Thursday, March 22, 2012

Ten Tips to Save Money When Building a House

As you may or may not know, we are in the process of starting to build a new house.  Our dream home in the country.  We have most certainly outgrown this current home even though we love it.  It was never built for 7 people (yet I always think of the days gone by when this house would have held more than 7 for a very long time).  We would like a new house, not because of dissatisfaction with our current home, but because we feel limited in what we can do because of the size.  3 little girls sharing a room that is 9x9 in size works when the girls are only 3' tall.  What about when they grow?  So, this dream has been in the works for years, really.  We said when we moved into this home we would live here for 10 years.  In 10 years we would build our country dream.  This September will be 10 years.  This is what we have been aiming for for the past decade.  So, as we are trying to work out all the many details required to build a home, like who to hire, which windows to buy, what will the kitchen look like, etc. we are trying to save money along the way.  Now, we don't want to cut corners to save money.  This house is supposed to be our forever home.  The home our kids bring our grand kids to for sleepovers.  We anticipate staying in this next home until we are too old to live there well.  We don't want to cut corners.  Save money?  Yes.  Cut corners?  No.  So, how does a family of 7, living on one income, build a large dream home in the country without mortgaging our self to death? Well, some of those choices started already many years ago in the way we have managed our money.  But for the sake of this blog post, I will share some tips I have been using to try to save us some money while we build this home.

Tip #1 - Buy new items on Kijiji or Craigslist

It is unbelievable to me the number of people that buy something new and either decide they no longer like it or find out it will not work for the intended purpose. They cannot return the item so they sell it for cheap.  I have just purchased a stainless steel under mount kitchen sink for $60.  That is waaaaay cheaper than I would find in stores for the same item, never mind cheaper than a drop-in stainless steel sink.  The reason it was being sold?  The sink wouldn't work with the granite they had cut and they couldn't return the sink so they sold it.  We have also bought a couple of brand new vessel sinks for half the retail price.  I have seen brand new windows, doors, toilets, sinks, faucets, showers, tubs, etc - many, many items one would need to build a home for way less than retail price.

Tip #2 - Scour second hand stores for new and gently used items

I love second hand stores.  And you just may be surprised at what you will find, new and used.  I bought a brand new toilet at the local MCC Thrift Store, just taken out of the box for display purposes for cheap, cheap, cheap.  I bought a slightly used but still beautiful pedestal sink at that same MCC store.  I found 2 boxes of brand-new 4"x4" white tiles by Dal Tile.  I have bought tempered glass shelving.  I found a brand new mirror by Umbra.  At the local ReFit store, I have found many beautiful pieces of tile in quantities large enough for my needs at a fraction of the retail price.  We just purchased a 7-month old Electrolux front load washer and dryer set for about 50% of retail off of Kijiji.  We also bought a gently-used-but-still-looks-brand-new air massage tub on Kijiji for 1/4 the price it would have cost new.  These are very easy ways to save money when building a home. 

Tip #3 - Shop liquidating stores

Some stores exist only to liquidate other stores' items.  Sometimes these other stores have gone bankrupt or they sell unclaimed orders or many other reasons perfectly lovely and brand new name brand items end up on these store shelves for a fraction of retail price.  I have found AMAZING bargains at our local Liquidation World (now owned by Big Lots).  Our Weiser entry door handle set ($88.88 - retails for $165), all our Weiser interior door levers($28.88 - retails for $50+), my Price Pfister roman tub faucet ($78.88 - retails for over $500 [my best deal EVER!]), Delta towel bars and glass shelves and toilet paper holders ($12 each - retails for $30+), our kitchen faucets, chandeliers - so many amazing finds at unheard of prices.  These stores can bring big savings if you take the time to look.

Tip #4 - Shop on sale

Patience is almost required (unless you have unlimited funds and can buy everything at full price the first time you see it!) when purchasing items for your home.  One example - I looked and looked and looked for the right fixture for our main floor powder room.  When I found it, I was so excited!  It was pricey but it was just what I wanted.  Did I buy it immediately?  No!  I knew this store where I found it would eventually put it on sale so all I had to do was wait.  And watch the sales.  When it finally came on sale, it was 40% off the regular price.  That is when I went to buy it and saved about $80 just by being patient.  We have bought faucets and interior doors and exterior doors and tile all on sale because we knew what a good sale price was.  There is a particular type of hardwood flooring I want for our main floor area and it comes on sale occasionally in varying sale prices.  From past experience though, I know exactly what the lowest sale price it will come to yet and I am just waiting for that right price to buy it - when it does you can bet we will buy our flooring.  If you get to know a store's sale rotation, watch their flyers and have some patience, you will save yourself some big money!

Tip #5 - Shop scratch and dent

As we went to pick up the washer and dryer we bought, we discovered the guy selling the machines worked for an appliance repair store that specializes in Frigidaire and Electrolux machines and sells scratch and dent models.  To be honest, scratch and dent hadn't entered my thoughts but when I gave my head a shake, I realized it was the perfect solution.  Appliances can be terribly expensive but they don't have to be.  We just picked up a brand new scratch-and-dent Frigidaire All-Freezer and Electrolux All-Refrigerator for less than half the price they would have cost none scratch-and-dent.  Since Electrolux owns Frigidaire, the appliances look like the same brand from the outside plus you will never notice the scratches or dents since they are only on the sides or the tops which will be completely hidden by the kitchen cabinets.  For an amazing deal, I was able to get the exact appliances I wanted for a fraction of the price.

Tip #6 - Use in-store credit points or gift cards
Both credit cards we own are store credit cards and allow us to collect points on each purchase.  With one card we collect points to buy groceries but with the other card, I was saving those points for an unknown time in the future when I would find something I really wanted for the house.  I was accumulating those points for a while when I suddenly found the time I wanted to use them.  Remember that chandelier I was waiting for to come on sale?  Well, when it did come on sale, I redeemed the points on my card and ended up saving an additional $100.  That beautiful light cost me $12!  As for gift cards, I have been accumulating gift cards to Home Sense (equivalent to Home Goods in the USA) for a number of years.  People know I love that store and so they have given them to me as thank you's for various reasons or as gifts for other occasions.  Though I did use a little to purchase another beautiful chandelier, I have been saving the majority to use when it comes time to decorate the new house.  I can see myself buying new towels or throw pillows or other accessories to make the house look beautiful and new and it won't cost me a thing, thanks to the gift cards!

Tip #7 - Shop clearance sections

Pretty much every time I go to a hardware store or big box store that may carry home building supplies, I check out the clearance section.  Rarely are those items advertised.  In one store I found our beautiful kitchen light fixture that will be hanging over the island.  It was almost 75% off the regular retail price.  I assumed they were getting rid of a certain style but I was more than happy with the style and the savings.  Funny thing is, in another city, that exact same light fixture was still the same full retail price.  It pays to check the clearance racks!  I also found a beautiful drop-in porcelain sink on clearance at one store.  They only had one so I bought it.  Turns out I found an identical sink on clearance in another store in another city.  That took care of both sinks in the kid's bathroom.  Though it may take an extra few minutes to wander past the clearance section in a store, you never know what bargains you will find.  Don't be afraid to open nondescript cardboard boxes that have yellow clearance stickers on them.  We were able to buy the vessel sinks for our master bath at substantial savings because I was curious enough to open a plain cardboard box that had a yellow clearance sticker on it.  There was no picture on the box so I had no idea what was in it.  When I opened it up and saw the beautiful sinks, I knew I struck gold!  The savings are even better when you find things on clearance at a liquidating store.  It is like the clearance items are on clearance!  I love bargains like that!

Tip #8 - Know your prices and price compare
Being a homeschooling mom of 5 kids, I spend a lot of time at home.  I don't have time to run around to stores to check out what they have or what things cost.  That is where the wonderful world of the Internet comes in.  It is a great place to check out prices so you have an idea of what the regular price of items is so you will know when you find a great bargain.  I knew when I saw our fridge/freezer that it was a great deal.  My husband wasn't so sure.  So, I went online and printed out the regular prices for them - it didn't take him long to realize it was, in fact, a bargain worth pursuing.  Sometimes we have found things on sale and were unsure if it was really a deal worth checking out, especially if we are shopping in the USA.  A little time spent online quickly confirms if the price is a good one or not.  Plus, if you are looking at prices, you can quickly compare which places have the best price for certain items.  We don't have unlimited funds so it is up to us to spend what we do have in the best way possible.

Tip #9 - The sooner you start, the better deals you will find
We have known for a long time we would be building this house.  But only since we purchased the property (2 1/2 years ago) have I been collecting building items for our house.  When you have the time to start soon and start early, you are able to get the best deals because you are not forced to buy something RIGHT NOW!  I am not in a hurry for a kitchen sink so I don't need to buy something at full price just because I need it.  I can wait and look and wait and look.  When I do find a bargain, I can buy it and store it until it is needed.  I may be spending my money a little sooner but I am spending less of it!  I know that takes some forethought in your finances - you need to be in a place where you can afford to buy items for your house long before you have your mortgage plus you need to find a place to store those things.  But if you can do that, you will save big money in the long run.

Tip #10 - Be flexible
This may be the most important tip to saving money.  Be flexible.  I have an idea of what I want my new house to look like.  I want it to be beautiful and warm and inviting but I also want to be able to afford it.  When I find something on clearance or on sale, I usually ask myself if I love it, if I hate it, could I live with it, could I live without, etc.  If I really can't stand the item, I won't buy it.  If I am not sure, I think about it for a while.  But, in general, I make decisions quickly and can adapt my vision of the room in question to whatever it is I find.  If you must only have certain items and you won't flex from that view, you will probably end up spending more money finding those exact things. If you allow room for flexibility, you will save yourself some money.

Well, there you have it!  Ten tips to help you save money while building a home.  Actually, these are tips you can apply to your life in many other areas, not just when it comes to building a house.  Tell me, what are some tips you follow to try to save yourself some money?  I would love to learn even more money-saving secrets!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Window Shopping . . . Literally!

The temperatures this week are promising to go into the double digits to the positive which means spring is finally here (not that the winter was typical of Manitoba - it was VERY mild - but I do so enjoy spring and summer!).  And, that means, house-building draws ever nearer!  YAY!!  So, while Jay spends many hours talking with various trades people learning all he can about the very best way to build our house, I have taken upon myself two very important factors in a well-built home.   First of all, I am solely responsible for the design of the kitchen. And that is so much fun (especially since, at this point, I have only seen the drawings and not the price!).  The other is windows.  I have taken upon myself to request window quotes from various companies and then learn all I can about those windows and companies and hopefully make the very best choice for the budget we have.  Currently I have 5 window quotes in hand and I am awaiting 2 more.  Sending in a request for a window and door quote is fairly easy.  I have done most of it online from the comfort of my own home.  I write a nice email asking for a quote, attach the house drawings and a couple of days later a quote appears in my inbox.  That is the easy part.  The hard part is figuring out why one quote is more than double another quote, especially when the windows are essentially the "same" (I am sure window company reps would disagree that their windows are the same as another company's windows!).  So, I have spent many, many hours looking up SHGC (Solar Heat Gain Coefficients), U-Values, Condensation Ratings, BBB Business Reviews, warranties, options and accessories to try to figure out which window company is right for us.  In case you are wondering, right now I have quotes from Gienow Windows, Thermo-Tech Windows, Hi-Tech Energy Windows, Durabuilt Windows and Polar Ray-O-Max Windows and I am awaiting quotes from Duraco Windows and Inno-Tech Windows.  Some of these companies I found through the recommendations of friends, some through Shel Busey's Home Discovery Show, some through radio jingles and some through the Kitchen, Bath & Renovation Show we attended earlier this year.  The window company that is prominent right here in the town where I live is Jeld-Wen windows but I refuse to use them again so I haven't even requested a quote.  Though this house is only 10 years old, we have had to replace almost every single window due to failed seals!  The window units are covered under warranty but installation is not so every year these windows cost us more.  We have 2 more units that will need replacing this spring.  No matter who says what, I will not install those windows again.  So, pardon me as I break out the spreadsheet and try to conglomerate all this information I have collected into something usable that will magically show me which company to use!  I am looking for highly efficient windows that block the sun in summer, keep the heat in in winter, aren't cold to the touch and don't fog up with condensation at the drop of a hat.  Shouldn't be too much to ask, should it?  All in a budget I can afford?  I will let you know what we decide, whenever that may be!  :)  In the meantime, if you have any experience with any of the companies I have listed above, please feel free to share.  I would love to hear what you have to say.
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