Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Our new biggest expense and savings challenge

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I may have mentioned we recently bought a new house.
We're really excited to move in.

One of the contradictions of the new home purchasing process is the detailed analysis of personal finances that go into the financing of the house and the frequently lack of planning that seems to accompany the establishment of the household. Am I the only budgetting idiot here? Has this happened to you?

Whenever I buy a house I always underbudget what it costs to move into the house, set-up the house and operate the house. Never fail I make this mistake. It usually costs me $20-30k each time.

To mitigate the misery a bit, I've decided to identify upcoming costs related to establishing our household and secondarily figure out how to pay for them.

In this post we'll discuss some of the upcoming costs:

  1. Movers & packing - I've budgetted $5k. I'm getting estimates this week and we'll see how they turn out. Since it's a local move they're not using state regulated tarrifs. I wonder if that will hurt or hinder. Small towns are usually not competitive environments. That's why Walmart clocked so many small town merchants.
  2. Moving boxes - Costco sells complete packs at $50 for 30 boxes plus supplies. I wonder what individual boxes cost? Staples sells 10 for $40. Sam's Club sells 20 medium boxes for $36.77. Boxes Delivered sells a huge package that includes wardrobes and more large boxes for $279.99. This isn't a thorough search, but it's almost impossible to use search engines for apples to oranges comparisons. I'm going to go with the Costco option. Costco has even more options available on their website, but I don't know if I have time to wait for them. Most movers typically rent wardrobe boxes for $4-$5. We'll see how the local boys perform. Let's budget $250 for boxes. [Wed. Note: I bought 2 more packages of boxes, what they include is great: 30 boxes, two pens, 3 rolls packing tape, 4 lbs. packing paper, 3 dish separators, 36 glass protecting sleaves, 3 rolls of bubble pack. The website has a bunch of other items, such as wardrobe boxes - they look to be cheaper than the movers I've asked to quote me.]
  3. Window Treatments - it's impossible to sleep without them. The house has 20-30 windows. Blinds run anywhere from $30 - $250 per window. This is a short term house for us - I'll try to keep the cost under $50 by using a composit blind. Figure $15 per window for installation. Total of $65 per window. Budget $1900. [Wed. note: the cost estimatees should be coming later today. I may take $2M's advice and buy them directly. The installer says his provider takes 8-12 days for delivery. Lowes has them in stock now.]
  4. Re-key locks - how many sub-contractors have keys to the house? [updated] Cost $180.
  5. Waste - this involves all the short term things you buy because the things you need are still packed (toilet paper, tooth paste, paper towels, etc...). Let's say $400.
  6. New furniture - every new home is a call for new furniture. I really don't want to spend the money on new furniture for something I won't be living in very long. I'm going to resist spending money on it, but I think new living room furniture is inevitable -- we can't use my bachelor furniture forever. [Wed. update: we've agreed to postpone new furniture - future expense $3k - on hold for now.]
  7. Fix old furniture - we have a few pieces that need reupholstering. Figure $900 for varioius repairs.
  8. Towels - new bathrooms usually need matching towels. We have a few bathrooms. Hopefully we can avoid matching towels for all of them. Let's guess $250.
  9. Electronics - boy would that wall sure would look good with a flat screen TV! It would, but I just can't stomache going even more over budget. We're going to hold off on any expensive electronics purchase for another year - maybe prices will drop more or that new organic LCD technology will be available.
  10. Wiring - I've already paid for a residential LAN to be installed, so that expense is out of the way. However, what would happen if I want to run Vonage over the normal household outlets - figure $250-$400 in wiring changes at the NAP to have all but one outlet bypass the public telephone network. Also, if I want to have Satelite TV instead of Cable TV, but still have a cable modem - do I need to change the coaxial wiring in the house? Hmm...that could be annoying - figure $150 - $300 for that. Let's budget $300 and I'll have to make some hard choices.
  11. Mattress for guest room - yes they need something to sleep on. I've seen mattresses at Costco run from $585 - $1200 for queen size (with the extravagant version for $2400). I'm not sure which one we'll buy, but I assume a nice one -- I stayed in a hotel with a poor mattress and was never well rested the entire stay -- it jaded my entire experience. Budget $1000.
  12. Lawn furniture - we agreed to delay it. We've found some perfectly nice furniture available at discounters / liquidators and might have a complete package for $300 - $750 featuring a set for the deck, a lawn tent with mosquito netting, furniture for the tent and rocking chairs for the front porch - very archetipical americana. This purchase will be delayed into the future - consider it opportunistic.

Well that's all I can think of now.
Am I missing anything? If you've moved recently, I'd really appreciate your guidance.

Total budget: $10,180.00 [Updated Wed.]

Already Budgeted: $5,000.00

Deficit: $5,180.00 [Updated Wed.]

Now how am I going to pay for all of that? My options are:

  1. figure out an extra money making plan that will deliver cash in less than 30 days
  2. spend alot less - we're savers so there's not much left to not spend
  3. dip into savings - my stomache is tightening at the thought
  4. be really imaginative
  5. take on debt - why when it's not necessary
  6. pray that I have a much bigger income tax refund than I planned (and I planned not to have a refund)

Your emotional support would be very helpful right now. I'll let you know how these costs evolve. I suppose if it's any consolation to myself, I plan to save $2-3k per month starting end of May or June - however I was planning on using those savings to re-establish my operating cash reserve. Hmm...2-3 months not saving -- I'd rather not not save.

Have a wonderful Tuesday,

Regards making our way

Edits (Wed. AM):

I've updated this to reflect:

  1. elimination of living room furniture
  2. additional things we'll delay (lawn furniture)
  3. addition of guest room mattresses


2million said...

Wow! If I had such a big moving expense I wouldn't move :-). Really - that is like a year (or more) of rent, how long are you planning on staying?

Ok here my extreme take on cutting costs out - it ain't necessarily pretty:
1) Uhaul - do it your self, buy some beer + pizza and bring all your friend over for the day. Its hard work, but what else are you going to do for a weekend that can save you so much money?
2) No need to pay for boxes - you can find them anywhere - go behind the grocery store or walmart and round some up, i always save my moving boxes so i don't have to buy more when i move.
3) Get a 10% off Home Depot Coupon (via the USPS move booklet or check around online), buy their composite blinds that run $19-$37/blind, and install yourself. They look great for the money.
4) Rekey locks - take the cores out yourself and bring them to HomeDepot with you to change out the cores - much cheaper this way.
5) Delay, delay, delay - spread these expenses out - you have to force yourself to spread these out and only make 1-2 major purchases a month. It helps avoid an impulse (overpaying) purchase and you won't have to go into debt to pay for it.

Moving is expensive! Good luck.

makingourway said...


Thanks for the thoughts:

I'll probably stay in this house for 12-24 months.

I might actually keep it as a vacation home once I move, but if I can sell it at a break even or a profit, I'll probably sell it. Though I've learned that 1 year is pretty short time to recoup your brokerage fees (5-6%).

Great advice on the items:

I'm probably going to have to go with the movers. Four adults accumulate ALOT of stuff. I have so much crap (and not enough time to get rid of it) that I'll probably fill up a whole large moving van. I have a collectoritis disease.

Also, it's very challenging with kids to actually move yourself - it can be done, but much harder. Their too young to help and need fairly constant interaction. At least one of us will be kept busy with them.

I really like the home depot coupon idea! Thats great. Very nice price, too. Will have to find a home depot - I'm all thumbs.

Same with locks.

You're right about delaying the expenses. I've discussed this with Mrs. Way and she brought up an interesting thought - if we're only there for 1 year, does it make sense to wait for new living room furniture.

At the moment we can't agree on the furniture and have a few old pieces that might suffice, so I think I can delay this choice (hope I can delay it). If I can, that will reduce my deficit by $3000 - a substantial reduction!!

Always go after the big expenses first!

If we can wait until the end of May I can probably make the purchase without going into debt - however - I won't save that month ----ouch!

Anonymous said...

When I moved in to first house, I took the ultra-smart approach of budgeting enough to cover the movers AND NOTHING ELSE!

Looking back, I wonder what I was thinking. Well, obviously I wasn't thinking. This wasn't the first time I'd ever moved, so I'd gone through that series of expenses before. For whatever reason I just chose to ignore them.

Several thousand dollars later (furniture, appliances, window treatments, locks, garbage cans, tools, etc), I smacked myself for being so short-sighted. But I'm sure I'll do it again next time--I'm smooth like that.

makingourway said...


Thanks for the comfort knowing that I'm not the only one that can forget all the other expense items!!

I really appreciate your list - Garbage cans - I was bitten by that problem several houses ago. Not only are they expensive - often you have to either:
a. order them from your municipality
b. go out and buy them and hope they fit in your car

Thanks for the comments $2M and Cory! They are really helpful.

electronixkit said...

I'm doing a paper about the merchandise liquidation and got this post. Its not whar I was looking for but it is a good artical for my Finance class... Very profesional blog.