Photo Credit: Pannell via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Pannell via Compfight cc

I’ve watched countless tv episodes of houses being renovated and the one scene that always looks fun is the first sledgehammer swing! I was hoping to be able to swing my own when my kitchen renovation started but it was just not to be. First of all I’m not handy enough to do a kitchen renovation on my own, and there weren’t any sledgehammers in use.

Still, it’s pretty interesting seeing my kitchen transform day to day as more work gets done. It’s only a few days in but a lot of work has already been completed! Demolition happened in less than a day and almost everything was taken out. Contractors have been in and out and we have our kitchen blocked off to keep it clean in the rest of the house. We’ve been using a Ninja slow cooker for most of our cooking and the handy dandy microwave. One pot meals and ready to eat foods will be on our menu for sure.

Refinishing or new?
Our old kitchen was made of very solid wood construction that just doesn’t exist these days. At first we wanted to try refinishing instead of new to keep that construction, with all the oddities we found about the sizing of the cabinets and counters though, refinishing almost came out to the same price as new construction. None of the old cabinets were of standard size to fit appliances today. Dishwashers are now 2 inched deeper which meant that it would jut out from the sink. Everything would need to be custom made to fit and later down the line anything additional would have to be adjusted. We were sad to see it go but at least now new appliances will fit without major adjustments.

Raises house value
The two things that raise a house value are definitely a kitchen or bathroom upgrade. While our kitchen was in pretty good shape for being 60 years old, it definitely isn’t updated and there were drawers falling apart and a very old unusable dishwasher set 5 feet from the sink. A newer kitchen will definitely raise the house value in case we ever want to sell it. We’re not planning to move anytime soon, but if we do it’ll pay off later.

Perks of a homeowner
After apartment living for years it’s great to be able to do whatever I want in my own place. Each month my money isn’t going into a big black hole with no value. Technically a mortgage is well…a money sucker and it’s going to take years to pay off, but at least I’m building equity. Where I used to rent an apartment people are paying the same in rent each month for what I pay for mortgage! They get a one bedroom apartment and I get a 3 bedroom standalone house. The kitchen is the last big thing we wanted to upgrade and we finally are doing it after saving up for it. After this there won’t be much major updates. Just the usual minor fixes and cosmetic updates. After a few more weeks I get to enjoy a brand new kitchen.

Less than the price of our wedding
The saddest part about doing this renovation is realizing that it’s going to cost us less than we spent on one day! We certainly didn’t try to spend a lot of money but we did on our wedding. Less than the average wedding in LA but an amount not to scoff at. More than two years later it’s crazy to think of where that money could have been used instead. So if I wanted to really compare then I guess I could say I can enjoy a new kitchen for years and years whereas the wedding I had one day!

Not for the fainthearted frugal heart
Spending tons of money totally goes against what I usually do! I’m the bargain hunter who likes to find t’s for $3! Now I’m shelling out a ton of money for this. Gotta admit it makes me uncomfortable. Rest assured we did our homework to find the best price with good contractors. One thing we’ve learned is that a good contractor who stands behind their work is worth the money. We’ve all dealt with shoddy contractors who did the job cheaply but then disappeared when things went wrong. We’ve also gone for more inexpensive materials like subway tile and quartz. Nothing too fancy. Our appliances we snagged on sale for almost 50% off over the July 4th weekend. Still it’s a ton of money but at least we saved up for it. It’s just not easy spending it when I worked so hard to save it.

It’s going to be a long haul but it’ll be worth it in the end! I’m not one of those people who can stay away for the entire time and be surprised by the transformation when it’s completed though. Wish I could! Would be fun to see it all completed instead of the mess it is now.

What’s your latest home project?


It’s been a rare weekend in California because it’s been raining all weekend! Smack in the middle of summer in a long drought, this is very much needed water. I’ve been trying to save as much water as possible in so many different ways. Indoors and outdoors we’ve cut back on a ton of water. The yard only gets watered twice a week which works since we had replaced all our plants with water-friendly ones and our lawn is this strange thatchy drought resistant type. Indoors we try to reuse all the water from washing vegetables and take shorter showers. We’re definitely trying our best to save water. Having rain over the weekend really does make me want to go dance out there! Free water!!!! And hopefully will help the drought a bit.

Water is really precious – tried and true quote!
Born and raised in the Midwest I’ve never realized how precious water is. Then of course I move out to LA and water used here is piped in from miles away. It’s a big eye opener to how really precious water is. After becoming a homeowner I’ve really become more conscious of how much water I use. Renting usually has water included so you don’t see the bill. Now I pay every utility bill myself and can see the breakdown. Definitely a good motivator to save water because it saves money.

Changing habits
I’ve had to definitely adjust my habits a bit to not use as much water. I didn’t even realize to what extent I had done this until my family came to visit from the Midwest and Seattle. Both are water rich areas. I had some big eye opener moments watching them turn on the faucet full blast and leaving it running much longer than I would’ve. I couldn’t resist saying something every now and then and their response was that they weren’t using that much water. When you live in an area where you don’t have to worry about running out of water, it’s a lot easier to overlook how precious it is.

Climate correct plants
Most of the lawns on my street are pretty brown by now. There are still a few that are pretty green and they don’t have the drought-friendly grass for sure. Pretty sure they are still watering their lawns a good bit. Many others though have plants like ours and some have even ripped out all their grass entirely. There are a lot of beautiful desert landscapes that are appropriate for this climate. For us there are plenty of plants we don’t bother watering that are still alive and thriving.

Lack of clean water
Even though I’m in an area with a drought I still have plenty of water on hand. Clean water that I can drink and use for food and for showers. No matter what I still have water. It’s crazy how a lot of people around the world don’t have access to clean water! Since my awareness of this has increased I’ve also learned a lot more about that. One of my favorite charity is Charity Water because their mission is to fix that. They use all donated funds for projects that create a way for people to get clean water in their area.

 

It’s supposed to rain all night and tomorrow! It’ll be a great Monday and I can take a few breaks and go dance in the rain.That and I’ll check the buckets I left outside to catch some drops. A rainwater barrel crossed my mind, but then I realized I need gutters to do that (a lot of houses in LA don’t have gutters since it doesn’t rain much here).

What kind of climate do you live in? Do you have plenty of water or you have to preserve it?


Photo Credit: bill.sarris via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: bill.sarris via Compfight cc

How many times have you seen this phrase and utterly ignored it? I tend to honestly. Every time I use a gift card at a store I don’t check to make sure I get back the right gift card. When I use cash though I make sure to count out what I get back to make sure I get the proper amount. With gift cards though i glance at it and think that it’s the same card I gave my cashier. Learning the hard way about not checking that at all times!

I’ve had a lovely few weeks going back and forth with Home Depot trying to get back the money lost on a gift card that was switched out when checked out. Technically it was my father who this happened to, but I’ve had to deal with it since he told me that it happened at a Home Depot in LA. He had used a gift card to check out and then was given back one that had a zero balance. The situation has been quite confusing indeed because he thought it had happened in my area. Unfortunately he forgot that he went to another Home Depot with that same gift card afterwards where he lives and that’s where it got switched! Only that store can help since they can double check security cameras to verify his story.

Form the day forth…I will always check my gift cards every single time I use them to make sure I get the right one back!

Feels like a card but it’s money

A lot of people I know tend to think of gift cards as free money that they don’t need to account for. It hurts to hand over a $20 but when it comes to a gift card it feels like a credit card. No visible consequences of paying for something thus the same mental thinking. That’s money though on those cards and if you lose it then well it’s gone. I admit I sometimes forget to use them because I don’t always carry them around too. It’s already been paid for so then I’m using extra money instead.

Double-check that card

I highly suspect that my father was a victim of a scam unfortunately. The gift card he had would’ve had a balance of about $150 on it. Turns out we were able to look up the card history through Home Depot’s systems and the card was cleaned out weeks later across the country. He had no reason to believe anything but good of the person helping him that day and it’s the first time he’s encountered this before. It’s been a big hassle and we haven’t been able to get the money back yet. Fingers crossed that we will but already a lot of time has gone into this.

Don’t let it out of your sight

Another thing I’ll be sure to do now is to watch the cashier if I hand over a gift card. Usually they stand right in front of you and you can see everything. If I ever use a self-checkout though sometimes the cashier walks off to a separate station. A bit harder to track but I’ll be extra careful to check it as soon as I get it back.

 

Gift cards are so simple to use that it’s easy to not think much about it when paying with them. It’s a form of money though so I should definitely be more careful about it.

How do you treat your gift cards?


Weddings are crazy and so are family visits! I just recently had both happen as all of my immediate family swooped in and ended up staying with us. It was 6 adults and 2 kids in one small house. Needless to say family means that there is a lot of love to go around, but it also means some stressful times with everyone’s opinions and views colliding.

My mom was able to fly in a week early than everyone else and thus we had some time to ourselves. My husband and I wanted to make sure she had a good enough time as possible and took her out to some expensive eats to give her the best possible. We ended up taking her to a really nice sushi restaurant with high quality sushi that wasn’t budget friendly. She wasn’t impressed at all with the amount of food on our plates though and we then joked around about how she likes quantity over quality.

After the rest of the family came in, we took everyone out to a sushi buffet. Not the best quality sushi ever but pretty good for a sushi buffet. My mom equated it to be the same quality as the expensive sushi place we took her to. My father asked me quietly if the place was owned by Chinese people. When I replied most likely yes, he nodded and said he thought so because the quality of the fish wasn’t great.

Lessons learned from our experience:
-Our preferences aren’t the same as other people’s preferences. We like quality over quantity and my mom and dad are the reverse.
-You just can’t please Chinese parents. They are going to have something to say no matter what.
-Most importantly, we shouldn’t have worried about making sure they had a good time eat a restaurant or doing something fun. It’s about the time we spent together that was important and not what we did and how much we spent!

We wanted to make sure everyone had a good time but in the end it was those unplanned moments we had together that we really cherished. It wasn’t the dinners we remembered, but the uncontrived moments when we got to talk and spend some quality time together. My family doesn’t get to be together much anymore since we live so far away from each other. Across many states and across the country even. At best we get the whole family together once a year.

The best moments I had were actually free or extremely low cost from this trip! Spending some quiet time with my sister and mom as we watched the kids in the playground. Having a fire pit going in the backyard and roasting s’mores. Watching Tangled (for the 3rd time at least) and cuddling with the kids. Those were the moments I cherished the most instead of the expensive sushi dinner!

Sometimes we all need a little reminder to remember what is important to us.

What have been your favorite moments lately?


Photo Credit: Lost Star via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Lost Star via Compfight cc

It’s been quite a busy year for me with two major weddings I’m in. Let’s say money has been flying out the door pretty much and my time has been pretty limited. Whoosh. Gone in less than a second! It’s about time I got back to blogging and what better day than today?

Happy be a millionaire day!

I’m not a millionaire but it’s one of my goals to be one some day! Each day I slowly and steadily work towards that goal and I get a tiny bit closer as time passes. About two years ago I made a few goals for myself to get to my bigger goal. Time to check in and see how I’ve been doing!

Contribute to my retirement accounts
I was aiming for 15% but I have surpassed that for sure!!! This year I’m definitely going to hit the maximum for my 401k. I’m not sure I can hit any other retirement accounts but that’s already a much better retirement rate than before!

Buy a house
When I first wrote this I was saving up intensely for the downpayment for a house. A few months after this my husband and I found the right place and luckily our bid was accepted! We paid down a 20% down payment and since then have been steadily chipping away at our principal with extra payments every single month. If we keep going at the rate we’re at currently we would be able to pay off this house in about 22 years! That is if we don’t have children but since we plan to that will put a kink into our plans for sure. Either way we’re building up our equity slowly and that contributes a lot to our net worth.

Invest
I finally opened up an account with Betterment and have contributed 10% of our income to it every single month. It’s adding up pretty quickly and the time invested return is at 12% right now! It’ll be a while til it’s viable passive income but I finally started it up!

Save like crazy
We have a pretty nicely padded emergency fund especially since owning a house brings on more emergencies than renting. Our savings rate is higher than our aimed goal of 10% also!!!! Yes, we could be saving more, but we also are trying to live life well now rather than just later.

And so…on my way to becoming a millionaire!!!!

What about you? Do you have dreams of becoming a millionaire?