Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Bright Side

This has been a roller coaster week for us. First we have had some amazing responses from local contractors wanting to work on our project. This has been so encouraging! Kyle and I have spent every single night after work e-mailing and calling contractors in order to tame this budget. It has been at times exhausting to say the least but we are finally making some progress.

One of the best things for us has been talking to reputable contractors that have already given us bids and asking if they know other contractors they would recommend. Word of mouth referrals are so important when it comes to home building and remodeling. Since we are not handy enough (or have enough time) to build this home with our own hands, we have to rely on the contractors we are choosing. We have spoken to people about who they have used in the past and the quality of their work. The most important lesson of the week, ASK around.

Also we want to say a BIG thank you to those people that have given us words of encouragement and have supported us through this process. We have really been feeling the love the family and friends this week and this has meant so much to us. So I would like to share a little good news this week.

Drum roll please....

We have already saved a whopping 34% in the plumbing category.

We have saved a little over 10% in the concrete and foundation category.

Its not a long list right now but it is a great start! We are still following up with various contractors in several areas. I think Kyle has called every Geothermal company in the greater Lansing area over the last 2 weeks. Our main goal now is to continue to gather bids and fingers crossed that it continues to get better.

Tonight we leave you with a little words of wisdom from Jon Huntsman from his book, Winners Never Cheat...

"Achieving your dream requires sweat, courage, commitment, talent, integrity, vision, faith, and a few breaks"

Its going to be totally worth it in the end.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Our Budget

Okay so I have been avoiding you. Sorry blog! I have been debating back in forth about what to say in this posting. Basically Kyle and I had a rough Saturday house-wise last weekend. But, in the hopes of disclosing the good and the bad of building a house, I think we should share what happened...

Here comes the long story. We made the relaxing drive from Lansing to Hudsonville to visit with our builder last Saturday morning. The plan for the meeting was to go over all the contractor bids that have come in and to see the budget. We had a great meeting with our builder (we adore him, his vision is spot on with ours). However the budget was a bit of a shock. Okay that was a lie, it was way out of control!

This was the first time we have seen the budget but we have always had an end number in mind and had talked about it frequently with our builder. We had fully expected to go over the original budget amount but to a certain point. Kyle and I do not want to put specific numbers out there to the world so will just tell you the percent. We are (oh boy, I can't believe I am willing to admit this) about 30% over the original budget.

Okay, I feel better to have gotten that out there. It has taken the better part of the week to get to a better place with this. In fact I feel like we went through the five stages of grief. In our case it felt like the death of our dream house. First we were in a state of denial. "That number wasn't so bad I guess". Then we moved on to anger, which thankfully didn't last long. We were angry that this was so much larger that what had been discussed and what we were expecting. I think we were more angry with the possibility that this might actually not happen. We spent the hour and a half drive back home talking about the budget but I don't think it had fully set in yet.

That Saturday afternoon we went to the MSU pavilion Home and Garden show. This was actually a great place for us to be that day. We set to work gathering business cards from vendors that we might like to get a competitive bid from. We gathered about 25-30 business cards and brochures from vendors at the show and started contacting them as soon as we got home. We e-mailed about 15 of those vendors and about 5 more that we had researched online. I guess this was our bargaining phase coming in to play. Now we wait to get responses from our e-mails we sent out last weekend.

I wouldn't say I was depressed but I was definitely in a funk all this week. I have to say, we have been planning and dreaming this house for over 2 years now so this was a hard hit to take. It truly helped that Kyle and I were on the same page with how we were feeling. We spent every night this week "red lining" the budget to see what we could cut to make this all work out.

The most important thing to get our budget back on track will be getting more reasonable bids back from contractors. Some areas of the budget seemed to be out of proportion with the rest of the house. We are hopeful that with time and hard work, we will be able to find contractors with much lower bids.

We are also make concessions to help the budget. We have both agreed (I took a while to come around) that loosing the granite counter tops was a good start. We are also planning on getting rid of the deck off the dining room. We are aiming to cut items that we could then upgrade to in the future. We can upgrade from laminate counters to granite in a few years if we want. The areas we are not willing to change are things like the Geothermal system. We know it is more expensive to go the route of geothermal but it would be very difficult and more expensive to try to put a geothermal system in after the home is built.

So now we come to the acceptance stage. We are in a happier place with the house budget. We are adjusting our way thinking and our expectations. We are becoming more proactive in finding reputable contractors that want our job and are willing to give us a better price. It is going to take a lot more work on our part but I can't think of a better way to spend my free time that making our dream home a reality.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Weekender Update

So I had actually had very good intentions to post this on Sunday to be like a wrap up from the weekends house happenings... I blame it on "springing forward" from daylight savings time. We got a lot done on Saturday in regards to house decisions.

We started our day off at Tile Mart They are a locally owned and operated tile showroom with 5 locations in Michigan and Indiana. The had a very large showroom, with many full sized tile displays. I never realized how easier it is to visualize your space when the tiles are assembled on a large area together. We are still having a hard time wrapping our head around our 5 ft  by 7 ft master shower, but more on that later.

Here is what we are leaning towards for the master shower. There is Kyle's lovely hand holding a 12" by 24" tile. The one on the right is a cream ceramic tile with veins of grey brown and the tile on the left is called Metalikka (yes like the rock band Metallica!) and I also love the flecks of copper and reddish tones in it. We love the size of these tiles but we are also thinking of going with 9" by 12" to still get that rectangular proportions but scale it back a bit. We are thinking the cream tile for the shower walls and the copper for the floor throughout the bathroom both in a brick pattern.

Okay here is our favorite part... We are hoping create a border about eye level around the inside of the shower. The tile in the upper part of the photo is what we are thinking of using. It is called Horizon Stick, and it has varying thicknesses of linear stone. Shown in the photo next to the Metalikka ceramic tile. We are also thinking this accent tile will look great in the corner of the shower up the wall (from floor to ceiling). This corner will be where we all the shampoos and soaps get to hang out.

We didn't find anything we loved for the kitchen back splash but we felt pretty excited about the shower tiles we picked out. We didn't have as much luck at our next stop. We heard of a lighting store near Michigan State University in East Lansing that was on our way east so we stopped by. They had some lovely selections but they were much more of the crystal chandelier variety, which is beautiful no doubt but not for us. We stayed a while and browsed there table lamps and pendants but nothing seemed our style. Oh well it was fun! On to the next stop!

World Market! One of my favorite places for  home decor and for chocolate too if you wanted to know! I think we found our coffee table, an area rug for the living room and we almost got our dining room table. The table will be a story for another day. Here is the table we are loving, especially the look of the legs and the plank style top. It is called Verona and will hopefully be ours next weekend!

World Market Verona Table

On our way home Kyle started to get a headache and we joked that it was from thinking to hard at the tile store! It was hard mental work to think of how these tiles would look in our space. So when we got home we took a tip from YHL to map out your shower to get a good idea of the space. So we got out the tape measure and marked of the size of the master bath shower, where the door would be and we were able to decide where the shower heads would make the most sense. It gave us much more confidence in our decision and it was fun to stand in the living room and pretend to be in our future shower!

Question: What do you think of the tiles? What do you think of the border tile idea?

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

A little more about the tree huggers

How it all began... Kyle and I are highschool sweethearts (awww!) We met our senior year of highschool through mutual friends. We started spending more time together and we even went to our highschool prom together (see old photo below)

Kyle and I have always tried to live life in an eco-friendly way but lets face it sometimes being "green" can sometimes be expensive. We are just an average couple, we work hard at our jobs and we are not afraid to be frugal. Even though it sometimes gets us teased by some of our friends, we don't mind cutting back in our day to day spending in order to make this house a reality.

Kyle has always been what some might call a "penny pincher", and I think he now embraces that title. He has always been very proactive with savings and retirement. Kyle has been the reason that we have kept on track with saving for this home. Recently there has been a commercial for Geico in which an actor calls him self the saver. and followed by the line "don't try to out save me." This has now become Kyle's new mantra.

My role in our relationship (and house building adventure) is to also be a saver but to also keep style in mind. We both ultimatley want this house to look great. The plan is that we will be living in this house into our geriatric years so it needs to be exactly what we want. So we are thinking hard about every window, door and even light switch!

An engagement photo taken at Rosewood Inn, where we were married August 22, 2009

So we still save as much as we can but we also go out for an occasional dinner and a movie but we are always aware of our goal. This house would not be possible if we went out to eat for lunch everyday or went to the bar every weekend and dropped 50 bucks in drinks and cover. We have had to cut back on some none essentials in order to save quicker for our down payment.

Some ways we found ways to cut back:

*We got rid or cable TV (saving us about $85.00 a month) and we added Netflix (which costs $10.00 each month for one DVD at a time). We also paid $15.00 for a pretty cool looking antennae to pick up 15 local channels.

*We spent about $10.00 in the fall and bought window wrap to keep the heat in the apartment during the winter months. Apartment windows are notoriously drafty, and by wrapping them in the saran wrap type material we saved money each month on our heating bill. Also we keep our thermostat at 64 degrees when we are home and 60 degrees when we are not home. Invest in a programmable thermostat.

*This might sound terrible to some but we try to only eat out at dine in restaurants about 1-2 times a month and we almost never go out for lunch. That's right we brown bag it everyday. For me it is no big deal, most people at my work bring there lunch but Kyle doesn't have it so easy.

*Kyle is an auditor and often spends his days out at clients offices. Since they have a policy about not eating in the clients office he finds creative ways to eat his PB and J. Sometimes he will actually take his lunch into a fast food place and eat his lunch while his coworkers eat there. He has more guts than I do in this area.

I will say this, being frugal doesn't tend to make you popular but true friends are okay with a homemade dinner and a game night. All in all I don't feel like we have had to sacrifice that much in order to save for our house, in fact I know we could cut even more from our budget. I feel we live very comfortably and I am so proud of our savings thus far.

So call us treehuggers, call us frugal, we won't take offense  :)