Budgeting for home decorating and upkeep: have a plan and stick to it
The late humorist Erma Bombeck once said, “My idea of housework is to sweep the room with a glance.”
Imagine the amount of money you’d save if house cleaning was that simple. Unfortunately, it’s not. Cleaning supplies are just part of your budget line for household supplies. That and paper towels, diapers, personal products and toilet paper fall into that category as well. Some budgeting experts have you put this item in with other expenses under “necessities”.
But furniture, home décor and tools could come in that category as well and they are bigger ticket items. Those expenses tend to be less frequent than regular monthly ones.
If you’re new to budgeting, you can figure out your monthly expenses for most of your household supplies by looking at your receipts and adding up what you spend on these products over a period of time and take an average. Going out a year is best but not everyone keeps receipts that long, and your checking account or credit card may not break the spending down in enough detail.
You may end up having to finetune your budget as you develop a better receipt tracking system. A mobile or desktop computer application would help you with that if you’re technology minded.
As you look at those expenses, you should note periods of higher use. For example, summer months may take more cleaning because the kids are at home.
Of course, you could get a cleaning service rather than stocking up on cleaning supplies. That requires a cost-benefit analysis. Include in that analysis the cost of your time and the other benefits you gain from not spending the time cleaning. You may find out it’s worth the monthly expense.
But if you’re the type who is intent on the do-it-yourself approach, you can save money on the supplies. Find sales. Use coupons. Buy in bulk. Put the money you save toward savings or other expenses.
Big ticket items: budgeting for new furnishings
Or, you invest that money in buying a new couch or a mattress and box spring. New furnishings can carry a hefty price tag. The average cost for all pieces of living room furniture for an apartment runs about $2,200. For a home, the cost can run about $14,000 for a standard setup. High end can run you nearly $50,000. A couch alone could cost $5,000.
Buying new takes planning and budgeting, unless you have the funds saved already to buy a $5,000 couch. Which many of us don’t
One way of saving for furniture is to set up a separate bank account specifically for new furniture. You pay yourself and then transfer money to the furniture account. Setting up separate bank accounts is a budgeting trick for managing expenses.
If you’re on a limited budget, you can find deals. Shop thrift stores. Shop online. Warehouse clubs are great options. Find a scratch and dent store. Try convincing the store to sell you the floor model.
But then you have the do-it-yourselfers, people who would much rather make the furniture than buy it. That requires tools. Depending on the tools, it can get pricey. A good table saw, for example, can run hundreds of dollars. A top-notch table saw can cost in the thousands.
Then you have the drills, sanders, jigsaw, circular saw, hammer, measuring tools, screws, and nails. Of course, you also have the wood, paint or stain, and sealer. The cost begins to run up there to make your own. It just requires planning and budgeting like any other big-ticket items when putting aside for the projects.
Start smaller: budgeting for decor
Instead of going full bore with projects, you could start small with basic home décor items. There are plenty of small projects you could do to spiff up the home for not a lot of cost.
No matter how you choose to budget for household supplies, the key is always to ensure that your checking account is growing. You may have a phobia about the word “budget”. Many people do, according to Keith Newcomb, founder of Full Life Financial in Nashville, Tennessee.
“They feel enslaved by it,” he said, adding that an easy inspection of your finances is a way of fighting the budget phobia.
“You can simply look at your checking account and see if it’s growing, shrinking or staying steady,” he said. “That will give you a snapshot, and then you can decide how imperative it is to dig into your spending.”
If you dig in, Newcomb said take the checking account statement and do a line-item mark-up of spending: “have to”, “just wanted to”, and “wish I hadn’t”. Then, he said, budget so you don’t have a lot of “wish I hadn’t.”
“The feeling of having a bunch of items you wish you hadn’t spent money on is like having a hangover,” he said. He added that the idea is to be financially fit and to get the priorities in order.