Archive for August, 2013:
Our homeowner’s insurance was up for renewal, and I was not all that surprised to see our annual premium increase by almost $300. When we had hail damage last fall and got a new, insurance-paid roof in the process, I figured rates would increase.
Our insurance agent is an independent broker and he works with several insurance companies for his clients to find the best deal and to meet the individual’s needs.
I called him up, told him I wanted to shop it around, and he said he’d email me with what he could find. That initial phone call took less than 2 minutes, since he already had all my information on file and our previous insurance coverage levels.
He emailed me a few hours later with a quote for new auto and homeowner’s insurance, and it would be more for the auto, but way less for the house. The net price was back to roughly our old rate — so switching to a different carrier would save us about $300 for the year.
What’s more, since we’re now with AAA, it was worth it to get the AAA membership. Not sure that we’ll use it, but it’s there now if we want it.
I had to go to the insurance company’s office to sign the new policy. My overall time investment start to finish was about 30 minutes.
We do our insurance escrow and save monthly for those bills, and pay in full. We also save each month for our auto, life and disability insurance policies and pay those in full when the premiums are due. This approach helps to save even more.
Is it me, or does it seem like I’ve been talking about my kitchen project for years? Next month marks two years of living in this house. We’ve wanted to make changes to the kitchen ever since we bought it, but we didn’t first envision this:
What a difference!
Here’s the before:
You might recall my disappointment with our Giani Granite countertop paint, and how it started peeling and chipping just a few months later. The company found my post via Google, and reached out to me to try and make it right. They offered to send another kit and/or refund my money. The refund is available to any customer, not just bloggers, so I felt fine with that arrangement.
The chipping paint ended up being a good thing for us. Our thermafoil (particleboard with a sticker on it) cabinets also started coming apart. Little seams just became unsticky, and toddler fingers pulled on it in areas. Ugh. We could replace doors but it seemed like a temporary fix. So if we had replaced our counters with new laminate, and then wanted to replace the cabinets too, that would have been a big waste.
I’m glad we delayed our kitchen remodel until now. It gave us time to use our old kitchen and figure out what we liked, disliked, and what we wanted in something new. And, it gave us ample time to save up. Because yah.
We began shopping around for contractors and obtaining estimates back in April. We found that we needed to double our original budget, and kept on saving up in the meantime.
Here’s what we did to get the most for our money:
:: I’m an Angie’s List member. Being a member, I got some pretty substantial discounts — ones that paid for my membership fee many times over. And, I found quality service providers which is key.
:: Rather than going with a one-stop shop kitchen redesign company (and paying a lot more for that “convenience”), I ended up finding separate companies for various tasks. I found our countertop company first. I liked how how they fabricated the solid-surface countertops themselves, cutting out the middle man. Their price was $1,000 cheaper than that all-in-one kitchen company for the same countertop. I was so impressed with what I heard, that I asked if they had recommendations for good cabinet companies, and they did.
The cabinet guys were on the other side of town, so they weren’t really on my radar. But after seeing glowing reviews on Angie’s List, I figured they were worth a visit. Again, a good family-run business that had been around for decades. My favorite part about these guys? The guy who helped me with my order in the showroom and designing the layout and exact specs of each component — he was on the installation crew. They really knew their business and product.
Their price for maple cabinets with a few upgrades was less expensive than at the big box stores and the online cabinet companies. Did you know that you could order an entire kitchen’s worth of cabinets online and have them shipped? That sounds like crazy talk to me — a lot could probably go wrong. I wasn’t serious about pursuing that option unless it would be super-duper cheap…and it wasn’t for me.
After I had those two companies picked, I realized there was still a lot to decide with our project.
:: It was at that point that we brought on a designer. He charged us a flat fee, and helped us select all those little details and make sure it came together nicely. We figured we had no room in our budget to make a mistake. If we got the wrong cabinet stain or design, we’d have to live with that rather than shell out the money to replace it. Even more, these things are fairly permanent additions to our house. It could affect our resale.
:: We used his recommendations for lighting fixtures and a faucet from Lowe’s, and here’s how I saved on that.
:: I used Amazon gift cards earned from affiliate links and Swagbucks credit to lower my cost on one awesome garbage disposal. You can put all kinds of junk down it, and it works great! It has an 8-year warranty, too. One day in theory we might compost, but I kind of wonder about the logistics of doing that in our small and sloping yard. So for now, discards can go down the drain and reduce our trash and trash stink. Yay.
:: I shopped around the backsplash tile and installation to some more local businesses and eep, the price was higher than I was prepared to spend. I compared the same white glass subway tile + labor for a few companies, and then ultimately went with Lowe’s for tile and installation. I had a coupon, too, and the overall expense was around $500 less than the other guys. Plus, I have a bunch of extra tiles that I’m able to return, since they sold them by the each. I’ll save some for repairs, but the rest is going back.
:: I asked for cash discounts. If they’d lower the price for me writing a check instead of swiping my credit card, that would be great. It didn’t end up working this time, but it never hurts to ask. In that case, I put the expense on my cash-back credit card.
So…you’re probably seeing a trend here. We paid people to do lots of the work. How is that frugal at all? Lemme ‘splain.
Shane doesn’t have time to take apart a kitchen or put one back together. He DID remove some of the cabinets himself, and that reduced our fee to the cabinet guys. He had to make a wall accessible for some electrical work. But doing an entire kitchen? That would take more time and manpower than we wanted to take on. And installing cabinets? Forget it. He did our laundry room cabinet and that was fine, but there’s a bit of room for error with doing an entire room.
Plus, he only has so many vacation days, and we’d prefer he use them when the baby is born later this year, than tooling around the kitchen.
The solid surface counters needed a professional to install, the electrical wiring was beyond what a DIY’er should attempt, and we possibly could have done the plumbing hook-up but again, we thought we’d better leave that to a professional. Oh, and the tile? It took three men 7 hours to do. That means, it would have taken me and Shane at least 24, plus probably more since we don’t know how to do it. Add up renting their special tile cutting saw…yeah. No money saved there.
So the things we hired out, we felt were perfectly reasonable things to do.
We did all of the painting. And lemme tell ya, there was a LOT. We used two coats of primer to cover those crazy red walls, and then two coats of paint. We painted the living room since it’s basically one space. Also, the ceiling, baseboards, trim, and a few doors. Took us several weekends to get that all knocked out.
Shane also swapped out the light fixtures himself.
We installed some of the old kitchen cabinets in the garage to use as extra storage. And the old light fixtures will be donated to Habitat for Humanity.
How might this affect our resale?
I think we bought our house at the bottom of the local market. Prices have been coming up since 2011 here, and houses are selling well in my neighborhood. There was a house down the street that was comparable in size and bedroom/bathrooms, and they had an upgraded kitchen as well. They listed it for $40k+ more than we paid for ours, and I’m waiting to see what it actually sold for.
Houses usually sell fast in my neighborhood, but the ones that sell in a few weeks or less generally are well-maintained and updated. The ones that had lower-quality kitchens or crazy wallpaper or whatnot seem to sit awhile.
Without an appraisal or, hey, an actually offer on my house, I have no idea what it’s actually worth to someone else. And that doesn’t much matter, since we hope to be here for a long time. I do think that the changes we’ve made while living here will have a positive effect on the sellability of it.
What was once a detraction became a selling feature.
But, we may live here so long that the kitchen becomes horribly dated by the time we want to move, and may need to do it again ;).
Whew! So glad this project is done. So far, it has been worth it to our family. And, it was cheaper to renovate our kitchen then sell our house, pay all related fees, and buy another house with a nicer kitchen. Seriously.
We were very fortunate to be able to take on that project, and to have a house, period.