Finances Q + A


Q: I’d love to see a glimpse of how you two plan and budget for projects. We both work full-time jobs and have a house that needs a lot of TLC. With our busy schedules, there doesn’t seem to be enough hours in the day or days in the weekend. That being the case, I’d love to see how you guys do it. -Lisa

A: One of the projects we have coming up in the near future is a guest room re-do. When we first got the house, we had no idea what our style was, and the current state of the guest room reflects a mix match of styles and left over furniture from our apartment. In light of that, we’re going to try to bring in the modern rustic style we’re aiming for with a plank wall (more on all of that here). Since this is one of the next projects we have up our sleeves, we’re going to use this as an example…

Planning & Budgeting DIY Projects 101 / 7th House on the Left

STEP 1 // TALK IT OUT. We’ve been talking about doing a plank wall for a long time, but this past weekend we finally sat down to officially plan it out. We usually try to sit down and talk about big projects like this together because A) this makes the lines of communication better when it comes time to actually do the project and B) two heads are better than one. Most of the time, Ash catches something I don’t or vice versa. We make a good team like that.

STEP 2 // MAKE A LIST. CHECK IT TWICE. Once we’ve talked through the project from A to Z, we make two lists: a to-do list and a need list. The to-do lists consists of the major steps we have to accomplish in order to get the project finished. The need list is everything we’re going to need for the project – right down the the very last drill bit. If we come across something we already have (in this case, we already have some stain, polyurethane and brushes on hand), we still write it down so we’ll be sure to double check we have enough before we take a trip to the hardware store.

Planning & Budgeting DIY Projects / 7th House on the Left

STEP 3 // TAKE A PRE-SHOPPING TRIP. With our new “need list” in hand (with notes of what we already have), we like to take a quick pre-shopping trip to our local hardware store to check out the prices on stuff we aren’t sure about (like lumber and specific hardware). In our experience, we’ve learned that if you’re doing a larger project, getting a real price for everything is essential. If we were just buying one or two pieces of lumber, it wouldn’t be a big deal if we were off by a dollar or two. For the plank wall project, we’re buying 20+ pieces, so being off by $2 per board would mean we under- or over-budgeted by $40 – which may make a big difference in our budget for the project. Do that enough times over the course of a project, and things add up fast.

Budgeting DIY Projects / 7th House on the Left

STEP 4 // BUDGET & SCHEDULE. Once step three is done, we have a good gist of how much things are going to cost, and we can get an accurate idea of how much the project total is going to be. That’s when we take a look over in our Finance Binder, get a good idea of what our finances look like and schedule a weekend that’s good for us financially and time-wise. Some bigger projects will take some saving up to do as we make it a point to pay cash for everything. That’s when we make a note in our binder to set aside X number of dollars for X project.

STEP 5 // GET TO WORK. If you’ve got everything properly planned, this really is the easy part – even for larger projects. You already know how much everything is going to cost, you’ve scheduled your time to the best of your ability, and you’ve got all the materials on hand and paid for. Just rock out, get it done and try to have fun.

I (especially) love knowing how things are going to go before I get into them, so planning ahead is great for my sanity. On top of that, if you’ve really done your homework, everything should be relatively stress-free. Sure, doing all the planning takes some time, but it’s great to be able to say, “Hey! I figured this might happen, and I have a fix,” when something goes wrong. It makes the whole process a thousand times less stressful.

Free DIY Worksheet Printable / 7th House on the Left

Ashley here! After realizing our “system” is the same for all of our projects (even when we’re just decorating an area of the house), we came up with a fun and handy “DIY Project Worksheet”. You can download our design for free here. Each sheet prints two worksheets – making them the perfect size for stashing in your purse or folding in your wallet. Happy planning!

Lumber photo from here.

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  • Reply
    Megan @ Rappsody in Rooms
    March 4, 2013 at 9:58 am

    Great ideas and what a fun printable! Thanks for sharing!

  • Reply
    March 4, 2013 at 10:20 am

    LOVE this post. Forwarding it to the mister, asap.

  • Reply
    Sara M
    March 4, 2013 at 10:23 am

    I found this post to be really insightful. I’ve never really thought about how we do projects around here but now that I think about it, we can stand to be a little more organized. lol. I guess a thanks goes out to Lisa for asking the question! That print out is so adorable!

  • Reply
    Rebecca Armitage
    March 4, 2013 at 11:04 am

    This exactly how we go about our projects as well. I love making lists and planning things out, figuring out how much tings are going to cost, and where we’re going to get them from. It bothers my husband sometimes, because he’d rather just get in there and start haha. We balance each other quite nicely, I do the prepwork, and he makes me realize we have to jump in and start it eventually hehe. Thanks for the post, I’m sure it’ll help save a number of people’s sanity before they start a project.

  • Reply
    Ashley {GirlyObsessions}
    March 4, 2013 at 11:16 am

    Love your project worksheet! Super cute!

  • Reply
    RENA L.
    March 4, 2013 at 3:05 pm

    Thanks for sharing your worksheet! I truly believe some people are just born with organizational skills. I was so not! πŸ™‚ I love all your posts but have really enjoyed all your posts on organizing. They really have helped. Thanks!

  • Reply
    March 5, 2013 at 12:46 am

    Your blog is rich of great ideas because you both are generous with tips to share! 7th house is one of my favorite blogs πŸ™‚

  • Reply
    Luz of Mysofaslipcovers
    March 5, 2013 at 11:21 pm

    Saved this post for some important notes, love it.

  • Reply
    March 6, 2013 at 10:14 pm

    I read this post right after a long budget/project conversation with my husband (too long, in his opinion). We ended the night with three different Excel spreadsheets. Your printable is SO much easier — and I pay so much more attention to the notes in my purse than to the ones buried on my computer. Thank you for the tips and for the worksheet!

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