Do you know how when you do a project and make something look good and then the things around it look bad in comparison? So then you start to make some small changes and realize that if you made this ‘one’ big change you could really make it awesome? Projects seem to grow organically on their own! We are having some of that in our house right now due to finally getting around to an item on our ‘wish list’ - repairing the bumpers on our pool table.
First off, let me explain our budgeting system. We have a monthly budget and a ‘wish list’. We made our monthly budget the same for each month of the year - because simpler is, well, simpler!
We decided to use my husband’s base salary as the income we based our monthly budget around, and any extra money (bonus, craigslist sales, my income) goes to fund the wishlist. The ‘wish list’ is for things outside of the regular monthly budget.
We allocate 100% of our monthly budget income into categories (tithing, housing, food, utilities, fun, kids, new car fund, zombie books, etc. ) that we have averaged out for the year. The monthly budget also has categories for things that may or may not happen that month but that we have estimated happen throughout the year. Let’s use for example, friends’ birthday parties. We have two little kids and we know that we will have 2-3 friend’s birthday parties a month to attend. I try to keep the presents around $20, so we can assume that we will (on average) spend about $50 for these gifts. Some months we don’t have parties to go to, and other months we have a bunch. We could change the budget every month to reflect that ‘this month we have $0 in gift expenses’ and ‘this month we have $100’ but that is a lot more work than just saying ‘on average, we have $50 in gift expenses’. See, simpler (wink)!
For clarity’s sake, let’s call any money that is outside of the base salary (used for the monthly budget) ‘extra’ money. For us, this extra money is irregular income from sales of our ‘stuff’ (16 Steps to Profit from Your Clutter - How to Sort, Select, and Sell Your Stuff), my clients, and bonuses. Back when we had debt to pay off and no emergency fund, we put only a small portion of the ‘extra’ money towards the wishlist. Most of the ‘extra’ money went to paying off the debt and creating a cushion of cash for emergencies.
Items currently on our wishlist are family birthday parties, an educational trip to Washington D.C., a Disney cruise for fall break, Christmas, renovate the bathroom, generator, new refrigerator and dishwasher, house water filtration system, surveillance cameras, Michigan Wolverine’s football game tickets and a trip to the Big House to watch the game (Go Blue and yay for Harbaugh)! Some items have been on the list for so long that they are way down to the bottom of the list and I don’t even consider them options (a room addition). Other things have stayed on the list but are getting moved closer to the top as we have payed off our debts. One of those things was to replace the bumpers on the pool table that had hardened due to sun exposure and age. We finally moved this item up to the top of the list and our pool table got new bumpers last week!
The new bumpers on the pool table are a great thing because now we are able to play a normal game of pool! But it's also a bad thing because now we’re playing a lot of pool!
As we play more pool, we are realizing that the layout of the room needs to be tweaked so we have room to play. Also, we realized that we had let that room get junky! Now that we are using it again we are opening our eyes to what it looks like as a whole and realizing that it doesn’t look very good. We started by moving a high table and chairs from one corner to the side of the room, and then moved an old radio to fill in the space that the table and chairs took up. One corner of the room looked great - but the rest of the room still looked cluttered.
We tried to move some of those pieces around and to make it look less cluttered but we decided that we could make some big changes and take out some of the existing furniture. Once something has been in one place for 10 plus years it’s hard to imagine something different! But - we took out two pieces and then went to the consignment store and got a really cool buffet. The room looks SO much better - but now I think we need to paint the room and make a few other changes.
I do have a budget for home-improvement in my regular budget, but these changes are bigger than I’ve allotted. The pool table repair was on my wish list, but the buffet table (an extra $429) was not pre-budgeted. And, neither is painting! But that is one of the cool things about having a budget. It’s our budget, based off of our priorities. It’s flexible. As long as we have money to fund the top priorities, we can move something down on our wishlist to make room for new things. We can’t have everything on the list, but we can pick what gets moved to the top of the list.
Projects can get out of control easily when you don't have a budget set up ahead of time. In this case we didn't have a budget for redecorating because our goal was only to fix the pool table. Who knew that when we had the pool table working that we would use it?
What parts of your house or life have gotten junky? Can you move the clutter around or do you need to decide to make some big changes? Identify the problem and make a plan to improve your ‘playing’ experience!