April 19, 2011

Tightwad Gazette II - Day 9 - April 19th

It’s kind of hard to type tonight. My right arm is sore from painting. Yes, I am still painting. Faux painting takes time but it is turning out so beautiful. I’ll post more pictures later this week.

Let’s talk about frugality, cutting back, new ways to save, tightwaddery and living below your means. Amy Dacyczyn gives us a new slant on saving money. She was and isn’t afraid to save money in ways other people wouldn’t consider. I enjoy reading her books because she thinks of things that I would never think of and sometimes we need someone to lead the way.



Amy recalled an episode of “This Old House” that she had watched on PBS. They had fixed up a 200 year old house and commented on how beautiful it was even though they had gone over budget. Their budget was $100,000 and they had spent $200,000. Amy said that this episode and the show gives the image home renovations should be discouraged as they are very expensive.

Amy says not true as she observed a lot of renovations throughout her life. Here is what she learned:

1. By fixing up an old house, you could “technically” own a home that is more than you can afford. You can buy a fixer upper with a small mortgage and put your surplus income towards renovations, eventually owning a more valuable home. If you do it right, you can save money.

The one thing about fixing up an older home, you can use recycled materials and you don’t have to be a high skilled carpenter to match existing old house carpentry.

2. Because a fixer upper is almost always an old home, you should appreciate old house character such as bumpy walls, sloping floors and doors that don’t quite fit. If you want a new looking house, then don’t buy an old house and try to make it look new.

To do it yourself, you need some handyman skills, patience, persistence and a lot of time. You also need some imagination to see through all of the old linoleum and ancient crud to envision a cheerful kitchen. I think you need to believe in yourself and also recognize what you can and cannot do. I do a lot of research on the internet. That is how I learned to tuck point bricks and to also repair holes in my plaster walls.

When I was working on the faux painting in my entryway and now in my living room, I calculated what it would cost me to have wallpapered those rooms instead. It would have cost me over $1,000 to buy the wallpaper and then I would have to pay to have the room papered. The faux painting technique I am using makes the walls look like they have been wallpapered and I have done it for around $300 for both rooms.

But I still had to believe in myself because I was not so certain I could do it. Now I look at those walls and I still can’t believe I did it!

3. Shopping for a fixer upper requires a different strategy in home buying. Get a list of potential houses and do a drive by. Many drawbacks can be spotted as you drive by the house. When you see possibilities, call a realtor to show you that house. Amy and her husband took 15 months to find the home that they eventually bought. It took that long because there were a lot of homes to look at and they knew that their potential home was the home they were going to live in for the rest of their lives.

4. Location is the most important aspect of any house, even a fixer upper. Remember that when you renovate your house, you don’t want it to be the most expensive home in the neighborhood. When you do look through the house with a realtor, conduct your own home inspection that might rule out a purchase. If everything seems okay, then hire a professional building inspector.

Avoid homes that require major changes such as a complete alteration of floor plans. Also you don’t want to remodel a home that has had new remodeling done such as kitchen cabinets. You paid more for the house because of that remodeling.

5. After you buy the house, develop a detailed plan. Know basically what you want to do, from start to finish, before you lift a hammer. Know what you can do yourself, and what you need to hire out. Some things you might need to do before you move in such as replacing a furnace or dealing with lead paint.

After you move in, tackle the eye sore projects first. Do small sections at a time. Don’t start anything you don’t have the time or money to finish. Allow lots of time to make decisions.

Fixing up a house is not for everyone. It takes a lot of patience and time to work on a house especially when you’re living in it. I am the voice of experience. Right now I am the person doing the remodeling projects in our house. That is what I knew would happen when I chose not to look for another job. We knew I could do the majority of what had to be done. These are painting projects and tuck pointing projects. My husband can do some of the work as he has the time, such as installing new light fixtures.

My parents fixed up an old house and it took several years. They did all the work themselves. There were many projects that took a long time so it meant that we had to live in a house where some walls had the plaster knocked out of them and you could see the lath work.

When my dad was laid off he had the time to do the demolition and then he would go back to work to earn the money to buy the lumber and sheet rock.

I knew that when we purchased our house that we would have to take it slow in the remodeling as we had time and money. Many people thought that we would go out and get a second mortgage and have the home totally redone in the first year. That is what people were doing then, but we refused to do that.

Our home has what I would say some “ugly cosmetic” issues. The ugly vinyl flooring in the kitchen and the ugly Tiffany style lamp hanging directly over the stove does not mean I can’t cook in the kitchen. I just look past it to what it will look like eventually.

So if you like everything to be perfect or if everything has to be done right away, a fixer upper is not for you. But if you can live with the imperfections and are willing to put in some time and money, perhaps you should consider a fixer upper.

I look at our home and the great deal we got on it. I also know that we need a new roof and will need a new furnace in a couple of years, but that happens with all houses. I also know that the lower mortgage means that I can be home and work on this house and make it our home with my quirky color schemes and different style of furniture. It’s ours and its imperfections are what make an old house so endearing.


As Amy said “this black and white opinion, that all used shoes are bad for kids, has always been a mystery to me. Although it is logical that an extremely worn, hard soled leather shoe could cause problems, it didn’t seem possible that all used tennis shoes, flip-flops, slippers, sandals, and twice worn patent leather church shoes would cause lifelong foot trouble.”

She consulted a podiatrist and he admitted that he knew of no studies showing that used shoes harm the feet. He also went on to say that the most important reason not to buy used shoes is that he felt that the only way to insure a proper fit is with the help of a trained salesman.

So if you think about it, this doctor wouldn’t approve of going to any store to try on shoes yourself.

She talked with another doctor who said that proper fit is more important than whether a shoe is used. After talking with several other “experts” the opinions were divided on whether or not a child should wear used shoes or not.

This is one of those gray areas that everyone needs to decide what they are comfortable in doing. I have worn used shoes before and it always seems like it takes a couple of wearings before I feel they are “broken in.”


There has been a theory knocking around the tightwad communities that if you unwrap a bar of soap and let it “dry” for several months, it will extend the life of the soap. Amy wondered if this was true.

One source said that keeping the soap wrapped protected it and unwrapping it would speed up the aging process. So, which is correct?

Amy did an elaborate experiment and basically the unwrapped soap lasted a little bit longer, but not much. Amy figured out the savings
per year in their household would be about $1.15 annually.

The only unwrapped soap I have ever had on hand was the bar of soap I kept near our baby’s changing table. I would keep the diaper pins in a bar of soap until ready to diaper a baby.

Our next Tightwad Gazette reading will be for April 21st. Read pages 72 through 80.

Tomorrow we are celebrating my husband’s birthday with our family.  I know I won’t have time to read and post my synopsis so I have moved our reading discussion to April 21st. 

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