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Renovation Realities No 4. You will bleed cash. It will hurt.

9 May

We all know that renovating costs money. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat and watch a home makeover/design TV show and found my self saying “well of course they went over budget – EVERYBODY knows that happens….you have to just plan for it”…how naive!

Well it turns out its true. But I mean REALLY  REALLY true. Like we planned to go over our budget and even had a “secret emergency budget” to pay for that but when we blew through that 6 months into the project and were still roofless we realised that yes renovating costs a lot of money and then some. I went back to work early (leaving my 11 week old son)  after maternity leave because we couldn’t afford for me to be not earning any longer, I had to choose a roof or stay with my child who I felt deserved a roof! Every purchase for the house is carefully scrutinized for maximum efficiency, cost and quality. We try not to scrimp but try instead to spend carefully – making sure to buy the materials that can do a job right the first time and do it well but are as reasonable as possible. All of this is Jon – he research’s things for hours to make sure he’s getting the best possible  deal and then he will still try to negotiate (he always been good at that whereas I suck at it!!).

It’s a fact that budgets WILL spiral, unforseen events cause delays  (aka the firing of drunken roofers!!) and delays cost money. Then there’s the stuff you didn’t think to include in the budget that costs the earth….we have spent over $3,000 on nails & screw alone so i’m not even joking!!!  And how were we to know that we would have to pay to get parts of our home drywalled only for it to get ripped out again a few weeks later and then we’d pay AGAIN for it to get put back once more work was approved and done… sheer madness but a necessity because we live here and so work has to work around us. And I’ve mentioned before that we are debris box addicts but we had planned for 5 in the budget which seemed totally reasonable and now we are on our 18th…yes you read that right 18 boxes at $500 a pop..that’s quite a bit of cash to pay for stuff to be removed from the house!

Rainy day fund?

(Getty Images)

So how are we paying for this renovation? We certainly aren’t millionaires with a lump sum at our finger tips, and unfortunately I wasn’t lucky enough to be one of the Instagram 16 employees!!

No, we boringly saved my entire salary for over a year beforehand knowing that we wanted to take on this kind of project – we just didn’t think it would be this big! We both work  full-time and we try to live off one salary so that the other is used solely for renovations costs. But that’s still not enough. We have begged money from the bank (HSBC) several times, and they have  been great until the last time they came to check out the house and deemed it “uninhabitable” and so wouldn’t extend us anymore credit … um yeah that was a major “YIKES what now???” moment (and btw the house was TOTALLY least by our standards, ahem!). And we have been fortunate enough to borrow a little from family  to help us though this final phase of construction which has been amazing tho we know this isn’t an option for everyone and yes we do have to pay it back so lets hope the bank deems our house habitable soon!!!

Its stressful. Very stressful.  We have had to sacrifice a lot of things in order to pay for this renovation – vacations have gone on hold, my closet is a mess and we are surviving on the kindness of grandparents to avoid pricey childcare fees for the little fella.

Money is a tough topic – It can lead to many heated discussions and it most certainly will be the worst part about your renovation….. but my advice is as follows….

1. Keep talking about it to each other and maintain as tight a budget  as possible even tho at some point it will slip.

2. Use each other as a sounding board for your purchases and make sure you REALLY want something before taking the plunge.

3. Know when you need to spend money and where you can scrimp. Be open to cheaper alternatives where you can get away with it. (This topic is a whole other post in itself!!!)

3. Track all your expenses as you go – not just before and creating a master excel spreadsheet to do so. Jon has done this and its been invaluable. Everything goes on it and we save every receipt (even the $4 ones) for him to double-check against.

4. Opening a renovation specific bank account isn’t a bad idea either – we made the mistake of having the cash in with all our regular expenses in our checking account and this has caused so much chaos!!

Budgeting for a renovation isn’t easy  but if you can master this and you can master anything!

Renovation Realities No.3: It WILL take over your life!

12 Mar

A question I get asked quite often is “How do you manage the renovation with all the other stuff going on in your life?” and I often have to stop and think… what else is going on in my life other than kids and work??…I mean this renovation IS my life.

Sad as it may seem it is actually 100% true. There’s many reasons for this, the biggest being the fact that we are doing it all ourselves on a teeny budget. The sheer amount of time it takes to make all the decisions, double-check the decision and then choose all the things you need and want in your renovation is unbelievable. This is a full-time job for most people and yet here we are doing it in our “spare time”.

To counter this and to try to share the load, Jon and I have developed very clearly defined roles. We didn’t set out for it to be this way, more it happened naturally over time but they are definitely there.  He is the contractor – he deals with all the workmen, the building department, the supplies and the budget. It takes up a considerable amount of his time and he is always out on the site first thing in the morning before we set off for work laying out the required tasks for the day with Adrian or whoever we have working on the house that day. He then fields calls during the day whilst managing his real job, plus he travels a lot with work and so is often doing this from far afield. Have you ever tried managing a building project from 6,000 miles away? Its pretty tough. At night he dives into excel spread sheets to add in all the receipts from the suppliers or he’s emailing sub-contractors like the roofing guy to get them to commit to a date so we keep moving forward.

A visual of Jon's day

And my role? I am the client. I decide what’s going where, what I want the lights to be, where I want them. I spend hours on the internet looking at room inspiration and ideas and home decor sites. I drive myself crazy with paint options until forced to make a decision. I make the choice between having a steam shower or a tub which sounds like the fun bit but can be quite the paralyzing experience as there’s just so much choice. I have to get it right because we are only getting one shot at this and we can’t afford financially for it to be wrong. I spend my weekends in tile showrooms with two kids hanging off me trying to make a fast decision because they are bored. I do my best to keep kids entertained and out-of-the-way on the days that dad has to work on the house. And when Jon is away on business I try to help in the communications with the sub-contractors tho I’m often just in the way! And then I try to document it all here.

My role.

Yes, sometimes it feels like we are living separate lives whilst working towards the same goal, and in that way it can feel kind of lonely. So how do you counter these feelings when its a necessary evil in order to move forward? Well understand that it’s just how life is here and now, and that it wont be like this forever. We remind each other that the house will get finished. One day we will have hobbies again, and be free to work out, and entertain our friends because we will have that elusive thing called “spare income and time”! We will attend parties & playdates together and not as a single unit because the other half is “installing window flashing” or something random like that. And soon, when we get to go out to mingle with other folks, we will be able to engage in topics of conversation other than those featuring the words house & renovation. One day I will even be up to date with current affairs and I’m not just talking People magazine here y’all!!

My other big tip is to try to keep one day “sacred” even tho it means things wont always get finished and you will have to be ok with that. Every Sunday, we take this one precious day together and do something as a family, anything fun for the kids. We don’t talk about the house, or even do anything for it – we simply just enjoy the day hiking or going to the beach and 100% focus our attention on our two gorgeous boys.

Dont forget about your relationship too. As a couple we try to have regular date nights (or I highly recommend doing date lunches during the working week!) and we force ourselves to talk about anything other than the house…which isn’t always easy when there are decisions to be made.

And finally plan something fun to look forward to. Everybody needs it, whatever it is. For me its going on a vacation. So even tho money is beyond tight – we plan a year ahead and we save a bit at a time so that there is this glimmer of something fun to look forward too, some time somewhere new. Because lets face it at some point you WILL need to escape your house.

Its been 18 months and counting for us, and yes it does feel like the longest marathon race ever, but the end is finally in sight and the victory will taste oh so sweet once we do finish. And then I will probably have to do something crazy to fill the void left behind!

Renovation Realities No 2: There will be tears.

25 Feb

I want to preface this by saying I’m not a crier by nature, of course neither is my husband. Being from hardy northern stock (in the UK) we are well adept to keeping our chins up no matter how tough the circumstances, but, even with this solid resolve, there have been times where the house and the mess we live in have gotten the best of me/us.

Imagine this: you run around all day at work 8mths pregnant, dash home picking up the toddler en route, battle traffic and what greets you is a sight that could break even the liveliest spirit. A house with trash on the front lawn and completely wrapped in black plastic. You enter , carefully stepping over a mound of dirt and clutching the pile of bills that were waiting for you in the mailbox and the house, well its cold, freezing cold, because you have no roof and you just had to fire the men who were meant to be building it.  The toddler is whining with hunger and you are so dead tired that you can’t bear to begin cooking on the ancient stove and you aren’t even sure if you have food in the tiny bar fridge. And then it starts to rain, and your thoughts immediately turn to plugging the leaks and all your pans are used to gather the water as it streams in through the open roof, so there’s nothing to cook in anyway when you get back to it. You finally sit down, head in hands.

And the flood gates open. And you cry because you just cant take anymore.

You are tired, cold and hungry and can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. You hate the house and what it’s doing to your family. You hate the mess and the chaos you live in, that you can’t have friends over and your son can’t have play dates and that you don’t come home during this emotional time to warmth and comfort, and god only knows where the baby will go once he arrives.

So how do you cope? My advice is know that feeling this despair wont happen often. Hopefully only a couple of times will you really lose the will to keep going with the project. And that in the end its nothing that  takeout, a good nights rest and a few deep breaths wont fix…along with repeating your mantra of ” It will all be over soon”!!

Oh and I highly recommend trying to see the funny side of the situation where you can instead of crying, it helps a lot ….tho maybe dont take it as far as this ….

Renovation Realities (and other things I wish I’d known before…) No.1: There will be dust.

18 Feb

As we are about 18 months into what currently feels like a life long renovation I thought I’d start to share some of the realities of renovating a home. I think in the past here on this blog i’ve perhaps glossed over some of the  difficulties and hardships that a renovation can cause so this series of posts is going to put that right…I’d hate to think I was mis-leading anyone into thinking this process was all sweetness & light!!!

Number 1. There will be dust. Lots of it. 

A house made of dust. Literally.

Like in places you never even thought it could get (my bed??!!). Your clothes will get covered in it and your furniture will get ruined. It will take you forever to clean it up by which point it will have returned and you will have to start from scratch. Over and over.  You will spend a fortune on Swiffer’s in the fight to hold your ground, and you will lose. Your incredibly expensive Dyson that you treated yourself too will be reduced to a job site vacuum and will never quite function properly again. The dust will win for now.

It wont matter what project you are doing in the house, there will be dust, debris, particles.

So accept the dust as an inevitable fate for now – buy as many dust busters as you can, clean up frequently, pray you don’t get allergies and repeat this mantra “It will be over soon, it will be over soon”.

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