Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Downsizing Our Home

Our home is too big for us and I have written a post in the past about it in length. When we bought our home, it was the best bang for our buck.  It was inexpensive, it needed redone inside and out, and Todd was willing to do all the work himself to make this home into what we wanted.  When we purchased the home, we were living in a 1100 sq ft home in the city.  This 1890 sq ft on ½ an acre seemed like it was exactly what we wanted at the time.

Now, we want to downsize.
We talked about building a tiny home on the property wepurchased next to our home and renting out our home.  Though I liked the thought, we had put so much time and hard work into our home to make it what it was (with more work still needing done to complete the home.)  Then it came to us on a 2 hour drive home from my mom’s house one weekend.

As you can see on the Auditor’s schematic above, our home is in an “L” shape and has a very large footprint.  We mainly use one “wing” of the house and the other “wing” goes unused.  We have been working on paying off our mortgage so that we can then save up to build Todd a workshop as a separate building from the main house.  While we were talking aloud on our way home from my mom’s house, we decided that it would be best to make our home smaller so that we use all the living spaces.

There is one room next to the garage (Yellow Box D above) that is currently being used as storage and to keep the cats litter boxes and food.  The size is 280 sq ft.  Enter great idea.  Todd will be knocking down the wall between the room and the garage.  This area will be Todd’s workshop area that will be completely open to the garage.  Todd’s workshop will keep his welding equipment, tool boxes, work stations, etc.  Right now, everything is crammed (literally) into the garage along with two vehicles.  This will free up a lot of space in the garage as well as give Todd some much needed space to work on projects.  By knocking out this wall, we will save upwards to the effect of $15,000 for a new workshop that we were planning on building on the property.  The workshop will need to be insulated to keep the cold from the main part of the house, but otherwise, needs nothing but a good scrubbing and ample lighting (all of which Todd can do himself).

The great part of turning this extra bedroom into an extension to the garage is that it will not require heat.  The heat will be forced to the wing of the house that we currently use which will allow us to have a smaller, more efficient furnace (yet another savings factor).

The 100 sq. ft purple area on the schematic (Box C above) is a hallway that we never use.  This will be turned into a space for the furnace, and for our stackable washer and dryer and storage.  At the moment, our furnace is a low-efficiency furnace that is located outside.  When we save up the money, we would like the furnace to be inside and we may even splurge for air conditioning as well (I never though I’d agree to having A/C in the house, but after this year’s heat and humidity, our floors were literally sweating.  By having A/C, it will keep the house from expanding in the heat and will keep the house dry and comfortable.)

Our family room is enormous (400+ sq ft).  We could host a party with 25 people and everyone would have a place to sit and mingle.  The catch is, we don’t ever host parties of 25 people (nor do we want to), so what’ the point of having a room this large?  We are talking about building a wall smack dab in the middle of the room and making this a master suite.  Todd would also install a separate bathroom in the suite. Sliding glass doors would be replaced with french doors (that we already have) and we would have our own personal deck with sitting area.  One great thing about cutting our family room in half is that we will still have the fireplace that I love and a much cozier space to sit and relax with my husband and guests.

Of course, all of these are just plans.  Nothing has been started nor will be started for a couple more years.  But with a few simple changes (and a little bit of extra plumbing), we are downsizing our livable area by over 400 sq ft.  The goal is to make the home smaller and all the rooms to be utilized.  We would still have 1512 sq ft with 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, a living room, family room, kitchen and dining room.  This is still more than enough room for us and would be plenty even if we had another set of feet running around the house one day.

Do you feel like you need more room or that you would like to downsize your living space?

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Three Weeks without a Cell Phone

In our home, we don’t own many new or extremely nice items because we (a-hem, my husband) are really hard on everything that we own.  Not only are we hard on what we own, things get lost  misplaced all.the.time.  It is extremely frustrating to me, but it is what it is.

At any rate, several weeks back, Todd and I went to WalMart to pick up oil filters and oil for our vehicles.  Todd set down his phone (a new to us Windows phone from my mom that Todd loved and planned on keeping for many years) to look up an oil filter number, and when he found it, we walked away to get the next item on our list.  15 minutes later when we realized he forgot his phone on the shelf, it was gone.  I had faith that the cell phone would still be there when we went back to get it.  Todd on the other hand had no faith that his phone would still be there.  Sure enough – it was gone (I blame his negative attitude on this).  We checked with the automotive desk and customer service for three days after the phone went missing, called our carrier and reported it stolen, had it blocked and went on our merry way.

Todd was addicted to his phone.  He is the only one who has internet on his phone: I just have calls and texting.  He loved going online while he was at work and on the days we both worked, we texted back and forth all day long.  We texted about stupid piddly stuff, and we called each other when we were on our way to work and on our way home from work: nothing really important.

Todd was so upset that his phone was stolen that he said he didn’t even want a cell phone.  Of course, this statement was made out of anger, and a few days later, he came around to the idea of getting his phone replaced.  We were planning on changing our cell phone carriers after our contracts were up, so Todd was without a phone for a couple of weeks.

I noticed a few things while Todd was without a phone.

  • We had a lot more to talk about at dinnertime and throughout our evenings together
  • I was able to concentrate more on my work instead of checking my phone every 15-20 minutes for a new text
  • It really isn’t that bad not being “connected” to one another throughout the day
  • Todd really can survive without being online while at work
I have considered going without a cell phone altogether; however, Todd worries about me on my 1 hour drive to and from work each day (witha vehicle that has over 175,000 miles on it). We have decided to downgrade our cell phone plans from a contract to prepaid services*.  By doing so, we are saving over $600/year on our cell phones.  By downgrading our services, Todd and I have agreed that we will be talking less to one another to and from work each day.  It has truly been relaxing driving to and from work listening to podcasts and books on CD without being interrupted, not to mention it is a lot safer!

*For anyone wondering, Todd is going with StraightTalk for his cell phone provider.  He will have unlimited talk, text and internet for less than $45/month because we will be paying every 6 months (to get A discount).  For me, I am going to be with the same carrier (AT&T) but downgrading to their “pay-as-you-go” plan which will give me 250 minutes a month and unlimited texts for $26.63/month after tax.  We are going from spending $128/month for cell phone service to around $70/month and not being locked into a contract. 

Have you tried going without a cell phone for a week?

What has been your experience?

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

A Short Story: He Chose Us

One late Sunday afternoon, Todd was outside working on the lawnmower and I was inside relaxing (reading) with our precious pup, Lana.  I heard something climb up the deck stairs and when I looked up, there was a yellow lab with its tongue sticking out and its nose pressed against the screen door.  He was a cute thing, so I asked Lana if she wanted to go out and play with the yellow lab. 

Lana and I went outside and I asked Todd to hold Lana back while I went to see if the yellow lab was friendly.  As I said that, the pup came running over to me with his tongue sticking out and started playing with me.  It was the cutest.thing.ever.  I told Todd that it was OK to let Lana come over to him and they sniffed each other out.

The dog, whom we called “Buddy,” did not have any tags on him.  I don’t know where he came from: he just appeared out of nowhere.  I gave him some fresh water and some food to see if he was hungry to which he scarfed every last crumb down within seconds.

We get strays around our house a couple times a year.  Most times, they play with Lana until they are sick of her and then leave.  Buddy played with Lana and never left.  After realizing that he wasn’t leaving, Todd gave Buddy a flea bath, and then we wanted to see if he liked to be indoors (it was extremely hot the day he came to us).

Buddy came inside without a problem.  He explored the house, played with Lana and found some of Lana’s toys lying around.  Buddy ended up staying the night with us that first night.  He chose to sleep in our bed with us.  I called the police department to see if anyone had reported a lost yellow lab.  Buddy was very obviously taken care of: neutered, dewclaws removed and an indoor dog.  The police department had not received any notifications of a missing dog, but they took our information in case someone called. 

The next day, I called the dog pound, two vet offices and posted a listing on Craigslist about Buddy.  Todd took him to our local vet’s office to see if he was chipped – and he was not.  The vet took a picture of Buddy and posted it on their FaceBook page hoping to find the owners.  There were three women who were immediately interested in Buddy.  After talking with the women, two decided that Buddy would not be a fit for their family.  One woman came out with her 10 year old daughter to meet Buddy.  The woman’s daughter adored Buddy; however, there was one thing that happened while they were at the house.  You see, Buddy is an alpha-male.  This usually is not a problem; however, he growls when another dog comes up to him and he has a bone in his mouth or if he is eating.  Again, he only does this with other animals – he has not done this to us.  Buddy had a bone in his mouth that he found in the yard and Lana (our pup) went up to him and he growled.  Other than that, everything with the visit had gone smoothly.  The next day, she contacted me stating that she doesn’t think Buddy would be a fit for their family either.

The day that the woman and her daughter came to meet Buddy, I had been thinking a lot about this friendly, loving, mini-moose that had been traipsing around our home for the past four days.  I started to really get attached to the bugger and had come to enjoy his company when I was reading and he would be an arm’s length away.  When I got up in the morning, it was usually because he was standing over me or licking my face telling me it was time to get up.  I got attached to the 100 lb stray that landed on our porch.  I was crying on the way home from work thinking about a day that this moose wouldn’t clumsily run to my car door with Lana to meet me when I pulled into the driveway.  Todd noticed I had been crying when I got home that day and I told him why.

The next morning, Todd and I were sitting on the couch with the big moose between us sleeping, and Todd said, “You know, he has really grown on me too.”  I asked Todd what he meant by this, and he said that he thought we should keep Buddy if his owners done come forth.  I was ecstatic.  Todd started to make a list of the things that we needed for Buddy that he would get while I was at work.  A collar and a nametag with his name and our phone number etched into it.

I originally did not want to keep Buddy for three reasons:  1.)  He is a spitting image of a dog my dad had for years that had just passed away after being really sick 2.) I didn’t want Lana to feel neglected 3.) I didn’t want the expense of an extra animal in the house (don’t we have enough animals already?!?)

After thinking everything through, all three reasons were really stupid and selfish. 1.) I cannot fear for this young, healthy, happy dog’s life because of something that happened to my dad’s dog! 2.) I have to keep reminding myself that Lana is not a child – she is a dog.  Dogs run in packs.  She actually enjoys running around the yard chasing Buddy and vice versa.  And the third reason is completely irrational because the only extra expenses would be for dog tags, food, and the bi-yearly vet visit.  This may come to an extra $500/year $800/year (the first year). (After writing this, we took Buddy to the vet because he had severe itching and we wanted him to have his shots.  The initial vet bill: $280 because he had an ear infection, skin infection, and worms.  We have to take him back in 2 weeks to get all his other shots.)  Quite frankly, we live the way we do (frugally and almost mortgage free) so that we can enjoy the things that are important to us: time with family, travel, and our animals. 

Buddy makes us laugh, wherever Lana is you can find Buddy close by, and the cute-o-meter is off the charts at night when he “hugs and kisses” Lana before it’s time to go to bed.  Buddy was out in the garage with Todd really early the other morning (3AM!) getting some things done before I woke up for work. When Lana and I woke up, Lana was frantically searching the house for Buddy.  As soon as Todd and Buddy walked in, she was instantly next to him.  At that moment, I knew that keeping Buddy was the right choice for our family.  But then again, he found us…not the other way around.  We just chose to love him.

Side Note: One goal for this year was to not take in anymore animals.  This goal was not met the weekend Buddy came to our home, and we are unapologetic about it.  We love him to pieces.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

175,000 Miles in Less than 7 Years

On June 19th, this little cutie hit 175,000 miles! Let me tell you, this car is a champ.  Her name: Bianca.  She has reliably transported me to and from work every day, made a trek to Gatlinburg, TN, Niagara Falls, Beverly, WV and many other road trips in between.  She even survived a suicidal deer attack back in July 2012 and had a bit of “plastic surgery” to fix her up. I bought her in August of 2006 (even though she is considered a 2007) brand new when Yaris first came to the United States for less than $12,000.  It should be noted that before Bianca, I never owned a vehicle for more than 3 ½ years (a sad statistic, but true).  Bianca will be turning 7 years old August 6th.

This car has needed nothing but general maintenance.  It should be noted that she still has her original clutch! (I finally broke it in after 6 years!)  I would love to see Bianca hit 250,000 miles, and at this rate, that will be in the next 3 years.  We still drive her on long trips because she gets great gas mileage at 42-45MPG.  The two of us fit fine in the car with plenty of room for the 72 lb pup in the back seat and luggage in the trunk.

I would really like to witness a car hit 500,000 miles, and if any car could do that, it would be Bianca (in another 10+ years).  Until then, we will keep maintaining and admiring this cute little car of ours.

What is the most miles you’ve had on your vehicle?
Please share the year/make/model too!

To read about when Bianca hit 150,000 miles, you can click here

Friday, July 5, 2013

Acting Poor

There was an article written earlier this week about “acting poor” to give you choices.  I feel like this is what Todd and I have been doing more so now than ever before.  Make no mistake, we spend money on things that are important to us; however, for everything else, we make it ourselves (thank goodness for a handy hubby!), buy used, shop around, or do without. 

There are so many people we know who say “I couldn’t live like you do.”  I don’t understand what we are doing that makes people think that we do not enjoy our life or that we live a life of poverty.  We feel quite the opposite, actually.  We feel know we live a life of abundance!  We lack for nothing.  We have traveled, experienced and learned so much because we aren't afraid to jump in with both feet (homesteading, raising a pig, raising chickens, remodeling a house) and  have had more fun than most people we know.  We have done more in our short marriage than some people have done in their entire lives!

Here’s the thing:  We take pleasure in finding a good deal and saving our pennies.  I find satisfaction in making my own baked goods from scratch, making enough homemade laundry detergent that lasts the entire year for $3.62,  growing of our food, shopping at thrift stores, browsing flea markets, going to garage sales, cancelling the cable, downgrading our cell phone plans, attempting to be more energy efficient by using the dryer and dishwasher less and installing smart strips as well as negotiating prices for our utilities.  We take pride in going on cheap dates together.  Again, this may seem extreme to some people, but we do this so that we can spend our money on what is important to us: experiences together!  Annual anniversary trips, surprise birthday fun, investing in time together and spending time and traveling with family. 

If acting poor enables us to do all of these things together, I will gladly give up the smartphones, new cars and eating out multiple times a week.  For us, it's worth it.  Not only does acting poor enable us to create lasting memories together, it also enables us to reach for our goal of financial independence