I love books. I have always loved books. When I was a kid, I would use my allowance every week to pick out a new paperback and I would consume it in hours. I was a voracious reader and by the time I graduated high school, I had multiple bookshelves full of books. I gave away, sold or donated none of them and considered them precious possessions.
Between my sophomore and junior year of college, my parents retired, sold their house and moved to Florida. Some of the books I took with me and then rest I made them cart with them for “someday” when I had my own place. When my parents decided Florida wasn’t for them and bought a house in Ohio, I made them bring all the books back north again. In retrospect, I probably should have let them just donate them years ago, but I was so attached.
Now I am 34. I have a house, I have a child who is learning to love books and I am realizing, slowly, that my collection of books does not bring me joy. I have probably hundreds of books that I doubt I will ever read again and holding onto them just makes my house cluttered and gives me something else to dust. If we do sell and downsize, the thought of moving them all AGAIN feels horrible.
In an attempt to find the joy of my books again, I am reviewing my collection and honing it down to my actual favorites, books I know I will read again, or books I am looking forward to sharing with my son. It is both an exhausting and freeing process. We have a small library in our town that we visit weekly and I am donating my giveaways to them.
I briefly looked at selling them, tried a couple different ways and determined there just is not a market for used paperback books. So I am finding the joy in knowing at the library, someone will get use of these books again.
It is depressing to look at this collection of books and realize how much money spent they represent. I wish my parents had directed me to libraries rather than books stores more or helped me find a balance and encouraged me to just spend a portion of my money on books, rather than everything. Between the library and hoopla (my new fav app), I know now that I can keep myself and poniesandFIREjr reading for years and never spend a penny if I don’t want to.
For a long time I was held by the feeling of “but what if” I decide I want to re-read a book I own but I had given it away? Now, I feel like, “so what?” I can borrow it and return it! Duh. I can still love the book, still enjoy the story, without it being mine.
I think I’m starting to get this minimalism thing. Own the things that bring you joy, but more things do not equal more joy.
We are not super strict on our grocery budget. We have come a long way since we started and with the opening of Aldi in our town, we are spending less than ever. That being said, we are not that firm about cutting here. Even without really trying that hard, we keep spending less and less. We are loosely keeping to around $100/week and most weeks we are under budget.
How is this possible?
1. We are utilizing everything possible from our garden. This year I actually succeeded with a bumper crop of zucchini, squash, tomatoes, onions and more. What we aren’t using, I am actually freezing. Or I was, until I ran out of freezer space.
2. We are eating all our leftovers, religiously. They either come to work with us as lunch the next day, or we have a leftover night for dinner.
3. We are planning our meals in advance and planning meals that are cost effective.
4. We are paying attention to what’s on sale!
None of this is really challenging. Sure, there are days where we get crazy and get home late and are tired, but we can plan for that! On those nights, we pop in our frozen pizza from Aldi or just do leftovers. It’s better for us and cheaper than the old days where we might order a pizza or just run for Chinese food on those nights. It is amazing what just a little pre-planning and paying attention has done for our finances surrounding our grocery bills.
Last week Mr. PoniesandFIRE was on vacation. I went to a horse show for a couple days with a client and then took a couple days off to help with home projects. Our plan was to get through a bunch of stuff and then reassess where we were at mentally with our home at the end of the week.
We ended up jumping into a kitchen renovation. Our kitchen was terrible when we bought the home. We tore out an oven in the wall that didn’t work and smelled of dead mouse when we moved in. We had an old electric cooktop in one of the counters and used just that for years.
Finally, my dad put in a new stove/oven for us last year and the cooktop became just a dirty waste of countertop. We knew this was something we needed to get rid of because it was both gross and doing nothing for our home value. The countertops themselves were an old chipped white laminate.
Now, my dream would be to hire a professional to redo EVERYTHING floor to ceiling in that kitchen, but we are cash-flowing this folks. So we went to Lowes and checked out counters. I wanted butcher block, but that was going to be over $6k installed by them, so that was a hard pass. Second choice of quartz or granite were also both a little above where we wanted to be. We decided on a solid stone surface that will be around $3k installed.
I’m sure I’ve mentioned before that our home is a 100 year old farmhouse, so we spent the weekend removing the old countertop, sink and super gross cooktop, and quickly came to the realization that NOTHING IS LEVEL. Nothing is level and therefore, our easy countertop project has become bigger. We need to make everything level before the countertop people will template and then install.
A quick trip back to Lowes and we are ready to go with plywood and shims and we have until Thursday to get these things level.
Current Kitchen Reno costs:
1. Countertops from Lowes - $3,000 (we are adding a row of cabinets, so the surface area is larger)
2. Plywood, shims, nails, level, wood glue, misc., - $150
3. Three new base model cabinets for the new row - $285
4. New sink and faucets - $400
I also plan to do the following, if we don’t go over budget:
1. Chalk paint kitchen cabinets
2. Redo backsplash
3. New light fixture
5. Add shelves on one empty wall
6. Redo floor somehow…?
The plan is to do everything ourselves, with the exception of installing the countertops. Neither of us is particularly handy, but we’re trying our best. Every skill learned is money saved! :)
Whether we are selling or staying, once again, nothing is decided.
A few months ago I posted about a small house for sale that we could almost purchase from our equity if we sold our house and downsized. We felt like it was a good plan, but the amount of work required to list our house was overwhelming. The house was also around 800 square feet and while I love the idea of downsizing, that felt extreme. I just wasn’t sure it was what we wanted. That house sold and we went back to status quo, with just a little headway on the decluttering process.
Each month that ticks by gets us a little more equity and a little closer to an easy transition to sell our house and downsize. Here we are in September and a major fixer upper has been listed for a sale a few days ago. It’s in our ideal area and same school district and has more reasonable square footage. It is majorly affordable, as it is a DUMP, but the land is nice and it has potential.
Once again, I run the numbers and it’s tight, but possible, to own it outright from our equity. We could then spend the next year cash flowing renovations. We could potentially be in a fully paid off home, renovated to our liking by this time next year! WHAT’S NOT TO LIKE ABOUT THAT?!?
To make it remotely possible though, we need to start taking action. I feel paralyzed by how much needs to be done from decluttering to repainting to minor remodels to maximize what we can get for our current house. I worry that by the time we accomplish those things, this house we’re considering will be sold and then what?
Well, then we will have a slightly updated home that is ready to sell the NEXT TIME the “perfect” (aka, major project) house comes along. We need to start taking action, even if we don’t know how it’s going to turn out or what choices we will end up making with our home.
Next week Mr. PoniesandFIRE is on vacation and he has a list of projects that all need to be done if we want to sell, starting with cleaning out the garage. I thought I was going to be away at a horse show with students all week, but turns out I will be back Thursday afternoon, so I am making my own list of things and using the time I already took off to get stuff done.
We are planning to go crazy for the next 9 days to see what we can accomplish and then sit down and talk about what we do next, if we are ready to talk to a real estate agent or we want to wait. Wish us luck!