Speaking of Oprah...

>> 4.30.2010

What are your thoughts on this lady?

Love her? Hate her? Have no clue who she is...?
What source do you use for financial information?

*I'll admit, I DVR her CNBC show and love testing myself during the "Can I Afford It?" segment.*


Déjà vu?

>> 4.29.2010

A chic friend of mine recently tagged me for a little bloggy game. The point is to go back in time and pull up a picture from your sixth post then share it [and make fun of the poor quality].

So here's the weird thing: The day she tagged me for the game was the same day that I posted about a grocery store carnation hater. Remember?

Why strange? Well, my sixth post was actually about my love for carnations! Honestly, I think these were the only two times (out of over 200 posts) I've had pictures of carnations on my blog!
Same colors and everything!

So, I went from writing about my love for carnations to writing about someone mocking them seven months later... did I just have one of those "full circle moments" that Oprah keeps going on about? Does anyone still watch Oprah?

To make things a bit more interesting, I'm going to target a few more bloggers for this game:
The Newlywed's Paradise
The Thriftress
If You Ask Me
Twenty-Six To Life
The Design Thief
k&b adventures in renovating
Tall Glass of Water
one lucky couple
Hip House Girl
Chasing Imperfection
All Things Jenny
Nuestra Vida Dulce
Bargain Hunter
k&b adventures in renovating

Have fun!


Kitchen Frown

>> 4.28.2010

I think that I just might have the most dramatic kitchen in the world:
Thrifty Tip: Never tell contractors that you've been referred by an insurance company! Just like with car body shops, they'll inflate prices to meet your deductible.

Things haven't been all that great for my little kitchen, but I think it should be happy about the progress that was made lately!

 Check out these hot new appliances (and Nate's butt)...

I'm going to have to say that this beats my old Magic Chef any day! As silly as it may sound, I think my favorite feature is the window on the front of the oven.

The ceiling isn't the only thing that my kitchen is unhappy about. I promised it an over-the-range microwave to increase counter space, but it looks like that isn't happening anymore. Because I need an electrician to install a plug where the current hood is, this would bring the total to a shocking $650 {EDIT: $400 for microwave and install + $250 to install an outlet= $650}... for a microwave. That's about how much I spent on my refrigerator!

How much would you pay to convert to an over-the-range microwave? Do you think there's a way I could make my existing microwave work better in the space?

*Oh, and the cabinets have moved up on the to-do list. With all of the other new features, their old sloppy paint job sticks out like a sore thumb. Look for a complete makeover soon!


Garage Sale Challenge Party!

>> 4.26.2010

Three weeks ago I issued a challenge asking you all to go out of your garage sale comfort zones. Since then, you've driven the neighborhoods in search of the neon signs, smooth talked your way into a steal of a deal, and snatched the perfect hurricane jar out of an elderly woman's hands (um, maybe that was just me?)... well, now is the time to show off!

Here are the rules:
1. Share your garage sale finds in a post on your blog. (Paste that post's specific url in the Linky form. Choose "from web" to use a picture from that blog's post.)
2. Link back to this party within your post so that others can join in on the fun.
3. Come back later this week to see if your post was featured in my party recap.
*You'll have until Wednesday night to link up.


It's the thought that counts...

Yesterday wasn't the greatest. I think it was probably better than Friday... I guess it all depends if you'd rather have an emergency visit from the plumber or electrician.

To make a long story short: I ended up with some carnations.

I love carnations. They might be my favorite flowers. Not only is the price always right, but the colors are too fun and I love the ruffled girly look when I create little bunches out of them.

Not everyone shares my love for the carnation.
When Nate went through the grocery store checkout, he came across one of those people. Instead of the usual, "have a great day!" she decided, "it's the thought that counts" was the most appropriate gesture.
How rude!

Any other carnation lovers out there? Are there any cheap treats that you would take over the more expensive options... Old Navy over Nordstrom? Big Mac over a filet mignon? Pittsburgh over Paris?

PS Obviously I used my cheapo garage sale vases ($.25 each) to show them off in. I can't wait to see what you all link up with for The Challenge tomorrow. The Linky will be open bright and early!


Bathroom Waterpark

>> 4.23.2010

This was the scene in my bathroom this morning:
Can you tell what is going on?

The tube that brings water into the toilet burst off at about 7 AM. This caused water to shoot EVERYWHERE. Simple fix, right? All I needed to do was turn the water that goes to the toilet off. That would be simple if the turn didn't lose all traction and refuse to work.

On to plan B: shut off water to the entire house. This would be easy if the shut off valve wasn't covered in dirt/ rusted/ missing its handle...
Here's the pile that had to be dug of the hole.
This rusted fixture should have an easy to turn handle.

Plan C: Call the emergency plumber while sitting on the toilet and trying to direct the gushing water into the tub:
At 1 1/2 hours into my wait, I just had to laugh at how crazy it all was. Most people would have been able to simply shut off the water to the house and wait for someone to come by and fix the problem. Thanks to 3 different breaks, I got to spend my time SOAKING wet with toilet water trying to keep a steady hand so that the stream wouldn't spray into my face (again).

*Don't worry, we didn't take any pictures until we realized that the only option was to wait for the plumber.
As a fun bonus to the whole thing, it looks like the ceiling to the kitchen will be replaced again!
With the plumbing ($212) and kitchen ($200-400) damage, I'll be lucky to get out of this mess with under $500 in damage. Oh, but did I mention that the whole problem was caused by a water pressure issue? Installing a new regulator and shut off valve will put me back $700. Total unexpected expenses: around $1,200. Again, a big shout-out to the emergency fund.

Want to make me feel better?
Join the challenge! It's your last weekend to go out and challenge yourself at a garage sale... Maybe you've never been to one? Maybe you're guilty of being too picky about the ones you stop at? Try something new then come back and share your goodies with me (via Linky party) on Tuesday, April 27th!! I'll be sure to follow up with a recap post full of great finds!


How much do your sports cost?

>> 4.22.2010

Let's take a little break from all of this appliance and table talk (sorry if I'm boring you with it!) and do another "How Much" budget breakdown. This time, I'd like to look at one of my bigger expenses: my sports (swim-bike-run). I think there are a few different ways to enjoy sports: as a spectator, for exercise, and by competing. I do a little of each and here's how much it costs me:

Spectating: $0/ year
Austin doesn't have any major professional teams and buying tickets to any UT games costs more than I want to spend now that I'm not enrolled in any classes. For now, I'm sticking to cheering for the local marathon and triathlons then watching other sports on TV.

Exercise/ Training: $450/ year
If I started running, swimming, and cycling from scratch, I'm sure I'd be spending hundreds and hundreds of dollars collecting everything I need ($800 bicycle, $50 helmet, $75 cycling shoes, $150+ clothes for running/ cycling, $50 swimsuit... wow!) Now that I've been participating in those sports for a few years, there are only a few pieces of new gear that I need to pick up each year:

These were kinda free..

Running clothes: $0
Thankfully, many of the races I participate in include technical running shirts with the entry fee. Having an ever-growing collection of shirts makes it so that I don't have to spend anything on tops. Honestly, my sock, sports bra and short collection is pretty set as well.

Running shoes: $350
Buying new shoes every 300-400 miles is a MUST for any runner wanting to prevent injury (and awful blisters). Usually my Brooks shoes cost around $100 after the coupons that I use at my local running store. If I luck out and find my favorite shoe on sale, I'll always buy more than one pair (my dad uses online stores to buy all of his shoes on sale).

Swimming gear: $60
I'll usually buy a new swimsuit and pair of goggles each year.

Pool fees: $40
During the summer I can swim in the public pools for free, but I usually have to spend around $40 in pool entry fees during the off-season so that I can keep in triathlon shape.

Cycling gear: $0
I'm so thankful that I've already bought these things! Jerseys can cost $50-100 and shorts go for around the same. Don't even get me started on Nate's gear (somebody has a $2,000 bike!).

Competition: $678
What can I say, it really motivates me to have a race to train for! Nate and I keep ourselves busy by running races all winter then competing in triathlons in the summer. I never feel guilty about participating because I know that most of the money goes to charity. Here's a breakdown of where that money went in the past year(April 2009- March 2010):
(You can see my shadow taking the picture on the bottom left.)
April: $30 10k; $25 5k
May: $50 sprint tri (promotional price)
June: $45 70 mile bike ride
July: $85 sprint tri
Oct: $30 10k
Sept: $30 marathon relay
Nov: $23 5 mile; $50 10 mile
Dec: $50 1/2 marathon
Jan: $55 1/2 marathon; $50 20 mile
Feb: $125 marathon
March: $30 10k
I said that we keep busy...

Grand total: $1,128/ year or $94/ month
Now you know what I do with the money I save on groceries!

How much do you spend on your sports? Anyone have season tickets for an NFL team? Do you participate in a really expensive sport like horseback riding or  yacht racing?

PS What music do you like to listen to while you run? I have a 5k in a week and I'd like to download a few new songs.


Budget Breakdown: Dining Table and Chairs

>> 4.21.2010

As promised, I'm back with a budget breakdown for that big table and chair project:

The Table:
Transforming this thing was a doozy of a project (mostly because I had no clue what I was doing!), but it was all smooth sailing once I learned how to do things correctly. {Make sure that you read this and this before you start a staining project!} Because of my mistakes, I'm going to have a higher supply total than most will:
$8 sandpaper (and I use a lot!)
$16 wood conditioner (because I bought the wrong type at first)
$14 stain (I had to buy two different shades)
$8 stripper (that didn't help much)
$6 brushes and rags
$9 poly
Total: $47... which should have been more like $20 if I hadn't made so many mistakes!
*I some things like gloves, mineral spirits.
The Chairs:
Painting and recovering the chairs went pretty smoothly so no extra materials here (woo hoo)!
$11 primer
$12 paint
$18 fabric for four dining chairs (3 yards of $10 fabric with 40% off JoAnn coupon)
$15 fabric for two office/ dining chairs
Total: $46
*I had staple gun, poly, and brushes.

Grand Total:
$200 for Pottery Barn table and chairs off of Craigslist
+$47 worth of mistakes on the table
+$46 to recover and paint the six chairs
=$293 for solid wood table and chairs fit perfectly to my taste!

I guess I could have saved all of that work and gone with this PB table (even though the one I bought was from Pottery Barn...):

and these West Elm chairs:

...but that would have cost $1,373 (plus tax). I'll take the same quality for $1,000 less, thanks!

Where do you stand on DIY projects like this? Would you rather look for a deal then make it your own or spend the extra money to save the time? (...and trust me, doing this project took a lot of time!)


Thrifty is...

>> 4.20.2010

Yesterday felt strange. I wrote about my semi-fancy new appliances and, while I saved over $1,000 on the purchases, I did spend a very good chunk of change. As the opportunity to replace my energy-guzzling half broken refrigerator came up, I could have made the choice to simply swap out the old version for a newer, more efficient model. Instead, I decided to replace my entire set of major kitchen appliances. I could have gone with the least expensive dishwasher and stove with the fewest number of features, but I didn't.

Still, I consider all of my decisions to have been thrifty ones. Why?

True story: Nate threatened to return the new fridge if our favorite frozen pizzas didn't fit in the freezer drawers (they do!).

*I bought the appliances with the maximum usability (for my lifestyle). With the refrigerator, I knew that we would be happiest with a bottom freezer combination. With Nate's height (6'3"), having all of our day-to-day foods at eye level will really cut down on the strain he has to go through to get food out. I actually didn't know this until last week, but he hasn't even been using the crisper on the old fridge! Obviously, the energy savings also played a big role in the decision making, but having a quiet dishwasher will allow us to run it at more convenient times. As for the stove, I decided the jump to self-cleaning, convection, and 5 burners was worth a couple hundred extra dollars (especially since I would be getting a $100 rebate by going with Whirlpool Gold). I love baking and Nate's quite the cook so the convection feature and five-burner range will get plenty of love.

Look it's the new refrigerator! I'm still waiting on the range and dishwasher. I'll probably upgrade to an over the range microwave as well.
PS No, the cabinets haven't been painted yet... and the new hardware is coming!

*The money will eventually come back to me. I'm 100% certain that having a set of high-quality appliances will set my house apart from the others when it comes time to sell. Even if the new buyers want to bring in appliances from their past home, just having the nice ones present will make the space appear more expensive. I'm a firm believer in enjoying house upgrades while you can instead of making them right before your home goes up on the market.
Remember this guy? He wasn't selling anyone's house! Notice how I gained a good four inches in height with the switch!

*That fridge is going to pay for itself, remember?

*I could afford it. I have the cash to pay for the appliances without dipping into my emergency savings. Because I saved so much on the dishwasher and refrigerator, I could afford to buy a nicer range than I had originally planned.

To summarize, I believe that thrifty is...
making smart decisions with the money that I have.

"Thrifty" looks different in every home and culture. What does the word thrifty mean to you? How would you expect a "thrifty" person to spend her money?


They're New and They're Fabulous!

>> 4.19.2010

Lowest price winner!

As you might remember, I not only hated the look of my refrigerator, but it started to break down on me. These reasons alone had me out searching for new appliances, but the Cash for Appliances program made the whole thing even sweeter. Let's look at how I did budget-wise:
Samsung Bottom Mount Refrigerator
List Price: $1,078.19
Refrigerator part: +$11.97
Lowe's Energy Star promotion (10% off): -119.81
Delivery and install: +0
In store cost with 8.25% sales tax: $1,050.40
Texas Cash for Appliances rebate: -$240
Texas Cash for Appliances Recycling rebate: -$75
Austin Refrigerator Recycling rebate: -$50
Adjusted total cost for refrigerator: $685.40 (It met all of my requirements and the price fell waaay below my $1,000 budget.)

Not only was the federal government bribing me to upgrade my energy-sucker, but I learned that my city (Austin) also offers incentive for green upgrades. I scheduled them to come out and haul my refrigerator on Saturday and for my their troubles, I get a $50 check! Make sure that you check for these types of programs in your area.

Thrifty tip: If you miss out on the Cash for Appliances program in your area, make sure to check and see if your state has plans for an Energy Star tax-free holiday. Texas has one Memorial Day weekend.

Extra thrifty bonus... I'm going to save an estimated $150-200 off my yearly energy bills with an Energy Star refrigerator. My new fridge should pay for itself in 3-4 years!

Whirlpool Gold Dishwasher
List price: $599
Lowe's sale price (19% off): -$113.81
Parts: +$14.98
In store cost with 8.25% sales tax: $458.90
Delivery: +0
Install: +$99
Texas Cash for Appliances rebate: -$110
Texas Cash for Appliances Recycling rebate: -$75
Adjusted total cost for dishwasher: $372.90

Extra thrifty bonus... I'll save around $40 per year with the new dishwasher  so it should pay for itself in 9 years. Okay, not as impressive, but still a good buy. I think the fact that we won't have to go upstairs to get away from the loud noises when it's running will make up for the difference :).

I feel  really lucky to have scored two rebates through the Cash for Appliances program  (especially when I run into angry people in the appliance department...). I wasn't actually planning on replacing my dishwasher so soon, but I couldn't resist the extra savings! As you can see, I didn't go for the cheapest model possible. With the savings, I went ahead and got something that I've been eyeing for the past few months:
Say hello to my new Whirlpool Gold convection oven! This model was exactly what I was looking for and had the extra $100 rebate incentive through bulk purchases with Whirlpool Gold. I can't tell you how excited I am for the five burners, even cooking, and self cleaning feature!

Whirlpool Gold Gas Range:
List price: $999
Lowe's sale price: -$100
Parts: +$32.98
In store cost with 8.25% sales tax: $855.09
Delivery: +0
Install: +$200 (this includes a $75 gas line safety upgrade that I might not need)
Whirlpool Gold bulk rebate: -$100
Adjusted total cost for range: $955.09 (I splurge too sometimes, but don't worry... I promise I'll use that convection oven's even cooking for all it's worth!)

Total appliance savings: $983.62 edit: $1,013.62* how can I leave out the $30 we're getting back by using the rewards credit card?!
*This number doesn't include all of the savings from pricing out all of the stores. I would have paid much more by going through a different store.

In my opinion, upgrading appliances can be a very thrifty choice if:
*You're faced with large money-saving incentives or deals.
*The upgrade ends up paying for itself.
*The upgrade will help to sell your home.
*You'll make a significant impact on the environment.
*The purchase benefits charity.

Are you on the hunt for new appliances? What features do you look for in your appliance purchases?

PS I'm linking up to one of my favorite blog parties:
Speaking of parties, I hope to see you come back here for the Garage Sale Challenge on Tuesday, April 27th!!


New Kitchen Appliances!

>> 4.16.2010

As you read this, I'm out shopping for my new kitchen appliances! Remember that old, ugly, semi-dead, off-white refrigerator? Well, it's scheduled to be on its way out tomorrow. Thanks to a little federal stimulus program along with six hours of hard work, I've earned myself rebates towards a new refrigerator and dishwasher.

If you know me at all, you won't be surprised that I'm not waltzing into the nearest Sears or Home Depot to grab the first appliance that catches my eye! Since reserving the rebates, I've spent the past two weeks researching stores to find the best possible deals. I knew I needed to get my facts together quickly because there is only a small window in which I can use my rebates (April 16-25). By going into all of the major stores in my area (Home Depot, Lowe's, Sears, Fry's, Best Buy) and speaking face-to-face with the employees, I've received a ton of useful and honest information.  Let's look at what I've learned along the way!

There are five major questions that you need to ask when buying an appliance:

1. Is it what I want/ an upgrade for my space? Well, duh. Make a list of requirements for your appliance and stick to them no matter what special deals and rebates you are offered. [My refrigerator list includes: freezer bottom, drawer without wires, ice maker included in freezer, stainless or stainless look, no black on exterior, final price under $1,000. My dishwasher list includes: stainless or stainless look, integrated controls preferred, handle preferred, options for storage of larger items, under $500.]

Something like this would be nice... but not with that price tag!

How much? Watch out for those tricky extras!
2. Installation? Refrigerators are usually free, but dishwashers, ovens, and over-the-range microwaves all usually have extra fees. I came across a range of prices for dishwasher installation during my research: $99 Lowe's/ $80 Fry's/ $120 Best Buy/ $130-180 Sears/ $99 Home Depot.
3. Delivery? Another range of prices: $0 Lowe's (with promotion)/ $60 Fry's/ $30 Best Buy/ $0 (with $65 rebate) Sears/ $0 Home Depot. Most places charge one delivery fee per home, but make sure to ask when you're buying more than one item.
4. Parts? There will usually be small add-ons for water valves or installation kits. These extra part kits can range between $12-30 and the stores are required to sell them to you so that the installation is up to code. The Lowe's employee told me that I could use the one I have (if up to code) and return the one I'm required to buy.
5. What is the total and how much would it be at another store*? I was excited to hear that Sears was having 30% off of Energy Star appliances during the rebate period... but not so excited when I started looking closely at the prices!
Dishwasher X at Sears: $800 with 30% off= $560 + $150 install +$10 parts= $720
Dishwasher X at Lowe's: $580 with 10% off= $522 + $99 install  +$11 parts= $632
Lowe's might have the smaller sale, but started with a lower price on the product and lower additional fees. I think you can see which store I quickly crossed off of my list!
*Don't forget to pit those stores against each other when they offer to do a price match!

Time-saving trick: Use your camera to take pictures of the models you're interested in. This way, you'll have the model #, price, and store saved all in one click.

I don't want any bad juju so I'll wait until after I have the appliances in my home to share all of the pricing details (it's going to be good!). Where do you think I decided to buy them from? Is anyone else doing the Cash for Appliances Program?

PS Make sure that you're working with a well-informed sales associate when you do ask these questions; I definitely got mixed messages from a few people.


A True Wreck

>> 4.15.2010

Did you see MY CAKE on Cake Wrecks yesterday?!

I'm so proud of that little guy! I'm thinking of getting another celebration cake in its honor:
"yu dib grate Cake!!!"


Table and Chairs: The After!

>> 4.14.2010

I'll come back later with better quality photos and a budget breakdown, but here's a peek at my finished Craigslist table and chairs project:
*Don't mind the art (which still has an IKEA as-is tag on it), unswept floor, or open drawers...

Remember where I started?

The after is more my style. I'm so glad that I decided to stain the table!

Here are the other two chairs that will stay in the office until we need them for dinner. Nate decided to go with the darker version of the geometric pattern for his chair while I went for a girly floral. I can't wait to show you how I'm going to tie the two together in this space.

Now for the new dilemma: Looking at the white chairs in the dining room, I'm wondering if a white buffet might be too much white... what do you all think?

Should I do something like this:


or this?
(think: light chairs, dark table and buffet... I know my room isn't going to look like this!)

Don't forget to check out more dilemmas at the party!

I hope to see you back here next Tuesday, April 27th for the Garage Sale Challenge!!


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