Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Buying Another Fixer Upper

Before our trip to Pensacola last week Austin said one thing, "Buy us a nice house not a junky one that you have to fix up." And I tried to do just that. I really did. But, fixer upper houses are just in my blood.
We spent four days looking at house after house, from the grand traditional home on the golf course with great space but a pool that was just a bit too small to the foreclosure that we expected to love but didn't. We saw a pre-approved short sale, a colonial with an in-law apartment, and there was that one that smelled so much like dog that we couldn't wait to finish the tour. By the end of day three (of our four day trip), we were no closer to making a decision than we were when we arrived. We knew one thing-the best house for us is one that we can customize-and afford to customize.
We ended up in Gulf Breeze in a neighborhood protected on one side by the Naval Live Oaks National Seashore and Pensacola Bay on the other. According to the listing agent "it is located in the most idealistic setting. Just add a pool and you will truly have found your paradise." The location is perfect. The house, well, not so perfect, yet...
We spent the last day of our house hunting trip meeting with a contractor for a new addition, a pool company for a bid on the pool that we hope to design, the vinyl company for new vinyl and windows and the flooring company-I can not even move in until the ugly purple carpet from 1984 is gone. We took pictures of the big yard, the driveway that is big enough for all of our cars and a basketball court for Cal. I picked oranges from the trees that line the left side of the property, as a peace offering to Austin and the other kids. Anything to soften the blow that we have yet again, bought a fixer upper. All I can do is assure them that when the work is done it will be perfect!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Gearing Up for Black Friday Shopping

I look forward to Black Friday shopping like kids look forward to Christmas. they wake up early full of anticipation and excitement wondering what Santa brought, and I wake up at 4 o'clock in the morning ready to shop-til-I-drop on Black Friday. Everyone else is in bed and it is chilly and dark; either you love it or you hate it.
I have been a Black Friday shopper for as long as I can remember. I've mastered the process of getting my hands on the best deals, the ones that seem to disappear as soon as the doors open. Years ago when I learned about price matching I stood flustered at the registers, fumbling with the ads while trying to remember which store had the best price. I later learned that price matching begins long before you get in line and can not be done without being armed with the ads, sticky notes and a pen and a good memory. From the time you get your hands on the Thursday paper, the one on Thanksgiving that weighs more than any other because it is filled with good tidings and great deals, to waiting in the check out line with an overflowing shopping cart, there is a method to the madness of Black Friday shopping that starts now.

Make A List
Make a list of all the people that you have to buy Christmas gifts for. Keep it in a spiral notebook. Include EVERYONE that you buy for-teachers, cousins, the baby that is due in early December, your secretary, your mail carrier.

Go Through Your Inventory
I shop for Christmas gifts all year while saving the bulk of the shopping for the holiday season. It is important to spend some time locating where those gifts are hidden around the house, taking an inventory of what you have bought and matching it with the names on your list to see what's left to buy.

If you have kids you know that over the course of a year their toys, clothes and shoes start to pile up. Before starting the holiday shopping clean and organize the kids' rooms. Donate toys that are no longer used to make room for new toys. Don't forget to go through books and clothes too. If there is no space in your daughter's room for the perfect shaggy pink chair she has been asking for then don't plan to buy it.

Start Saving
If you haven't already put money aside for Christmas shopping it's not too late to start. Curb spending for the month. Pick up a few extra hours at work. Bring returns and exchanges back to the store that you have been putting off. The store credit slips and cash back into your account or your credit card will come in handy on Black Friday.

Buy Black Trash Bags
Don't wait until you have a trunk full of toys and no way to discreetly get them inside, buy black trash bags and keep them in your vehicle. While some stores like Target make special shopping bags for the holidays that are large and dark red, you can't count on that treatment everywhere. Black trash bags are handy at concealing gifts until there is time to wrap them.