Hard Choices, Home edition

Note: I wrote and scheduled this post before Coronavirus changed our lives. I decided to post it as is for my own future reference. Not sure yet how the tanking economy will impact our renovation plans.

As promised, here is list of home-related and other wants/needs that need prioritizing.

1) Tile the bathroom – $64 to $131 for 1 box of tiles, plus installation cost. A small bathroom is not normally a desireable thing. However in our case this allows us to splurge on higher-end tiles.

2) Sidings for house exterior – $5,000 Our home’s exterior paint is only three years old, so sidings are definitely a want. We are thinking of only adding front siding to save some bucks.

3)Backyard landscaping – $1000+? Our backyard is basically an uneven lot of dirt and weeds. We want to grade it with quality soil, level the terrain and add some gravel or pebbles. We may need to build small steps and a low wall. I would like to plant two trees; my husband is pushing for three. Update: We decided that one tree is enough.

We hope to cut costs by furnishing with second-hand finds and doing the design ourselves. But frankly after hours of scouring Pinterest, we still end up with uninspiring and awkward designs. Now I understand why good landscape designers can command big bucks.

4) Front yard and porch – $800? The most important thing for us is to make it a drought tolerant space. We also want to install a pathway from the sidewalk to the front porch, which could also use some improvement. We don’t need to buy a ton of plants since we already own a lot of succulents. Update: Porch alone will cost $900 for labor plus lumber. Ugh!

5) Garage door repair – $1,000? Our ancient garage closes on its own due to rusty hinges. My husband has gotten several quotes but we are debating manual versus electric with a remote. Truthfully, I wouldn’t mind getting a manual door if it saves a lot. I just wonder if this will be difficult to open when we get older.

6) Awnings for back patio area – $3,000? We need coverage if we want to enjoy the patio area and limit sun damage on our outdoor furniture. The problem is that there are so many options. Retractable or not? Sails? Awning with wires? Or should we suck it up and just get a large patio umbrella? Update: Bought umbrella for $200.

7) Two gates and a fence – $1,000 I grouped these together because they are all related to perimeter security. One gate is not closing properly; one “gate” is a currently a piece of heavy wood; one part of the back fence is ridiculously low (due to sinkage or leaning) and needs to be strengthened somehow. Update: $1,100 for gate repair.

8) Electrical work – $500? Our exterior outlets stopped working. I would also like to move one of the bathroom outlets, but that is purely a “want”.

After writing out this list, I realize it looks like we won the lottery or came into a large inheritance. While those things definitely did not happen, we did enjoy a bit of financial luck. Not enough to put us into the top 10 or even 20% or to quit working, but we were able to put down a larger down payment and still have leftover funds for renovations.

I also admit that we are sort of in denial about the money we need for retirement, medical bills, and the special needs trust.

What big items are on your wish list? What would you prioritize if you were me?

How To Save When Your Spouse Is Not Interested In Finance

It’s very common for couples to have different spending / saving styles. Read this if you want good suggestions on how to get your spouse to be more frugal. (I’m assuming you’re the frugal spouse since this is finance blog.) Keep reading this post if you’re tired of attempting money talks with a partner who would rather gouge out his/her own eyes than read money blogs.

Without further ado, here are my uncommon, alternative “solutions” on how to save when your spouse is not interested in money.

  1. Your spouse keeps spending on “extras” because he/she has no idea how much money is needed for life’s necessities or future goals like retirement.  You’ve tried doing monthly/quarterly money talks over a romantic dinner. You’ve tried posting a picture of your future house on the fridge. Nothing has worked.  My solution: It’s time to get pro-active and set aside an amount via direct deposit to a retirement account (or accounts) each month. With time, the spouse gets used to a lower, net income.  Once in a while, he/she will ask “where does all our money go?” but their lack of interest in financial things will prevent a true investigation.
  2. Your spouse hates the idea of budgets. My solution: Get a joint credit card and have you and your spouse put most of your spending on this. The financially-savvy spouse can keep track of this by reviewing monthly credit card as well as bank statements for cash withdrawals.  Your spouse doesn’t have to know details but you can casually mention whether you’re in the red or black that month.
  3. Your spouse does not shop sales and wouldn’t know if a markdown is good or not anyway. My solutions:  1) Share drugstore and supermarket loyalty cards.  Every few weeks, CVS emails special offers such as “Spend $15, Save $5” or “Save 15% off your entire purchase”.  These are printable but can also be sent directly to your loyalty card. My husband shops at CVS without regard to sales but he is more than happy to see extra savings at check-out. 2) Get your spouse to try generic brands. Over time, you’ll find many items that are just as good as brand names. This is an easy way to save on groceries/household goods without using coupons.  3) Finally, be your household’s shopping ninja. Stock up on necessities during sales. Even if only half the household is saving money, that’s better than none.

However, it’s important NOT to think of money as his and hers, i.e. separate. At the end of the day, your finances affect each other.  On a day to day level, if you both spend without regard to household income/savings, it will be extremely difficult to save money for “bigger” things such as vacations, cars or home renovations.  At retirement, you will both need to have enough money to live on. You can’t eat caviar while the other one eats tuna!

To summarize, if your spouse is not interested in fiances and you want to save, practice deceit, take on the saving ninja role, and let it go because trying to change someone is impossible.

Of course the dividing line between frugal and non-frugal isn’t really clear cut. In our case, we usually agree on big expenses (which is important). Also, with time, we’ve influenced each other in good ways. I’ve learned to spend more freely. My husband has learned to hate late fees with a passion. He also asks me to find coupon codes before making most online purchases. Baby steps, baby steps…