending as much in samples (at $3, those babies add up!) as I would have in a gallon of paint, I can’t help but wonder if buying them was ever a necessary step.

So, what are your thoughts on paint samples? Is it enough to just hang a chip up on the wall or are they worth shelling out the cash for?


Dollar Store Halloween Dinner Party

>> 9.23.2009

With Halloween around the corner, it’s time to start thinking about throwing a party. One of the thriftiest ways to get into the Halloween spirit without spending a lot of dough is to through a little dinner party. Why not have a small get-together in before heading out to larger parties (that other people have to put together ;) ).

I recently visited my favorite dollar store, Dollar Tree and came up with some great inspiration for a fun party. I found some adorable dishes and then chose coordinating accessories from there, trying to stay in an orange, black, white color scheme:

The great thing about these plastic dishes is that they can be reused year after year!

Throw a candle in a few of these skeletons for instant mood lighting.

This bright orange spiderweb table cover will anchor all of the elements on the table.

How about a few dishes of coordinating candy? Yum!

Adding the skeleton decoration above the dining room door along with spreading the spider webs around the room will bring the entire place together!

Let's look at the numbers:

$8 for plates and serving dishes

$7 table cover & candles(6)

$2 coordinating candies

$3 spiderwebs(2) & door decor

Free: use your own glasses, silverware, and napkins (white)... If you have them laying around, try to add in some punches of purple with flowers!

So, for a grand total of $20 you can set the mood for a fun and festive pre-party dinner! Just don't forget to add the food!!

Remember, it’s important to stay picky to avoid making it look like you shopped at the dollar store. For more tips on finding deals vs. duds at the dollar store, check this out. Have you started thinking about Halloween plans yet? If you’ve written a post about d├ęcor, please show me your link!


Thrifty Mattress Shopping

>> 9.22.2009

After buying my new home and finally having the space to upgrade to a queen sized bed, I needed to go out and do some mattress shopping! I, of course, went out with the goal of finding the best deal possible… the problem was that I had very little experience in buying mattresses. The next thing I knew, I was Googling my heart out trying to find any insider information that would save me a buck or two (hundred).

It turns out, it’s really hard to depend on a deal when you go mattress shopping, but there are a few ways to score some big savings:

*Don’t feel pressured by a ‘sale.’ Mattress stores have ‘sales’ every week. If you’re set on a particular make or model, your best bet is to ask the employees what day the new prices come in (the store I went to changed ‘sales’ each Tuesday) and return each week/ month until you see your mattress drop in price. I’d say that this is a must-do, easy way to save a couple hundred dollars.

*Compare delivery charges store-to-store. While the mattress prices might be similar, choosing one store over another can save $20+ off of delivery fees. Also, make sure that hauling service is included if you intend on getting rid of your old mattress. The company that hauled mine said that they clean then donate the mattresses to battered women shelters.

*You might not need a box spring. Box springs add on an average of $100 to the price of a mattress set. Depending on your bed type, the base might have enough support so that the extra box is unnecessary (most platforms are this way). Also, if you have a newer mattress (last 5 or so years), the box spring was probably built in a solid method (verses with coils) and will work just fine.

*Ask about cash discounts. Most companies offer financing, but if you’re able to pay for the purchase in cash, they might be able to offer an additional 10% off of the price.

*Find a clearance center or sale section and work hard. By checking in frequently, you can save hundreds of dollars when a mattress model goes out of production. Many of the mattresses in this section are cheaper quality, but look for those top brands and with perseverance, you'll get your deal!

I can’t wait until the master bathroom is finished and I can rip the plastic off of this baby!

Anyone buy a mattress recently… were you surprised about how expensive they are?! Have any tips?



>> 9.21.2009

Unfortunately, these vicious creatures do exist and pose as a threat to contractors, construction workers, Home Depot employees, and boyfriends everywhere. No human is powerful enough to stop one, but there are a few precautions one might take to prevent or avoid impending attacks:

*Zillas enjoy extra ice cream or vacation… they do not like spending extra money, time, or effort on their renovations. Once any of these are added on to a project, take cover!

*Never take paint selection lightly around a zilla. Each and every paint sample IS different. Why else would the zilla pick them out in the first place? The zilla needs a specific opinion that does not include the following: “It’s hideous,” “I don’t care,” or “Isn’t that the color that is already on the walls?”

*Although large and slimy, renozillas are surprisingly tidy creatures! As a result, when they are forced to live in less-than ideal conditions, they tend to get a little cranky. This can lead to many, many unprovoked attacks. If you find a zilla that cannot use its kitchen or has a trail of dust going through its home, make a quick retreat.

*Nothing feeds a renozilla like a mistake- paint spills, incorrect orders, or lost receipts are all grounds for an outburst. It could be the zilla’s mistake, your mistake, or the mistake of a third party that sets it off, but chances are that the zilla will unleash its wrath on the closest target.

Good luck out there, especially those of you completing renovations. I’ve never actually known a renozilla, but I’ve heard some stories ;) . Have you ever come across a renozilla?



I doubt there's a better way to start a Monday morning than by getting something for free!

Congrats to:
Kim @Yellow Brick Home
Kelly @ tearing up houses
Sara @ Russet Street Reno
for winning last week's giveaway.

If you were a winner and didn't receive my email, let me know kaseythriftylittleblogcom.


How to Get Money Out of Your Friends

>> 9.18.2009

Again, I’m just having fun with the tricky titles… but this would definitely be a more interesting blog if it was about scamming or mooching, wouldn’t it (hehe, moochylittleblog)? I don’t know about you, but I like to keep my friends and try to remove money from the equation whenever possible. Still, there is a great way to get money out of your friends without at all harming the friendship… the referral!
I had forgotten, but I gave my friend my vet’s info this past week when he needed to take his new kitten in. Now, you know how excited I get over the little things, so you can imagine how thrilled I was to receive a $10 gift certificate from my vet this week!! I had a great time watching my bill shrink from $41 to $31, but I’m sure that I’ll find other fun ways to spend the money <<Oh, and while we’re on the topic of $10… don’t forget to enter to win this week’s giveaway !>>

There are so many different opportunities to get money back by giving out a referral- apartments, plumbers, vets, hair salons… the list of places goes on! Just don’t forget to ask for a future discount or tell someone the name of the person that you were referred by.

What was the biggest bonus you've received by making a referral?



>> 9.17.2009

Happiness on $10 a Day ? How about for free?! That’s right, I have a fun book giveaway for you all today. The kind people at HarperCollins have offered FIVE copies up to Thrifty Little Blog readers. Odds are pretty good!

I knew it would be a fun giveaway once I flipped through to find over 30 activities under the category of “boozy fun!” It’s one of those books that you can both laugh at and learn from, but I can also imagine this as a great gift for that somebody with a sense of humor and thrifty attitude (don’t worry, I already have a copy ;-) ).

To enter? Just leave a comment letting me know you want in on the action by 3:00 pm on Sunday, September 20th. I’ll use to pick the FIVE winners and announce them Monday. Good luck!


Oh, Budget...The Bathroom

>> 9.16.2009

So when I began the "cheapest bathroom renovation ever" I knew that I needed to add padding into my contractor's estimate. These things never go as planned. Here's the estimate that he gave me at the beginning of the project:

This plan included ripping out a too-small shower and building a wall into the closet in order to fit a nice deep bathtub. When I saw the original budget, I knew that it probably wouldn't end being anywhere close to that number, seeing as though bathrooms are usually money pits (hey, I watch HGTV and the DIY network). I went into the reno expecting it all to cost somewhere around $3,000. If we were guessing this game price is right style, let's just say that I would be winning. Here's the updated budget: Wait, that's still a total of $2,722... under $3,000?! Wrong. This price does not include some of the hidden costs:

Tile and grout I purchased out of pocket: $200
Price to haul away all the garbage in my yard:
Cost to replace the unattractive/ incorrectly sized shower fixtures (fit for the wrong type of plumbing): $140 Yet to be finished sheetrock floating and texturing (estimated): $350

So add on the additional $765 and we're looking at a total of $3,487. A big $487 over my padded budget and a whopping $1,336 (62%) more than the contractor estimated. It's still a great price for creating a relaxing and usable bathroom area, but I know that I'll be looking for someone who's a bit better at estimates for future projects!

Please, share your budget stories with me! Has anyone out there actually had a project that went under budget?

Oh, and I almost forgot… Come back tomorrow; I’m hosting a giveaway!!


Thrifty Projects I Wish…

>> 9.15.2009

...I had time to work on. While I’ve been busy spending thousands and thousands on my home renovations, I’ve also been book marking some drool worthy projects that I hope to eventually have time to tackle. Maybe I’ll start when my house doesn’t look like this:

Yep, a streetside garbage can in my kitchen.

Check out these fun/ yummy/ beautiful/ creative projects I can’t wait to get my hands on--

Ever since reading this DIY tutorial from Bromeliad … I’ve been pouf crazy! If only the sewing machine wasn’t under boxes and boxes in the garage :( .

This dressing room over at just you wait has some serious style and was put together for a grand total of $120- that’s crazy impressive!!

When my house is somewhat presentable, I would love to throw a block-party-esque event like the ‘condo crawl’ featured on Yellow Brick Home. It’s the perfect type of event for small space dwellers like me… and the bonus is that you don’t have to spend a fortune on food/ drinks with everyone chipping in!

Is it silly that I go over to The Red Deer and vote for the cupcake flavor of the week without actually having a usable kitchen? Maybe… but seriously, I can’t wait to try the mouthwatering Snickers cupcake recipe that was featured last week!!

Anyone else experience the joys of having a massive garbage can in the kitchen? If not, did you have the chance to check out one of those blogs?


How to Resurrect a Paintbrush

>> 9.14.2009

Not only am I removing my popcorn ceilings and renovating my bathroom, but I’m also working on painting the entire house (DIY, of course). Because using a good paintbrush can make all the difference quality of the results, I bought a nice, new two-inch Purdy to use for cutting in. You can imagine how horrified I felt when I walked through the kitchen this morning and saw my brush caked in paint. I had forgotten to rinse it out!! Spending another $10 on a paintbrush did not sound like a very good solution to my problem (hey, I’m thrifty) so I went to work on the resurrection. Check out how I brought my brush back to life:

1. Run warm water over the brush to rinse out any extra paint still absorbed into the bristles. While the water runs, gently loosen the bristles apart from one another.

2. Soak a cotton ball with nail polish remover. Gently run the cotton ball over the brush in the direction of the bristles. This should loosen some of the clumps. Rinse the brush with warm water and try to get the clumps to slide off. Repeat this step with a fresh cotton ball.
3. When most of the clumps are off, put the brush in the sink and pour a small amount of nail polish remover straight onto the brush. Let the brush absorb the remover then start “painting” the bottom of the sink with the remover. This should break apart the majority of the remaining paint. Rinse the brush to clear it of the polish remover.

4. Repeat any of the above steps until you feel like the brush is clean enough to paint with.
Here's mine- not quite “good as new,” but ready to help me finish up those walls (you’ll get to see them later)!

Anyone have other tips on cleaning or resurrecting paint brushes? Has this ever happened to you?


How much does your life cost?

>> 9.11.2009

Don’t take the title the wrong way, I’m not asking how much kidnappers would put you up for ransom. Really, I’m referring more to the stuff in your life. Recently, I had to make an estimate of the cost of everything in my home for my new insurance. The big question came up: How much would it cost for you to get everything in your home (aka life) back together? It’s crazy to think about everything I own being destroyed in a fire and having to start from scratch!

Being the thrifty shopper that I am, I went ahead and threw out a number I thought it would take to get everything back together. Apparently, I’m not a great ball-parker because the number I threw out was below the minimum for coverage ($10,000). Thinking, “I bet I could replace all of this stuff for $10k,” I went ahead and did a more detailed estimate of what my budget would be like to go out and buy similar pieces:

Living Room-
Couch $800
TV $600
Rug, coffee table, side tables $500
Misc Art, shelving $350

Table $300
Rug, hutch, accessories $300

Pots, pans, dishes $400??

Mattress/ bed $1000
Side tables, dresser, etc $350

Guestroom/ Office-
Furniture, bed, etc $700

My total on the home stuff was about... $5,000 I still needed to buy clothes, tools, toiletries, bedding, lighting and all the other little things that add up quickly! There is a chance that I could go and get great deals on everything this way or this way, but who knows how long it would take to get everything back at the level that I have it now?! One thing I know for sure is that this motivated me to go out and check my fire detector!!

So, how much do you think it would take to replace all the stuff in your life?


Cheapest Bathroom Reno Ever

>> 9.10.2009

Well... I sure hope so! I’ve mentioned before how awful the bathroom shower in the master was so I knew that I needed to put this project on the top of my to-do list! I haven’t received the final total for the project, but I’m hoping that I stay somewhere near my original budget of $2500. After a few weeks of work, we’re not quite to the after stage yet, but here are a few more of the before shots to keep you entertained :)

View from outside- it was like a little (pink) cave!

I'm taking this side on. I plan on changing the cabinet, light fixture, walls, and mirror. Some progress!

So far, I’ve learned a few ways to keep the costs down on bathroom renovations:

*Talk to friends. This project probably wouldn’t have even happened if I hadn’t spoken to a friend of a friend in Costco about wanting to maybe do the bathroom at some point… It turned out that although he isn’t currently doing construction, he has a very rich background and works with a lot of people in the business. What did that mean for me? Having someone I trusted work on the project and give me discounts along the way

*Hire people who are looking for side projects. I saved big here because a friend did the demo and the tiler did the job on the weekend. This is where my flexibility played a big part. I decided to put up with some noise and mess after work and on the weekends and in return, got deep discounts on regular rates.

*Be choosy about the materials. I decided to go with subway tiles for the tub surround, which will give the room a modern feel and keep my budget in check. For the tub and fixtures, I went for above standard grade so that they would give the room a “master” feel.

*Undershoot your budget. Projects like these always go over budget! By starting with a number that was comfortably under my budget, I had some room for change as estimates began to be off and expenses grew.

The project will (hopefully) wrap up in the next week. I can’t wait to share the final $ total and results!!

Anyone ever go through a bathroom renovation? How much did your project go over budget?


Thrifty Little Tip... Wedding Gifts

>> 9.09.2009

Wedding season might be on the decline for the majority of the US, but it's in full swing here in Texas (let's just say that June is a little too warm for most). Attending the wedding of a good friend this past weekend really inspired me to share my thrifty thoughts on wedding gift giving...

1. If you are attending a wedding, you must give a gift.

2. Wedding gifts are expensive and there's no way out of this. You need to give a gift that is appropriately expensive based upon your relationship with the couple and your life status. If you are the third cousin and attending graduate school, the bride and groom will not expect the same level of gifting that might come from the lawyer/ life long friend. This is a time that you might need to cut back on your personal spending... not the time to penny pinch! Hey, I don't like spending large chunks of my money, but this is the type of situation that is warrents it!

3. When you're in position where money is tight, expensive can mean time expensive. Remember my guide to time expensive gifting? In this situation, your time expenses need to be valued at what you would like to gift. I would try to avoid time-expensive gifts unless the bride and groom would really benefit from them. Doing things like baking the cake, providing photography, or driving the couple home in your dad's vintage Mercedes would all classify as great time expensive gifts as long as they were on the level of service that the bride and groom would have actually paid for. Creating an oil painting that the couple feels guilted into hanging in the house would be a giant mistake (yes, this is an actual gift that my friend received)!

4. With the right gift choices, you can actually promote thriftyness (aka smart spending). My favorite wedding gift is the gift card. It's the perfect way to give the same amount to the couple, but allow room for them to get better deals. The sheet set they registered for may cost $75 now, but go on sale for $45 after the wedding. In this situation, the additional $30 could end up going towards a throw pillow or two.

Another bonus to the gift card is that it minimize the costs in shipping and gift wrap. This can come out to $10 or more and go straight back to the couple in the form of a larger gift card. *Remember, most of the fun in the shower is the gift opening so go out and grab something off of the registry for this one!

5. Put all of your money into the gift. Many people end up buying new dresses or shoes preparing for the wedding. Doing things like this can really eat away at the checking account and make a person feel sour about the experience. Wear an old dress then don't feel bad about shelling out some dough for such a special day.

My money? On average I spend $50-$75 for wedding gifts and $25-40ish for shower gifts. How much do you usually spend? Have you found any good ways to make the most of your money at a wedding?


The Popcorn is Gone!

>> 9.07.2009

Last week, I posted about taking down the popcorn (acoustic) ceilings. As promised, here are the simple steps to prepping and painting the drywall:

1. After scraping, you should have a surface that is a little rough:

2. Take a *drywall* sander attached to a pole and smooth out the surface. I find it easier to stand on a ladder, hold the pole under my armpit, and use my torso to move the sander in an arc motion (but I'm not 6'4).

3. Clean the remaining dust off of the ceiling. I used a dampened floor mop. *If you skip this step, you'll come across bubbles and peeling paint.
4. You should end up with a smooth ceiling. If there are dings or dents, just take some joint compound and fill it into the dent then smooth with a putty knife.
5. Painting time! Before using your ceiling paint, use that same extension pole and paint roller with drywall primer (a very important step!). I ended up doing two coats of primer and one coat of ceiling paint to get a result that I wanted. It was tempting to skip the ceiling paint and just leave the white primer up, but I knew that the primer wouldn't hold up half as long as the paint would. The finished product (and a sneak peak of another project I'm working on :) ).
I'm happy to say that the popcorn is out of 90% of my house (excluding the one room I'm living in)! I'm even happier to say that I literally saved thousands by removing the ceilings myself.

Here's the breakdown...
Estimate to prep and remove popcorn- $1/sq ft
Savings (roughly): $1,000
Estimate to prep and paint ceilings- $1.25/ sq ft
Savings (roughly): $1,250

After subtracting the cost of paint and supplies, I've saved a total of $2,060 by doing this project myself! Although the removal created a giant mess in my house and I had to work each day after work and on the weekends, I'm so happy that I didn't hire the job out. Seriously, if I can do the entire thing myself (minus a few hours of boyfriend help), anyone can!


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