Saturday, 2 January 2016

How to save money whilst doing a renovation

I've been working hard over the last few days - although it's all quite invisible!

One of the big commitments I made to myself with this house is that I would try and save as much as I could on costs, and help the environment at the same time by upcycling and re-using things that other people want to get rid of. It's fun to go treasure digging in second hand stores and there are many websites that are used by folks to move on their no longer needed items in an easy, eco-friendly way.It's great to know I've saved something from adding to the growing landfill mountain. Here in the Netherlands, I'm an avid user of, and in the UK I used Gumtree & eBay pretty frequently. [Disclosure : I am an eBay employee, however these are my personal opinions - I work there because I *like* what they offer to people]. Facebook groups are interesting to browse, but I find that if you don't spend inordinate amounts of time glued to your electronic device, it's pretty impossible to find listed items you want - very hit and miss at the moment. Salvage yards, charity shops, 'kringloopwinkels' here in the Netherlands, and carboot sales are all grist to the mill.

And of course, the carboot sale to end all carboot sales is coming up again in a few months : King's Day! To celebrate the King's birthday, the Dutch turn out en masse as a nation to sell and buy secondhand goods from every available piece of pavement space, wearing lovely joyous Dutch orange colors and relax with friends and family.

Whilst all these ways are wonderful fun, to take the most advantage of them, it's vital to have a comprehensive 'I want' list. Items come up at random, so you have to be able to grab them well in advance of the date you need to have them. You can't guarantee to find stuff on the day you need it, and that usually means full price shopping as a result.

So the last few days we've been planning out what we want to achieve in 2016 and what we will need to do it. The list is really quite scary ( Evernote is my friend, again  - easy to share between W and myself) - growing every day, and easily over a hundred items already, with bold statements like 'build a shed' & 'repair the barn' amongst them!  Pinterest has been browsed extensively to get inspiration and ideas , and we've been starting to drill down into the item level detail  'we need 30 feet of coving' . Whilst it seems frustrating and a bit of waste of time when you could be out in the garden playing with plants or wielding a power tool, actually planning out what you need, and making sure it's on hand saves loads of time and frustration when it actually comes to 'doing time'.

We've also been checking out the January sales - not as extensive as they are in the UK or the US, but present nonetheless. If we can get something we need now, at half price, rather than in 4-6 months it feels like a good bargain. But of course, remember - it's not a bargain if you don't really need it and it just collects dust and adds to your collection of 'stuff that never gets touched'.

Lastly we've started to watch auctions - sometimes great value when you see the entire stocks of companies that have gone bankrupt being auctioned off for pennies. I just missed a lovely set of travertine tiles for an absolute steal - but as I hadn't measured up and wasn't willing to gamble on such a large expensive purchase, I'll just have to find it again another time.

I've also been starting to hunt for items - and researching how to do new DIY work that we haven't done before. It's made more complex in that I need to research it in English (my Dutch is quite terrible), ask W what the Dutch translation of a highly technical term is, only to discover that he doesn't know the English, and then spend an hour or more with lots of dictionaries before I can start to hunt for the goodies!

We've started to see results already - we knew we wanted some new dining room chairs and up came a lovely set of  6 pre-1900 Belgian carved hardwood chairs that were being got rid of because the rattan seats were falling apart and the owners didn't want to repair them. Instead, they just wanted to get rid, and would probably have sent them to the tip if they hadn't been taken.  At 60 euros for the chairs and about another 20  more for some on sale fabric, some foam, and some plywood we have the makings of a lovely new dining room set!

How do you find your upcycling gems?

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