Looking for Inspiration: Bedroom Decor Ideas

Now that we bought our bedroom furniture, we’re ready to finally paint and decorate our bedroom. We originally started with navy as our primary color, but after buying such dark walnut furniture, we might need to lighten things up a bit. Granted, we’ll hold off on buying a new bed collection (need something to put on the wedding registry), but I’m on the lookout for some inspiration anyway. Here’s what I’ve fallen in love with so far:

hdvote-cook-bedroom_w609

6Charalambous_houseinpotoma_lg

lori-dennis-orange-bedroom3_lg

Charalambous-Andreas-Tan-Bedroom_lg

erinn-valencich-mariah-bedroom_lg

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July 27, 2009 at 8:08 pm 5 comments

4 Quick Tips for Getting Out of a Financial Rut

It’s that time again. The time when all of our plans and invitations have stacked up against us and caused us to bleed financially. This tends to happen in waves, and this summer, we’re feeling the pinch. Over the last couple months, we’ve parted with large sums of money in the form of wedding and birthday gifts, graduation gifts, and a trip to the Outer Banks in North Carolina. We also (finally) purchased our bedroom set, an Aerobed, and a new suit for Shawn. In the coming weeks, we’ve got a few more weddings to keep in mind as well.

save_moneyNeedless to say, we’ve been thinking about money. We’re not freaking out, but we need to tighten up a bit. Over the last few years, I’ve found it easier and easier to slip into “saving mode”. 1. because I’ve had to do this before and 2. because we have come up with a systematic game plan. A few months of maintenance and we’re back in business. I suggest the following steps, inspired by Frugal Dad’s post on becoming a debt-killing machine:

  1. Log in to Mint.com. It is the single one budgeting tool my lifestyle has needed. Before Mint.com, I put my bills and recurring payments into cruise control and used a “sense” to determine how much I had left to spend on everything else. A “sense”. Give me a break. Mint.com lets you rope in all of your accounts together so you can see your spending in one place. Your income, transfers, deposits and purchases are then categorized, and you can visually see the graph of your finances, practically in real time. This helps me figure out where I can easily make changes to get back on track.
  2. Find things to cut back on and things to stop spending on entirely. This time around, we took a hit by making several large one-time purchases all at the same time. These aren’t items that were extravagant, but we should have planned on spacing them out over a few months. Now I’m declaring no more big purchases until the holidays. And, no more take out! We say it all the time, but seriously, we need to put Hap’s on hold. Brown bagging it to lunch needs to be an immediate priority and being too lazy to cook on weekend nights means cereal or sandwiches, not take out. Also, I’m looking to cut into some of our bills. Our Comcast Bill is ridiculous, and thanks to the Digerati Life, I know am armed with a script to negotiate a lower monthly payment, which I plan on testing out tomorrow.
  3. Stick to the list. This is one that I’ve gotten much better at over the years. When you head to the grocery store, make a list beforehand, and stick to it. My weakness was always heading down the non-grocery aisles and picking up make-up, magazines and snack items that I didn’t need.
  4. Pay off your debts. I’m not talking longggg term debts like car loans and student loans, but if you’ve been holding onto a couple hundred dollars worth of debt on a credit card or owing someone back for a gift you went in on together, now’s the time to get it squared away. I find this type of debt to be nagging, and even if it means I have to dip into savings to get it off my conscience, it’s much easier to put money back into savings than it is to pay off shallow debts over the course of a long period.

July 24, 2009 at 10:18 pm 4 comments

Lessons in Furniture Shopping

Shawn and I have always had interesting experiences buying furniture. When we first started looking at furniture, it was to replace an old scratchy couch I had in my our bedroom when he moved in. We wound up settling for a futon from Craigslist, but we couldn’t ignore the advertising powerhouse that is Bob’s Discount Furniture. We learned two very important things on this trip:

  1. If you are under the age of 25, do not expect to have salesmen pay you any attention. Furniture salesmen don’t believe you have money to spend, nor do they think you’re serious about the purchase. Getting your questions answered is like pulling teeth.
  2. If you’re looking to invest in furniture that will last a long time, this is not the store for you. His prices are competitive, but the quality is not there to back it up. Specifically we were looking for a couch, so his other furniture might put up a fight, but the couches we looked at had flimsy frames and cushions that would no doubt deflate within a couple years.

When we moved into our condo last September, our first order of business was to go to IKEA for some basics, including a coffee table, end tables and book cases. But, when it came to bedroom furniture, couches and a kitchen table, we really wanted to invest properly. IKEA, as I’m sure you know, is known for being wildly inexpensive and modern in taste – just our style. But, when we started researching prices and options at major furniture retailers like Jordan’s, we quickly needed to be brought back to reality. Not every furniture retailer is priced like IKEA. So, the research continued.

going-out-of-business1We found that few furniture stores really offer a variety of dressers and bedframes whose joints are dovetailed. Many settle for glued and nailed joints, which honestly is fine, but we wanted to ensure that in 10 years, our furniture was as sturdy and secure as it was when we bought it. We also found that many of the “going out of business” sales that we hear about are scams. Deals at these sales aren’t deals at all – the prices are the same as regularly priced furniture at Jordan’s or Bernie & Phyl’s. It should’ve tipped us off when a local furniture store in Portsmouth had a going out of business “liquidation sale” for nearly 8 months.

There are a few other lessons we learned in furniture shopping, but I’ll leave those for another day. Let me just say that it pays to do your research, don’t overlook the independently owned mom & pop shops and don’t settle for furniture just because you need it. Spend just a little money on something “good enough” until you find something really worth the investment.

July 22, 2009 at 9:07 pm Leave a comment

Refinancing? Already? Part II

Well, over the last month (err.. and a half), Shawn and I have been keeping busy. Weddings, vacation to the Outer Banks and tons of weekend plans. No excuses for not updating the blog more, but one incredibly important activity that kept us busy was our refinance. Thanks to Twitter friend Merrill Clark (@webcontentNH), we were put in touch with the Wayne Laverdiere over at Newmarket Lending, who walked us through the refinancing process. I had done some research and had an important conversation that made me decide it was worth looking into.

If you’re considering refinancing, let me warn you that the paperwork required to back up your financial past is more involved than when purchasing a house. In order to complete refinancing, we had to gather:

  1. Copy of recent mortgage statement
  2. 07 AND 08 W2’s (from both of us)
  3. Recent paystubs
  4. Copy of most recent retirement statements
  5. Copy of all bank statements for all accounts – checking accounts, saving accounts, ING accounts, etc.
  6. Contact information for the condo association (which is an issue in and of itself)
  7. A document proving what the monthly condo fees are
  8. A copy of both of our drivers licenses and a copy of our social security cards and/or passport

When you’re seeking a mortgage, you probably have to hand over half of that (though they do verify a lot of the numbers on their own, without gathering paperwork from you) and they pull your credit report, which Wayne did not have to do.

There were two significant hinderances that we came across that caused the entire process to take almost 3 full months: The first is that everyone and their mother is refinancing right now. Refinancing helps to lock in a better rate for the life of your loan (in our case, 30 years), and helps to make your monthly payments lower. Rates are at record lows right now, and people that had previously locked in high rates saw opportunity to better their financial situation during an otherwise crappy economy. Because of this, lenders and paperwork were backed up, causing the communication between all parties invovled to be much slower than usual.

The second hinderance was my new job. When you are refinancing, the smartest thing to do is to keep your finances and income stable. That means, when you’re in the process of refinancing or buying a home, you need to keep your purchases in check too, including no major purchases like cars, home improvement, or major appliances. By getting a new job, I disrupted the process, even though I went from full time and salaried to full time and salaried. Basically, I wound up causing us another 2 weeks of waiting until I got my first full paycheck to prove my income. I don’t regret taking the new job, but if you can avoid shaking up the process that way, I’d recommend it.

We only had to pay a small amount in closing, as our other closing costs were folded into our mortgage payment. That said, we will break even in just over 3 years, which works out for us because that’s about the timeframe we had in mind for living in our condo. My best advice is to stay in close contact with your lender – be sure of numbers, dates, timeframes, etc. so that you know exactly what to expect when you get to the closing table. Some of the numbers we were given were “estimates” that wound up being significantly more when it came time to talk finitely.

Have you refinanced before? Any suggestions to add for those folks who are going through it for the first time?

July 21, 2009 at 7:56 pm Leave a comment

Things I Love That I Haven’t Bought Yet: IdeaPaint Dry-Erase Paint

Move over chalkboard paint! I don’t know why it took SO LONG for this stuff to be developed, but it just makes SENSE, and I want to paint my entire house with it! If you don’t know already, I’m obsessed with To Do lists. Well, I’m obsessed with lists in general, so IdeaPaint’s dry-erase board paint seems like the greatest stuff in the world to me! Nod to Apartment Therapy for bringing this gem into my life!

source: IdeaPaint

I’m a little skeptical about how even the paint is when applied (especially if I’m the one painting), but it claims to be a roller applied paint that turns any surface into a dry-erase board. Of course it’s ideal for the conference room, but you can also use it at home. I can totally see myself becoming that crazed Alpha Wife who keeps the family’s schedule and grocery list scrawled across the kitchen wall.

Note to self: Tell our CEO about this. My company is moving into a new building in a few weeks, and if there’s one thing that is APPARENT, it’s that we looove us some dry-erase white boards. Every desk has one, every conference room is walled on at least two sides with them – even the hallways have white boards!

June 5, 2009 at 9:34 pm 2 comments

Things I Love That I Haven’t Bought Yet: Low Profile Air Conditioner

C’mon people, it’s 2009. Why are air conditioners still sooo bulky and unsightly? Now that we’re creeping up on summer, the weather is getting just a bit consistent with warmer temps (though as I type this, it’s 60 degrees and pouring). New technology has allowed us to streamline and simplify so many appliances and household items, but the AC has remained a boxy, ugly summer ornament hanging on our windows.

I know we’ll need to invest in an air conditioner once the NH seacoast heats up, but I’m determined to find one that doesn’t require its own storage unit in the off-season. Ideally, my perfect AC would not only look sleek, but it’d be Energy Star-qualified and programmable too. Energy Star qualified room air conditioners use at least 10% less energy than conventional models. Hellooo, happy wallet!

And, if it’s programmable, we’d be able to set it through the day to turn off when we go to work and start up again in time for us to be nice and cool in the afternoon, similar to our thermostat (:ahem: that we still haven’t installed…).

When you’re buying an AC, there are a few important features to keep in mind:

  • Size
  • Ease of installation
  • Noisiness (this is not so much an issue, since we love white noise)
  • Efficiency

After a bit of research, I give you our contenders:

LG Electronics GL6000ER Low Profile Window Air Conditioner with Remote

air conditioner1

PROS: With remote! I’m so lazy, so I love that feature! This AC takes up less of your window – only 12″ tall – leaving you more of a view. It’s programmable and the auto restart feature turns it back on automatically after a power failure (summer blackouts? SO fun!). And, Energy Star-compliant!

CONS: Once this is installed, it stays in one room (and though our place is only 1,100 sqauare feet, we likely won’t use the AC to cool the entire condo). So, if we put the air conditioner in the bedroom, we’re going to be mighty uncomfortable watching TV in a swealtering living room.

ACP-1300E NewAir Best Value Portable Air Conditioner

air conditioner2

PROS: It can be moved from room to room, and can be up to 50% more energy efficient than some central air conditioning systems due to the fact that only certain rooms are cooled. Also, it’s great for humid climates, which Portsmouth definitely is. Portable ACs also dehumidify the air, which is important to my hair. And, remote! Woo!

CONS: None, from what I can tell. And, it’s gotten great reviews!

Though the purchase is still a few weeks out, I think this quick and entirely informal product review has led me to choose the portable AC. Come to think of it, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a portable AC before, does anyone have one? Any cons?

May 31, 2009 at 8:04 pm Leave a comment

Top 10 Songs to Clean To (I’m Not Kidding)

I’m not gonna lie, I love spring cleaning. I love those moments when you finish the final room, all the windows are open and a fresh breeze comes through as the sun shines in. The entire house is spotless, and the only thing left to do is relax.

I especially love the Saturday mornings when Shawn’s at work and I can crank the music to clean. Ok, I admit that, so far this spring, I have only cleaned on a Saturday morning once. But, I am by far the most thorough when I have the house to myself and a solid cleaning playlist going. I dare you not to be a little bit more detailed and put a bit more elbow grease into your dusting and scrubbing when you’ve got these tracks on in the background:

  1. Paul Simon – Call Me Al
  2. Go West – King of Wishful Thinking
  3. The Pussycat Dolls – I Hate This Part
  4. Linkin Park / Jay-Z – 99 Problems Remix (ugh, cannot find a good recording of this one; if you can get your hands on the studio recording, it’s amazing)
  5. Blu Cantrell – Hit ‘Em Up Style
  6. Black Crowes – Hard to Handle
  7. Dropping Daylight – Blame Me (piano-infused rock, I love it)
  8. Paramour – Misery Business
  9. Black Eyed Peas – Boom Boom Pow
  10. The Almost – Say This Sooner

While 10 songs alone won’t give you enough time to clean everything (this is probably little more than a half hour), I tried to include a little bit of everything as a start. Any particular CD or playlist you put on to get you motivated? Let me know!

Sidenote: The British are funny! A quick search on Google found the hilarious Housework Songs: Volume I, II and III. It also uncovered the amazing anthology of 101 Housework Songs, which looks vaguely like it’s from the “Now That’s What I Call Music” family. It’s actually quite possible since it was released in March of this year…

May 26, 2009 at 7:15 pm Leave a comment

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