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Thursday, June 16, 2016

What does a couple of years of my frugality look like?

In addition to saving for repairs and replacements of appliances, vehicles, emergencies, etc, we also have a savings kitty for upgrades to the house. We have money transferred every month, out of our bank account into an investment, for the non-necessary, but lovely-to-have improvements to our home and vacations. This account could be tapped for an emergency, or it can add to our retirement funds, down the road. But every so often, we use this money for something nice to use or have, like capital improvements, which could add to the salability of our home, if need be.

We don't do a lot of DIY with these improvements, instead only doing, ourselves, those things we are most familiar and comfortable with. We have a contractor friend from church, who has done a good deal of our installation. So, we save in the extreme sense, for a couple of years, to afford a project like what we had done this spring.

In the last two years, what I DIDN'T spend money on, so we could save to cover this:
  • mani-pedis
  • professional hair cuts and color
  • new shoes, new handbags
  • lunches in restaurants with friends
  • fast food meals 
  • dinners in local restaurants (except one birthday dinner, last November)
  • new car
  • extravagant travel
  • convenience/packaged foods
  • air conditioning for the house in summer
  • winter heat enough to wear a t-shirt, indoors, in December, January, February
  • knick-knacks, chotchkes, trinkets, novelties or thingamajigs
  • department store cosmetics
  • new books, new cds
  • expensive hobbies and collections
  • theater movies
  • dvd rentals
  • bouquets of flowers
  • expensive birthday gifts or Christmas gifts for myself & husband
  • new linens, just because I wanted a new color (I did replace the torn sheets for my bed)
  • expensive new clothing
  • brand-loyalty for products like laundry detergent, bathroom tissue, foods, toothpaste, soap, coffee, OTC meds
  • coffeehouse coffee AKA Starbuck's (except with gift cards) 
  • pets
  • candy bars or other treats at the check-out of most stores (even Ace Hardware has candy bars at the check-out!)
  • smartphone
  • car wash places (I wash the car, myself with the hose)
  • gardening services
  • newspaper delivery
  • new toys, gadgets, gizmos
  • temporary indulgences, to be enjoyed only fleetingly
So, that about sums up where our money didn't go. Here's where all that I could have spent, but didn't, went instead. Our living room makeover. (I didn't take any before pictures. I rarely do. If it's bad enough for me to want to redo it, the last thing I want to do is take pictures of that ugly.)

the living room as you enter from the entry hall
the fireplace surround was dark brick,
the contractor over-layed Home Depot marble tile
the mirror over the fp is from Kohl's, on sale 50% off,
then $10 off coupon, I paid $39 (orig. $99)
the electric fireplace is new, puts out heat, too.
stuff on mantel gathered from other parts of the house
built-in bookcases, contractor built with paint-grade plywood,
for less $$$ than Home Depot cabinetry/bookcases
the small writing desk is a family piece, repurposed from another room,
it folds up and stands against the wall in the background, when not in use
a spot for my great grandmother's tea set,
on top of a garage sale cabinet (paid $40) that once housed
a Victrola phonograph (1920s) -- needs refinishing/painting
this chair is a new purchase
that's a fitted slipcover, so I can change it out/launder it
the paisley "throw" is a pashmina from my closet,
the needlepoint cushion is from another room

this table is a new purchase, it fits the space better than the hand-me-down,
1970's-era, over-sized Parson's table from my parents' home.
used some of the "stuff" I had in cupboards, some family pieces of silver-plate
 that I love, and candle sticks that never seemed to get used
the view of the room from the French doors, to the entry hall
We rarely ever used this room before. It had some lay-out problems. The seal on the old double-paned windows had broken, and so were permanently fogged on the inside. The wood-burning fireplace meant that we were dragging dirty logs into the house, across white carpeting, and making a mess, if ever it were used. (Plus most of the heat just went up the chimney, when we burned wood.) This room is far from the furnace, and would feel the chill more than the family room, kitchen or dining room.

It's now bright, warm and serves multiple purposes. There's a conversation area with seating for 6, plus 2 additional chairs in the room, to seat up to 8 comfortably. The loveseat with the blue cushions is about 30 years old, and will "go" with the first kid to move out. I'd like to replace it with a single chair (similar to the one we just bought). It's really too big for the space. I reupholstered it 20 years ago, and the upholstery is still in decent shape. The larger sofa is from my parents' home, and is about 35 years old (also reupholstered once).

So, when I'm making all kinds of sacrifices in the grocery department and not buying convenience foods, or, you read that we don't eat in restaurants, not even fast food, or, that we eat beans for dinner 3 to 4 nights per week, or, we don't go to the movies, or, that I cut my own hair, etc -- this is where the money that is saved, goes. It took us a couple of years of extreme saving for this. We have no debts, no mortgage, no car loans, no credit card debt. And our retirement is still being funded, monthly. We save, in advance, for home improvements and repairs, so there will be no future debts. This is what my "extreme" frugality gives to us.


  1. What a beautiful room, Lili! A great use for those saved pennies and dollars! :) Sara

    1. Hi Sara,
      Thank you! Yep, pennies and dollars add up, and faster than a lot of folks think!

  2. Your living room looks lovely, so relaxing and inviting! I know it's a wonderful feeling to have funded the remodeling from savings, and not have incurred debt.

    We have been saving for some home projects, as well. We bought our house in 2012. It was built in the mid 1980's, and nothing had been updated.

    The previous owners had cats, and there was stains and urine odors on the bedroom carpets. Luckily, we had the cash for tearing up the carpet in the three bedrooms, and putting down nice laminate. Also, we were able to re-paint all of the rooms, which it desperately needed. The living room already had a nice laminate floor, and the kitchen, dining room, hallway, and bathrooms had tile. While the tile floors are a little outdated, they were at least in good shape, a neutral color, and without urine odor.

    So, we were able to live with everything else until we save to update things. I'm getting really excited because we are getting so close to being able to update the kitchen. We have the cabinets, and counter tops picked out at Lowe's. We're going to update the tile floors in the kitchen, dining room, and hallway at the same time. Also, we have French doors from our dining room leading out to the deck which will be replaced. Your new French doors look so beautiful, now I'm even more excited!

    Enjoy your updated living room!

    Have a great day!

    1. Hi Angie,
      Oh, how exciting to be about to redo the kitchen! Saving ahead of time really is the way to go, on projects like these. I know someone who took out a second mortgage to pay for major remodeling. I just couldn't imagine having that hanging over our heads.

      What have you chosen for the kitchen, so far? Are you using a painted cabinet or wood-stain? What kind of flooring? We used a good quality vinyl floor in our kitchen. I wanted something very washable in there, and softer/warmer underfoot than ceramic tile. The choosing part is the fun part!

  3. The "new" room looks lovely, Lili. I'm sure you will enjoy using it very much!

  4. I love your remodeling decisions. It took a good eye and art appreciation besides money to do what you have done with your home. That is, you saved on hiring a professional interior designer too.

    We are frugal, but not nearly as frugal as you are, because we do indulge a little, yet compared to most people, very little. I know I can do without all the indulgences but it is difficult for my husband. So I guess we sacrifice on home improvement the most. In fact we do it with as little out of pocket cost, which means doing it ourselves with scrap materials.

    Every part of our home is deficient, so to correct it literally means tearing it down. It started this way when my dad who is a carpenter built our home from lumber which he cut in error, on the job. He reimbursed all the lumber, and built this house, making many short cuts to cheapen the construction cost. He was a very talented carpenter but his ideas are a bit wacky so as a result we have what we have. To fix it would not be good use of money, so we decided to just make do. Many of the homes in Hawaii are not beautiful, but awkward renovations to accompany growing families or multigenerational living. So despite the wackiness, no one would bat an eye and would probably buy it as is. But we have no intention of selling it ever, so what counts is making it livable for us.

    We need to make a pantry "room" (for our growing stock), so in keeping with the wacky theme of our home, we decided to use an old 50's accordion door that was discarded when our son and DIL remodeled their home 7 years ago (yes we kept it in storage). But my dad sneaked the tracks from storage and cut it up for his back shed construction, so now we have the doors but no track. Instead of using it accordion style, we decided to make four doors from the wood and hang it closet door style. We had enough accordion wood pieces to finish the doors, and had to spend some only on framing and molding materials. After that, we'd like to install French doors to the backyard from one of the bedrooms, and later enclose the backyard lanai for privacy. That will do it for awhile, maybe we'll be too old to DIY.


    1. BTW, that is a long list of sacrifices....I read it to my husband and he agreed that what you mentioned are indulgences, come to think of it!!


    2. Hi YHF,
      They really are the "extras" that many folks think are necessities.

      I love the sound of your pantry room. Having everything in an organized place will make finding it all so much easier.

      It's totally reasonable to indulge a little. Little indulgences stave off feelings of deprivation, which easily is followed by a binge spending spree. At least that's the case for me.

  5. Your living room is lovely. I love an eclectic style Mine is just that also. I have indulged in a couple of classic chairs, but for the most part we have either accumulated furniture from family or shopped thrift stores.

    1. Hi Ruthie,
      When you accept the family's hand-me-downs you hardly ever find yourself in a furniture showroom in a quandary over which pieces to choose, on top of all of the savings in not having to purchase furniture.

      Have a great day!

  6. Oh wow, it is a beautiful room, Lili. And so fancy looking. I love the fireplace. It is just gorgeous. Kudos to your and your family for making the sacrifices for this. I know you have encouraged a lot of people with this blog post and your hard work and efforts show. :)

    1. Thank you Belinda!
      I hope what I post is encouraging. I know I have been so encouraged by so many other bloggers, including you.

  7. Your hard work and sacrifice makes you appreciate your achieved goals all that more, Kudos to you!

    1. Thank you, Carol! You know, I think you're right about that. the tendency is to not really appreciate the things that come easily to us. But hen we have to make sacrifices or work hard, we really do appreciate the outcome.

      Have a great day, Carol!

  8. How wonderful to be able to use the space comfortably when you couldn't before! You made great decisions and I like your decorating sense.

    1. Thank you. I'm rather glad that the space is now being used, too. It always seemed like such a waste to have a living room if we never were going to use it.

  9. I'm late to the party, but wanted to let you know you have a beautiful room. I suspect we have similar taste in decorating, from the pictures I have seen of your kitchen and this room. :)

    1. Hi Kris,
      Thank you! I sure wish I could drop by and see your home! I suspect they have similar styles, from your comments over the years!

    2. Stop in any time! :) I like a light and airy look although it's a struggle, with 2 school aged kids, to keep ahead of the clutter. I have to remind myself that the "stuff" is an indication of happy kiddos. :)

    3. Need to remember that -- "stuff is an indication of happy kiddos"! Many parts of our house have a very lived in look. We joke about having impromptu guests eating dinner with us at the kitchen table, saying "oh, just slide that pile of papers over and make a spot for yourself". If I ever design a kitchen table for us, there will be a desk-like shelf just under the table top, going all around, so everyone can stash their stuff under the table to eat dinner, without having a pile of someone's papers and books under my elbow.

    4. OK, that is a BRILLIANT idea. We have the same "stuff pile" going on at our house.

  10. It looks so light, fresh, airy. Congratulations. I don't post often but I wanted to comment on your accomplishment and to tell you how much I appreciate your blog. I have picked up some very useful tips and you are reminding me to get back to my frugal ways that have gradually slipped to the back burner over the years.

    1. Thank you, KCMama! I really appreciate your kind words.


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