I Put a Bird on It

>> 2.22.2011

Anyone else enjoy the holiday off yesterday? Poor Nate, he had to spend his day at work... leaving me unsupervised and in a funny mood. Well, it started off as a productive mood- after I spent time cleaning the house I thought it was time to finally add a little colorful art to the kitchen walls. I'm really bad at adding art because I can never decide on what to do. Thankfully, inspiration hit: we love this Portlandia clip so I thought it would be funny to surprise/ annoy him by adding a random colorful bird to the kitchen before he came home:

PS This project was totally free thanks to some art supplies I had stored in the garage.

PPS Even though that clip is making fun of them, I'm not against birds as decor so this baby will probably stick around (even after Nate tries to rip it off of the wall ;).

PPPS I need to give a great big shout-out to Amanda for giving me the Stylish Blogger Award a few weeks ago (sorry I'm late!). Check out her amazing blog: Our Humble A{Bowe}d


Please Spend My Money

>> 2.16.2011

So, I want to get one of these Lowe's tax refund promotional cards, but I'm just not so sure how much to put on it. If you haven't heard of it yet, it's basically a gift card that you load up with an amount between $500-5,000 then they add 10% of your original amount back to the card on March 18th. I've already called ahead to make sure you can use this card in addition to other promotions or coupons and to verify that it never expires so it seems like a pretty great deal (imagine $1,000 + $100 + using an additional 10% off coupon or a 20% off promotion). Plus, my Gap rewards card (which I pay off at the end of each month) is doing triple points right now so I can earn an additional rewards card from them by doing this. 

So... based on the fact that I've spent over $4,000 at Lowe's in the last 12 months alone (seriously- we're talking new kitchen appliances, a new sliding glass door, etc), what amount would you put into this card?
And yes, I think it would be pretty sweet to get a new mixer or vaccum for "free" just for paying ahead for my normal spending.


Three Quick Steps to a Thriftier Pet

>> 2.14.2011

I'm never going to claim that I cut every cost possible when it comes to pet ownership (I mean, Hugo does have an entire puppy wardrobe), but that doesn't mean that I won't save where I can! Here are a few quick and easy ways I like to cut down those pet costs:

1.Stay away from the grocery store aisle. The treats and toys in this aisle are incredibly expensive and/ or calorie-packed. Instead of high cost/ high calorie prepackaged dog treats try using the healthy foods you have at home as snacks. Believe it or not- my absolutely pups love eating the crunchy parts of lettuce, baby carrots, and bits of bananas (my vet okayed all three in moderation- there are some veggies that are toxic to dogs) just as much as the expensive treats. When we're doing training exercises, I even reward Hugo with extra pieces of his own food. They're happy (and healthy) and I'm not spending anything extra= win+win!

2. Think out side of the pet store big box. While there are definitely clearance-priced items and coupons to use out there, I find that most of the pet store toys and supplies are really expensive. Believe it or not, my favorite stores to find great deals on pet items aren't stores known for their pet selections: Old Navy (great clearance leashes and shirts), Feed & Supply Store (animal-based treats), Marshall's (high quality toys), T.J, Maxx, Target (best affordable Halloween costumes!) and Tuesday Morning.

3. Keep them healthy. For all of love and companionship that pets provide, the annual costs of feeding them and taking them to the vet aren't all that bad... until you start adding in emergency visits because they eat ice packs (*cough* Hugo) or required medications for their new diseases. Doing optional things now like giving them daily exercise, performing preventative dental care, and pet-proofing the home will really save in the long run!
3-A Start a pet emergency fund. Even with all precautions taken, that expensive surgery or surprise emergency visit will come up at some point. As cheap as I can be, the last thing I would ever want to do is to avoid a crucial pet care cost because it is too expensive. To avoid looking at your furry baby as a burden, start saving now!

What are your favorite ways to stay thrifty with a pet?


Alternate Titles to Yesterday's Post

>> 2.11.2011

You've got to give me a little credit-- before I even started on my spiel  my big five lifestyle choices that save a ton of cash each month I did say:

AKA "Top Five Reasons Why You'd Probably Hate My Life"

I know my choices not to eat meat, drink alcohol, have a smart phone, take a lot of vacations, or spontaneously spend money are different, but I'm actually quite happy with them. A few of you were quite concerned about my boring life... that's probably my fault for not painting the big picture. Maybe I should have been a bit more clear in my title:

"The Lifestyle Choices I Love That Happen to Save a Ton of Cash"


"Lucky Me, I Don't Feel the Need to Make the Following Expensive Choices"

You might be bored by the lifestyle that I live, but I must say that I'm loving life. Let's take last night for example:

Nate, I'm sorry the heart for Tina is so much bigger... I swear I didn't mean to!

Yes, we might have a very strict routine of Thursday run/ pizza/ frozen yogurt/ TV (Office/ Parks and Rec/ 30 Rock) night, but I love and look forward to it all week! As you can see above, I don't totally cheapen out on everything- I love my DVR that lets me watch and fast forward shows, that $7 yogurt (yep, we spend $40+ on it each month) is always worth every penny to me. Oh, and that amazing everydaysuede couch from Pottery Barn outlet (normally $2,500 but I got it for $1,400) is one of my favorite all time splurges! I actually asked for my 21st birthday money to go towards a couch (I saved up for the difference) instead of a big party. What can I say, I've just never been that into drinking.

My weird spending habits started well before my 21st birthday. In fact, I remember being a penny-pincher as a kid. I would ask to no end for a TV in my bedroom and each time my parents would say that I could have one if I paid for it out of my own pocket. Having a TV was important to me, but never important enough to take the money out of the bank. So, in the end, I settled for using the TV in the living room... and had a hefty amount of cash ready to use for a car once I turned 16 :).

I might have different priorities, but it doesn't mean I'm missing out on anything! You might think the amount of money I spend on running shoes is a little crazy-- $100/ pair every three months.
I could have one amazing collection of designer shoes by now if I funneled all of that running shoe money into fancier ones, but it's just not where my heart's at. Would you believe that I actually cried a couple of years ago when a doctor told me that I would need to take three weeks off of exercise in order to recover from an illness? Again, it's not the normal way of thinking, but it's who I am.

And yes, Mr. (or Ms.) Anonymous from yesterday's post, if I am diagnosed with pancreatic cancer tomorrow I will look back and feel like I did make the most of each day with the resources I had (which again, aren't that much). I get to spend a ton of time with the people (and animals) I love while working towards goals that make me feel satisfied. I might be different and I might be "boring," but I'm pretty darn happy and proud of the way I live!

PS I don't write this blog in order to get anyone out there to live like I live. If I come across an interesting idea, I like to get it out there... but mostly, I just love connecting with a community interested in some of the same things that I'm interested in. Oh, and getting home decorating advice for free in the comments is the best!

When I do ask questions, I'm genuinely interested in reading your answers so keep the comments (negative or not) coming!


Top Five Reasons Why I Save So Much Money

>> 2.10.2011

AKA "Top Five Reasons Why You'd Probably Hate My Life"

I preach a lot of thriftiness around here, but I'll be the first one to admit that the lifestyle I live is probably too difficult for most. Sometimes a perk in life is just worth it. I know that I wouldn't give up eating ice cream for anything (although it would probably save us a good $500 per year... it was scary to write that, but that's a pretty accurate estimate).

I promise, we're not rich by any means, but we do have a good bit of extra wiggle room in our budget each month (which usually goes into savings for big house projects or the future (wedding, new house, etc).
So why do two not-rich people end up with so much extra extra?

1. No Meat- I do eat fish once or twice a week, but I've been going strong without meat for a good 7 years now and I doubt I'll ever go back. My health, my conscious, and my $200/ month grocery bill thank me.
estimated savings per month~ $60 for the two of us (Nate eats meat half of the time) 

2. No Alcohol- I've been legal for more than just a few years now and will you believe that I've never actually purchased alcohol? I'll have a glass of champagne or wine at a big celebration or wedding, but I'm all about water the other 363 days of the year (no soda or tea either).
estimated savings per month~ $55 for the two of us (Nate doesn't drink alcohol, but he does drink soda and tea once in a while)

3. No Smart Phone- This probably explains why I failed so miserably at keeping up with a Twitter account, but I can't say that I've ever actually wanted anything more than my $25 family plan and $60 Go Phone.
estimated savings per month~ $115 for the two of us

4. No Yearly Vacation- True story. In fact, in the past two years the only times Nate and I have even left our state has been to go visit family. Part of me thinks  it would be fun to do something like a yearly beach trip, but then the real me winces at the thought of $1,000+ being gone within a week (I'm even having a hard time planning on spending for our honeymoon).
estimated savings per year~ $1,500; $125/ month

5. No Spontaneity- Ouch, even saying that hurt a little bit, but it's unfortunately how I have to live. "Have to" as in it's how I find peace with money. I like having a budget, I like knowing what the future holds, and I like having a big safety net. This means: no spontaneous movies on the weekends, no weekend trips to Vegas, and no exciting new dinners (we eat practically the same meals each week).
estimated savings per month~ $50

My guess is that I save around $400 per month by eliminating these things from my budget... but I have no idea how accurate my estimates are. How much would you guess that you would save by eliminating one of the things above? Would the savings be worth it to you?


More About Texas (Houses)

>> 2.07.2011

Remember when I mentioned crazy Texas weather last week? Well, IN ONE WEEK it went from 78 degrees (Monday) to this on Friday:

Yes, my dogs wear boots and coats...

Yeah, that's crazy. Well, you might also remember me bringing up our yearly property taxes (2.3%) in that same post. A couple of people mentioned the lower housing prices as a nice trade off and it made me begin to wonder how different our housing prices are from those lower taxed areas. To compare, I've rounded up a few examples of homes in the Austin area. I stole borrowed all of the images below from here and based my selections off of "pending" sales only (because there are quite a few dreamers out there overpricing their homes). 

Here's a selection of what you can buy in Austin from most central (most desirable) to farthest away: 

Affordable Central Austin House

Pending at $275,000
2/1.5 with 950 square feet

built in 1937
This home is was perfectly redone! Too bad it's so small!

Central Austin Family House

Pending at $529,000
4/2 with 2,322 square feet
built in 1960
If you want size in a nice central neighborhood, you're looking at $400,000+

Almost Central Austin House

Pending at $349,900
3/2 with 1,651 square feet
built in 1962
Bigger lots, great schools, and <15 minutes from downtown.

Far Southwest Austin House

Pending at $272,250
4/2.5 with 2,563 square feet
built in 2005
Same price as "Affordable Central Austin House" but twice the size... and five times the commute.

Round Rock House

Pending at $154,900
4/2.5 with 2,062 square feet
built in 2000
This house is in a suburb north of Austin called Round Rock. The prices up there are amazing (when compared to Austin), but, in my opinion, the proximity to the city isn't worth it.

How do the home prices match up in your area?


Entry Hall Before and Now

>> 2.03.2011

I realized this week that my entry hall had actually come a long way since buying my home 1.5 years ago... so why not give it a little spotlighting on the blog? 

Here's where we are today:

Can you tell what work we've done since the before??

We removed the popcorn ceiling texture, painted the walls, painted the trim and door, swapped out the light fixture ($4.99 at IKEA!)...

...and added a coat rack (main coat closet is upstairs):

Oh, and I have to mention my spoiled dogs that you can see over by the couch:

With this weather, wouldn't you like to be them sleeping all day with their cozy nests?! The faux fur is actually a rug from IKEA and the blanket is a throw that Hugo stole from Nate.

I upgraded the big girl bowls from this:

to this:
I think I've lost count of the number of things I've painted black in this house so far. I know, I'm a bit out of control.

Don't your dog bowls match your kitchen cabinets?!


Texas and Spray Paint

>> 2.01.2011

There are two things you need to know if you're planning on moving to Texas:
1. The weather is crazy and unpredictable. Yesterday's high was 78... while tomorrow's high is only 31. Oh, and you can expect just about every day in August to hover around 100 degrees.

2. Watch out for the property taxes. Without a state income tax, we have to make up the difference somewhere. In Austin, we pay about 2.3% of the home value in property taxes each year (and 8.25% in sales tax). Do the math- you're probably not going to be able anywhere near the same level of home here.

What does this all have to do with spray paint? Well, thanks to #1 we get plenty of spray-paintable weather during the winter (most spray paints recommend temperatures above 50-60 degrees). It's actually funny because after going on about my resolution to finish the projects I start, I had to leave my orange yard chairs sitting out like this for a few weeks while I waited for the spray paint weather to come back:

But, thanks to the amazing weather this weekend, I finally got the job done:
Those little wet spots on the chair? Ice! Again, it was 78 yesterday!

And the fire pit/ sitting area is as cozy as can be for sunset watching:

Way cozier than before: 

PS I brought up #2 because I think it comes as a shock to many families when they realize that they'll have to pay $500+ per month on property taxes alone in Austin (the suburbs cost less). Also, I'm just curious about other regions... What percent of your home's value do you have to pay in property taxes?

PPS I love my city and no amount of savings would have me moving!


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