Monday, March 29, 2010


A few weeks ago, we went through that once yearly ritual that millions of Americans do every year. Taxes.

Now, let me get something out. I actually like doing our taxes. I'm a math nerd, so I don't mind doing the relatively simple math by hand in a way that actually affects our lives. I usually do them twice by hand (jointly and separate) and then check it with Turbo Tax. Unfortunately this year we had virtually no refund. As in, I can answer the question "What are you going to buy with your refund?" with "A couple of Diet Dr. Peppers out of the vending machine." But I know this is the best strategy for us.

Tax time is also a great time to look back at the year and see how we're doing financially. We were happy with a couple of areas. Retirement savings and investments are doing great, and our income is coming back up after a major pay cut last year thanks to the recession (we're back to pre-recession levels!). But there's one area that is NOT doing so hot at all.

Our general savings has dwindled. Even with our huge tax refund in 2008, our savings are much lower than they were after we bought the house in March. Of course, buying the house took out a sizeable chunk, but owning the house has taken up just as much. So here it is: the moment of truth:

Our house reno/deco budget has majorly shrunk for 2010. We thought our bonuses would carry us through with the projects we wanted to do. But within days of receiving those, we found out that we needed to some non-fun structural work on the house, and that I needed oral surgery, which would cost me a pretty penny out of pocket. So for now, the plan is to take care of that major work, have the outside trim painted (another thing that desperately needs to be done), and then slow waaaaaaaay down.

So my goal of "finishing" the house this year? Not going to happen. But luckily, we still have plenty of projects that we've planned and bought for, just waiting for some sweat equity.

1. Kitchen backsplash. The tile should arrive sometime this week. Maybe with the long Easter weekend, we can knock this one out soon!

2. Master Bath. No, we're not doing the mini-reno we have our hearts set on just yet. But a quick facelift with some paint we already have will take it from dreary to bright.

3. Sewing. I've got plenty of fabric and materials for various DIY projects. I've already got plans for a roman shade in the kitchen and an orange themed laundry room pick-me-up.

4. The yard. Well, we don't actually have the materials for this one, but it's a priority for us this year. We may not actually be able to get to the prettier stuff, but we'll be fighting the never ending battle with weeds and vines in a poorly maintained back yard. And hopefully prettying up the front yard and porch on the cheap.

We're going back to a strict high savings budget (eerily similar to the one we were on when saving for the house), so there's little room for wiggling in big projects. But you can bet I'll be saving my pennies for additional projects, and asking for paint and hardware gift cards for any and all present related holidays. Maybe we'll end up rid of the pukey tan living room after all.