Trying Not to Spend Money

Now that I’ve been home for 14 weeks (!!!), the baby and I are finally getting into a daily routine. She’s getting tummy time, eating like a champ and suddenly sleeping 7 hours a night, all of which makes for a very happy mommy.

It also gives me a bit of extra free time. Free time that has me looking around the house and wanting to improve the decor. This is a bad, bad thing, because home decor is probably my one money weakness.

The new curtains

Back in January, we ordered new sofas, which arrived far earlier than the 12-14 weeks the store estimated — they were here in just 4 weeks. They’re a berry red, while the old living room accents are blue — curtains, area rug and wall decor. So I splurged on beautiful curtains from JCPenney to match our new couches — $160, with discount/sale. They look nice, but now I’m trying to wait a bit to get a new area rug and pictures for the walls. Never mind the fact that we still need to get a new coffee table and TV stand to complete the room transformation…

I’d also bought a new comforter set for our bed to match our newly renovated room and its light-gray wall color. That was $110.

Yesterday, I went to Bed, Bath & Beyond to pick up some more coffee K-cups — Baby Frugalista has turned me into a coffee fiend — and came home with dark, cordless cellular blinds for the baby’s room to keep out the sun in the mornings. Those were $60 after applying my 20% off coupons.

And there are so many other things on my home to-do list. Of course, we have a lot of things we want to do to our home to renovate it further. I want to replace all of the interior doors with white 6-panel models. We need to redo the upstairs bathroom to complete the second-floor renovations. Eventually, I want to get new kitchen countertops, and I’m contemplating doing the floor tile myself while I’m home on maternity leave. Our first-floor bathroom also needs a revamp, but it’s a lot better than the upstairs one (pine wood walls, anyone?).

Outside, our mint-green aluminum trim is outdated, and makes us the recipients of contractor brochures and letters, promising the best price on siding painting. We don’t have a deck or patio, and our landscaping is the laugh of the block. Those are all long-term projects, but in the meantime, I’ll be spending a bit more money to buy some pretty flowers to spruce up our front yard.

Baby Frugalista is Here!

Sorry I’ve been AWOL for a while, but it was for a very good reason — Baby Frugalista entered the world five weeks earlier than expected!

Emily Leia was born on Groundhog Day, following a nasty ice storm here in the Northeast. I woke up for work at 8 am that Wednesday and *woooosh* — my water broke! There was no turning back at that point. While Mr. NSF ran around in circles, I calmly packed a bag (which I was going to do the coming weekend) and off we went to the hospital, which was only 5 minutes away. Contractions didn’t start until 12:30 pm, and then I was put on pitocin & saline drips. IVs in my hand = ick. But the pitocin, which is supposed to help get the contractions going some more, did the trick. By 2 pm I was howling for the epidural. That wasn’t a fun experience, either, but it was worth it.

Baby Frugalista was born at 6:27 p.m. Our little peanut topped out at 4 lbs., 8 oz. and 17 3/4 inches long at birth. We were blessed that she was able to hold her own and didn’t have to be kept any longer than the 2 days I was in the hospital. By the time she came home, she was only 4 lbs., but two weeks later, we’ve fattened her up to 5 lbs.

We were underprepared — the contractor had just finished our bedroom renovations, and the room still needed to be painted — but I wouldn’t change anything for the world.

And in case you didn’t know how crazy ambitious I can be when it comes to home improvement projects, I was painting that room just a week after coming home from the hospital. The rugs were put in a few days after that, and we’re finally back in our bedroom — and out of the baby’s room. We’ll be putting the crib together this weekend. I can finally decorate the nursery!

Our upstairs renovations are finished!

Personal finance portion of this post: Man, are diapers & formula expensive! I’m nursing, but I have to supplement with formula right now. Luckily, I’d signed up with the formula manufacturers and already have a number of the ‘checks’ (coupons) they send.

Little Bites: A Frugal Snow Day

Since I was stuck in the house after yet another snowstorm here in New Jersey (19 inches this time, on top of the foot or so that was still on the ground), I didn’t spend any money today. Instead, I worked from home and then spent some time mending holes in a few socks, followed by sewing up a rip in my favorite pair of maternity jeans (for, oh, the fourth time!).

Yes, the fourth time. I love these suckers, made by Motherhood Maternity, but the material is crappy and thin. First, I got holes at the corner of the pockets. But this time, it was a rip in the groin area — not a good look. I sewed it up tight since I really didn’t want to put a patch there. Just last a few more weeks, please!

As for the socks, Mr. NSF asked me what the hell I was doing. When I told him I was sewing up the holes made by my overly long big toe, he rolled his eyes, laughed, and told me to just buy new socks. I can only make the man so frugal, right?

Bedroom Renovation: (Almost) Finished

In other news, our bedroom renovations are now complete — I’m very excited about that! Mr. NSF and his dad will clean up the room this weekend and apply the primer coat to the walls and ceiling. There are 3 closets that need to be painted, which will be a pain. This time, I won’t be helping, though. My job is to get blinds and curtains. Needless to say, I’m feeling pretty helpless at this point. I was scraping spackle off the floor with a putty knife taped to the end of a pole — with one hand and minimal force — and I got yelled at. “You don’t need to do that!” No, I don’t, but I gotta do SOMETHING. Oh, and I may or may not have wired an outlet or two last night…

I’m getting pricing on wall-to-wall carpeting for the upstairs, and I hope that can be done in the next 2-3 weeks, because our bedroom furniture (and the baby’s) is currently all in the baby’s room, and it’s getting closer and closer to “go time.”

I’m Now in Semi-Panic Mode

That “nesting instinct” everyone keeps talking about? It’s finally kicked in! And there’s not a damned thing I can do at the moment.

Our two upstairs bedrooms are in flux — but good flux, for lack of a better description. While we’d finished the baby’s room around Thanksgiving, our bedroom still needed to go through the complete renovation process. Thank goodness Grandpa came to the rescue! As our ridiculously-generous Christmas gift, he’s paying for professionals to replace the knotty pine walls and tiled ceiling with properly sheetrocked surfaces. In just 6 days, the contractors have done what took us 13 months to get through ourselves. On their end, all that’s left to do is put in new windows and molding/trim. That leaves us with painting and carpeting. No small tasks, either.

Right now, our bedroom is full of furniture — our set of bed/dresser/chest and the baby’s new dresser & chest of drawers. The crib is also in there, albeit in a humongous box. Can’t even put that together until after the carpet is ordered and installed, since once assembled, the crib won’t fit through the doorway to allow for the new carpeting to be put down.

So I can’t set up the baby’s room (“nursery” sounds so pretentious to me for some reason…) until this is all done. I’m not so concerned about our bedroom. But now, as I’m rounding the bases and heading for home — almost 34 weeks along! — I’m really panicking. My days and nights are consumed with thoughts of what I need to do before this little one comes. As I keep telling Mr. NSF, “full term” is considered 37 weeks and beyond. That’s just 3 weeks away! Although I’m convinced we’re going to have to coerce Baby Frugalista out of her current surroundings.

I’m hoping to pick out and order carpeting this weekend for the two rooms and the hallway in between, and also decide on the paint color for the walls. If I can get that done, I’ll at least feel better about our progress.

Home Renovations and Maternity Leave

As I mentioned right after Thanksgiving, we finally finished renovating one of the two bedrooms on our second floor, which will serve as the baby’s room. But with barely two months left before Baby Frugalista arrives, we still need to renovate the other bedroom.

As of right now, we’ve moved our bedroom set into the renovated bedroom AND have the baby’s furniture in there, too. Luckily, the rooms are pretty large. But I really want everything settled before March. Partly to stop me from freaking out over it and partly out of the goodness of their hearts, our parents are helping us get this room done a lot quicker than it would take had we done the work ourselves. Someone will actually be paid to do the work.

On Monday, a contractor friend of my father-in-law’s will arrive to finish gutting the room, start framing it out and then sheetrock it. Oh, how happy I will be to have it done. If they can finish it up in a few weeks, there’s a good chance we can get carpeting installed in both rooms by mid-February. Then we can sort the furniture properly into the two rooms, although I’m sure the baby will be sleeping in the room with us for the first few months. And if it doesn’t get finished before I give birth, it won’t be the end of the world.

Maternity Leave

I officially stated to my job what will be the last day before going out on maternity leave — February 24. I’ll be using up my vacation days from 2010 to go out early, because if I don’t use them by the end of June, I’ll lose them. And I don’t want to take a chance that I could use them at the end of June after my disability/family leave pay is finished, because with my luck, I”ll go late and blow any chance of using the days.

Thanks the the generosity of my employer and a lot of freelance work I’ve done over the past 6-7 months, I plan to be home with the baby for a full 6 months. The first three months I will receive disability and family leave insurance payments, but the rest of the time, we’re on our own. That’s where our savings account will come in. All of the bills will be paid, without putting a super-big dent in our savings. Plus, we should get a nice tax refund in March (or whenever the darned IRS gets to processing our return). The IRS has announced that people who itemize using Schedule A (us, of course) shouldn’t submit their tax returns until a to-be-announced date, estimated to be mid to late February.

I’m starting to feel like there’s so much to be done around this house, and I’m getting nowhere. Must be the nesting instinct everyone keeps talking about!

Our DIY Room is FINALLY Finished

It only took 13 months, but we’ve finally completed the bedroom that will be the baby’s room. For now, we’ve moved our bedroom furniture into the room and plan to have the baby’s furniture in there, too, while the other room gets renovated.

Thanks to a bunch of family members pitching in, we were able to finish this room ourselves, but we’ve pretty much decided that we will be doing a minimum of the work when it comes to updating the other bedroom (which will be ours again once done). We’re currently working on getting some estimates for the framing (we raised the ceiling from 7 to 8 feet; it’s a Cape Cod home so we had room to do this) and drywall work, which was the biggest bear for us. Gutting the room and putting up new insulation is a breeze in comparison.

However, we won’t be doing the flooring until both rooms are done. In the meantime, we cleaned up the old tile floor the best we could and put some area rugs over it in the “new” room. The new paint job is actually lavender, and the color is richer than it appears.

Here are some before and after pictures.

EDIT: I really didn’t think I needed to explain this, but the wood paneling is the BEFORE room. Completely out-of-date, knotty pine paneling, circa-1960. Thought the modernized drywall, paint job and updated trim in the last two pictures made it clear!

BEFORE:

AFTER:

A Busy Halloween Weekend

I had a pretty busy weekend. The end result is that the bedroom is ready for the trim to be nailed up and painted with a second coat, and the floor cleaned — then it will finally be DONE until the very end of our second floor renovations, when we’ll have carpeting put down. There’s no sense in doing it now, as there will still be renovating going on up there.

Over the course of Saturday and Sunday, the upstairs room was successfully repainted from yellow to lavender, as were the closets, and the trim got a coat of semi-gloss white — and I may or may not have done it entirely by myself. I plead the fifth. Let’s just say my impatience is legendary, and even more pronounced thanks to the massive amounts of hormones currently circulating throughout my body.

Saturday night was our costume party. Instead not dressing up at all and being a “Debbie Downer,” as my husband lovingly refers to me in instances such as this, I went with the second-easiest course of action: jeans, sweater, leftover devil ears and tail, and cat makeup. I felt ridiculous, but eventually forgot about the extra goop on my face. We didn’t get home until 2:30 a.m., which is a record for me in the past few months. We brought a nice bottle of wine for the hosts and I enjoyed the impressive spread put out.

Where I wasted money was on the five bags of Halloween candy I’d purchased for the holiday — we only got TWO trick-or-treaters, even though it was a Sunday. While it’s officially our second Halloween in our current home, we weren’t home last year, so I had no idea how many kids to expect. Next year, someone remind me that one bag will be more than sufficient.

On Monday I’ll be doing my invoice billing for October while waiting for the utility company to send a guy over to repair a gas line I had capped last summer. Our all-season porch room has its own gas heater, but last year we discovered the gas line was leaking. Since I wasn’t sure what we were going to do with the heater back there, I just had the guy cap the line, but now I want it repaired. I should have had them fix it the first time — now this guy will have to crawl all the way back in the storage space under the room to do the repair. But I’m going to want to keep that room warm once the baby comes. In the case of a C-section where I can’t really do the stairs, I can use the room as a bedroom, thanks to the futon we have back there. And in general, it gets really cold back there, since the ductwork for our main forced-air heat was never extended into that room.

I’ll also have to squeeze in some grocery shopping. Then it will be nap time and yet another late shift at work, starting at 5 p.m.