Five Ways We Save Money to Spend on Our House

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You might have noticed that we tackle a lot of home remodeling projects around here and those aren’t always cheap, even when you are doing it yourself. We have found some ways to maximize our dollars though. Some are fairly common and others are a bit more unique, but hopefully you’ll find some penny-pinching inspiration to help you save up for some splurge-worthy home reno projects with some of our tips below.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

We might not always find exactly what we’re looking for, but we have found some great deals on everything from old doors to cabinets at the Habitat for Humanity Restore. It’s a store that sells home remodeling goods, some used and some that are brand new but leftover from a project. All of the goods are sold at a discount so it’s a great place to check before heading to the hardware store. They have everything from appliances and light fixtures to tools and paint. In the Summer, I usually stop in weekly to see if there is anything that we might be able to use in any upcoming projects. You may want to ask the cashier about any upcoming sales or special deals as well. Sometimes they will take an extra percentage off of certain categories of products. That’s how I was able to get a set of shutters for a window on my old home for only $5.00.

Great deals at the Habitat for Humanity Restore.

Shutters that I bought at the Habitat for Humanity Restore for only $5.

 

Aside from the Habitat Restore, keep your eyes peeled for salvage antique and thrift stores.  Some of these stores are overpriced, but you can occasionally find one that has really reasonable prices or a sale section that allows you to find some steals. My favorite local antique, furniture, and salvage store is Green Oak Antiques, which I will hopefully write a blog post about in the near future (once I get some more time in the Summer to make a visit).

If you live near a university, you also might want to research to see if they have a salvage store. Our local university has a fantastic salvage store that sells old campus furniture, electronics, and even bikes. We’ve found some fantastic deals there and some items that you can’t find anywhere else for the price. For instance, they have video projectors, old 70’s office furniture (the best kind), and the occasional massive wooden conference table. You really never know what you could find.

Cut the Cord

This is a pretty obvious way to save money, but it’s surprising how little of a sacrifice it really is to cut the cord. We ordered a long-range TV antenna from Amazon and we are able to get all of the network channels. We also use Roku devices to stream shows we can’t get on the antenna.

I hate to admit it, but I never wanted to cut the cord before because I actually like live TV. I am too indecisive sometimes to try to choose something to watch when it isn’t already on (I know that’s pathetic). That’s why I was really intrigued when I heard about Sling TV. It’s is a live television streaming service that you can use right on your Roku. Sling costs around $20 a month for the basic service, but you can customize the channels to your liking. They offer a variety of $5 add-on channels in categories like “news” and “sports”. You can also add HBO, Cinemax, Stars, or Showtime for extra. The other nice thing about Sling is that you can add or drop any of these channels just by logging into your account and altering your plan. For instance, we turn HBO off when they aren’t playing any of the shows we watch. It’s a good way to save a little money and still be able to access those channels when we need them.

Sling TV menu layout.

The menu page for CNN on Sling TV. You can see the programs that are currently playing as well as the programs available to stream.

 

We also have streaming plans on Netflix and Amazon Prime even though we mostly use Amazon Prime just for “Man in the High Castle”. We stream a lot of British programming (our favorite is Travel Man) on Youtube for free. You can actually find quite a few full shows on Youtube, but you just have to be careful not to be sucked into the wormhole that is a “funniest animals” playlist. We’ve done that too many times.

A roku streaming device remote.

Our little Roku remote.

 

Black, White, and Gray

This tip only applies to me because Michael has always been able to abstain from buying clothes unless he really needed them. For me, I get tempted to buy a Star Wars T-shirt just because it is on sale (and I still will if it is cheap enough). That said, I have gotten better when it comes to work clothes, and that is where black, white, and gray come in.

After reading this article by Matilda Kahl about wearing the same thing every day, I was intrigued but not sure I could totally buy in to that concept. I do work with teenagers and I can only imagine the amount of questions I would get about wearing the same outfit every day. I also owned a vibrant and colorful wardrobe and wasn’t sure I could break my habit of buying purple cardigans. Even so, I decided to try a rule of only buying black, white, and gray work clothes from then on.

At first, I struggled a bit with this rule. I had to stop myself from purchasing some brightly-colored dresses. As I began to amass a neutral wardrobe though, I started to love it. I didn’t have to worry if things would match. I only had to purchase one color of tights: black. I only needed to have one comfortable set of work shoes in black. It made my life easier and it saved me money because I had a more functional, mix-and-match wardrobe that made it possible for me to spend less. I also felt more professional and sophisticated in my neutral palette. It was surprisingly rewarding to simplify my wardrobe, though I still have too many graphic tees among my casual clothes, but that’s another story.

Putting together a work wardrobe.

Here I am with my cat, who doesn’t seem impressed with my black and white work outfit.

Couponing Apps and Strategic Shopping

First of all, I’m not the crazy coupon lady who buys 50 tubes of toothpaste in an effort to earn discounts that would make my entire shopping list free. I don’t have the time, nor am I organized enough for that. I do however, strategize my shopping to save money using two shopping apps: Ibotta and Cartwheel.

Ibotta is a cash-back app that allows you to earn money when purchasing certain items. The catch is that you have to pre-select the items you wish to buy from their list on the app before you go shopping. You also may have to answer a quick question or watch a 30 second ad in order to get the deal. The good thing about Ibotta is that you can use it with any other discount, which sometimes means that you get items for free. You can also use it with gift cards, which allows your gift cards to stretch a little further. If you’re interested in trying Ibotta, you can join here and get a $10 joining bonus and I also get a $5 referral credit.

Whenever I choose items on Ibotta, I then double check them against Cartwheel. Cartwheel is a shopping app for Target that lists the sales and discounts available in the store. You can then select the deals you want to use and scan your app at checkout. The discounts will then be automatically deducted from your bill. Other stores have similar apps, but I shop primarily at Target. Depending on the deals, I can save quite a bit by combining the Cartwheel app with my Target Red Card that takes an extra 5% off.

After I purchase the items at Target, I then take them home and use the Ibotta app to scan them. You have to scan the bar code of each item on your app and then take a photo of the receipt. Once you have done that, the app will give you money back for the items you’ve purchased. This can be a little bit of a hassle, but it’s not too bad once you get used to scanning your groceries. You can also use the app at a variety of other stores, including craft, clothing and hardware stores. Once you get to $20 of earnings, you can cash out to your Paypal account and use the money for whatever you please.

The Crock Pot is Your Friend

One of the things we do to save us money AND time is to make a large batch of different recipes in the crock pot. It can cook while we are working on the house and, once it’s done, we can eat the leftovers all week. We actually own a casserole crock pot and a standard crock pot so we are able to make a variety of dishes from lasagna and casseroles to baked sweet potatoes and apple crisp.

Vegetarian chili is one of our favorite slow cooker go-to recipes. We change it up a bit each time, but it basically consists of some vegetarian crumbles, beans, tomatoes, garlic, onion, some oil, and chili spices. We love it because you can eat it as chili, or you can put it in a tortilla with some other toppings to make a burrito. You can even serve it over rice (which is another food we love to make in the crock pot).

You really can’t beat the crock pot for ease and saving money. When we put so much time into the house, it’s so easy to finish for the day and find that our meal is hot and ready to be served. If you haven’t started slow-cooking some recipes, I’d highly recommend trying.

Why Are We Saving?

The first benefit of saving is having additional funds for renovations. That said, we do have a few splurge-worthy items on our wish list that we’ll hopefully be able to purchase with some of our extra cash (one day maybe).

First off, did you know you can buy a sauna kit for your house? It’s true, and they’re not as pricey as you might think.

Living in the Midwest, we can have some brutal winters, of which I am not a fan. I used to go to hot yoga just for the heat, but those classes were pretty pricey and on the other side of town. I wanted to find a place to sauna in town, but there wasn’t any place that didn’t require a costly year-long membership. I gave up the idea after that. Then, after watching an episode of Travel Man in which Paul Rudd and Richard Ayoade enjoy a sauna (at Burger King, of all places), I became curious to search saunas in town again. I didn’t find any new options in terms of sauna locations, but I did find saunas you could order for your own home!

A snowy scene in the midwest.

I took this photo the day before a massive chill. The next day, the high was -9 degrees farenheit.

 

Yes, you can order sauna kits at Home Depot for around $1000 and I am obsessed with the idea of having a sauna in our house. Nordic countries have realized the necessity of saunas for years and I am convinced that a sauna will make the winters actually enjoyable. Saunas are also known to be good for your health, but I don’t even care if it just succeeds in making me feel warm during our cold months.

How you can have a sauna in your own home.

This is just one of the saunas that can be ordered from Home Depot (Photo via Home Depot).

 

Our other indulgent idea is a rooftop deck. That will probably take quite a bit more time to accomplish, but it would be an amazing addition to our house. We have the perfect surface for a deck above our addition and it would be accessible from two of the upstairs bedrooms. How nice would it be to have a deck off of the master bedroom? We also get the most beautiful sunsets at the back of our house. I would spend so many Summer evenings there.

Saving money for a rooftop deck.

Michael’s appreciating the sunset on the roof that may one day be the spot of our rooftop deck.

Coming back to reality, most of our money will just be used for getting the house up to a livable standard and that will probably take us the rest of the year at least. We need to get all of the paint scraped and encapsulated and then start to tackle the kitchen and the downstairs half bath. Basically, it will take us a while, maybe years, before we can even think about tackling non-essentials, but it’s still fun to dream.

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One Response
  1. Bablofil

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