Posts tagged with: diy

The True Cost of a Deck

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Thanks for all the comments on my latest post about motivation. I’ve taken the comments to heart and am really doing some serious pondering and life planning for moving forward. I’m trying to minimize the financial bleeding this summer, and then jump back full-force in August with some renewed energy. I wanted to try to go gung-ho this month, but with my lower pay and some unexpected expenses (see below) I just don’t think I can even reasonably expect to try to create a $3,000/month budget for the month of July. We’re going to take on more debt. Sigh. But in August I’ll have my first full month of new salary and our bills will have hopefully stabilized enough for us to create a new budget. From what I’ve figured, I think my take-home pay will be around $6,000/month when my new raise goes into effect. So far the budgets I’ve been playing with are still around the $7,000ish range, so I’ve got to figure out how to come up with an extra $1,000 month (or, alternatively, how to cut an extra $1,000/month from the budget). I’ll write up a post soliciting advice soon.

In the meantime, let me tell you about my latest unexpected expense in a story I call “The True Cost of a Deck.”

My mom and stepdad still live in the same home that I was raised in from the time I was 10-years-old. The house is in a highly sought-after area in Austin, TX and has appreciated well during the time they’ve owned it. It’s beautiful and I love it, but it no longer serves my mom and stepdad’s needs. It’s too large, taxes are too high, and it’s too-tall (two story, when they’d prefer a single story).

The plan has been to put the house on the market this coming spring. My mom, a real estate broker, has tried to dedicate much of the last year to putting in updates that were needed to bring the house up to modern-day and to maximize the amount they can list it for when it goes on the market. They’ve done updates in the bathrooms, the kitchen, and with the floors. The last remaining big thing has been the deck.

My mom’s house is built on the side of a hill. When you walk in the front door it’s at ground level, but then the ground slopes steeply so when you walk to the back door of the house (still on the first floor), all the sudden you’re an entire story above ground. They’ve had a back deck that you could walk out on with stairs leading down to the backyard grass below.

The deck is entirely made of wood and it has been heavily used and abused across time. At this point, parts of the deck are warped and rotted and it is unsafe to be on. Many of the surrounding homes had similar problems and all have had their decks redone at some point in the past 5-10 years. My mom, the last hold-out on the street, felt the time was finally right to replace their deck as it could raise safety concerns for potential homebuyers.

My stepdad, a very intelligent academic-type who likes to think himself a DIY-er, spent months thinking up plans for the deck. Finally, they decided to shell out the money to have a professional draft the plans and provide a list of materials needed to complete the project. The plan was for my stepdad to do the work himself. Once plans were procured, my stepdad went to work. Literally on Day #1, before anything else had been done, he got up on a ladder to cut down the limbs of an overhanging tree. When the large branch fell, it took out the ladder my stepdad had been standing on. Chainsaw in hand, all 3 (stepdad, ladder, and limb) fell to the ground. What could have ended in serious disaster (I shutter to even consider the possibilities), ended up not too terrible. My stepdad sustained a severe tear of his rotator cuff that would require surgery. After meeting with multiple specialists (he didn’t want to accept the truth), he begrudgingly agreed to hire out the rest of the work, given that he required immediate surgery and a lengthy recovery. Any plans for future deck-building were gone. In fact, he was told, the muscles in his arm/shoulder would likely never be the same again.

My Stepdad’s surgery was this past Friday afternoon. Early Saturday morning, my sister (an RN) went to visit and check on my stepdad’s bandages/dressing. While there, my Mom encouraged everyone to go outside to see the progress being made on the back deck – now being completed by a hired contractor. Outside, everyone admired the deck. It’s costing an arm-and-a-leg ($20k compared to the $5-7k DIY estimate), but it’s going up quickly and looks beautiful!

Everyone started walking back around the big hill toward the front of the house when my mom tripped on a piece of debris from the construction, fell, and landed hard on her arm. My sister said the “pop” was audible and unmistakable. My mom’s arm was bent backward and sideways, an unnatural direction that can not occur with healthy, intact bones. An x-ray at the ER later verified the extent of the break. My mom was in so much pain that she almost passed out a couple of times: during examination and immobilization.

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My mom had surgery today. Now both people (Mom & Stepdad) have an arm immobilized, recovering from very recent surgery. Neither can drive due to high dosage pain medicine, nor can they do much of anything on their own. In the time between my Mom’s break (on Saturday) and her surgery (today), my Mom has been in such excruciating pain that she’ been nearly helpless, even with her good arm. Meanwhile, my stepdad’s surgery went well but he’s been battling nausea and vomiting due to the pain medicine he’s on (even after having the doctor call in a lower dosage pain medicine). It’s just a mess.

My sister, now 7 months pregnant, is the true hero of the story. She took off almost a full week last month to help move my dad to his new facility. And she’s taken off almost a full week this month to help with my Mom and Stepdad. She’s gone over daily to make meals, take out trash, clean dishes, etc. etc. She had taken over a case of waters and literally had to pre-open all of the bottles because neither parent could seem to do it one-handed. I mean, it’d be comical if it weren’t my parents!

So this deck that was only going to cost about $5,000 to replace will now likely end up costing over $30,000. It’s about $20,000 for the deck itself, then the out-of-pocket max will be hit for both parents due to their ER visits and surgeries, not to mention loss of work (for them and for my sister). I booked a flight and will be arriving on Friday afternoon. I don’t have the money to go and I really don’t have the time, either. But I have to be there for my family. I just have to.

I’ll be in Austin from Friday-Monday. I’ll be back in Tucson in the office on Tuesday, and then I immediately leave for a work conference trip from Wednesday through Saturday. Then the plan is to round the family up and hit Disney later that week.

So the month of July is turning out to be totally nuts. And it’s costing an arm and a leg two arms! (groan, har har).

At least we have our health freedom, right?

Stay safe out there, DIY-ers! I’ll catch you from Austin on the flipside!


Ashley’s Money-Saving Tricks

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I want to start a series of money-saving tricks that I have started using since kicking off this debt-reduction journey. Hopefully these tricks will help reduce some of our monthly expenses (pssst: revised budget coming this afternoon). Here’s my first money-saving trick:

Homemade Cleaning Spray and Reusable Rags

I have actually been making my own cleaning spray for years. I started because of health/safety (I wanted a 100% natural cleaning solution for cleaning high chair surfaces), but it also had a side-effect of helping out the wallet. Since starting my debt-payoff journey, I also decided to eradicate paper towels from our lives.

To be fair, we still have some paper towels leftover from a Costco run I made in late February, but I have already switched over to reusable rags. If all goes well, hopefully our hoard of paper towels will last the entire year of our credit-card eradication challenge since we will only be using them very sparingly (side note – I also saw a tutorial on making DIY baby wipes out of paper towels for WAY cheaper than store-bought wipes, so that’s an alternative, too). The only thing I’ve noticed so far as a disadvantage of reusable towels is in regard to cleaning mirrors. The rags always leave streaks and little bits of rag “fuzz” behind. Any reader tips on how to avoid this?

Otherwise, I’m really trying to stick to the rags. In our case, the rags required no initial investment. Because we had twins instead of a singleton, we were gifted an obscene amount of burp cloths (which were all IMPERATIVE when the girls were babies). Now that they aren’t needed as burp cloths, they’ve just been sitting in our linen closet taking up space. I have just repurposed these into our cleaning rags. They’re the perfect size and I don’t have to run out and buy a bunch of towels to replace the paper towels. Win-Win!

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Dirty baby table about to get cleaned with a burp cloth and homemade cleaning solution. As you can see, I have reused an old spray bottle (you can tell from the picture it’s pretty old, as the label is peeling off). No up-front costs, only savings!!!

I have a link to my pinterest in my author info in case anyone is interested. I have a board of DIY ideas that I have used, and there are links to several homemade cleaning solutions you can use to save yourself some money, too!

and one more BONUS money-saving trick….

Free Magazine Scam

I’m sure we’re all familiar with the free magazine scams, right? These are when you get a mailing saying you can get a free magazine subscription for “X” months….but then they never remind you to cancel and the subscription auto-renews and CHARGES you!!! Familiar?

Well at the beginning of January I got an offer for FIVE free magazine subscriptions. I have no idea how this happened – I haven’t subscribed to a magazine in YEARS! But the mailing said that depending on the magazine, I could qualify for 6 months up to 1 year for free! Don’t mind if I do!

I went ahead and signed up for a bunch of magazines. Turns out I got 4 for one full year, and 1 for 6 months. All totally FREE!

Here’s the thing……the magazines are banking on you forgetting to call and cancel in time, and then they get to charge you! I am meticulous about keeping a planner (I would never remember all my various deadlines and due-dates otherwise). So I write in my planner the phone number, magazine subscription information, and a big note to CANCEL a month before the free trial ends (just so there’s no confusion or funny business).

But I don’t really care about magazines. I sometimes flip through them while the babies are taking a bath (I sit in the bathroom supervising, but they love to play in the tub so it could be a good 20 minutes or so), but I could do without them and don’t need them or anything.

So what’s my trick????

Almost as soon as I receive them, I take them to our local book resale shop (called Bookmans). It’s important that I take them soon after they arrive because then they are still the “current” issue. I take them to the book store and “trade-in” for store credit! I use the credit to buy books for my babies!!! Voila! Free books!!!

Me?? I’ve always been a library-girl. But my babies are so destructive they are NOT old enough yet to be responsible library-borrowers (they’re not even 2 yet), so we can’t borrow   baby books from the library for fear of a book getting a page torn, a sippy cup spilled on it, etc. But the books at the resale shop are cheap anyway, and once I use my 5 trade-in credits per month, I’m always able to walk away with 1-2 new-to-us books for the girls absolutely FREE!!!

So there you have it! Two new ways you can save some money!

What’s your favorite money-saving “trick”??? 


Turning to Reality TV for Help…

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I’ve been trying to figure out creative ways to remodel our home for low to no cost. As I watched HGTV this weekend, I thought, ‘I’ll have reality television remodel my home!’

I assumed this wouldn’t be a difficult task. It’s not like there’s a strong filter for reality tv. Come on. I’ve seen Jerry Springer and Tila Tequila.

California’s official nickname is ‘The Golden State’
San Diego calls itself ‘America’s Finest City’
Humility isn’t our strong point.

It only seems obvious that we would point a camera of reality tv at our Southern California city. I went to the HGTV site, Pie Town Productions, and the DIY network. Do you know how many home remodeling shows are based in ‘America’s Finest City’?

Zero.

But, there are two shows that film anywhere, anytime – Extreme Home Makeover and Deserving Design. For Extreme Home Makeover, we lack a compelling unique story. ‘My husband lost his job… just like everyone else’ isn’t nearly as impressive or distinctive as ‘Timmy is allergic to the sun’ or ‘Little Bonnie Sue doesn’t have sweat glands’.

And remarkably, Deserving Design didn’t call me back after I submitted my husband as ‘deserving’ because only once during the last five years of our marriage has he left the toilet seat up. It’s sweet but not as gripping as Jane Doe saving the world over the last 20 years rescuing one sweatshop child at a time.

Bummer. I really needed a new back patio before the toothpicks, dental floss, and tin foil holding it together collapse.