Wednesday, January 4, 2017

The Virgin's Guide to Setting Up House

Just recently I was able to set up a new home; the first home Lizard Boy and I purchased together.  It is 1,098 square feet of Paid Cash, All Ours, and Bought Together.  There are still some walls that I would like to paint, and a hole in the bathroom that confirms the need for some remodeling.  But imperfect though it may be, it is completely ours - and complete.

Before this stage in my life, I would likely have gone overboard on the setting up side of home ownership.  Even now, I can’t help feeling we spent more money here and there than I would have, if here and there had been here and now.  Although we had the cash on hand at the time, I would prefer to have a little more cash in the savings account today.

Setting up your own home is an exciting time.  But it is easy to go overboard, especially when setting up your first home.  Big box stores like Ikea and Walmart cater to the idea that you can have a perfect home right now, without investing in high-end pieces.  But the pieces I have purchased from big box stores have virtually all gone over time, and I’ve come to realize the value of saving up for what I really want, instead of buying what I can “afford” right this second.

Here are some categories where you might be tempted to overspend when setting up house, but trust me: living small until you know what you really want is worth the wait in dollars and space.

Cookware - 14 pieces on sale for just $1,149.00!  While the idea of 10 matching pots and pans may get your juices flowing, the reality is you will find your favorite pot and favorite pan and the rest with gather dust in the cabinets.  Instead of buying the whole cow, look for one good frying pan and a multi-purpose pot that you can use the heck out of.  

Bakeware - I am not a baker.  I love baked goods, but the careful chemistry required to create delectable delicacies is simply not my piece of pie.  If you’re a big-time baker, you might need a few more cake pans than I do.  But if you’re just starting off on your own, opt for just a cookie sheet for now, and pick out the cake and pie pans as birthdays and holidays dictate.

Dinnerware - Consider investing in a few pieces bone china, which is sturdier and more versatile than plastic or ceramic, instead of a huge box setting for 24 people. Lizard Boy and I live with a 6-setting set and it hasn’t let us down in the year-and-a-half that we’ve been married.  However, a matching set of dinnerware does help nail down a sense of home, and also encourages you to eat in more during this financially crucial season.  I love our set from Red Vanilla, which was a wedding gift from our friends.  A great feature to this particular brand (with which I have no affiliation), is that you can purchase replacement items individually.  That way, if you break or lose a piece, you can replace it without having to replace the whole set.

Small Appliances - A good friend of mine is still storing a bread maker, pasta machine, and espresso factory in her guest bedroom.  This isn’t a storage sin, but the small appliances on her wedding registry don’t fit in the kitchen of the 2-bedroom apartment that she thought she was going to move out of almost 2 years ago, and still hasn’t.  Once you know a little more about your own cooking habits, you can invest in pieces you know you will benefit from (yes, I own a mid-quality rice cooker and love that thing).  In the meantime.  Get creative with your cooking pot for rice and a mixing bowl for bread.

Dining Furniture - If you’re like me, dreams of elegant dinner parties where crystal and silver shine from the white tablecloth dot your fantasies like flowers in a field.  I have to admit that ninety percent of the time we eat in front of the TV.  If growing up eating dinner with family around the table is a reality for you, I am not telling you not to continue that tradition.  But if you are like many of us, and don’t have dinner parties on a weekly basis, a small table and a couple of chairs, or even a couple of bar stools for the kitchen counter are the more economical way to free up space - and funds - for the young adult party.

Patio Sets - Like the dining suite, a patio set is only as valuable as the number of times you use it.  A couple of chairs are likely to see use, but unless you have a million-dollar ocean view, try making do without the $4,000 lounge set until your lifestyle requires it for company.  And, of course, until  you can pay cash for it.

Knick-Knacks - I’ve seen it too; the precisely “styled” rooms on DIY and HGTV.  And yes, they’re beautiful.  But consider that each item they add - basket, candle holder, and book - costs something and is placed there literally to look pretty.  Add onto it that each item needs to be dusted, and “styling” a room becomes much less appealing.  Instead of shopping for items to fill a space, let empty spaces breathe awhile and live empty.  As you collect memories and memorabilia, let those reminders of your life fill the spaces.  For now, use those spaces to dream, instead of filling them with a fantasy that may not come true.

Pieces Worth the Investment

There are a few things that I’ve learned are worth going ahead and investing in - if you have the cash on hand, of course.  Though these can be big-ticket items, they will have a bigger impact on your day-to-day living than most of the small pieces you will pick up throughout your adventuresome life:

Art - I can’t count the number of posters and prints I have "donated" to Goodwill in my lifetime.  My love of art mislead me to think pretty pictures mean a pretty home.  Since high school, my home has sported themes from nautical to mid-mod to minimalist.  With each change of theme has come a change of artwork, until I landed on the realization that, like beds and sofas, art does not have to match to look good together.  I now only purchase original art pieces, from oils to etchings, and only the pieces that I like regardless of subject matter make the cut. Yes, this means some of my walls are bare. But it means I get to save my pennies until the perfect piece comes my way.

Bed - I really recommend against purchasing an expensive bed frame at this point in your life.  Until you mature into a specific style, a headboard attached to a basic frame is much less costly and simpler to change as your tastes do. Also, if you are single now and get married, you may find that you have a very different style in mind than your spouse. (Cue entry of Lizardboy and his inexplicable affinity for Rustic Spanish style furniture.)  A quality mattress, however, will make all the difference in your rest and health.  The good news is, you don’t have to purchase a $3,000 mattress to sleep well. Mattresses, like computers, improve across the industry at a similar pace.  Make sure you test out a mattress before buying it, and plan to spend a long time lying in a public place. Or opt for a company that offers a 90 or 100-day trial period.

Sofa / Seating - A big heads up on sofas: while it may seem like a great idea to run out and buy a “cheap” sofa from a big box store “just for now,” cheap sofas really aren’t all that cheap, and the ones that are cheap turn out to be very uncomfortable.  Consider buying a used sofa for a hundred bucks or going without for a couple months to save up and buy one that is a) comfortable for your shape and size, b) sized appropriately for your home, c) a wood-frame quality piece that can be reupholstered as time and stains require.

Am I missing anything?  Let me know in the comments.

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