NEVER forget to knock on wood!

>> 6.30.2010

It was just yesterday that I was over at Brick City Love (glad to have you back Carrie!) commenting on AC units versus hot summers:


"I can't imagine living without air conditioning!"

Oh, it turns out that I CAN imagine it now... after coming home to a broken central AC unit yesterday!

Don't forget to knock on wood... or keep up with those emergency funds!

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See, I needed it!

>> 6.29.2010

Remember that super cheap thrift store bowl that I bought only to go hide it from Nate in the garage?

After a certain little puppy decided to pee on a few of my precious boxes I had a big fat empty space in my IKEA Expedit shelves.

Now, the giant bamboo bowl but works as the perfect spot to throw all of the magazines that we aren't quite ready to recycle.


See, I found somewhere to use it obviously needed it.


I'm loving my maga-bowl set up: I can easily grab the entire stack and see all my options, but still tuck everything away when I'm ready to clear off the coffee table. How do you keep your magazines under control?

PS We realized that Hugo's peeing sprees were triggered by stress during the day as he watched strange dogs walk by our house. After confining him to an area without views to the street, his little problem went away!

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The House Effect

>> 6.28.2010

I think that one of the best furniture investments I've ever made was buying a neutral couch with washable cushion covers. Every once in a while I just toss the cover in the wash and it's like new again!

 Last week the zipper on my couch cushion separated as I was putting it back on the cushion. Boo! I tried Googling and YouTubing for easy fixes, but it looked like I needed it to be re-zipped.


I considered the fact that I have an average of 1,001 things on my to-do list and decided to hand this job off to a professional over at my neighborhood dry cleaner. The fee for the new zipper and sewing absolutely shocked me... only $15. I just couldn't believe that someone would actually do something for me for under $20!!

It was then that I realized that owning a house really affects my view of the value of services. Based off of my recent plumbing, electrical, tiling and even painting bills I expected the zipper repair to run somewhere in the $50 range. Seriously.



This house effect hit again last Friday. Thank goodness that Hugo ended up being okay after eating an entire gel ice pack!! The price of the eight hour observation and induced vomiting really didn't matter compared to having our Hugo... but I fully expected the bill to be around $200-250. Walking out having only paid $75 seemed like another steal!

I mean, can you imagine what a plumber would charge to watch over Hugo for a day?!

PS After Friday's incident, Hugo and I agreed that he would stick to chewing on doggy toys... we'll see if he holds up on his end of the bargain.

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Stressful Friday Morning!

>> 6.25.2010

This morning was a doozy! Hugo ate a gel ice pack while I was in the shower. He also ate my phone charger... and my phone was dead so I had no way of calling Nate or poison control or the vet. Ugh! Thankfully, my vet was able to take Hugo in once I rushed him over.

Oh, and on top of that, today is a big day at work... not one that I should have been late to!



Hugo,
You're going to cost me an arm an a leg today. I really don't like how you manage to be sneaky enough to get into everything ... wake us up in the middle of the night.. or how you pee on the furniture, but you're probably one of the cutest little balls of energy that I know. I really hope you're okay!!


Anyone have a dog eat an ice pack before?

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Swindled?

>> 6.23.2010

Remember when I was all excited about the $20 (but really $500) light fixture I scored off of Craigslist?

Well, I did my best to check that everything was in place when I picked it up. I mean, everything even had boxes... how was I supposed to know that anything was wrong with it?

First clue: the price
If it's too good to be true...
Second clue: the seller's comments
 "you can just call the company if you need extra parts"
Third clue: the unusual amount of leftover wire

We realized after reading through the instructions...
...that the wires attached to the fixture were too short! They needed to be long enough to feed through the "hanger loop" and "nipple" according to the set-up above.

Our theory is that the guy I bought the fixture from attempted to put it up in his home, but cut the wires too short and had to face getting it rewired. Then, instead of paying to get it rewired (if it could even get rewired) he decided to make a quick $20 by listing it on Craigslist... and that's where I came in.

Oh, but guess who figured out a way around the little wire issue?
Yep, I realized that the current wiring would be the perfect length if we just drilled a new hole to put it through. Who is the swindler now?! It looks like Mr. Craigslist-scammer unnecessarily tricked someone into buying his $500 chandelier for $20!

Here's a glimpse of it hanging in my soooo not even close to finished living room.

And a picture I dug up of the old fan and popcorn ceiling:
It's crazy looking at this picture from almost a year ago because the ONLY thing that I still have in the room is the couch... oh, and the boyfriend!

Have you ever found "a great deal" that turned out to be a scam? OR Have you turned "broken and worthless" into something useful in your home?

While I'm back on the topic of buying from Craigslist, I'd like to elaborate on one of my Craigslist buying tips that sparked a bit of debate the other day: offering a lower price when you get to the seller's home.
There are times when this is an appropriate strategy and there are times when it is not. If I feel like I understand the condition and value of the piece based off of online pictures and email conversation with the seller, I'll negotiate the price prior to picking it up. I'd say that this happens more than half of the time, but there are many cases where making a blind offer can end up hurting me in the end. If I want to go into the sale risk free, I'll simply ask the seller if I can come over and "take a look" at their listing. After seeing the item, I'll offer what I'd like to pay.

I believe that no person should be forced to buy OR sell something at a price that they don't see as appropriate. With this said, I do think that people are more likely to change their opinions of what a fair price is when they're faced with the real possibility of getting the junk out of their garage. Because of this, showing the seller that you're serious by driving to see the listing is usually a good strategy in negotiation.

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I finally caved

>> 6.22.2010

So I have this weird habit... I watch the shopping networks like HSN and QVC for fun. I just love the fact that it's all live and there aren't commercial breaks every few minutes (although the whole thing is one big commercial. Sometimes I like laughing with/ at the crazy lady with the bedazzed sweatshirts, sometimes I pick apart the "unbelievably low" prices that turn out to be bad deals, and sometimes I sit back and enjoy the lady with the smooth voice talking about her sparkly cocktail ring. 

The strangest thing is that, in the years that I've watched the shopping networks, I've never once bought anything... until this week.

What did I get? Well, of course it was something from my other favorite Nate:
I've been slowly collecting pieces for my bedroom (I've shown you the lamps, bench, and a nightstand) and I actually needed a new duvet cover, shams, and skirt. Somewhere along the line I decided that the black of the nightstands (still unpainted, sorry) would look great with a nice, bright blue.


Nate Berkus's collection for HSN not only had the perfect blue, but came with white shams and a skirt (I have a thing against super matchy-matchy bedding sets)! After looking around at all of my other options for weeks, $69 for the perfect set seemed to be a great deal.

I'm excited to start pulling the master bedroom together!
Oh, and for those of you wondering about my half Ironman training... I do an average of two workouts per day (Mon- yoga; Tues- run AM/ swim PM; Wed- run AM/ bike PM; Thurs- run AM/ swim PM; Fri- bike PM; Sat- run/ swim AM; Sun- bike)... yes, it's tiring and hard to get the energy to do diy projects!

Have you ever ordered anything from a tv shopping network? How did you find the quality/ pricing?

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Hello Summer!

>> 6.21.2010

Summer is officially here today! Although we've had summer-like temperatures here in Texas for several weeks, it's always nice to welcome in a new season... even if it's the hottest of the year... right?

I'm reeeeally looking forward to doing a few of my favorite summer activities:

picnicking while the symphony plays at Harman Concert Park

watching the free summer musical at Zilker Park

swimming in Barton Springs

racing in a few triathlons

taking the pups to the creek

mocking Nate for wearing sunglasses underwater swimming in the pool

Speaking of swimming, I can't believe that this will be my SEVENTH summer with that navy Gap two piece! It has been through lake water, sea water, chlorine pools... and never lost its shape or color. I can't believe how much quality I've gotten out of that clearance swimsuit!


As strange as it sounds, now the perfect time to start shopping for summer. Big boxes like Target have already marked their summer outdoor furniture on (first) clearance and the clothing stores like Gap will make their big pushes to clear out stock around July Fourth. If you've bought anything recently, make sure to take the receipts by the store and try to get a price adjustment on mark downs!

Where do you find your high quality summer essentials for less? 
Do you go for Old Navy flip-flops? Target beach Towels? American Eagle jean shorts? 

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like selling land in a swamp

>> 6.17.2010

Since we've been on the topic of Craigslist lately, I thought I should share this gem of an ad I came across yesterday:


And in case the writing in the above ad is too small to read:

"A year old table that cost 500 and I'm only asking a little over 100 and yet I can't sell it. Its like I'm trying to sell land in a swamp. This is unreal. I HAVEEEE to move. So please buy. I can't take lower then 100. Pleaseeeeeeee this is my life I'm talking about, thanks."

Ah, whipping out the good 'ole sympathy card to get someone to buy from your Craigslist ad. Nice one!

I feel for ya, lady, and I'd like to help you out with your sale so here are a few pointers that might get that $100 in your pocket:
  • Take a better picture. I can't at all tell what you have going on there! Try moving the table outdoors and turning off the flash; it works like a charm.*Bonus points for posting multiple pictures and the store's stock photo.
  • Show proof of value. I believe that C&B would sell a $500 glass console table, but it would help you out if you showed the masses some proof. Can you post a picture of a the price tag? Maybe you can link to the table on the C&B website?
  • Repost every day under different titles. Posting the table then letting it sit for two weeks isn't going to get you anywhere.
  • It's time for a rewrite. You sound a bit desperate here and there's no way that someone would think that they needed to pay $115 based off of your phrasing! Think about adding in more descriptive wording to increase your search traffic. Try this instead:
"This versatile glass and metal table would be the perfect entry console, sofa table, bookshelf, or accent piece for any room of the house! As you can see from the link to the website, I bought it for $500 at Crate & Barrel just last year. Sadly, I have to move soon and must sell it. First $125 to pick it up gets it!

Dimensions:
Link:
Tags: entry table, console, glass, shelves, West Elm, Pottery Barn, Restoration Hardware, CB2"
  • Oh, and it's "Crate & Barrel" or "Crate AND Barrel." No one is out there trying to buy a crate out of a barrel, k?
On a more positive note, you did mention the store's name and original price in the ad. It definitely got me looking... and the ad on this site...

Have you seen any crazy ads out there lately? What would you change about this seller's strategy?


Before I forget, I'd also like to give a great big shout-out to a couple amazing bloggers... Chelsea at Someday I'll Learn and Marie at Frugalapolis... for the blog love they recently passed my way. Make sure you go and check out their blogs today!

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How to buy on Craigslist: The Ultimate Guide

>> 6.16.2010

Finding great deals on Craigslist is as simple as four easy steps... just kidding. I know this post is a bit lengthy, but I felt it was about time to get all of my tricks out there. I actually put a lot of work into getting the great deals that I find (see thisthis, this, this, this, and this) and I wanted to pass along the info on how I do it.
**The following is more geared towards finding home furniture and decor, but many of the tricks can be used in your other searches.


1. Find great stuff.

  
-Narrow your search.
  • Searching by “all for sale/ wanted” works for some keywords, but I find that car ads usually clutter my screen unless I narrow my search by “furniture by owner,” “antiques,” “household,” or “general.” **Note: brand keywords usually work under "all."
  • Sometimes I’ll simply search by an area of town. Remember, nice neighborhood usually equals nice stuff (also remember that people don’t always list their areas).
  • Use web search tools like Craigslook to search with thumbnails (I’ve used this before, but I do find it a bit difficult to narrow at times).
-Use smart keywords (but remember that people aren’t always very descriptive).
  • brand names: West Elm, Pottery Barn, Restoration Hardware, Pier One, World Market, Ballard Designs, Williams and Sonoma, CB2, Design Within Reach, Crate and Barrel, Anthropologie **Note: Watch out for tricky wording like “Pottery Barn STYLE” (unless that’s what you’re looking for). **
  • I'm so sad I didn't need these West Elm tables! They were a steal I wouldn't have even seen if it weren't for a "West Elm" search that I did under "all for sale/ wanted."
  • descriptive words: colors, numbers (pair, complete set), style (modern, vintage, shabby chic, contemporary), material (solid wood, marble, ceramic, glass), finish (brushed nickel, antiqued, polished chrome), trends (tufted, upholstered, nail head), must sell, must go, moving, new, expensive, unique, custom, condition (good, excellent)
Always remember that the seller won't think the way that you do.
Campaign furniture is really trendy right now (just look at the last issue of Lonny!), but good luck finding one by searching "campaign!" Instead, try doing a "solid wood dresser" search. I found the one above for $40 on my local Craigslist by doing this (and, no I didn't buy it).


-When you like what you see, ask if the seller has any other listings.

-Do a bit of hard work. The more you search, the better chance you'll have at finding great stuff. Here are a few great times to check the list:
  • late at night/ early in the morning This is the best way to get first dibs on great deals because many people tend to post before they go to bed or work.
  • weekends People tend to clean out their homes on the weekends.
  • mid-week This is a great time to negotiate on prices. By Tuesday, sellers are desperate to get rid of their garage sale leftovers and will give you great deals.

2. Get a great deal.

-Know the lingo
  • OBO = "or best offer" aka "PLEASE just make an offer!"
  • must sell; needs to go = "Seriously, just pick this thing up! I'll practically give it to you!"
  • cash/ carry only = you need to pay in cash and pick up everything yourself; this seller has been around the block
  • price is firm = unless you want to pay the price, don't bother with these people... they're no fun
He said, "$100 each OBO." I said, "$115 for both." He came back with $125. Sold.

-Email or call with a question. You always want a little wiggle room with the price and a way to get out of the purchase. Try approaching people like this:
  • “Hi, I’m interested in _____, but I’m not sure if it will fit in my space. Could you please let me know what the dimensions are?”
-Show your interest.
Have you ever missed out on an item because it was already sold? Emailed someone and not received a reply? Lost out on a sale to other buyers? They might have thought that you were either a scammer or not serious about the purchase. Make sure to use strong wording when replying to ads:
  • “Hi, I’m interested in _____. I can come to look at it/ pick it up as early as _____. Let me know!
-Offer less. There are a few polite, but firm ways that I do this:
  • “I think I’ll probably need to repaint it anyways. Will you take ____ for it?”
  • “Is that your absolute best price?
  • “The most I can do is _____. Is there any way that you can work with me on the price?”
I said that I would probably replace the shades and she lowered the price... and gave me the shades.

I often offer less once I’m at their house to look at the item. When the seller knows that they’re inches away from a sale, they’re always willing to drop the price a little bit. It never hurts to (politely) ask!

**Remember; NEVER pay more than half of retail! In most cases, you’d probably be able to buy it yourself at that price.
 -Don't forget to: Ask yourself if your find is really a great deal for you.
  • Remember; you don't need twelve sofas or two chandeliers for your closet (or maybe you do... and I'm jealous). Think of a good deal as: something that you were going to spend more on OR an upgrade on something you weren't so hot about.
3. Safety first

Meeting a stranger over the internet is serious stuff. I feel comfortable with most of my Craigslist buys because of a few of my rules:
  • 1. Only meet during daylight.
  • 2. Bring a friend along.
  • 3. Do a background check. This is actually easier than you might think! Just take the email address that they use to reply to your email with and do one of two things:
      • A. If their name is attached, plug it into Facebook. If I see that they have friends and a real live I tend to feel more comfortable about meeting them.
      • B. Google the user name. They’ll probably use the same one for any message boards that they’re involved in.
4. Know when to move on.

-Your find is more than you bargained for.
 Slapping a new coat of paint on a table is one thing, but buying 16 knobs for an unfinished dresser will really add up.
Nate said all of the work wasn't worth it... it was... I swear!

-You go to pick it up and the home reeks of smoke, is filled with fleas, etc.
Be polite and say that it’s bigger than you realized then get out of there! Many sellers will post that they live in a smoke free/ pet free environment. If you’re worried about the conditions, just ask.



Did I cover everything? What are your biggest Craigslist tips?

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call me crazy...

>> 6.15.2010


Not only did I just sign up for this, but I paid $300 for it.

I even checked the little box that said, "yes, I understand that Active.com has a no refund policy."

Edited to add: As I look over the past several posts that I've written, I realize that it looks like all I do is spend money. My goal has never been to live on nothing or pinch every penny. To me, thrifty is simply smart spending or getting the best lifestyle I can get on as little as possible.

I want to assure you all that I budget for everything I buy. In this case, a recent bonus at work convinced me to pull the trigger and pay for the race entry.

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on a roll

>> 6.14.2010

*Sigh* Craigslist has been so good to me lately! Just in the last 30 days, I've saved $540 on rugs and $375 on my fabulous new x-benches. I just might be the most excited about my newest find! After THREE MONTHS of searching for the perfect pair of bedside lamps, Craig presented me with my new love:


It's Restoration Hardware's Library Lamp in antique brass. I'm obsessed with how good they look (I bought TWO!) sitting on black furniture. Remember my $20 nightstand? Once it goes black... well, I just might die!

Nate, I know that you're not the biggest fan of the antiqued golden color of the new lamps, but I promise they'll look amazing in the room. Just look at how they fit seamlessly into a variety of Lonny rooms:
 




Let's look at the retail price before I tell you how much I bought them for...

Two library lamps@ $169 per lamp + $50 per shade= $438
My price (for BOTH!)= $85
Even based off of Marshall's/ Homegoods prices, I'd say that $85 is pretty good (especially considering that I couldn't find any I liked at the discount stores).

Want to know exactly how I find such great deals on Craigslist? I've decided to put all of my tips into one big, fat Craigslist buying guide. Look out for it later this week!

PS Are there any other antique brass lovers out there? What finish do you love- brushed nickel, oil-rubbed bronze, chrome...?

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a post for Nate

>> 6.11.2010

Wouldn't it be sweet if "a post for Nate" meant going on and on about how great of a boyfriend he is, how much I love him, etc? Well, tough luck Nate, this is post is meant to convince you that my recent Craigslist purchase was totally necessary (and a great buy)!

I'll admit, I'm not technically supposed to be on Craigslist looking for new furniture... but I HAD to have these! One would be the perfect shoe putting on bench for the entryway... and they're just more fun in pairs!

And did I mention to you that I bought them both for $125? That's a crazy good price considering that they've never been used and currently sell for $251 EACH... we're talking $500 worth of benchy goodness here!


Plus, they're classic and super versatile:
Maybe we'll want to use them as seating at a table one day?

...or as extra seating in the living room...

...they'd also work as stand-ins for a coffee table...

...everyone needs a good place to put on shoes in the morning...

...using them  alone isn't quite as much fun, but totally works in some rooms...

...and remember, you can't control what I decide to do with my side of the bedroom! I can see using this type of set-up as a nightstand in the future.

Plus, I did end up putting that chair that you hate up for sale. It's not like these are going into the garage.

Anyone want to stand up for me here? Don't you think that they were a great buy?!

*all images are from decorpad.com

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the new light in my life

>> 6.10.2010

I was never sold on the look of the small light that hung in my dining room. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't great... so when the cheap IKEA light that hung in my dining room finally died (and yes, it took a $150 visit from an electrician to tell me that it was the fixture's fault and not the wiring), I jumped at the chance to find a new one.


My requirements were simple: light diffuser (the old one would glare like crazy), around $100, and have a modern look. I must have looked at hundreds of lights in my search, but it was really hard to find something that fit all of my requirements (especially the price!). Thanks to a few recent giveaways on blogs I read, CSN Lighting came onto my radar. From track lighting to outdoor lighting, CSN had literally thousands of options for me to choose from in my search. After narrowing my results down to only the lights that fit my requirements, I found a potential winner. There was only one drum pendant light out there at a better price (a very popular blog features it in their dining area), but I realized that I'd have to pay an additional $100 for my electrician to convert it from a plug-in to hardwired light (boo!). So when CSN contacted me about doing a product review for the blog, I knew the Olwen Three Light Pendant Lamp was the clear winner!

It's only $109 (with free shipping), takes three 60 watt bulbs, makes a great modern statement, and comes with a glass diffuser. Plus, the installation was easy enough for me to do myself (well, I did have a lovely assistant... thanks Nate!). I'd say that it's a keeper!

...and just for fun, let's look back at that lovely before picture...
(I did have the light moved over 1-2 feet so that it would hang center in the room).

What do you think about my new light?

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If I had this house…

>> 6.09.2010

Do you ever browse through the real estate listings in your neighborhood and daydream about your dream home? Do you also like to spend a Sunday afternoon visiting homes while you don’t even have yours up for sale? Do you make estimates on your monthly payments and calculate the amount of cash it would take to bring certain listings up to your standards? Okay, call me crazy because I’ve been known to do all of that. I guess you could blame it on my “starter home syndrome.”



I know… I’m a home stalker.

You see… I’m still working on my starter home. I purchased my smallish 2 bedroom and 2 ½ bathroom home (boy, do I wish there were more bedrooms than bathrooms) less than a year ago. I hope to make improvements on it and build up enough equity and savings to move up to the “forever home” within the next five years. So, for now, I like to look up listings in the MLS and dream about what I would do to the dated, but affordable homes in order to bring them up to “dream home” status while making the most of my money (kinda like Sarah Richardson does… but with 1/100th of the budget).

Here’s my most recent target:
It's about $30,000 under my future budget, but the perfect size and in the perfect neighborhood (and yes, I'm crazy enough to look at the schools of my pretend buys as well).

Also, it has never been on the market before so this 1949 space has a lot of room for updating.
I actually hope to find a home with ugly shag carpeting... Usually, that means I can save on the purchase price and install flooring of my choosing (rather than being stuck with some expensive tile job). In this case, it means that the original hardwoods are probably in good shape under there.

Both of the two bathrooms are straight out of the 1950's.
 While the tile will probably need to be updated to to its age, I don't really mind the look of either. I could totally live with either while renovating.

The same goes for this kitchen... it's not really working for me the way it is, but it's totally livable.
I think I would reface all of the cabinets and then add in new appliances, countertop and sink.  The cheap tile would go to hardwood when I replace  all of the non-wood flooring in the house:
It's really not all that impressive from this picture, but what stand out to me are the high ceilings and open floor plan. After redoing the flooring with wood, replacing the lighting, and bringing in my furniture, I have a feeling that this would be a pretty nice space!
Some of the spaces would be good as-is (minus furniture), like this master bedroom. I love all of the natural light that fills the space.

The important things I look for in a *pretend* future home are:
Structure (sound and well-maintained)
Layout
Location

After doing the flooring, lighting, and cosmetic updates in the kitchen and bathrooms, I can totally see this as my dream home at an affordable price!

Confess, have you searched for a home prematurely? Do you still look at houses even after buying one?

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