tightening the purse strings


We’re nearing the home stretch, hurray! That also means we’re winding down on what has been a very expensive year of design and construction. I’m sure it will be worth it in the end, but it’s quite different from our original vision 5 years ago of living mortgage free. Had we picked somewhere else to live, we know we could have done it but we chose this place and are here to stay. Still, I have to admit a little envy when I read about folks who are building their own little homes on wheels. I’ve seen two new ones in our part of town recently too!

I remember it wasn’t all too long ago when we talked about having everything done before moving into the new house. I can assure you now, that’s not how it’s going to be, and that I have a new appreciation for why so many other households live in a never-ending state of construction. It seems that this is simply the way it works unless you have exceedingly deep pockets or a combination of great insight and excellent preparedness before hand.


You’ll notice that we didn’t cheap out when it came to the big things like the heating, our metal roof or our wooden windows. We knew we’d have to cut corners and put in some sweat equity along the way but where have we opted to take a bit more time and save a bit more money? There are a number of ways:
– I’m tiling the bathroom using the cheap subway tile since our first choice was going to cost nearly $1000 in materials and another $1000 in labour.
– We’re only finishing one shower area for now (saving another $1000-$2000 in the short term)
– We’re so grateful that my dad was both willing and able to make us a lovely vanity for one bathroom and we’re using plywood for it’s counter (at least temporarily) since we have a piece the right size kicking around. I don’t even want to guess how much we’d have to spend to get what we have in a store since most of what you can get in stores is full of off-gassing nasties.
– We’ll be putting up the baseboards (after we move in) and applying varathane to it and the window trims.
– Our site supervisor is filling the cracks in the concrete with StarPatch and I’m sealing the concrete floors. (We could have saved money by sticking with the cure and seal the concrete guys left us back in June but it gave me a headache so instead I used Broda Prothane. The other quotes we got for cleaning things up included really fancy crack fill treatments and an epoxy sealer that I didn’t want and cost a few thousand dollars more.)
– It’s not ideal, but at least for the short term we’re going to have wooden counter tops. We were reluctantly going to go with plywood but then we had a surprise find last weekend which means we’re more likely to have wooden ones from IKEA. It’s hard to know how much of a savings this really means since it’s likely only temporary and it never had a dollar figure in the budget. Oops!
– We’re finishing the wooden floors upstairs. Kevin made good headway with the sanding this past weekend but there’s still more to be done before we get to applying our own oil finish.

Apr 7 - light fixtures and floor sanding

– Instead of finishing with a fully landscaped house we’re removing any real expectations until the summer comes and we’ll likely buy the bigger things when they’re cheaper and easier to transplant in the fall. I’m so itching to get my veggie plots built but my old collection pots is going to be standing in for a while. With all the other work to be done, there’s just no time. Plus, materials that will last cost a bundle too.
– We’re not usually big fans of the big blue box but when it comes to light fixtures, they have the best deal going. We used their cable lights and repurposed their most economical ceiling fixture as a sconce so that we could save more thank $1-2K and spend that money on LED bulbs (which in part came from that store too).

Apr 7 - lights

– Not only are regular doors expensive, but none of closet openings are of a standard height which means they’ll definitely cost more than $300 each. We’ve decided to go with curtains for the foreseeable future and may even leave the laundry area uncovered.
Apr 7 - laundry

– Speaking of laundry, I probably already mentioned that we saved ourselves another grand by going with a more standard size and a model that isn’t the newest on the market. We did look at buying used but couldn’t easily find what we wanted at a price that seemed worth the risk, without a big hassle when it came to delivery.

Needless to say, we’ve been spending more time at the house and less time taking photos or writing about it. Soon we’ll be done!
Apr 6 - a warmly lit little house


8 thoughts on “tightening the purse strings

  1. i cannot believe how much is done since i saw you all there in december. beautiful, thoughtful, cost effective work you two!! those lights are all kinds of awesome. i want some ASAP everything is beautiful. i want a home like that one day, truly. . and the paint color in that upstairs room is great. i think it is wise and perfectly alright to move in with a list of “to-get-to’s” at hand. it sounds normal and allows you time to appreciate what is there and to really think on those extras. i know people who use curtaining for doors. why not? you could sew them. and your garden will one day be amazing, even if not completely “in” this year. the dreams of future springs will keep you going. i’m so excited for you and K, and hope to see it one day soon in real time.

    sending love, ~erin xoxo

    • Thanks Erin! Your such a sweet and supportive friend. We look forward to sharing our finished home with you too.

      I’ve enjoyed knocking things off of my unfinished projects list this year. It feels SO much better than having things hang around for a long time so I’m reluctant to add more to the list. I guess that’s how it goes with house building though. I have stopped adding non-house related things to the list though so that’s good.

      We look forward to seeing you soon too:)

  2. Isn’t a “home on wheels” just a trailer? and then wouldn’t that be like “living in van down by the river”. PS. I think you should paint smiley faces on your wall sconces. It would make your days much brighter.

  3. Amazing!!!

    A few things – I was going to suggest the ikea countertops and then you said you found them!!!! I’ve done a little internet research and one in particular has had their Ikea countertops for about 7-8 years. They oil them regularly (monthly) and that way the finish stays fresh and the surface stays clean! If that’s what you do, let me know how it works!

    2) In terms of plants, get to know the local horticulture society amd permaculture group. Usually there’s an annual trade, and many people want to get rid of things because they are moving/separating plants, want to get together on a big order. Last year we got 5 cherry trees, and lots of herbs for free, not to mention about 15 1′ cedars for a steal of a deal. At the Perma Blitzes, you will get all sorts of ideas that you never knew you wanted and your whole yard landscaping may be changed for practicality and pocket books! Some great recycling ideas too – palette composters, hugelkultur beds, and whatnot.

    Just some ideas….

    It is looking spectacular!

    And I know what you mean about being in a state of constant work. Our new house will be like that for quite some time – if not forever as things need maintenance likely before the entire finishing will take place! LOL!

    Do you have a free-store around? Keep an eye out for old wooden doors – they come in all shapes and sizes and they could make a great door for the laundry area. I’m looking at that idea for kid’s closet doors, or even a coat closet in the front hall!

    Can’t wait to see the finished photos and so excited that you will be moving in soon! YIPPEE!!!

    • Hello there S!

      Yes, maintenance of wooden counters can be a bear. I’ve been getting practice will my wooden cutting boards so I have some idea of what we’re in for and I’m not thrilled about it. My latest thing has been to use hemp oil but in the initial stages at least, it needs much more frequent application.

      If you want to go that route you should know that the countertops are hard to come by. They’re almost always out of stock and then when they come in they run out in a day or two. We really would have done best to use a combo of the 3 sizes but since they only had the smaller one we bought 4 and will use the old one I had for a table unless something else comes in between now and ?

      As for plants I love your suggestions and that neighbours have been so willing to offer things up. I really want to get my veggie boxes in and then take my time with some of the rest. It helps that we have a really nice landscaping plan from our architect/landscape architect that directs us towards a good array of water efficient and native plants that happen to look nice too. Of course that’s not so much what our neighbours have in their yards, but I will watch out for events where we can take advantage of trades etc. My mom is really good on that end too, even though she lives closer to your new home.

      Thanks for all your ideas and I hope you have fun with all the projects at your new place. BC is so lucky that you guys are finally making the shift.

  4. Habitat for Humanity has great stuff. Go frequently and you may find new things every time… Our workman shops there weekly!

  5. Hello GB, nice to hear from you! While we don’t have a ReStore here we’ve been making good use of similar places in our town and as far afield as Portland. That’s how we scored our $25 dishwasher, guest room furniture and some shelves. Finding solid wood doors is a bit challenging but now that we know the sizes it should be easier.

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