Tips for New Home Buyers
Two posts within almost a week of one another!?! To what do we owe the pleasure??? One Word: JUNE.
So it’s hard to believe that Shad and I are coming up on just about 5 and half years in our home… no wonder I’ve been jonesing (is that how you spell it?) to sell and do this all over again. Thinking back to how far our house as come over the last 5 years, it’s crazy to think about what it looked like when we first moved in.
Our home was a few years of planning and saving in the making. I can’t tell you how many times in the two years prior to buying our home that we had to say “no” to going on vacations, weekend getaways, or out to dinner more than once or twice a month because we had the goal of saving for our home in mind. During this time, I was so fixated on what my dream home would look like that I created a book I dubbed to Shad as our “One Day” book. I would tell him… yea we’re not in the house we want to be right now, but one day we’re going to be in a beautiful home we both love. I even thought about getting a sign made for when you walk in our mudroom labeled “Welcome to One Day”. I’ve referenced this book in previous posts before, think of it as basically a scrap book of different looks I liked in homes I found in magazines. I’d sit on the floor (usually on snow days), back when I didn’t have a million DIY projects on my list or a blog to try and keep up with- and I’d clip pictures out of pottery barn and ballard design magazines of looks I liked. I thought the prospect of decorating an entire house would feel overwhelming at first, so I wanted to have this book as a reference for when we were actually in our new home.
Now, although I had a pretty good amount of money squirreled away that I had been saving since I was 16 to “blow” on furniture when we moved in, there was no way it would be able to decorate an entire house with that amount- especially since I literally sold EVERYTHING (except that damn brown couch Shad purchased “pre-Barbra” from crate and barrel for an amount of money I’d spend decorating three rooms, prior to moving into our new home).
While I’m more flattered than boasting, we’ve had a number of people come over these past few years and talk about how they want to buy a home and do just what we did. It most certainly didn’t happen overnight, so I decided to compile of list of 13 decorating and money-smart tips for those of you who are taking on the enormous task of decorating your home.
13 Tips to Make the Most of Your New Home Decorating Budget
#1. Have a Budget and Stick To It !
This goes both for your house and your decorating budget. I think finances, budgets, and being smart with money are actually some of my best skills. I’ve never paid interest on a credit card and I’ve proudly never carried a balance to the next month. I’m the type of person credit card companies hate- because they’ve literally NEVER made any money off of me. I’ve not only used theirs for free- but I’ve made money off of them as well (which I”ll get into in a later tip). I’ve been asked by many close friends to take a look at their finances and help them plan a budget so that they can save money (and I have numerous references if anyone wants to hire me as their finance lady…haha). I owe all my money savings skills to the financial guru: Suze Orman. When I was 22 years old I read a book by her that outlined the 50-30-20 plan. She held that no more than 50% of your monthly paychecks should go to bills, 30% spending, and 20% savings. I swear that’s been the key to financial freedom in Shad and I’s life. We used this plan prior to purchasing our house, and in determining what type of mortgage we could hold and comfortably live by this model. DO NOT overspend on a house! A lot of times real estate company photographers put this nice almost cartoon looking filter on photos. I know tons of people who have overspent on houses just because it had grey walls and a white kitchen. There’s almost nothing inside a house you can’t change to fit your needs and it usually costs less than the already done houses you’re probably overbidding on. The same goes for decorating. Have a budget, stick to it, don’t rack up a credit card and make payments of items that you probably won’t even like anymore once it’s finally paid off.
#2. If You can afford to do paint and floors prior to moving in- do it!
Painting yourself is the easiest way to save money- but as I’ve said in previous posts, it’s a non-negotiable for me. I absolutely hate painting and I’ve only painted rooms where “lines” didn’t matter as much- for example- our garage. We painted the ceilings and walls all one color in our garage, so messing up didn’t matter. Painting prior to moving your stuff in will be so much easier. We ended up having our wood moldings painted white and that INSTANTLY changed and updated the look of our house. If you plan on adding hardwood floors or refinishing the existing floors (which is what we did in our home- to a darker color), do it BEFORE moving in if you can. There’s nothing worse than having to move all of your crap out of your house and into your garage (if it all fits) and bringing it back in when the floors are done. I remember leaving everything in the garage but I thought all of my kitchen stuff would be safe inside the cabinets. Wrong! I had to wipe everything down after we had our floors refinished because dust seeped in there. If you need another reference- take our kitchen renovation for example, for which we did hardwoods to match the existing ones. We put double plastic on each doorway leading out of the kitchen and we still had a thick layer of dust over everything on the floor above after getting these floors done.
Check out my previous post here on neutral paint colors:
#3. Spend $ Where it Counts
Focus on necessities you’ll use the most. Kitchens, bathrooms, laundry rooms- usually get the most use. Bathroom vanities are an easy swap out and will give you the biggest bank for your buck. They have some great vanities at Home Depot for $600 and under, like the one I have pictured above. It might sound weird, but when we moved in I wanted to switch out the washer and dryer immediately. I remember washing a towel that we had used to clean and there were tiny hairs in it that I knew weren’t mine. It grossed me out so much, even though the previous owners looked like clean people- that we ended up purchasing a new washer and dryer on a pre-black Friday deal at Home Depot. Don’t spend your money in areas you don’t use as much- leave those spaces for last, for example, a guest room. And do spend your money in places it makes the most impact- for example, we purchased our wood door from a Probuild liquidation center for $1000, I stained it, Shad installed it, and til this day it’s my one of my favorite parts of our home. ….I’m trying to figure out how I can take this door with me if we move, because they don’t make it anymore :(
#4. Inexpensive Changes Can Make a Huge Difference
I also mentioned this on my spray-paint blog post from last week. Changing out light fixtures, cabinet knobs, light switches, door knobs and hinges, bathroom mirrors (to a framed one, instead of the ones glued to the walls like we had), fans, outdoor lights, can make a world of a difference in a house. I ended up spray painting some light fixtures, our 1990’s brass colored door hinges, and swapping out our brass door knobs for $12 black ones at Home Depot. It completely changed the look of our house. I also was grossed out by finger marks on our light switches so instead of springing for over 100 $2 light plates from Home Depot, I ran ours through the dishwasher. If you’re looking for reasonably priced light fixtures- follow me (thedecorformula) on the liketoknowit app.
Check out last week’s post on using spray paint on items around your home:
#5. Take Advantage of Interest-free and points credit cards
This is huge! I can’t tell you how much money I made off of credit card companies during this time and then turned around and bought things for our home (only to also put it on a credit card and earn points for it and pay for it with the cash back credit… what a wonderful cycle). If you already have the money set aside to purchase things- still put it on a credit card and pay it off the same day! For example when we were renovating our kitchen, we had the money set aside for our appliances. We spent close to $11k on them. When it came time to purchase them- I threw them on my chase card, paid it off the next day ( I’m not even sure if the charge had even hit the card yet), and I ended up making over $500 back in cash-back rewards. I turned around and used this to buy our kitchen sink. The same goes for it you’re shopping at a certain store always- for example pottery barn was offering double rewards when I purchased our entryway system. I ended up earning close to $700 in rewards and used it toward our tv console. Homegoods, TJmaxx, and Marshall’s credit card helps you to earn cash back rewards as well- I’m always getting vouchers in the mail from buying things on my TJX card for the houses I decorate. I turn around and use them to buy stuff for my own home or clothes from TJmaxx and Marshall’s. In addition, some stores offer interest free cards. Home Depot is one of those companies- I’ve opened up and closed accounts many times over the years with Home Depot. Note: You have to be sure to pay off the balance prior to the end of the promotion date, otherwise you get hit with interest back-dated from the first day of your purchase. ***Other note: You do NOT want to do this prior to closing on your home- they look at all your finances and credit cards prior to closing*** So if you have the money set aside- still put it on your credit card and pay it off right away, you’ll end up earning so much cash back!
#6. Mix Professional Work with cheaper DIY fixes
We hired a painter and a floor guy, then had some family help us install our new front door, and did other smaller DIY projects that we thought we could handle ourselves. For example, our front porch was this ugly color red so I rented a sander, sanded it down, and refinished it with a product sold at my local home improvement store. Shad redid the shingles on the roof of our pool shed with his brother in law and I painted the shed ( I know I said I hated painting, but when you’re running low on cash that’s when you start to go against your beliefs). Know your limits though- some projects are just left to the professionals.
#7. Make a “House Goals” List
When we started renovating our house, we first focused on essentials, paint, floors, lights, vanities, door knobs. I also made a budget for each room so I could get the most out of the budget I had set for myself. From there I made a goals list- it was both long term and short term goals, expensive and inexpensive items. For example, our 3 year goals included bigger ticket items like: Driveway repaved, Kitchen renovated, furniture for loft, shed repainted, basement refinished, new plants, river rock instead of mulch (the most painful project ever), etc. Short term/inexpensive goals were things like: chair for guest room, pottery barn lamp, cabinets for garage, etc. That way when we came upon tax return time, or it was extra paycheck month- we would try and cross a goal or two off our list. Some projects you just won’t be able to do after you get through your official “spending-money-like-crazy” phase- and have to cool things down.
#8. Don’t Just Buy Cheap Stuff to Fill Up Your House.
I hate when people buy something that doesn’t go in their house just because it was cheap and they need something to fill the space. I can’t tell you how many of our rooms remained empty or somewhat barren until I had the money saved up to decorate it. Our office above, remained one big open room with a desk only- until I had the money to turn it into another tv room. Our tv in our downstairs great room literally sat on a box for the first 4 months, until our tv stand came in. Now of course, I’m not asking you to eat on the floor with your kids because the kitchen table you want it $2k- if you have to buy something from a garage sale site or use what you have in the meantime, by all means do so. But don’t buy brand new items that are sort of what you like, but not completely what you like. Down the road you’ll regret it and wish you just waited.
#9 Focus on One Area-> Areas You’ll Spend the Most Time In
A living room couch… good investment piece. A kitchen table… a good mattress and bedroom set… all good investment pieces. Guest rooms- don’t spend all your money here- for the 4 to 5 times a year you might have a guest sleep over. Let them sleep on an air mattress until you have the money to buy what you want. And hey… air mattresses are a great way of deterring family members you might not particularly want to stay- from staying too long…. wink wink.
#10. Sell old Items and Use the Money Towards New Ones
We made over $3k off our garage sale before we moved. Now you might be thinking: “well you probably have nice s%#@ to sell” , it was all Shad’s stuff we sold from his old home prior to moving into our new home (besides that damn brown couch), and his pre-Barbra style didn’t evolve to the level it’s at now that I’ve been in his life for 9 years… haha. So how did we make so much money? I sold everything for whatever someone would give me. Literally- someone offered me $15 for Shad’s bike and I was like “Sold!”…. only to have Shad say “ I spent close to $800 on that bike years ago.” Here’s the deal folks- your garage sale crap is only worth what other people are willing to pay. I never understood how people could drag their crap out day after day, or even drag it back into their garage and save it for a garage sale the following year, in order to get $1 more. My favorite is when people won’t take a certain amount for something, only to drag it to the curb and stick a “free” sign on it at the end of the day. I’m the type of person that if someone says “Can I give you $10 for that, I respond- only if you’ll take that box full of crap next to it home as well”. If you’re having a garage sale- post about it on craigslist, Facebook, and put up signs. If you’re selling single items- put it up on Facebook garage sale sites. Dress it up in pictures, make it looks nice. I can’t tell you how many times people try to buy crap in the background of my pictures. (And my friends like to respond to my garage sale posts doing this to be funny as well). Over the years I’ve held out on bigger ticket items and bought something “ I sort of liked” in the meantime, and ended up selling the pieces down the road for almost what I paid. Then I turned around and used that money towards the new item. Also don’t underestimate what people will purchase. I remember my good friend Eric once saying “You’ll put up a really nice couch on craigslist and get no hits, and then you’ll put up a broken dishwasher and you’ll have people fighting over it!” We put up our old deck railings that we traded out for vinyl ones- a woman drove 3 hours for them and paid us $50… couldn’t believe it.
#11. Watch and Wait for Sales!
All companies have certain times of the year that they have large sales. Holidays- Memorial Day, Labor Day, Columbus Day: all big for furniture. Black Friday and Pre-black friday deals (what the hell is that all about now… we gotta have a pre- for the actual black friday??): are a great time to buy appliances. February before Super Bowl is a great time to find deals on TVs. (I heard on the news this year it’s because they’re literally getting rid of the old models to make room for the new… sort of like September is a good month for leftovers on car lots). Around Thanksgiving: dining room furniture is always on sale at stores like WorldMarket. Wayfair has “Way-Day” in May. Office and organization furniture always goes on sale at the end of December and beginning of January for those New Year’s Resolutions to get organized. My favorite rug company below has great sales at least twice a month where you can save 50% or more. And lastly- watch out for a mailer that will come to you with an enormous amount of coupons when you first move in. There’s one in there for 10% your entire purchase at Lowe’s and Home Depot, 20% your entire purchase at Bed Bath and Beyond… etc. I waited for the Home Depot one, and made a large list of all the things we needed to buy- and bought them all at once with the coupon. I ended up savings hundreds.
#12. Ask for Gift Cards from Relatives for Birthdays and Christmas
I recently told my friend Gina that she should register for stuff for her house, because all of her friends are going to want to buy her a housewarming present. She felt weird about it- which I could completely understand. I’m super particular about home decor items I like- so for holidays and birthdays the first 2 years we were in our house, I just asked for gift cards. For example- we got married the second year we were in our house, so not only did I register for my front porch furniture and kitchen items- but numerous people gave us home depot gift cards and I was actually able to purchase all of our back outdoor furniture just in gift cards. (And all of the blinds in our home after using the gift card apple on the iPhone… which for some reason didn’t register that I had already spent $400 in gift cards). Don’t be shy in requesting gift cards for the house, or if someone asks what they can get you- give them an item that they can’t mess up like those skinny hangers… or toilet paper holders & brushes… haha. These are items you need that add up, but you don’t necessarily want to spend your whole decor budget on them
#13. Bring Essential Items with you with Shopping
Now I’m obviously a complete OCD psycho.. but when we moved into our home I was sick of texting Shad and asking him to “measure under the window” “measure the hall in front of the front door” etc. Many times he wasn’t home and I was at HomeGoods trying to figure out if an item I liked would fit. Therefore, I made a spreadsheet (and later shared this with a few friends when they moved into their homes). This spreadsheet included literally every measurement in our house by room- windows: molding to floor, inside windows, how many door knobs, cabinet pulls, etc… were in the house. I had this spreadsheet at all times in my purse or in my car with me in case I was out shopping. In addition I brought paint chips from the rooms, pillow cases from bedspreads, a tape measure, and had pictures of the rooms in my phone so I could always reference it. You can read more about this on my previous blog post below. Also you’re out shopping, if you find something you really like at stores like Homegoods, TJmaxx or Marshall’s- the rule is BRING IT HOME!! You can always return it. There’s no limits on returns…. trust me, I’d be banned already. A lot of times when you hem and haw and return to the store it’s gone!! Don’t make that mistake. And speaking of returns- write on your receipt what the items are!!! A lot of home decor items are just listed as “Storage and Organization” “Home Accents” “Wall Decor”, etc, and when you’re buying a ton of crap it’s hard to remember what receipt went to what item. I had a “coupon organizer” which held all my receipts, coupons, and paint chips that I took with me shopping each time.
Check out my previous post here: