Fiscal Friday: The Journey of a Home Remodel

Blog neglect is a serious thing, y’all. I have been so swamped lately, but that’s no excuse – I’m making it a priority to get back to writing regularly and what better time to start than Fiscal Friday. Speaking of Fiscal Friday, rather than do it every two weeks as we have the past couple of months, Katie, Natalie, and I have decided that doing it once a month is the best way to go. This way, we’ll be able to bring more significant content. But we will still be around all month to chat on Twitter about fiscal matters – you can join us using #fiscalresponsibility.

The next several months of my life are going to be consumed by renovating my house, which is a huge financial undertaking. So that’s what I’m going to be focusing on during the next few Fiscal Friday posts. I’m not a huge fan of posting actual numbers because some things have to be private – and I think personal finances are one of those things.

That said, I will be sharing actual numbers for this remodel. I think it’s important for others to see that you can achieve quality and accomplish your desired end result without selling your soul to the debt monster.

While we’re just getting started with the actual remodel, it’s been a year in the making. Saving, planning, saving, designing, saving, estimates, saving, research, saving. Before I get into the numbers and details of the project in the coming weeks, I think it’s important to share a part of the process that I have struggled with ENORMOUSLY.

As I set out looking for inspiration, I was excited to find so much of it available in Internetland. But the thing about all those pretty pictures and dreams is that they add up…quickly. With all estimates in for everything I want for the house, inside and out, we were looking at about $110,000. Just thinking about that makes me want to find the nearest fainting couch.

It just wasn’t going to happen with that price tag. It took a lot of time and sighs of frustration and disappointment to whittle it down to where we are now - $35,000. We have decided to wait on redoing the outside and hope to tackle that in the next three or so years. For now, we’re just focusing on the inside. And even that is no easy feat at $35,000. With the average kitchen remodel in America costing $28,000, completely redoing two full floors of living space at $35,000 is going to take a lot of hard work, creativity, and BUDGETING.

I’ve had to decide what I can do myself vs contracting out (as it stands now we are contracting out only the kitchen cabinets and the hardwoods – everything else will be done by us, so stay tuned for that disaster).

I’ve had to take inventory of my own life and decide what was most important to me: A kitchen where family gathers. A porch where memories are made. A bedroom that is a safe-place to escape the chaos of the day. A home that welcomes others and embraces them with the hospitality I grew up seeing in my Mamaw’s home.

The practical explanation of how I’ve done this is that I’ve slayed the comparison monster. I’m the first to admit that I’ve fallen into the comparison trap more times that I can count. It’s only natural to see what others have and compare our lives to it. But that often leaves us unhappy and feeling like we’ve come up short. I’ve focused more on practicing gratitude and stopping to reflect on the good, rather than focus on how much others may have. I don’t know their situation or their finances. Their debt is not my debt. Their big house full of expensive furniture and fancy kitchen gadgets may be at the expense of drowning in hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of debt. They may seem to have it all, but their savings account may only have $1.27.

Deep breaths here, because I’m going to bare my soul a little (a lot) and share with you the behind-the-scenes, vulnerable aspect of all this. Soul-baring is always terrifying, but this is my heart on the matter. Not the spewing of practical advice you can find anywhere on the Internet, but my heart and my tears and what got me here, to this place of contentment with my $35,000 basically DIY remodel.

We currently live in a home that has caused me a lot of breakdowns over the past year and a half or so. It was built 30 years ago and has not been updated in any sense of the word sense then. (That’s why this remodel is such a complete overhaul.) I’ve pretty much hated this house since the beginning because of all the work I knew was going to have to go into it. Yes, it’s large – much larger than our first house was. Yes, it has the potential to be the exact home I’ve always dreamed of. But I didn’t dream of having it in its current state. I wanted pretty and new and lovely. I didn’t want old and lived-in and out of date. Basically, I was being a brat.

I felt like I had struggled enough and it was time to have what I wanted the way I wanted it. I’m ashamed to admit that, but it’s how I felt. As I looked through all of the perfect homes on various web sites, I couldn’t help but feel like I had gotten the short end of the life stick with this house. I didn’t think about the potential of the house, how it would be large enough to raise our family and one day host our grandchildren, how we would grow old sitting on our front porch telling the many stories the house will hold. I didn’t think about the very real struggle up to this point in my life.

I once started over in life with nothing. Divorce has a way of wiping you clean – mentally, emotionally, and financially. I’ve known the pain and exhaustion of wondering how to pay my next mortgage payment. For every perfect house on Pinterest, there are so many more homeowners who just want to feel safe knowing where their next mortgage payment will come from. It’s a long road – a road I know more intimately than I’ve admitted to many people.

There are other moments in the journey of this particular home that I will keep private because while I can tell my story, I cannot tell the story of others without their permission. It’s been a long, often stressful, sometimes tear-filled journey to get to the point where we are now, but what I’ve learned is that there are moments to choose joy along a difficult journey. It has nothing to do with how good someone else seems to have it and everything to do with how I choose to feel about my own circumstance.

We make our own dream homes, right where we are, no matter what the financial circumstances. Would it be oh, so pretty to have the $110,000 remodel? I’m sure it would be. Will it make my heart full and my soul happy to step back and see my $35,000 remodel complete? Absolutely.

Our dream homes don’t happen overnight and they aren’t just about the decoration. It’s about the stories the home can tell. Even before my time in this house, there were gatherings of family and friends, celebrations of accomplishments and new life, grieving for the loss of life or the end of a dream. The walls of this house have been witness to secrets told, foolish decisions made, and grace in action.

This house tells a story of a family. And now, it will begin to tell the story of my family. It may not be Pinterest worthy, but it is mine. My home, my memories, my reminder of God’s faithfulness during a time of great uncertainty.

This whole journey began with a change of perspective. While I realize this post doesn’t really deal with finances, per se, I felt that it was important to share the journey leading up to the actual process of budgeting and saving and doing. While the stories of others may vary slightly, I do believe this is the story of the majority of people. I know first-hand the frustration of thinking you can’t get the money or afford the changes you want to make in your home. And I’m here to show you that you can. Make it about you and your life and your family, rather than the lives you see online that may or may not be real, and it can be done.

Next time, we’ll jump into numbers and budgets and plans, oh my!

Fiscal Friday posts are the first Friday of each month and can be on any topic you choose! Just grab the button and join the Fiscal Friday fun! You can also join in on Twitter using #fiscalresponsibility. Grab the button below and join me, Katie, and Natalie in Fiscal Friday! Our next post in the series will be March 7, 2014.

Fiscal Friday