Total Money Makeover: 7 Month Update

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Well guys, I have to say… I’m REALLY excited to write this post!  A few months ago, I mentioned that Bryan and I started to focus on getting rid of all of our debt.  We realized that if we could live life without payments, we’d have so much more freedom.  Over the past 7 months, we’ve been perfecting our monthly budget and limiting spending money on unnecessary things.  Some months have been better than others, but we’ve been sticking with it.  Thanks to some extra income from our house rental, a few work bonuses, and persistence, our 7 month debt payoff tally is… drumroll please… $23,111.51!
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We can’t believe it!  It’s so incredible to look back at the numbers and see our progress.  Our plan for the second half of 2014 is to hit the 40k mark, and hopefully seal the deal on a second house (fixer upper!) so that we can use our first house as a full time vacation rental.  We know we’re not following Dave’s baby steps exactly, but we feel really confident that this is the right choice for us right now.
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Has anyone else made progress on a journey to being debt-free?  It’s always encouraging to hear from others who are in the same boat!

Backyard Makeover: Part 2

Summer is finally here and we’re excited about it!  Since the weather’s been so nice, we’ve been working on upgrading our back yard.  Last year, we brought it to life by adding a deck and patio, planting grass and a garden, and building some low-cost furniture for eating and lounging.  Pallets were our best friend, and worked perfectly for us and the occasional backyard BBQ.

Since then, as part of our Dave Ramsey efforts, we decided to put our house up on short-term vacation rental sites like Airbnb and HomeAway to make some extra cash, and have had an amazing response.  We initially put it up for an event at the end of February just to test the waters.  It was rented within a few days, and the requests just kept on coming so we never took down our listing.  As of now, we have people booked to stay almost every weekend this summer, and have bookings through November!  We’re currently working on securing a second home (updates soon!) so that we can have a place to stay while this house is being rented.

Anyway – back to the backyard.  We wanted to make it a little more guest-friendly being that we have a high volume of people coming and going this year.  For this round of improvements, we:

We still hope to buy a colorful umbrella for the dining table and stain the deck so everything matches.  And grow more grass in the spots that Baci killed!  Hopefully our guests like it as much as we do :)

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DIY $19 Sunburst Mirror

I’ve been on the lookout for something large to fill the space above the bed in the guest bedroom, but had a hard time figuring out what.  Shelves?  A picture (or pictures)?  An accent wall?  

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I do love sunburst mirrors and have been seeing lots of photos of DIY versions made with paint sticks, twigs, and all sorts of other materials.  When I came across this one from Thrifty Decor Chick’s blog, it really caught my eye. Turns out it’s easy to make AND inexpensive.  Sold!  

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Here’s what I used to make it:

3 Packs of big 14″ cedar shims (Home Depot contractor section has them!) – $4 each
1 8″ Mirror (JoAnn) – $3
1 Small can of classic gray stain - $4
1 Bottle of wood glue (had it)
1 Piece of white chalk (had it)
Square piece of really sturdy cardboard or wood for the base (had it)
Mirror glue (had it)
Piece of steel wire for hanging (had it)
Picture hanger or nail(s) for hanging (had it)

Total project cost: $19

The tutorial on Thrifty Decor Chick’s blog is super helpful.  I followed it step by step up until the staining part.  To get the color I wanted, I used a gray stain.  I didn’t go crazy with making it even and perfect because I wanted it to look distressed.  After letting it dry for a few hours, I drew over the whole thing with white chalk and smudged it to give it a rustic soapstone look.  Once that was done, I attached the mirror with mirror glue and let it sit for a few more hours.

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Bryan helped secure the wire onto the cardboard in the back of the mirror with his staple gun.  This is what the back looked like before we hung it.  I think it’s safe to say it will never fall down?

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Here’s what the guest bedroom looks like now, with something filling the big blank wall.  I’m loving it!

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Before & After. What do you think?

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Total Money Makeover

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Well, we are officially out of hibernation mode (I think?).  Our projects have been at a standstill for the past few months, partially because life has been crazy, and partially because we read The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey and it had a really big impact on us.

If you aren’t familiar with Dave, he’s a finance guy who created a plan to help people become completely debt free and build wealth.  He doesn’t believe in having debt of any kind, including your house, and he doesn’t believe in credit cards, even if they’re paid off every month.  Hence, his famous quote: “If you live like no one else, later you will live like no one else.”  The gist of his plan is that you make a zero based budget every month ($ in = $ out), and stick to it.  All of your extra money goes toward debt, starting with the smallest balance all the way up to the largest balance.  He’s extreme (and conservative), but he does have a lot of valid points.

Anyway, that book made us rethink our spending habits.  We always sort of had a budget and sort of stuck to it, but that was about it.  We have so many goals, but never had a concrete plan to get to them.  We realized we have to tackle all of our financial obstacles before we can have the freedom to do what we really want in life.  Those obstacles for us are student loans.  We’ve been really buckling down for the first few months of 2014 and have been putting all of our extra cash toward Sallie. So far we have 4 loans knocked out!  We still have a long way to go but we know it’s doable.

One of my favorite bloggers, Kelly from View Along the Way, actually paid off her house in 5 years using Dave’s principles.  It’s inspiring to hear stories of people who have gone through it, and have reached the end of the road.

Have you tried Dave’s plan, or something similar?  Any tips would be much appreciated!

DIY Sweater Sleeve Stockings

DIY Sweater Stocking  

I adore the look of cozy white cable knit Christmas stockings, especially the ones I saw at Anthropologie (left) and Pottery Barn (right).  Why must they be so expensive?  I wanted to figure out a way to get the same look for less.

A few weeks ago, we made imitation Pottery Barn cable knit sweater pillows out of thrift store sweaters (if you haven’t seen my DIY Sweater Pillow post, check it out!)  Each sweater was about $7, and the pillows we made from them are so cozy.   We had the sleeves left over… maybe I could make Christmas stockings out of them!  That would mean that for two large sweater pillows and two Christmas stockings, our grand total would be a whopping $14.  If we were to buy everything at a store, we could easily add a 0 to that number!

So we went for it.  We finished them in a day, and that included time to hand sew (machine was broken – of course!).  You could also make these stockings from the body of the sweater if you wanted to skip the pillows.

Here’s what to do:

1.  Purchase a cheap stocking in a shape you like.  We got a red one at a dollar store for 50 cents.

2.  Cut sleeves open along the seam and lay flat.  Turn them upside down for the next step.

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3.  Lay the stocking on the first piece of fabric facing to the right, and outline it with a marker.  Remember, trace on the “bad” side of the fabric, not the side that’s going to show!

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4. Repeat step 3 on the other piece of fabric, but turn the stocking to the left.  We messed up this step on the first stocking by tracing both patterns in the same direction.  When we turned them over and put them together, they didn’t match up.  Luckily we had some extra fabric so we were able to retrace and do it right.

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4.  Put the two sides together (still inside out) and match up the lines on both sides.  Use a few pins to keep them from sliding out of place.

5. Cut off excess fabric around the traced lines, leaving about 1-2″ of room on all sides. See photo on the right in step 3 as an example.

6. Sew along the lines using thick thread or yarn for extra support.

7.  Turn right side out.  How great does this look?!

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8.  Attach something to hang the stocking with.  This could be ribbon, braided yarn, etc. – something sturdy!

9. Hang, and enjoy!

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PS- I couldn’t resist making this little scarf for Baci out of the scraps from the sweater.  He loved it (even though his face might suggest otherwise) ;)

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DIY $7 Sweater Pillows

pottery barnNow that the weather is changing from fall to winter, we’ve been looking for subtle ways to cozify our home.  These Pottery Barn pillows have been on our radar… but come on, $70 for a pillow cover?  We nixed that idea and decided to make our own out of old sweaters.  With a little help from my mom, we pulled it off for less than $7 each!

Here’s how to do it.

1.  Figure out what size pillows to use.  We have a few extra euro size pillows (26×26) that I wanted to use for this project, so we kept this in mind during our sweater search.

2.  Find old/discounted sweaters that look cozy.  My mom found white/ivory sweaters at thrift stores for $7 each, and happened to buy them on a day when they were an extra 25% off – woo!  We tried to find sweaters that were mens’ L/XL to fit over my 26″ pillows, but would have tried to get smaller ones for smaller pillows.

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3.  Fit, Measure, and Sew.  Before doing any cutting, we slipped the sweater over the pillow to see if it fit, and determine where to sew.  Since it fit like a glove, we just had to sew up the sleeves and neck holes, and didn’t have to take in the sides.  My mom used her sewing machine to sew a straight line across the top of the sweater, just below the neck hole (turn it inside out before sewing!).  For the arms, she sewed on the outside of the original seams so that the yarn wouldn’t start unraveling.  We decided to leave the bottom open so it could be easily slipped on and off the pillow (this worked especially well because the sweater we were working with was a little gathered at the bottom).

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3.  Cut.   Once the neck and arm holes were sewn (inside out), we cut off the extra fabric and turned it right side out.

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4.  Slip the cover onto your pillow and be happy you didn’t spend $70 at Pottery Barn!

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Powder Room Pampering

After a month hiatus (has it really been a month?), we’re back in action and have started to renovate our tiny powder room on the main level.  I’m sad we didn’t get any complete “before” photos, but believe me when I say it was in need of some (lots of) TLC.  Here’s a taste of what it looked like right after we started ripping things up.

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So, what’s on the to-do list this time?

1. Replace linoleum floor with natural stone tiles. We bought white/ivory travertine tiles at a discount flooring store for $5 per sq/ft.

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2. Add a natural stone “brick” accent wall to the mirror wall.  We also bought this at a discount floor/decor store for $6 per sq/ft. and are in love with it.
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3. Jazz up our existing mirror so we don’t have to buy a new one.  Bryan used extra wood from our vessel sink base (see #5) to make a two-sided wood frame for the mirror.  We turned the mirror on its side to save $ on tiles.  Perfect fit!

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4. Replace the gold vanity lights with DIY pendant lights.  This part is in the works, but here’s a sneak peak.

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5. Remove the oh-so-lovely corner sink, and replace it with a DIY vessel sink.  We couldn’t find a vessel sink that we loved, and on top of that, they’re expensive!  So, we’re going to make one out of a bowl.  We haven’t actually started this part yet, but will write a how-to post when it happens.

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6. Install a big rustic-looking piece of wood as a base for our new sink (see pic in #5).  We purchased dark walnut stain and polyurethane to finish it off, and trimmed it down to fit the space.  Not bad for a free piece of wood!  It was perfect for the rustic/chic look we’re going for.

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7. Replace the toilet with a shiny new one.  We needed a super small toilet to fit into this space.  This one was our winner.

8. I think that’s it?

I’m SO excited about this project. It’s going to look fantastic when we’re done!  Here’s what we have so far.

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We’ll be back soon with updates!