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I mentioned that we were working on installing the new countertop on a section of our kitchen cabinetry last week. Well, the tile job went quickly as did the grouting but then it took another week before hubby put the trim around it. So I can finally share the completed product. I think it looks lovely. As a reminder – one side of our kitchen has a black granite slab for counter as can be seen here

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And this is what the other side looked like a few weeks ago – still with really fabulous white plywood. Sexy, right?

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And a week or two ago when the project was in full swing

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And now – the nearly finished product. I say nearly because while the counter is complete, there is still that pesky opening above the curtain that I am trying to talk hubby into covering but in some astonishing way, it isn’t at the top of his priority list. And because we are about to paint the kitchen, he didn’t bother to clean off his black grouty fingerprints from the wall. So you can still see those even though I tried to cover them up a bit. So here, our $60 black granite counter!

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To test the theory that black is slimming, I placed my very favorite little mug that I like to use to make me feel cute and sophisticated. And I must say, she’s looking stunningly svelte there on the new black counter, don’t you think?

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Well, it wasn’t even that over the top. But it was relaxing and involved spending money. I like to think of spending money much like being on a diet. Moderation is key. Overindulging or underindulging are both on the relatively unhealthy side. For me at least. I mean, I suppose you could compare someone who’s really hardcore frugal to an anorexic if you’re using food terminology and a person who spends too much like an overeater. Neither is really very good for you. You have to live a little.

So, to balance myself out today, I had a day of indulgence. I spent 3 glorious hours getting a haircut and shopping. I even tipped more than usual! I don’t get a lot of time away from my kids so I told my stylist to take her time. I got a peppermint massage before my haircut and afterwards I went to Starbucks for a latte to keep me company while I window shopped. I didn’t buy anything while shopping but I stared longingly at many many things.

I’d like to think that having done a little something for myself helped curb my spending later in the day. I definitely find myself antsy, on the verge of sad even when I deprive myself too much of spending any amount of money on myself. And when I do a little something for myself, it helps me stay focused on my financial goals because I am not totally depriving myself of some fun now and then.

And now I have lots of ideas that I got from stores I browsed for bargains I want to find later. I intend to take my new ideas and either make some stuff or find them much more inexpensive elsewhere. Even *I* can make 4 valances for under $70!! And while I am on this little sewing kick, I think I’ll try to make a few decorative pillows. I am sure to spend less than $25/pillow, right? And have fun while I am at it.

So your home is feeling blah? Want to spice up a room in your home? Is your kitchen outdated? Bathroom needs help? Want to create a cozy space all your own – a home within your home? Here are some tips for how to create the feel you want and not spend a lot of money while doing it.

  • Prioritize – make a list of what you want. Decide where you are willing to cut costs and where you really want your money spent. Doing a kitchen remodel? Go for more inexpensive flooring so you can get higher grade cabinets, countertops or appliances.
  • Think small – little changes like new fixtures, paint color, or adding decorative moulding are changes with big returns. A room doesn’t need a total overhaul to get that warm and cozy feel you’re looking for.
  • Go Used – this isn’t for everyone but a great way to save on building materials is to buy used. Search Craigslist and eBay for great condition used kitchen or bath cabinets. Even flooring. It’s a great way to get someone else’s leftover materials at a discounted price. And often going those routes means getting NEW materials at a great price. I’m amazed at how many people buy new tile for a project and never get around to it so they’re offering it up at a significant discount to get rid of it.
  • Add personal touches – nothing warms up a room more than some personal photos in nice frames or family heirlooms used in a creative way. Don’t forget to add your personal style – it’s YOUR space, so make it for you.
  • Know the market – There are aspects of a home that most buyers nowadays are looking for. A master suite with a seperate tub and shower. Granite or other natural stone countertops. A great room. Know what changes will make you the most money if you’re planning to resell soon.
  • Know when to call a professional – Don’t get over your head. Doing home improvements yourself is only cost effective if you know what you’re doing. The cost of botching a project and THEN calling someone in to fix it is greater than just hiring someone to do it in the first place.
  • Get multiple quotes – Make sure you’re not getting scammed by calling a few recommended contractors so you have a true idea of what the project should cost you before you hire someone.
  • Remodel Estimates – Check out this cool website for remodel estimates in your area before you get started.

We’re having yet another frugal Christmas in this household. So I made our list of people who are on the list to receive gifts and made out our budget. My 3 year old is very into Christmas this year. She’s enjoyed decorating the tree and helping me with my shopping and gift making so far. She really wanted to get my mom a gift from only her. So I told her she could have $5. Well, because she’s big into adding right now, I upped her budget to $6 so she could have a $5 bill and a $1 bill and add them together.

We headed out a few days ago so she could pick a gift for my mom. She knew she had $6 to spend. And she had an idea of what she wanted to get. Her first idea was a pink dress. But I know my mom and she looks terrible in pink 😉 so I tried to steer her to another idea. Bug chose getting my mom a pair of earrings. We went to Marshall’s, found the jewelry bin and looked at a bunch of pairs. She chose a few and we discussed that some of them were over budget so she had to pick a different pair. She picked out a pair of lovely dangly earrings that are blue. They’re actually quite nice and go well with her grandma’s taste. They were $5.49. So we headed to the register, she paid for them very proudly and proceeded to call my mother and tell her she got her a pair of earrings for Christmas that are blue circles.

Now that she’s learned what a budget is, I need to work on teaching her what a surprise is.