Time on My Hands to Save $$$$

A couple of weeks ago on a Saturday afternoon I was bored. There didn’t seem to be anything interesting on TV, so while I was dinking around in my kitchen there was a show called Extreme Couponing playing on the adjacent family room TV. The show had several concurrent episodes playing. I was kind of half paying attention until I noticed some unbelievable amounts of money these people were savings due to their efforts of combining coupons with grocery store sales until they were getting most of their items for pennies on the dollar. In fact, even free. And in some cases even getting paid to take the stuff away. Imagine paying $5 for hundreds of dollars worth of stuff.  Never mind that these coupon superstars tend to buy tons of stuff that they don’t actually need right away and fill their garages and every spare inch of storage spaces within their homes with stuff they call their stock piles. One woman even borrowed space from her neighbors! Hoarding –only in neat little piles.

After filing our taxes a couple of months ago, I decided to take a look at our spending habits by analyzing our joint checking account and income for the past year and created a monthly budget based on what I found. Without a doubt our biggest monthly expenditure is groceries –even more than our housing, vehicle and utilities all together! We don’t eat out often and when we do, we eat at inexpensive venues and fast food places. And I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but prices have been on a steady climb, so it is only going to get worse.

No need to dumpster dive for coupons anymore!

No need to dumpster dive for coupons anymore!

Extreme couponing is not a new concept… and I’ve come to realize these shows were not so new either. While printed (and printable) coupons are still out there, this method of combining and “doubling” coupons isn’t so available anymore at places where I shop. The best you can hope to do where I shop is use a coupon on a sale item. Just the same –as I have done periodically throughout my adulthood– I’ve decided to give “couponing” a go once again. Only this time, deciding to get smarter about it. After all, even though I’m retired, I’ve decided the time I’m going to invest in this endeavor is of value. So I was inspired on that Saturday afternoon with the knowledge of my out-of-wack grocery bill, that it was high time I found a way to cut costs any way I can without sacrificing our lifestyle choices if possible –though we could definitely stand to eat a bit healthier. (By that I mean less.)

Coupons have a lot of rules. I try not to embarrass my self further at the checkout (while I'm holding up the  line) as the check goes through reading each and every one of them in the pile!

Coupons have a lot of rules. I try not to embarrass my self further at the checkout (while I’m holding up the line) as the checker goes through reading each and every one of them in the pile!

So how do you find out how to do it nowadays? Why the internet of course! While I now peruse the weekly flyers that fill my mailbox every Wednesday for coupons (both grocery and restaurant types), I’ve also discovered online sites where you can print manufacturer’s coupons. The best site by far is coupons.com where you virtually ‘clip’ manufacturer’s coupons from hundreds that are available. You have to download their printer app due to the bar codes that are printed on the coupons (fyi not working on Chrome). They print three to a sheet so I try to make my total print job in multiples of three so I don’t waste paper. –Need to take into consideration the cost of paper and ink. Then I use a cheap little paper cutter to manually clip my coupons at four sheets at a time. I then file my coupons (by expiration date) in a notebook with sleeves that are tabbed to reflect areas in a grocery store where like item types would be grouped so I don’t have to spend a whole lot of time rifling through all of my coupons to find them while I’m shopping.

Krazy Coupon Lady

Krazy Coupon Lady

That’s just the beginning and it reflects the ‘old fashioned way’ of coupon or discount grocery shopping. There’s more! Yes soooo much more to try and learn! Much of what I know now I’ve learned from a couple of gals that have a website called the Krazy Coupon Lady.com. Joannie and Heather became nationally known a little over a year ago on the now defunct Nate Berkus Show.  They have a lot of YouTube videos that tell you how to “save money in 2015” by utilizing the internet to not only “stack” coupons but get money back by rebating (with your smart phone!) from sites named Ibota, Jingit, Checkout 51, Shopmium and Slice. For the most part you use your phone to scan your receipts and match your purchases to the items on these sites and get coupon-similar refunds. You can also collect refundable points on some sites just for walking in the door! They also tell you how to shop certain stores like Costco, Walmart and Target that have apps to help save additionally. What’s more the Krazy Coupon Lady does a lot of the footwork and figuring out for you by sharing via email “deals” that combine coupons, store sales and rebate sites for maximum savings.

Joanie & Heather

Joanie & Heather

Another “new in 2015” idea is online grocery shopping. Krazy Coupon Lady tells you about these features available on Amazon. There’s a couple of ways to save: One is to ‘subscribe’ to certain items that you purchase in regular intervals. Subscription prices are slightly less than their regular price and can be combined with Amazon’s virtual coupons. The other way is to utilize Amazon Prime Pantry. You have to subscribe to Amazon Prime ($100/year) and pay shipping by the box.  The system shows you what percentage of the box is filled as you add items to your “shopping cart”. These items may have virtual coupons available to be applied. I placed my first order yesterday and it arrived in todays mail! The postman said he delivered three of them today. I was surprised others in my community knew about it as it’s a new thing (and we’re not! LOL). Amazon doesn’t sell perishables like fresh vegeys or meat and their prices aren’t usually cheaper than the same items at the local grocery store, but you don’t waste gas or have to find a place to park. Considering it got here so fast, I’m already feeling like I won at least a small battle as I order a lot of things from Amazon besides groceries. I’m still in the ‘trial’ period for Amazon Prime (which means I haven’t paid for a membership yet) and even though my first order shipped free, not sure it’s going to be worth it. I don’t have a Costco membership either for the same reason. On the fence on this one still and I’ve got a couple of weeks yet to decide.

So far it feels like I’m spending a lot of time on this coupon thing and it will take a lot more time to see a return. Partly because I’m enjoying a new hobby I suppose. Time will tell…

 

 

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Guest Bath

My next project is to re-do our tiny guest bathroom that is just 5’x8′. The only thing I want to replace is the sink with a polished stainless undermount. We had already replaced the toilet when we moved in a year ago. We also replaced the faucet when there was a leak several months ago. Shortly thereafter I replaced the broken vanity light fixture when I cashed in my ebay bucks… cost me absolutely “0” dollars! Everything in this update is just new finishes like resurfacing the fake marble top with pebble tile and repainting the surface of the shower. (You can get kits to do this at Home Depot.) The one feature in the renderings that will be a ‘someday’ addition is the skylight because there aren’t any windows in this bathroom.

This is what the guest bath looks like now:

 

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Here are some renderings of what I hope it will look like when I’m done:

view 1

view 2

 

The towel shelf unit in the wall is actually a homemade shoe holder that was built by the former homeowner. We will paint and trim it out and insert it into the wall between the studs. The wall is double thick because it’s a wall where two sections of the mobile home are joined.

I’ve had the French script fabric for a long time that I bought for the old house. Been dying to use it and couldn’t find a place for it anywhere else in the new house that is a quite a bit smaller. This is perfect I think! The frame around the mirror will be styrofoam wrapped with batting and then covered with the fabric. The resulting frame will be attached by glueing wide velcro to the mirror and frame in the event it would need to be removed for cleaning or replacement.

I also have just one roll of wallpaper that looks like beadboard that I’ve been packing around for years that will be just right for this space. I don’t usually recommend wallpaper in a bathroom, but this is going just on the bottom on a couple of small spaces.  So with some care to glue it in place well and with the baseboard and chair rail moulding anchoring it in place, it should hold up well.

And lastly, I’ve been wanting to try pebble tile. I know it will be bumpy (even if I get the sliced kind –haven’t decided yet). This will be a fun project (except for the painting part which I am sick of).

 

 

Side Yard Design

This is my design for our side yard of the home we purchased a year ago August. I can hardly believe we’ve been here for over a year already! Perhaps it’s because we’ve been working away at remodeling it bit by bit (on the inside) since we moved here. We’re about 3/4 done with the master bath and the Home Depot crew is coming to measure the floor for carpet for the master bedroom on Halloween. (I picked that day because I wouldn’t forget and the measure was free and would be good for up to a year.) I promise when we get the master bath done, I’ll post the before and after pics!

Meantime, I have been dreaming of what to do about our tiny outdoor space. I want it to be as low maintenance as possible. I’ve posted my ideas for the front and have “tried on” many paint colors. We’ve finally decided on a warm medium brown color. I think we could live with it for a long time and we really don’t like it’s current sad gray color.

Now to give you an idea of what the side yard is now:  There is a long metal awning that spans the whole side of the house. An item of contention between my husband and I. He wants to keep it but I think it’s a worthless eye sore. It’s a typical “mobile home” type. (You know the type– with the scrolling cheap metal support posts.) It is also on the northeast side of the house so really does nothing to protect the house from summer heat. It keeps the sun out on the side that could really use it. In the past year we’ve had rain approximately four days, so that’s not a great reason to keep it either. Most of all, it blocks the views of the great old pepper tree that is always home to a variety of birds and provides lovely filtered light. It also blocks the view of the gorgeous liquid amber that is turning multiple shades of gold and red this time of year.

In addition there is a very large shabby looking sad storage shed that takes up much of the space. It’s so bad that the last owners left lots of stuff in there because they simply didn’t want to go in there after it. I don’t want to either. So (one thing hubby and I agree on) it needs to go.

My plan? Replace them both with a great big deck that we would actually use. So here you go.

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Side Yard 2

Side Yard 3

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Side Yard 5

Side Yard 6

Side Yard 7

Here are my most recent proposed ideas for the front view that faces south:

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Print Image

Notice there is no grass. We do not want to water or cut grass. (Overwatering is now considered a criminal offense here in CA so I’m sure this ‘zero scape’ would go over very well with the city if not our park managers.)

YouTube How To Everything

At one time when you wanted to know about something… you looked it up in a collection of books we once called encyclopedias. Parents of the 50’s and 60’s got a set of them when their children were little from a guy who went door to door convincing parents that their toddlers would never make it to college if they didn’t invest in a set. Never mind that by the time said toddler got to kindergarten they would be outdated. By middle school they used them to source their written reports anyway and the teachers were none the wiser (except when you copied directly out of one –dumb idea– they could tell). Then by the time the middle schoolers were in high school, they used the set that was a little newer in the school library and the home versions found their way into garage sales or became handy door stops or a mechanism for pressing flowers. All features that never got anybody into college.

Millennials have never known a world without computers. So if they tell their parents they have gone to “study at the library,” I would be suspicious. Though libraries usually have computers nowadays too. But kids likely have them at home as well. Early in the decade when you wanted to look something up. you could go to Wikipedia (the digital encyclopedia). Now you just Google  a topic and you’ll get lots of data. Tons of it! Probably way way more than you need and you have to shuffle through the ads of those who want to sell it to you, posted a picture of it on Pinterest, or links to numerous blogs that are totally unrelated.

Then God invented YouTube. (Actually it was invented by its founders Chad Hurley, Steve Chen and Jawed Karim in 2005, but I like to think God made the world ready for it.) Nowadays if you want to be a music star, you record YouTube videos to get discovered. You want to see the newest viral pet videos (dogs saying “I love you” or cats doing un cat-like things) you’ll find them on YouTube. Even the very word “viral” has gone from indicating a nasty bodily infection to be used more comonly as an indication of a social media comment or video’s popularity. My husband and I have discovered YouTube as handy (desperate) DIYers. You want to know how to do, make or fix anything, you can find a YouTube video for it. Usually there are LOTS of them.

My husband is a welder. It’s a job that he thoroughly enjoys. So much so that when he comes home from working all day, he’ll spend hours watching YouTube videos of welding techniques. So when we decided to remodel the master bathroom it had to be a mostly DIY endeavor. Since we had just finished the kitchen remodel that we paid others to do (except the floor that my husband did), we had run out of funds and couldn’t afford to have the bathroom done which we needed to do because everything leaked and smelled bad. Everything that we’ve done that we didn’t already know how to do (which was pretty much everything except the painting and installing the vinyl plank flooring) we learned watching YouTube –including hanging blinds, installing the toilet, hanging beadboard panels, plumbing the sinks, installing the GFCI outlet and light fixtures, and tiling the shower. We paid a contractor to crawl under the house to plumb the shower because we wouldn’t. There are spiders down there.

A few years ago when we bought and remodeled our last house, we bought several high-end appliances. When we moved to our present “project,” we took the refrigerator and laundry set with us. Recently had issues with both and, of course, the one-year warranty that came with them has expired. The refrigerator’s ice maker was still making ice but refused to dispense it through the door. I googled the brand (Samsung) and found lots and lots of complaints about some defect inherent in the model. Complaints seemed to fall on deaf ears from the manufacturer. One post I read lead me to research the problem on YouTube. Voile! Though I am unable to fix the problem as there are no broken parts, I learned how to “reset” the icemaker and “unstick” the mechanism to be able to get it to function. usappliance_2268_238924793

About the same time as the refrigerator problem, my washing machine decided to quit working too! It’s a Whirlpool Duet that (at the time I bought it) was the top of the line only three years ago. After filling and doing a wash cycle, it would read an error message: E01 and F01, and refuse to drain. So I got out the manual that it came with that basically said to call Whirlpool customer service. Upon doing so, the service agent suggested I see a YouTube video that showed how to determine if the drain hose was clogged which would cause the waste water pump not to function. She sent me the link which I shared with my husband. He took it a step further and did some additional YouTube investigating. He learned how to access a clean out near the pump. You wouldn’t believe what we found in there! Enough change to buy a Big Mac and assorted other stuff. Even a disposable lighter and we don’t even smoke! After chipping away at the sediment that was packed in as hard as cement, my handy hubby reinstalled the filter and put everything back together.  The solution to fixing my “digital” machine was purely mechanical! Now it works better than ever!

Whirlpool Duet

You can complain all you want to about our over-dependence on computers and the difficulty of sorting the true from the untrue. (Our parents used to say: “Don’t believe everything you read!” ) But I can report very good success from learning stuff via YouTube. Really, just common sense.

When One Door Closes…

suesMany of you have been hearing me say for quite awhile now that I am retiring. In fact I retired a few years back from kitchen and bath design, only to re-emerge a year or two later with a new business emphasis in 3D illustration of interiors. While I enjoyed the notion and activity of creating beautiful renderings, it never developed into anything more than a hobby. I came to the conclusion that I was tired of clients (and potential clients) who wanted me to work on their projects on contingency (I don’t get paid unless they sell the job to their clients), or for less than minimum wage. One guy even wanted me to do a project (or two) for free just to prove to him I could do it even though I sent him ‘sample projects’ that he raved about. I politely declined. Others couldn’t be bothered with signing an agreement ~ Yet these same people wouldn’t lift a finger for their own clients without one. While I know that times have been tough on everybody in the design and construction business, I think it is only fair to ask for reasonable compensation for my work. Work that I did because they couldn’t.  Adios Bitchachos!

There have been tell-tell signs that I’ve been moving in this direction. I haven’t updated my website for some time and my software is now two versions behind. I didn’t renew my business license or inform the powers that be of my new address when I moved. My computer is becoming something of a dinosaur and I’m not going to replace it until it absolutely will not surf the net anymore. (I had to restart it once while in the process of writing this post because it gets stuck.)

So I did all of the things today that one does to “close shop”. I closed my business bank account, ditched the business phone and virtual fax machine. In the near future, my website, pamdesigns.net wil be coming down. I sent letters to recent clients informing them and thanking them for their business. Feels rather strange as there are no lights to turn off nor a door to lock for the last time. Sadly, it just is. Because my business has been online for the past several years, it is going away with a silent breath that probably only I will hear.

acid

I like being retired. Not a financially savvy move, but one that I am content with. I am not destitute nor am I wealthy (or ever will be) in either case. I am enjoying doing the things I would never be able to do if I were tied to a job and hope to be able to get back into creating art as I did many years ago. One thing you can count on, I and this blog are not going away. I may not be making a living at it, but I am and will always identify myself as a designer and an artist. Just passing a milestone in my life like many others that are life changing (like graduating from school, taking a first job, getting married or kicking the last birdy out of the nest).

Really Bad Days 2

Master Suite Progress

The progress is s..l…o….w… For a number of reasons. In particular, my husband is doing most of the work. Much of it is learning as he goes and dealing with a less than plumb and level structure. He is doing this on weekends which means dragging out the tools and making multiple trips to Home Depot. He’s putting up the beadboard in the bath room –a two weekend process so it seems. Just the same, I am SO grateful that he is doing it and he is enjoying making stuff. I think especially because it’s different than what he does the rest of the time as a welder and fabricator for a custom door and window company.

 

In any case, we are still waiting on the parts of the shower that arrived damaged and missing from our order (clear back in April). We’re dealing with an East Coast vendor and the product is coming from Canada. Wondering if it’s worth the savings gained over having one made custom locally at this point. I’ve given them a deadline of this coming week. Then we will be negotiating a refund and starting over.

 

In the meantime, I’ve created some renderings for the master bedroom that adjoins the master bath. We decided to paint the walls instead of doing the beadboard in the bedroom and did something of a reverse color scheme. This will be the only room in our house with wall-to-wall carpet. The bedding I actually have. It’s Pottery Barn’s “Secret Garden” collection. It’s been discontinued, so I’ve been trying to search down some pillow shams on line to make the window valances out of.  So far, I could only find one available on ebay (I need two) and it’s pricey. The side chairs are currently used in the dining room and I am looking for some fabric similar to that used in the rendering to make slip covers out of. I really don’t need these chairs in the dining room, so it is perfect to use them in the bedroom and have them available when we have need for extra seating in the dining room. The rest of the furniture is similar to that which I already have. The highboy may get painted a white wash (as shown) though I haven’t decided yet.  And of course I’m going to be hanging some of the quilts on the wall that my mom made.

Pottery Barn "Secret Garden" bedding.

Pottery Barn “Secret Garden” bedding.

 

Master Bedroom Suite ~ view 1

Master Bedroom Suite ~ view 1

 

Master Bedroom Suite ~ view 2

Master Bedroom Suite ~ view 2

I’ve decided to change the color scheme a bit and cover the chairs in a solid linen fabric in a teal color that coordinates with the Pottery Barn print and I think will go well with the green carpet and wall color.  (I think there’s enough green). I actually found some decorator fabric on line for only $6/yard and no shipping or tax. It’s called Sea Foam Blue and has several shades of the color in it giving it a lovely texture. I’m getting enough to add a bed skirt as well. Still looking for some pieces online of the Pottery Barn Secret Garden collection to make the valances and accent pillows out of . I have faith they will show up eventually. If not, I had the idea that I could take apart the duvet cover and make a coverlet out of one side and use the rest of the fabric for the valances and accent pillows. Bedroom View 1B   Bedroom View 2B

3D rendering is a great way to make color choices. Though the furniture is not identical (but very similar in size, finish and scale), the fabrics and finishes are ‘real world’ . They are actually screen shots taken of online samples or photographs and applied to the models.

The “Final” Final Design

I would have to say this is the design that I’ve ‘redone’ more than any –ever. This is the sixth (and final) rendition of my master bath design renderings. I think I just needed to convince myself it was the best solution for the space, our needs and our budget. In the end we incorporated products and aspects of the project that we could mostly install ourselves (my husband, youngest son and I). Leaving only the plumbing and electrical to the pros. I should also add that I’ve done way more kitchens than bath remodels and found this to be much more intense in terms of design and technical know how.

Opt 6 View 1

 

Opt 6 View 2

Opt 6 View 3

Opt 6 View 4

Much was driven by budget and making choices to get the most bang for the buck in the right places –like finding a prefab glass shower enclosure that was big enough. I think the Fleurco semi-frameless enclosure was the largest I could get for the space and is of excellent quality. We found the marble topped (and very heavy!)  dressing table on Craigslist. This inspired doing the shower walls in a coordinating marble subway tile. The other splurge was choosing the nickel finishes on the hardware throughout. This choice was made based on the shower head which was a gift from my friends at Brizo that I received when I visited their headquarters last July for the Blogger 19 Reunion. Who knew that polished nickel would be way less common than brushed or satin nickel? Not to mention pricey! I didn’t when I was so attracted to the ‘bling’ of the polished nickel so many months ago when I got to select the finish for my gift. So there is a mixture of finish types –most will be brushed nickel.

Brizo shower head

Brizo shower head

Where we saved money:

  • Light fixtures, square vessel sinks and faucets purchased on ebay.
  • Saving the existing cabinets, painting them inside and out, adding new crystal glass knobs (found on ebay and hoping the screws fit), adding toe valances we’ll make ourselves, and adding crown molding.
  • The mirrors over the sinks are basic wood framed plain mirrors that we will paint and add moldings to.
  • The countertop is a wood work bench top from Home Depot that we will finish with marine varnish.
  • We already have the round mirror that is over the vanity (used to be over the fireplace in our old house).
  • The fabric for the curtain and vanity stool cover I will sew from fabric I already have.
  • The flooring is vinyl ‘grip strip’ with the look of wood planks. This is the same stuff that we used in our kitchen but in a different style. It’s great for manufactured homes because it is fairly water proof and easy for homeowners to install. We are purchasing it from Home Depot. (They are getting to know me and Louie -my dog- on a first name basis.)
  • The white beadboard wainscot and moldings are also inexpensive and to be purchased from our friends at Home Depot.
  • The Brizo hand-held shower head was a gift and the toilet is a Delta that was purchased months ago from (you guessed it) The Home Depot.

collection I should add that vessel sinks in the master bath would not normally be my first choice, but we are keeping the existing vanity that is only 31″ tall including the counter top. So adding the vessel sink (shown above) should put the top right at 36″.

The overall cost of the remodel is expected to be about $6,000 plus any labor that we hire out (like the electrical and plumbing). When I first started this design process, my budget was looking closer to $14,000 plus labor –so I am pretty pleased with the savings and I don’t feel that I’ve sacrificed anything in terms of design. Perhaps one could argue the loss of a tub would ding the resale value.  However, there is plenty of room to add up to a six-foot freestanding tub in place of the dressing table if the need arose. Considering our community is restricted to 55+ residents, I’m banking most would appreciate an accessible large shower more than a flimsy mobile home “garden” tub and closet of a shower. Since I’m now retired, I expect this is a decision my heirs will have to make! =) How long this project will take is anyone’s guess since my husband will only be available to do this on weekends. I’m expecting months. Glad we have another bathroom!

Chief Architect Premier X4: master bath.layout