Monday, March 24, 2014

Let's Get Real About the Dollar Bill, Yo

Being a home design blogger has its perks; it's fun sharing DIY projects and room reveals with readers.. But to keep it real, the ongoing desire to add & update has taken its toll on my reserve fund. Thank goodness for companies like The Home Depot and Para Paints who contributed tools and paint for my recent dining room and living room updates. I recently sat down and looked at my financials, and as it turns out, mortgage payments, condo fees, property taxes and insurance are eating into the decorating budget.

Am I the only one feeling the pinch? I read a ton of design blogs, and I've come to the conclusion that at least half of those bloggers have a money tree growing in the backyard. Why doesn't anyone ever talk about how much it costs to put a room together? Am I missing something? Is everyone else rich?

These are the straight up facts: I'm a single gal with an average income. I own a 2 bedroom condo in a good location in Toronto's west end. I drive a tiny Honda. I get my hair cut twice a year. I buy whichever shampoo is on sale. I don't wear makeup. I rarely purchase new clothes or shoes. I haven't bought a new purse (my addiction!) in almost a year. I don't drink alcohol. I don't smoke. I don't eat at fancy restaurants. My last vacation was in the fall of 2012. All that being said, when I finally decide to splurge on something, it's with much consideration and thought.

Here's how I've been maintaining appearances up to this point: Kijiji, thrift stores, estate sales, and friends in the business. It's the bargains that allow me to indulge on rare occasions.  I can count on one hand the number of splurge "investments" I've made since moving into the new condo in late 2012. Here's my high ticket roundup:
  • Splurge Item #1 Vintage Persian Rug, Living Room: At just under $1000 it was a splurge in my book, but the dealer's price was more than fair for this one of a kind, hand knotted 7' x 10' wool rug. I spent a full year searching before I invested in 'The One':

  • Splurge Item #2 Upholstered Bed, Master Bedroom: I wanted this bed for soooo long that it was finally time to treat myself to the bed of my dreams (pun intended). The tufted Decor-Rest model with nailhead detail rang up at about $1700, but it will be with me forever.

    • Splurge Item #3 Custom Drapes, Master & Guest Bedrooms: I tried my best to save some money here, but finding hardware and curtains to fit the 9 foot ceilings wasn't something I could do on the cheap. I wanted drapes in a creamy neutral fabric, with a heavy lining to block early morning light and add weight, plus an inverted pleat was a must. The drapes for both rooms were custom made through a friend at Parallele Interiors, and they set me back about $2500.
    • Splurge Item #4 Crystal Doorknobs, Throughout: I hated the generic lever door handles that came with the condo, so eventually I replaced all of the interior handles with Diamond Crystal knobs from Emtek. It started with two knobs found at the Elte warehouse sale. The third I purchased at Ginger's using a gift card won on Vanessa's blog. The final four knobs were purchased wholesale through a friend in the business. All in all I spent about 450 bucks making the swap, which technically makes these crystal beauties both a save and a splurge.

    With the exception of the few items listed above, almost all other significant home decor purchases were made with a strict budget in mind. Remember, it's the bargains that make those splurges possible. Please indulge me while I revisit some of my favourite finds.
    • Bargain Item #1: Campaign Storage & TV Unit, Living Room: With a few coats of paint and a poly topcoat, this $100 Value Village score became the focal point of my living room. Best bargain score ever!
      •  Bargain Item #2 Faux Bamboo Bedside Tables, Guest Room:  Discovering a pair of Thomasville side tables on Kijiji was an awesome New Year's Eve find. Just $100? Yes please, and thank you!! They are the pride & joy of my guest bedroom. Side note: the pair of vintage lily lamps in the guest bedroom were also a bargain, found at an antique shop for about 60 dollars.
        • Bargain Item #3: Vintage Table & Chairs, Dining Room: After searching for the perfect round glass & chrome table for more than a year, this dining set popped up on Kijiji this past January. I paid $150, and at the end of the day I came out ahead after selling my previous dining table and chairs.
        • Bargain Item #4: Glass Chandelier, Dining Room. There aren't too many things that get me out of bed at 6 am on a weekend, with the exception of a juicy Saturday morning estate sale. If you really want a specific item, it's best to line up at least an hour before the sale opens. This gorgeous chandy was worth the early rise - a steal at $325.
        • Bargain #5: Faux Bamboo Desk Chair, Study. It's been more than two years since I found a set of 3 bamboo chairs on Kijiji. Since I only needed one of the chairs, my friend Tim scored the other two. (You must check out Tim's set, he had them sprayed black and upholstered in navy blue ostrich). My bargain price? 60 bucks.

        Having a strict budget means finding cheap labour, and I can't beat my own rate of zero dollars per hour. Over the last few years I've taken on quite a few DIY projects - I've painted walls and furniture, installed mouldings, sewn my own pillow shams & accent cushions and recovered chair seats. It feels good to be able to say "I did that", with the added bonus of knowing that I saved a few bucks at the same time.


        So tell me, how do you keep it all in balance? How do you manage the budget while creating a home that you love? Where do you splurge & save? Do you have a money tree?


        1. No money tree here! I try to build and DIY everything I can, so I get a quality piece at a fraction of the cost. Case in point, we DIY'd a Restoration Hardware media cabinet for under $300 when we couldn't afford the $1300 price tag of the real version.

        2. I will always splurge on custom window treatments, art and good mattresses. Everything else I seem to find ways to get around. Making things look good on a budget is such a fun challenge.

        3. What a nice post Pam! You know what, I actually have stopped thinking about my budget at this point … and sort of just go with the flow. All I do is to make sure somehow the visa bill is paid in full at the end of the month. Maybe I just not eat … or lucky me that Chris and Dad sometimes provide me with nice meals so I have some leftovers for the week.

          Or maybe because I shop mostly at HomeSense or work with trades I know for custom work, so prices often are not too bad. The best thing about HomeSense though is that if I see something I like, I sort of just "buy" it, especially if "return" is an option. The lucky thing is I probably can't really do much more with my place, so it's hard for me to buy more things.

          I sort of lucked out on the vacation department where accommodation are mostly free since we are visiting family in Europe and usually meals are served too. That's a big $ saver.

          You have done a fab job at your condo and look at all the DIYs! Proud of you Pam!

        4. Such a great post!!! I agree I do read some posts and think about the money tree... Sadly I have no money tree so I just stopped blogging. :) Your splurges are worth every mother-loving penny. That rug is insane and the chandelier makes me melt. It is SO GORGEOUS. I love reading your blog because you do so much of this awesomeness yourself, you are an inspiration. :) xo

        5. Pam! I so appreciate your honesty because I've often wondered how the bloggers I follow are able to afford all the fantastic things I see online. I started buying things for my first place well in advance - keeping my eye on sales, and I'm doing the same now as I wait for my new place to be built. I sold my first place a couple years ago and moved back in with my mom in the meantime for various reasons so it's certainly helped with saving money, but I do still wonder how I'm going to be able to furnish a bigger place given all the wonderfully aspirational things I see online.

        6. Great post! I like how your splurges aren't astronomical. You can get a long run out of a good purchase (and a lot of patience and research :) )

        7. Love the look of your place, your splurge items were worth it! But it is all about the bargains! I swear by thrift stores and flea markets when it comes to decorating a home. It's more affordable and who doesn't love the thrill of a find!


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