Monday, January 18, 2016

Home UpGraddes (With 2 D's For a Double Dose of Frugality)

One of my New Year's Resolutions found in this recent post was embrace my love of travel, but find a way to do it, frugal rock style! If you're new to this blog, you may not know quite what that means yet, but in summary it's embracing a low spending/high saving lifestyle. While this may sound like in proportion to our spending less/saving more our fun would go down- decreased spending, decreased fun. Not true!

Last week, Mr. Frugal Rock and I were kicking it old school- road tripping across the country. We were gone for a week, visiting friends and family along the way. I hope to gather my top frugal road trip ideas for you for an upcoming post- so far the frugal highlights have been a well stocked cooler with prepared snacks and meals so we could avoid the fast food pitfalls (also saving $$) and make good time since we can eat on the road. A close second was all the books on CD we checked out from the local library. I would highly recommend 'What If?' by Ronald Munroe for your road trip pleasure...It's not my usual read but it's perfect for car rides as Munroe spends 10 minutes exploring a question in detail before moving on to the next one! Ever wanted to learn if sticking a nuke in a hurricane could stop the weather event? How about the statistical probability of finding your 1 soul mate? Or my personal favorite- how fast would a steak need to fall through the atmosphere so that it was cooked when it landed on the earth's surface? While these three questions were not on my personal 'need to know' list- the answers were entertaining!

But the meantime, here is a new article on easy upgrades to your home or apartment that can make a big difference- while also helping to save you green!!

When I was first looking for housing we toured a lot of homes- I actually made Mr. Frugal Rock and I clipboards with checklists of home features we were interested in and we took a lot of notes on the houses we liked. Without fail, the ones that stood out had nice upgrades that set it apart. Some were expensive upgrades that the owners probably never made their money back on selling the house, but others were easy ones that when we bought our home - we made sure to do right away. To save you the trouble of touring a whole mess of homes, here are my top 3 upgrades that you can do now! 
Keyless Schlage Deadbolt Locks

1. Upgrade to Keyless Locks

Never need to carry around keys again? Why yes please! Keyless entry pretty much rocked my world, and has led to me not carrying house keys 99.99% of the time. Keyless entry is very simple, you install the locking mechanism very much like you would install a normal door handle or deadbolt. The lock is battery powered so no electrical expertise is necessary. A major plus for me! At the Frugal Rock home, we have installed the keyless deadbolts on our front and back doors and use this exclusively for locking/unlocking. Since installing two years ago, our batteries are still running strong, since they are only engaged when you hit the keypad, very little power is drawn. Being a little bit of a nervous homeowner (did you hear that noise?), I did wonder about what would happen when the battery went out, but the operating manual assured us that it would annoyingly beep at us when it was time to change the battery.

The second plus is you can change the code at any time or even have a code that only works during certain timeframes. For example, if you have someone who comes to your house during the day- babysitter, dog-walker etc. you can have a different code that they use that wouldn't work on a night or weekend. A one time code, is an option for some models, works well if you have workmen or movers coming to the home. It's also very easy to re-set so if for some reason you want to change the code, it can be done in minutes. It's made things easy for us if we have someone stopping by the house to just give them the code, as opposed to getting keys made.

The cost isn't outrageous either- you can purchase on Amazon or at your local hardware store. The Frugal Rock home uses the Schlage keyless deadbolt, which retails for about $85 bucks. Other models may be over $100, but I've found our model does just fine. Now if you are moving into a new home and want to re-key the locks without spending $50+ you can try a re-key kit ($12.99 at Home Depot) or replace your locks for about $30 a piece, however the lack of hassle of going keyless has been great and it's an easy and cheap upgrade.

* On a side note- as I mentioned we were recently traveling, which is always an adventure. We had planned to stay at least one night at a friend's home who was out of town. We had a key in hand, and upon arriving couldn't get the key to work. After trying it in every exterior door (probably looking like we were 'casing' the joint) we surmised either the key had been made wrong or we had been given the wrong key- not hard to do by any stretch of the imagination. Keyless locks would have solved the problem, as we could have just called and gotten the code. Just a thought for you Air BNB folks out there!

2. Ditch the Dated Light Fixtures

Is there anything worse than a ceiling fan with faux wood blades?? How about the 90's trend of gilded light fixtures? Have great light fixtures- you probably hardly notice them, but bad lighting, and it's guaranteed to be the first thing everyone walking into your home notices. 

Replacing a light fixture is a homeowner must- as I learned shortly after we moved in...our bathroom light fixtures, and our bedroom ceiling fan were huge busts. Our bedroom ceiling fan was MASSIVE, way to big for the room, and the faux wood blades and gold needed to go! You can find great looking light fixtures without breaking the bank by checking out your local hardware or big box store- here Home Depot or Menards reign supreme. So Mr. Frugal Rock and I spent some time perusing both places before settling on the fixtures we wanted.

When touring homes, a simple feature we saw again and again was remote lighting in the master bedroom. Getting out of bed to turn out your overhead lights, is soooo 2008. We recently upgraded our bedroom with a ceiling fan that allows you to control the light and fan speeds by remote.

While ceiling fans or new light fixtures are often an under $100 upgrade, if replacing completely is out of budget, try upgrading your fixtures with a few tricks. Depending on the light fixture, you may be able to get away with replacing the bulbs to give the fixture a new effect- think replacing vanity lighting with a frosted bulb for a more elegant esthetic. If that doesn't work, don't underestimate the use of paint (yes, even on light fixtures) to make a big difference. You can paint metal light fixtures or old fan blades. If you are thinking of replacing them anyway, why not take a risk and see if you can salvage for just a fraction of the price of a new one?

3. Add Built-ins to Maximize Space

Small built-in's can really take a room from being ordinary to standing out. When we were house hunting and touring homes, I distinctly remember a home, that had a tiny kitchen but amazing, narrow, cabinetry in each corner that was built in. This increased function as well as created a key focal point, you hardly noticed the small area, because the space was so maximized.

I have fallen hard for built-ins in the past two years. Lucky for me, I have a few skilled trades folk in my family and Mr. Frugal Rock is pretty adventurous with power tools (also why we have a first aid kit always on hand). In our home, we added a large ceiling to floor built in bookshelf, that also acts as our TV cabinet, as well as built-in benches forming a banquette seating area (yep, that's the actual name for that type of seating- look it up!). The bookshelves and the benches were hand-crafted for about the same price as purchasing a removable option (think several bookshelves, or benches) but instead really makes the room look special. The benches also do a great job hiding all the junk that we store in them... they have taken on extra serving ware we rarely use and a plethora of other objects as well!

If you have ever contacted a custom furniture company, you know that it can get really expensive quickly, but there are some key ways to save major $$ on the project. The first (and most obvious) is to DIY it. Now, I know a bunch of you are ready to leave this page thinking..."DIY...ugh, the trend that never dies..."! Give yourself some credit- while you may not be able to jump right in and build something massive, most tutorials have easy to follow instructions that break down every step along the way. Lack of power tools holding you back? Home Depot will often times let you rent the tools you need for a low price, which may be worth it if you can crank your project out in a few short days. Don't be afraid to ask around either, we've saved money in the past by borrowing specific tools from family and friends- and have shared what we have as well. If you are going to venture into the unknown, I'm a fan of, where DIY fans can upload instructions from the relevant to the insane. Prepare to do some digging, but it makes you appreciate all the creativity out there!

Mirrors in small spaces can help
the area seem brighter!
The other option is to purchase a ready-made item that can be made to look custom. When I began searching for a way to add a built-in wardrobe to our bedroom, I could not find anything more space efficient, low in price or as perfect for storage, as the Ikea Pax Wardrobe System. I kept mine 'as is' but there are plenty of examples online (check out this feature on Apartment Therapy), of more adventuresome design bloggers who have turned the wardrobes into expensive looking pieces of furniture. But isn't cheaper furniture I've been surprised with my wardrobe- the doors and shelving are heavy-duty and after two years show no sign of wear and tear. Having also purchased more expensive furniture that hasn't held up, I can attest to the fact that more expensive does not always equate to better when you are talking furniture!

If you definitely can't do it yourself, try utilizing independent contractors or a handy-person as opposed to a custom building company. Many construction jobs have 'off-seasons' when individuals may be looking for odd cash jobs.

Are you working on any home upgrades? What are ways that you have updated your home or apartment? Any secrets you have to save money on home improvements?

PS. If the title of this post leaves you wondering- check out the movie won't regret it.

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