Trial and Error: A floor plan story

>> Saturday, July 27, 2013

Prepare yourselves for a gripping tale! Let me set the stage for you. When we bought our house, we spent the first two months renovating it, while living 30 minutes away in my parents’ basement apartment. It was nice, since we went quite a while without having a bathroom in our new house and even longer without a kitchen. But then my parents’ well started giving them trouble and there was suddenly no running water. So we started staying at our new house and hurried to finish up the little jobs so we could move our furniture in. And even though I had been thinking about it for months, when the time came, I still had no idea how we would arrange our furniture in our new living room. You see, it is a little bit of a difficult room. At least we originally thought it was. Here is the 19’x12’ space we had to work with.

lr floorplan

It doesn’t look like much but it proved to be a little difficult with two different openings and an off center window. We also wanted to incorporate as much seating as possible along with a piano. We tried a few different configurations the night we moved in, but I soon began to get some dirty looks from my husband and brother-in-law when I started to suggest we try the piano on ‘that other wall.’ So we settled on what seemed to be the best option at the time and there it stayed for over a year. lr floorplan before



It was ok but didn’t work great because: a) the couches were pretty close together in real life, b) there was a ton of wasted space in front of the piano, and c) I love my piano, but didn’t really want it to be the focal point when you walk in our front door.

So I thought and thought over a new solution and finally about a year and a half later, I decided enough was enough and it was time to figure it out. So my husband and I started moving things around. The only thing I was really sure of was that I wanted the piano just to the right of the window (where you see the loveseat above). Other than that, we just moved couches and chairs around for a while until things seemed to fit. And this is what we settled on.
lr floorplan after


The desk was a bit of an afterthought. Once we got everything else arranged, we had a big, empty space in that corner. I also had the problem of nowhere to work on my laptop. So this has been a perfect solution. I love when everything functions well! The whole layout just seems cozier and way more conducive to conversation. Of course this room is far from done. Still on the list is end tables, an ottoman or pouf, a new rug, possibly repaint, and change up the pillow covers. One day…


Bringing back plastic

>> Friday, July 19, 2013

Why we don't budget with cashWe are budgeters. I have a thing for spreadsheets and numbers. Every day I open up that my beloved spreadsheet and enter things in and recalculate things and just bask in the order of it. The nerd in me really loves that it is one thing in life that is just numbers and equations. That part is easy (almost). But you know the hard part about budgeting, the part that everyone hates – actually sticking to it. Bleh.

We’ve tried many things over the years. For a long time we just used our credit cards (paid off every month of course) and bought what we needed to buy. We checked in on the budget every week or so to make sure we were on track. But sometimes it was the end of the month, and the end of the money, but we just needed something. So we went ahead and bought it anyways. Now normally, this would put someone in debt really fast, but my husband earned strictly commission for years and would receive compensation in a few large lump sums over the course of the year so we almost always had a bunch of money in our bank account. Somehow we always made things work until we got paid again.

Then my husband got a “real” job. The kind that deposits a predetermined amount in our bank account every month. The kind that actually helped us to realize that we really needed to actually manage our money. Around that time, I jumped on the Dave Ramsey bandwagon. We didn’t have debt but I knew our budgeting could be a lot better. So I began to withdraw cash and put it in envelopes. It worked pretty good for me. It definitely was a lot harder for me to let go of cash than to just swipe my card but there were a few huge issues for us.

The first is that my husband doesn’t like cash. For him, cash feels like “extra,” since that was the way we had kind of always treated it. With our previous ‘card-swiping’ system, cash always came out of our budget when with withdrew it so it was basically our blow money. If he had cash in his wallet, then it was slowly dwindled away on snacks or treats or who knows what else. We recognized that right away and so he started leaving the cash at home. But then we kept running into other issues. Like how he would pay for something if I asked him to stop at the store on the way home. Or if he needed to get some supplies for his class after school (he’s a teacher). So then he would end up using his credit card and when he got home we’d take out the cash and put it another envelope to be deposited back into our bank account to balance everything out. It was a pain.

But the other issue that really bothered me was that it was hard for us to both be on the same page. Jeff is really great at the big picture stuff. I work better with the little everyday details. So while we talk about our budget in general terms, he trusts me to do the math and figure out all the specifics. The problem with that was that it would often come down to him saying we needed something and me being the downer, always saying we can’t afford it. Because I knew exactly how much money I had left in my wallet but he had no idea. All in all, cash was just not working!

But lest you think that this is just a sad tale, have hope. There’s a happy ending! After a couple months of struggling with cash to make it work (Everyone says that cash is so easy! What’s wrong with us??), my husband suggested that we go back to using our credit cards. I was super hesitant and expressed that while that solved concern #1, it did nothing to alleviate concern #2 and even brought up another concern (being able to see at all times what was left in our budget).

And then my smarty of a husband said, “there must be an app for that.” And he was right. I quickly downloaded a budget app (this is the one we use) and it has literally changed our life. We fill our “envelopes” in our app twice a month and now both of us can use our smartphones and see at all times exactly how much money we have left at any given time. All we have to do is enter each transaction as it happens, which takes about 30 seconds. I know there will be those that disagree (I know this is practically blasphemy to the Dave Ramsey fans out there) but this solution has helped us big time!

So the moral of the story? Don’t give up! Just because one person (even if they are a finance guru!) claims that their method is the best, or only way, you don’t have to do it if it doesn’t work for you. Keep trying until you figure out something that does!

**Just for the record, I do still think the cash system is awesome and can be really useful for lots of people, especially people wanting to drastically change their spending habits. So if you are thinking of trying it, please do! And if you already use it and love it, carry on!


Cheap Family Fun: Fly a kite!

>> Thursday, July 11, 2013

go fly a kiteWe’re on a budget. Like a one-income-family, working-on-a-masters-degree budget. In many ways we are very blessed. We own a home, my husband has a secure job, we have no debt (other than our mortgage). But after financially horrific May (we spent over $2000 on car repairs and to buy a new lawnmower. Yikes!) we realized our savings account was seriously lacking. So priority number one for us right now is to build up that savings, which unfortunately does not leave us much for the “family expenses” category. So this summer we are looking for inexpensive ways to have fun together.

Last Saturday we didn’t have much going on. We enjoyed a lazy morning (it’s good to have those every once in a while!) but by the afternoon, we were going a little stir crazy. We talked about going swimming but the pool in our town in closed for renovations this year. And driving to the city (45 min away) not only equals more in gas, but usually leads to eating out and going to Costco and overall spending more money that we should.

So we settled for a walk to the park. We loaded the boys up in the wagon and walked down to a park that’s a few blocks away. Halfway there, I remembered a kite that I had purchased on clearance at the end of season last year. I ran back home to grab it and it turned out to be some of the best 50 cents I’ve ever spent. The boys had so much fun with it! SAM_2210SAM_2222SAM_2227SAM_2228

I’m always amazed at the benefits of thinking outside the box. Taking a trek into the city would have cost us upwards of $50. Flying a kite at the park down the street cost us a whopping 50 cents. And truthfully, it was way more fun!


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