First of all, who remembers this? Better yet, who owned one?
Now that we got that out of the way, it’s been way too long since our last Save It post (like this one, this one, this one, this one, this one, and this one to name a few), so the other night I was thinking about a few things that we just don’t buy, and how going without those things probably adds up to saving a decent amount of cash-money. And it doesn’t feel particularly martyr-ish of us – it’s normal and easy after years of living this way. So it feels less like “going without” and more like “streamlining and simplifying.” We’ve mentioned a few of these things over the years, but I realized there were others that I never really thought about (or blogged about) so here’s a big ol’ brain dump of all the things that we typically skip.
- Meat three or four nights a week: Some nights we just opt for spaghetti, bean burritos, vegetable stir fry, homemade pizza, nachos, sweet potatoes and salad, etc.
- Fabric softener: We use vinegar sometimes, but most times it’s just nothing. We don’t notice a difference!
- Dusting spray: We both grew up with Pledge, but now we just use microfiber cloths and water.
- Regular dry cleaning: All of our clothes are machine or hand washable so we only do one trip per year for a few coats/blazers instead of monthly trips.
- Dog grooming: Burger’s short haired, so we just bathe him at home and cut his nails ourselves and we’re good.
- Newspaper: We get our news online (almost every newspaper has an online format now) and on the radio (NPR).
- Bottled water: We have a water filter and use Klean Kanteens that we refill ourselves.
- Starbucks: In the past year or so I’ve become a chai lover – and it’s $3.99 to make seven cups from this grocery store box, as opposed to that price for one cup at Starbucks. So I save that for special occasions and make a cup at home every morning instead.
- Gel, hairspray, mousse, or serum: I haven’t bought that stuff since college. I’m just a wash and wear girl – plus I tend to break out a lot from hair stuff, so this is for vanity as well as saving money.
- Lipstick: It’s not my bag baby, so I use what’s in this makeup tote and nothing more (not buying 20 shades of eye shadow definitely keeps money in my pocket too).
- Creams and self tanners: I’m pale and totally cool with it – plus my mom looks awesome for her age and doesn’t use any fancy potions or creams, so I’m hoping to follow in her glamorous grandma footsteps.
- Perfume: I like the smell of my shampoo (John doesn’t wear cologne either).
- Haircuts & colors: Maybe once every two years I get a $35 cut, but other than that I just trim it myself. And of course cutting John’s hair saves us money too.
- Regular manicures and pedicures: I go about once a year with a friend (and usually hit up Starbucks while I’m splurging) but other than that I do my own toes at home and usually leave my fingers bare.
- Gym membership for me: It’s just not my thing, but John loves his.
- Alcohol: John has just never been a drinker and I might drink a bottle of wine a year at home (although most years it’s a gift from some sweet house guest) so it’s not a monthly expense for us.
- Disposable diapers: More on that here.
- Diaper bag: I never got one, just used a purse and kept extra stuff in the car.
- Incandescent bulbs: Using CFLs and LEDs in the bulk of our fixtures adds up to a lot of money saved. We’d love to eventually go all LED in our house, but it’s not exactly a cheap switch, so we’re trying to chip away at different rooms over time.
- A second car: This one definitely doesn’t works for everyone, but since I’ve been freelancing from home for the past seven years it’s no big deal to have one car (and it saves us the cost of a car, the gas, the maintenance, and the insurance).
- Bag-checking fees: Even when we’ve flown with a dog or a kid, we’ve actually never paid to check a single bag (we’re nerds for the challenge of packing light).
Best of all, saving in some areas allows us to more easily afford other things that are more important to our family, like project materials, organic produce, cable TV, and ceramic animals. Guess it’s all one big balancing act right? I’d love to hear your “skip it” list! And this is a no judgement zone. You might LOVE to get your hair dyed but can resist giant dangly earrings when I can’t (I may or may not have over a dozen of those in my night table).
Psst- You can peruse over 30 money-saving posts of yore here.
We answered this question after the sale of our first house (spoiler: we bought in the bubble and sold in the recession), so now we’re back to do it again – but this time the coins stacked a bit more favorably, thanks both to selling in a slightly better market and by not sinking as much into this house’s improvements (it helped that we didn’t need expensive upgrades like a new roof and windows this time around).
We managed to sell this latest house for $23,000 more than we bought it for back in 2010. And our best estimate is that we put around $14,500 into improvements that stay with the house (i.e. not furniture or other decor that moves with us). That means we made a net gain of about $8,500. Here’s an estimated breakdown of where the money went:
- Kitchen renovation (including appliances, new flooring, backsplash, lighting, counters, opening the wall, etc): $6,955
- Deck building/staining/sealing: $1,783
- New patio: $1,252
- Built-in desk in the office (it conveys with the house since it was custom-built for that area): $124
- Laundry appliances & built-in shelves: $712
- Hall bathroom update: $168
- Guest bathroom update: $51
- Crown molding that we added throughout the house: $218
- Fireplace upgrade with new tile/mantel: $147
- Board & batten in hallway: $57
- Pergola over carport: $214
- Column update for porch: $198
- Window boxes/plants for them: $132
- Paint/stain for every room, built-in, and outdoor area (this doesn’t include furniture paint/stain since that comes with us): $800
- Landscaping, light fixtures, curtains, and miscellaneous other items that stay (like new border tile & toilet in the master bath): $1,700
- Total: $14,511*
*some of these prices are total costs for projects, including some items that won’t convey with the house – for example the bathroom makeover costs include art and accessories that came with us. So this isn’t a perfect tally.
But regardless of how meticulous our math is, we’re incredibly grateful that in just a few years we were able to increase the value of this house so much – especially given our experience with our first house (to which we barely boosted the sale price at all – stupid market!). But of course, we owe a 3% fee at closing to pay the buyer’s agent commission (but we would have owed twice that amount if we used a seller’s agent, so we’re thankful for that as well).
In the end, we probably broke about even on this house. House flippers we’re not. But house lovers? You betcha. The thing we’re most excited about is finally getting to roll all of the equity that we’ve built over seven years of paying the mortgage on our first two homes into this new house – nearly cutting our mortgage balance in half. Yeehaw! That was definitely worth the wait.
What about you guys? Have you added up what you’ve spent on a house and compared it to what you got back? We always hear kitchens, bathrooms, and outdoor “square footage” (decks, patios, etc) tend to up the resale value of a house. Has that rung true for you? One thing we haven’t really heard much about are built-ins, but we think they’re such a nice feature (like the built-in desk we made for the office, the ones in the dining room that we inherited, and the one that we added to the laundry room).
So built-ins will definitely be making an appearance at the new house (especially since we’re already starting to notice a lack of built-in storage here). They add a nice feeling of function + customization, and both of the built-ins that we added were under $125, so that’s definitely some nice bang for your buck!