There’s room for improvement in each room of your home. Here, we will take a look at a few remodeling projects that will have an impact both on your quality-of-life and your home’s value. We’ll also point out which projects you should tackle on your own and which to pass off to the professionals.Read More
When the homeowners called Color Theory, they initially wanted a quote for painting, but also learned about our color consulting service and were interested in what help that might bring. They had already started working with an interior designer but were still a little back and forth on the new colors. We brought our colors with us and developed a scheme that would work beautifully with the lighting of there home.Read More
I just ordered a new book for myself by my favorite author on design, Terence Conran. The book itself is maybe a decade old by now but Conran has never been out of date. The book, How To Live In Small Spaces, walks us through the des ign, furnishing, decoration and detail of living in small homes.Read More
Coming up with a good kitchen design idea is equal parts fun and overwhelming. Here are a couple of things you can do with paint to overhaul your kitchen without ripping everything out.
Color - White Cabinets
Always a classic look, never going out of style, painting your kitchen or bathroom cabinets white is a clear win for a modern, clean look. White is a little tricky because there are so many shades. However, there are a few colors of note that we really like on cabinets.
First, is Cloud White OC-130, Color Theory's neutral color of the year. Cloud White offers a warmth in a tone of white that avoids sterility and lack of creativity. We find that painting cabinets with a Satin sheen in the Cloud White provides a smooth finish with added durability.
Simply White OC-117 has some of the same aesthetic qualities of Cloud White, yet in certain lighting conditions fares a little better. As a simple test, swing by your local paint store and pick up the two whites and tape them to your kitchen wall side by side and see how you like them over the course of the day. Do the colors change over the course of the day? If so, which color do you like best?
Last, Chantilly Lace OC-65. Chantilly Lace is the chalkiest of the trio. With the first two white paint colors, the warmth in them can sometimes become amplified by incandescent lighting which may be a turn off. The Chantilly Lace doesn't have that problem. While in a natural day light it will exude vibrance and cleanliness, throughout the evening it will maintain a pristine whiteness.
Change up your kitchen island
Going with a more dramatic darker color for your kitchen island will provide your kitchen design with an anchor, contrasting your lighter scheme all around. With the desire for more kitchen cabinet storage, sometimes the kitchen starts to enclose in on itself and it starts to look like some kind of mammoth. Especially if your current cabinets are a wood finish.
Painting your kitchen island just might add the variety you need. This two tone look has become very popular with modern kitchen cabinets.
Where to begin painting cabinets
The most important thing to get right in this process is cabinet paint. You do not want to skimp on paint when it comes to cabinets. The best paint for kitchen cabinets right now is a waterborne alkyd. As paradoxical as it sounds, waterborne alkyds are a somewhat newly formulated product that combines the durability and hardness of an oil based paint with the environmental standards of a water-based latex paint.
We've had success with the lighter colors with Benjamin Moore Advance. Advance dries very hard but struggles with darker colors because of the amount of colorant necessary. For cabinets going from wood to paint, its best to start with the Advance Primer.
For darker colors and a faster dry time, you may consider Sherwin-Williams Pro Classic. While the Pro Classic doesn't dry quite as hard as the Advance and sometimes requires additional coats in lighter colors, we've still had excellent results with it and air towards using it on our cabinet projects. Extreme Bond primer is the recommended primer to go with the Pro Classic on cabinets.
Do It Yourself or Hire a Pro?
The decision is up to you on this one. This is definitely an advanced project and one that many DIY'ers report that they probably wouldn't attempt on their own again. The tedious factor is high as well as the elbow grease factor. But the time commitment is doable. More than a single weekend but it's easy enough to break up.
To Learn More about Painting Your Kitchen Cabinets with our DIY Guide to Painting Cabinets
What Kitchen Remodel Ideas do you have? Post in the comments!
Deciding on whether to paint your house on your own as a weekend DIY project or whether to hire out painting is a big question. When I meet with homeowners they are often weighing out whether it's worth it to pay the premium cost to have it done or if they will be pleased with their own craftsmanship.
Between you and me, if it were my home, I would probably do it myself. But that's not fair because I'm a professional. There are three things to consider when choosing between having your home professionally painted or...um...not so professionally painted.
The Pro vs. DIY Debate - The Time VS Money Factor
How long does it take to paint a room? How much does painting cost? Obviously, it depends on the room size but your standard american bedroom will take a professional between 4-6 hours to paint the walls, another 4 for painting trim, doors and windows and an extra 1.5 to 2 to paint the ceilings. This is two coats and basic prep work included.
If you've got time and patience and you find some catharsis in painting, then you might want to take a stab at it and do it yourself. Most DIY'ers are a little less concerned about perfection when they are trying to save money. With this, you have the flexibility to decide on the fly if things like one coat coverage is sufficient or whether rigid tape lines are going to matter to you as much. Being less picky will allow you to save time on a DIY project. You'll also save hundreds or even thousands of dollars.
The flip side to the time question is, what am I sacrificing by spending my whole weekend or even week painting? Is there an activity you'd rather be doing with the family? Could you make more money in the time that you're painting than the amount that you're saving? Maybe it's a more efficient use of time to be really good at what you do and let the pros be really good at what they do.
So if you're thinking you can knock out an entire room top to bottom in a day, you may want to think about how much time you actually have to block off. If you are just moving into a new home and you have to do multiple rooms, you're looking at a week or two week long project with multiple painters on the job. I hate to say it but your average DIY'er isn't going to have that big of a chunk of time to get the project done. Unless you're willing to spread it out or take use your vacation.
The plus side to hiring a paint pro is that you don't have to do anything. With a reputable company and trustworthy painters, you don't even need to be home. You can rest assured that your home will be taken care of and that you'll come home to it looking so much better and clean. The small details will be tended to. Straight lines, full rich color with two coats of a high quality paint. You can be picky! We don't mind, too much.
The honest truth, it does cost money. Typically, the better the craftsman and the more organized the company, the more you will pay. But like we say, "the bitterness of poor workmanship remains long after the sweetness of a good deal is forgotten." A good professional painter is going to know what it takes to get the job done right, without being overly priced. However, many painters who take too long to get back with you on a quote, or guess on their pricing by just "looking at it", are often going to undercharge and as a result under deliver.
So, How do you get started?
The first step is to get a quote. We offer online quotes free and easy. How this works is we take you to our website on our Pricing Page. From there you can get a ballpark idea of what your project would cost per room for the walls. If you'd like trim, windows or doors painted, it's usually best to have one of our consultants come out for measurements. But if you are just trying to get an idea of what it would cost, look on our site and build your project through the shopping cart. If you get stuck you can give us a call and we can help walk you through it.
Once you've got a good idea of what it might cost, then we'll come out to confirm pricing and look at color options. Color Consultations, while they do cost a little extra, are extremely helpful in deciding which colors to coordinate with your home furnishings and decor. From there we book the job with the help of our Production Coordinator. They'll work with you on scheduling through our online system.
While you're waiting your turn in line, we'll make sure to keep you posted on how our schedule is working out. With painting, you can't always work when the weather is bad and so sometimes our schedule gets a little jostled around. No worries though, once we get to your painting project, we are there until it's complete. Super simple, super fun and super exciting.
A Word of Advice...
If you're trying to tackle a project and don't know whether to do it yourself or hire a painter, don't be afraid to ask questions. When we give our paint estimates we split every room out by line items so you can choose which projects you want to do on your own and which you want to hire us to do. We're totally flexible!
My sister is one of those fortunate and unusual types who enjoys cleaning; her home is always neat as a pin. For the rest of us, news of Color Theory's new cleaning service is something of a Christmas gift.
The Color Theory Clean Team is more than a post-painting clean up service. Committed to eco-friendly, yet thorough, cleaning solutions, our clean team will leave your home sparkling and leave you with a rewarding customer experience.
We use environmentally responsible products, giving you peace of mind. Essential Oils are another key element in our cleaning services. We can even work with you to select aromas that suit the personality of your home.
Who Is the Clean Team?
Our employees are selected for not just their skill, but their work ethic and dedication as well. The Color Theory Clean Team also believes in mentoring its employees, fostering entrepreneurial engagement. If you love your home-cleaner, let us know and we can send this person to you again. A personal relationship with the Clean Team is yet another way we make our services a wonderful experience.
Check Out the Clean Team
Swing by the Clean Team's site to get an estimate today!
When we imagine rooms in our mind's eye, wall color is quite often one of the first things we think of. To that end, as we plan updates to our homes, a change in wall color is at the top of the to-do list. Trim, meanwhile, is not infrequently painted a white semi-gloss. Doors, too, are typically painted the same color as the trim. And that white semi-gloss is tried-and-true for a reason: It's neutral, easy to clean, and makes just about any color look pretty darn good.
But trim can also make quite an impact when it is done in unexpected colors. In fact, just a simple change in hue can shift the entire look of a space. The father of color relativity, Josef Albers, noted, "We are able to hear a single tone. But we almost never…see a single color unconnected and unrelated to other colors." This is what makes trim such a surprising—and likely untapped—element in a room. A thoughtful change in its color will noticeably affect the colors surrounding it—walls included.
This color plate from Albers' seminal Interaction of Color demonstrates how the surrounding color transforms our perception of the color in the center. Those small squares are actually the very same color. AND...
...That square could be a door...
A super-lemon yellow door lends zest to the pale hardwood and gives the otherwise unmemorable white walls a refreshing, icy sheen.
Warm, dusty teal quietly encloses the height of this space, making this entryway that much more inviting. By using teal on the doorframe, it becomes adjacent to the orange wall just behind—an unexpected and humorous touch. Deep wood-stained accents give the unusual trim work a traditional underscore. As a whole, these color choices make for an area of the home that becomes even more rewarding through experience.
Grey has been quite the favorite as of late. And for good reason; it's flexible in both range and personal style. While remaining true to its classy neutrality, it becomes graphic when used on trim and built-ins which allows the whiteness of the walls to feel soft and considered.
Sea glass-inspired blues and greens make for lovely bathroom colors. This particular iteration has a wholeness that lends it a farmhouse practicality. Yet its use on the trim and wainscoting, in addition to that clawfoot tub and marble floor, bring to mind more decadent spaces...
When in Versailles make your trim bold (and gold).
If you're looking for a simple way to refresh a room, a change in trim color may very well be your answer. Our daily rates are perfect for accomplishing these lighter tasks, so whether you'd like to give scuffed wooden door frames an update in minimal and modern white or you want to add earthiness to an entryway, there's truly a spectrum of accessible, exciting options. (And, yes, we can do gold, too.)
When you've got the space, a well organized mudroom is a must. Everyday we get home we kick off our shoes next to the door. Throw our coats and bags on a kitchen chair and leave ourselves a mess to clean up later. But it's later right? We take care of later stuff later!
With mudrooms, you don't have to put anything away because its already there! Wouldn't it be nice to just walk in, take off your shoes and coat and be done? Just go relax now?
Here are a few ideas for built-ins that will do just the trick for you and your family.
You might be asking yourself, "why is wainscoting so popular in mudrooms?". Good question, I'm glad you asked.
The reason I like wainscoting in mudrooms is two fold. First, wainscoting has a really nice interesting look, however, if it's over-used in a home it can look like it's trying to hard. Small areas like a mudroom or bathroom are great choices for a modest use of wainscoting.
The second reason is durability and washability. Wainscoting is made from a particle board print that is much harder than gypsum board (drywall) so it doesn't damage easily. In addition to this, wainscoting looks best with a satin or semi-gloss finish which is very washable. Smooth walls don't do as well with higher sheens because they tend to show imperfections and roller marks. The verticle pattern in the wainscoting doesn't show these same imperfections.
Do yourself a favor!
This year make a plan to flesh out your mudroom. You'll be so glad you did. Your house will feel cleaner and more organized and you'll love walking home and not tripping over a pile of shoes you don't know where to put.
If you're interested in getting a custom built-in ask us about our friends the Walnut Builders and lets come up with a plan!
Our past few posts featured some lovely outdoor spaces. But the recent cooler days (not to mention fallen leaves on the porch) may have you wondering how to make the most of your “fifth room” before winter sets in. Below you'll find a few easy tips to add warmth and coziness to your deck, porch, or patio. Better yet, these ideas work just as well in any living area.
Fall in Bloomington is particularly beautiful. If you've ever spent a sunny afternoon out at Lake Monroe or Lake Griffy, you're familiar with the rich and colorful trees. You can easily borrow from the feeling of the landscape itself with textured pillows, throws, and rugs. Consider layering different textures to mimic the variation found in one of fall's best features: foliage in transition.
Let's be honest: Some people just resist being outside as the days and evenings turn chilly. In addition to offering a favorite autumn sweater, adding visual warmth through lighting accents, such as string lights and votives (and maybe even a flame-free DIY fire pit, too) creates an enticing — and cozy — environment.
See more outdoor lighting inspiration here.
These DIY votive holders work well in outdoor both and indoor spaces. Apartment Therapy has even more ideas here.
Perhaps the easiest way to get your outdoor space feeling Fall is through autumnal patterns and, of course, our favorite —color! Buffalo checks and other plaids make an even bolder impression in rich, warm palettes. And — dare we say it — usher us into the holiday season ahead.
Adaptable to any home, these ideas are also well-suited for personal interpretation. They work in just about any decorating style. What's your favorite aesthetic for fall? Let us know in the comments below or on Facebook!
The living room is the place where you live. You spend a majority of your waking hours here, or at least it's a close race between here and the kitchen. You want this space to look great but you also want it to bring your family together and you want to feel like you can relax here.
Right now you are on a living room spectrum. On one end we've got too formal and on the other end we've got too haphazard. When things are too formal, sure it looks great, but it's rarely comfortable and you don't end up using the space how you want to if at all. When things are too haphazard you're using the space for everything, none of it well, and it looks like a disaster that you just can't control. In this guide we are going to address the concerns of each through furniture placement and decor choices so that you can live the life you want to be living in your living room.
Family Room vs Living Room vs Front Room
Before we talk about where to place your furniture let's talk about the functionality of the living room versus other living spaces. Many of you may be coming from the perspective of having one room with sofas and chairs with a tv and a few other things, while others have several rooms that could just as well be used for the same purpose. Let's talk about the difference between the family room and the living room first.
The family room as the title suggests is a place for family to be together. This is the least formal of all of the rooms. The best place for a family room is in a finished basement or in the living space furthest from the front entrance or not attached to the kitchen. Furthest from the entrance trumps being attached to the kitchen. Family rooms might have larger pieces of furniture like an "L" shaped sectional and a greater focus is allowed to be on the television. Family rooms are a great place to cozy up together on this piece of furniture and watch a movie together. Because it's more hidden, if the family rooms doubles as a game room or has the elipticle trainer off to the side, it's not as big of a deal. The only guests that typically come down to the family room are the neighborhood kids and they would be just as happy if the basement were unfinished down to the studs.
The living room, on the other hand, is in the middle of the home, closest to the kitchen or even attached to the kitchen in an open concept. You might have a television here but it won't be the central focus of the room. You'll give preference to seating facing each other as if the seats themselves were having a conversation. You'll have a few chairs and a couch that are all easily movable to accommodate different numbers of people. In a living room give preference to multiple chairs over sofas, but each seat must be comfortable. A coffee table or an ottoman can be chosen interchangeably. A built-in cabinet or console will be great for both style and functionality. You can hold in the cabinets some of the more cozying things like blankets or games. Remember the living room is supposed to be a little more versitle so if you have the space to put in a bookcase, make sure to have a reading chair near by with a floor lamp whose shade is just below eye level. Having moveable chairs let's us turn our attention to each other or to the tv if we decided to watch a show. This is a little different than the front room where formalities are a little more ridged.
The front room is the living space nearest the entrance. We have front rooms as a place to receive temporary guests. They are still comfortable and homey but they are for conversation only with a small group of people. If you entertain often, the front room is a great place for a larger group to break off into a smaller group and have an isolated conversation. There should be no television here. Instead, fill your walls with art and bookshelves. Give preference to upright chairs, a formal but modest sized couch and sofa and a coffee table. Front rooms look best when naturally lit, so open up those windows!
Laying Out Your Living Room
Telling you specifically where to place your furniture is a little fruitless because of the variation of living room floor plans, sizes, window placement and furniture style but let this be your guide post: "Conversation is King". You want it to feel natural and easy. Conversation is how we deepen relationships and know each other. Being glued to handheld electronics is a battle on its own but having all of the furniture pointed toward the television is showing you where your focus is. I'm not demonizing either of those things because I love them both, but if you don't set clear boundaries in your home for use, you'll be disappointed by the state of your family relationships when everyone has left the house.
If you're starting over in a new living room, start with a great couch. If you are going to splurge anywhere in your living room, it has to be the couch. Cheap couches aren't going to stand up to time very well, neither in longevity or style. With the couch, if you buy cheap, you buy twice. A sturdy, durable couch will last forever and it'll have a sense of timelessness as you switch out your decor throughout the years. There are a number of different styles of couch. While the lower profile "L" shape is very popular right now, don't be afraid of a good old fashion chesterfield. Be different. For upholstery and color, chenille and osnaburg is really current and gives nice texture to the piece. Plain colors are always classic and neutral for couches add to their longevity so long as it isn't a strongly biased. If you are thinking gray, consider a gray with a tinge of warmth to it. Going too gray, too tan, too white or too dark will backfire down the road. Patterns are great as well but you may consider bringing patterns in through throw pillows and blankets so they can be easily traded out in a couple years.
Next start to look at your other seating options. I like at least one big comfy papa bear chair. You've got to have maximum comfort in the living room. Before we get it twisted, comfort doesn't mean big plushy ugly. It just means that you've got to do some serious digging to find both comfort and style. Do some test sits. You've got to test sit. Papa bear chairs are really nice for reading and relaxing. Put a floor lamp on one side of the chair and a small end table on the other side. A table lamp would also be fine. Make sure that the lamp shade is low enough so that it's just below eye level. You don't want to shower yourself in light, you just want it to fall on the text and illuminate what you're reading. Place the chair in a position related to the couch so that you can exit the living room through the chair and the couch.
For your other seating options, you can pick another small floating sofa, if you have the space, to have sitting across from the other couch with a cocoa table in between (I'm not a coffee drink so I call it a cocoa table). I would avoid matching sets if possible because they tend to rope you in to a close-minded decorating scheme. Another option for smaller spaces is to line up the second sofa adjacent to the main couch. However, double chairs might be a better option. Matching chairs are great because they can be easily rearranged. You can turn them more inward for conversation or if its movie time, direct them toward the flat screen. Also, compared to a sofa you're really getting the same amount of seating but it not as stuffy. Chairs also create negative space and typically need space behind them which gives your living room the illusion of looking bigger. For these chairs be a little more daring on the fabric choice if you'd like. Patterns are great for chairs.
Cocoa tables are a double edged sword. On one hand, its nice to have something to put your cocoa on. They can be decorated with coasters and a floral arrangements. On the other hand they can take up a lot of space and make the room feel stuffed. They are also a lightening rod for clutter. Ottomans are a really great alternative to tables because they are lower profile and easily moved around. Many of them have storage for extra throw blankets which tend to come out every night regardless of the thermostat. As for the shape of the table, rounded or rectangle are the basic options. Oblong shapes can make a statement but with much of decorating you want to pick your pizzazz. Rounded tables are more suitable for square rooms with even furniture distribution, while rectangular tables are more fitting for rectangular rooms. Don't have more than two end tables, they can be on both sides of one couch but not on both sides of both couches. Be ultra conscious about space with tables, when in doubt strike it out.
Television and Electronics
I am not a tv hater, I am a tv lover. I think tv is great. Have all the tv's you want. But don't go crazy. Pick a flat screen that is an appropriate size for your living room. This is again relative. However, if it is bigger than a 45" class flat screen, mount it to the wall. If you some how still have a tube television or anything of considerable girth, it is not for your home. Let it go, let it go. Put a nice low profile unit underneath that does a decent job of hiding cords. Leave enough space between the top of the unit and the bottom of the tv to put pictures of family and other decor on top of the unit. You can add a stereo a Blue Ray but leave the movie collection and the video game system for the family room. Many designers get frustrated by the "big black box" that becomes the flat screen when it's turned off. It's not that big of a deal. If you have guests you can put on an artful Blue Ray without the volume on. The new Apple TV has these wonderful city scape videos that play in standby mode that are really beautiful. Out of sheer ease of access, you might have an extension cord with a couple of chargers plugged into it sprout from somewhere near the couch. If I told you not to do it, you might change for a little while and then you'd end up plugging it back in. Besides that, I'd be a hypocrite. An option for you to clean it up is put a small clip on the underside of an end table so that the cord is at least off the floor. Available for purchase, some end tables or even couches have those plugged in.
Overhead lighting in a living room is pretty obtrusive; it tends to flood the room unnecessarily killing all good vibes. Living rooms should be lit by lamps evenly placed; lighting from the corners. Lights are best place in corners because the light reflects off of two walls. Lamps with soft white bulbs produce the best color representation for your color scheme. Light a candle in front of a mirror and the light from the candle will bounce off of the mirror reflect onto the ceiling maximizing the candle's reach. It isn't necessary to buy multiples of the same lamp base. Matching lampshades are fine, but lamps should be unique pieces of decor. This was well understood in Mid-Century Modern decor and absolutely made a complete mockery of in the 90's and early 2000's. Curse you brass and glass, curse you.
Hardwood or carpet is acceptable in the Living Room. I personally like carpet because I like being able to sit on the floor or kneel down without feeling like I'm expediting the need for a knee surgery. When picking a carpet the more neutral the better especially for the long game if you ever decide to sell. But again don't pick sides. Neutral carpeting will give you more flexibility in other decorating color choices. Avoid bright and bold colors as well as overly dark colors. If you decide on wood flooring, which is always aesthetically pleasing you'll need a big area rug to help keep the place warm in the winter and to bridge together your furniture pieces. Hardwood color is a personal choice but overall lighting conditions should be taken into account. If you have a lot of natural day light coming in and your ceilings are high a darker wood will look great. But if your living room doesn't get a lot of light and the ceilings are 8' a dark would would make the room feel dreary and cramped. The style and color is completely up to you, but again pick your pizzazz. A unique and vibrant rug can really work but it may cause other elements in the room to be subdued out of necessity. The nice thing is that area rugs can be replaced easier than carpeting if you do decide to go with something with a little more trendy.
Art & Decor
The art you choose must be the most personal part of your living room. Art is a reflection of who you are because the presumption is that when you chose a piece of art that it somehow spoke to you and provoked you. I'm not talking about "deep" pretense. I'm talking about a feeling that made you say, this is the one. My personal feeling is that until you find that work of art that truly moves you, use a mirror or a large clock to fill your walls instead.
Of the many things that can be said of color this is what I will say about color in the living room. This space is so often the connecting room to all other rooms. Whether the kitchen is adjacent, the entrance pouring into it or the hallway flowing to it. If the hallway is a river, the living room is your lake and every other room is a near by pond. The connection it has to all of these other rooms makes the living room the best place to cleanse your color palette. You might choose yet another neutral color for the walls, this will give you permission to experiment in the near by "ponds". Save your fun colors for rooms that you don't spend as much time in. Reserve the calming and relaxing colors for the living room. Humans, at least in america gravitate toward blues and greens, the colors most often found in our ancestral habitat. These colors make us feel safe and secure. A clear blue sky day and green grass and leaves signify life and a safe environment. Grays are also a popular trend because of the versatility they offer for other color choices and the clean look. There are warm grays and cool grays. Warm grays are more appropriate where there is a lot of wood, whether in flooring or trim. Cool grays are best if your trim is white and your floors are carpeted. Typically we don't want to clash warm and cool colors, especially if they are similar in value (i.e. shade of light or darkness). In general with color, we follow the 60/30/10 rule. 60% of the room is one color, 30% another to complement and 10% for accent pieces. When thinking beyond the living room you can take the 30% or 10% color and carry that into another room and redistribute the weights. In our house we painted the walls of our hallway yellow and then in the nursery at the end of the hall brought the yellow in as accent pieces. This creates cohesion and unity throughout the home.
Today's photo gallery came from Susan Yeley Interiors. Susan is one of Bloomington's best interior designers. Her friendly disposition and keen eye for design is a fresh of breath air of mid-west design. Her taste is modern and clean. I recommend her to all of my clients.
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Color Theory is a Color Consulting and Painting company based in Bloomington, Indiana. We have one goal, and that's to help you love your home more. If you have any questions about color choice or painting the interior or exterior of your home click the button below to set up a time for a color consultation.
Well, we made it through Christmas and are now ready for the New Year...
You might be thinking to yourself, "what happened to all my cash?". I hear ya! It seems like we always make a plan to only spend a certain amount on Christmas and then Christmas Eve gets closer and we feel the pressure to pick up a few last minute things. It was great though! Giving to our family felt nice and everyone was happy.
Until today when you start looking at what bills are coming up and you think, "why do I do this to myself every year?" .
You could try and do a New Years resolution and go on a spending diet but what you really need is a plan, not a "spending freeze". Katie and I have been working on our Total Money Makeover since the fall and I'd love to share a few of the most important things we found working in our finances.
Give Every Dollar a Name
This is a great principle taught by Dave Ramsey and I completely agree. Giving every dollar a name means that you are writing down all of your typical monthly expenses and giving each expense a dollar amount. Thus, every dollar in your budget is assigned a name. We love Dave's app everydollar.com. It's free and it's by far the easiest budgeting app I've ever used. Katie and I both have the app on our phone and use it, in addition to the Envelope System, to stay on the same page with our budgeting.
Your Actions Steps:
- Hold a monthly budget meeting —Ok, the first few are going to be tough but you have to do these every month and both partners have to have a finger on the budget. Personal finance is more emotional than math-y so be nice, be patient and keep it brief.
- List Out Income (minus) Expenses—Either using the app or writing it out on paper, put your expected take home pay for the month at top. Then list out all of your expense items below with expected cost in a column next to the item. The total on your expenses cannot be more than your income.
- The 25/10 Rule for Reocrruing Expenses—On the 25th and 10th of every month plan to pay your reoccurring bills ahead of time. For bills due between the 1st and 15th, send payments via check on the 25th of the prior month. For bills due between the 16th and the 31st, send payments on the 10th of the current month. This will ensure everything gets paid on-time or early.
- Use Cash for Non-Reoccurring Expenses—We're big fans of using cash. It allows you to feel the money going out. It also makes variable expenses fixed, which is great for your budget. Every week take out a set amount of cash for the things you buy at stores like food, clothing, toiletries and entertainment. Divide the cash you take out into those categories and label envelopes to hold and keep the cash amounts separate. This is known as the Envelope System. Avoid using your debit card or credit card for random or unplanned purchases. It's death by a thousand swipes.
Make Savings an Expense
Before you go paying other people make sure you're paying yourself first. Try to look at savings as "delayed spending". You'll spend the money eventually but it will be for things that aren't a part of your monthly budget. We set aside 10-20% of our income for saving and have three basic savings categories: Emergency Fund, Emotional Savings and Long Term Savings.
Your Action Steps:
- Save 10-20% of your income—That might be a lot for you, it's a lot for me. But start slow. Save 1% this month and then gradually raise it to the 10-20% range month by month. If part of your monthly expenses are debt payments stop at 10% savings so you can put a little extra weight behind paying off debt. If you can't seem to find the 10% get out the "chopping block" and start cutting out some of those reoccurring expenses and take out less spending money until you get to 10%. Pull the bandaide off quick! You can do it!
- Set up an Emergency Fund—Having an emergency fund will greatly reduce your dependency on credit cards and debt. It's a must have. After every paycheck, you'll subdivide 20% of your savings into a separate Money Market Account at another bank. In Dave Ramsey's plan, his baby step one is a $1000 starter emergency fund. I strongly encourage building this little safe haven as quickly as possible. Once you get to $1000 you'll want to gradually build it up to about 1/4th of your annual income.
- Set Up an Emotional Savings Account—At your bank, you can set up several different savings accounts and label them whatever you want. We have one labeled "Emotional Savings". This is for the things we want to do but can't quite afford yet; things like trips to see family, holidays, birthdays, and home improvements like painting (wink, wink). Just like the Emergency Fund we subdivide 20% of our savings amount and put it in our Emotional Savings account. It adds up over time and is the responsible way to pay for things that make life really worth while.
- Set Up a Long Term Savings Account—This last savings category is for retirement. Like I said, savings is delayed spending. You will need to spend at least a little money in your retirement and the reality is the average American only retires with $60,000 in assets. Enjoy your year of retirement America! We think it's important to take this one seriously. The account you set up for this one is more of a holder account until you transfer the money to your retirement accounts like the Roth-IRA and invest in mutual funds.
Power Down Your Debt
Nothing crushes savings and retirement goals like mountains of debt. So many of us these days graduate college with so much debt that it's difficult to save up and buy a home. Add to that car payments and credit card debt and it feels like you're living your life in quicksand. This third element of your financial plan will feel the best once you've squashed it. We were really motivated to work on our student loans after taking Financial Peace University.
Your Action Steps:
- The Debt Power Down—This is just like Dave Ramsey's Debt Snowball. List your debts smallest to largest and pay off the smallest first with intensity. Then as you pay off your smaller debts add the payment amount to the next smallest debt. Since all of your debt payments were part of your monthly budget, instead of looking at the freed up money as extra spending money, lock in your lifestyle and put the extra on the debt.
- Make Accelerated Debt Payments—Accelerated Debt Payments are extra payments you make to the principle of your smallest debts. This is what you do with the extra money outside of your 10% savings. I would even encourage you to press pause on long term savings to put that money on the debt. We even made an accelerated debt payment account so we don't get tempted to spend that extra money on anything else.
- Sell Stuff—Dave says, "Sell so much stuff the kids think they're next". We end up saving so much junk around our house that we end up buying bigger houses just to fit it all. As you replace things like cell phones, clothes and furniture, sell the old stuff before it isn't worth anything anymore. Smartphones especially tend to sell for a decent price if they are sold on eBay or Amazon unlocked. If you have a motorcycle or a boat that you only ride twice a year when it's the perfect amount of sunny out, sell it! If you've got a car with a payment, sell it and buy cash. The cost of repairs are almost always less costly year-over-year than having a car payment. As you sell these things, take the money and put it in your accelerated debt payment.
These things will change your life!
Wouldn't it be great to be able to afford more of the things in life that create precious memories with friends and family? Wouldn't it be nice to just know that you're going to be ok. Wouldn't it be great if things didn't just feel so...tight. These principles work! If you come up with a plan for your money as opposed to saying, "I just won't spend money", you'll be able to do things with your home that make you love it. You'll be able to track and plan for new throw pillows or bath towels. You'll make that trip to ikea with confidence. Your beat-up walls and trim can get that facelift you've had at the top of your list for the last year. YOU CAN DO THIS!!!
Ready to paint but don't have the cash?
Take our Financial House Workshop to create a savings plan for home renovations and updates!
Our number one goal as a company is to help people love their home more and sometimes it takes work and patience to get there. If you would like to get an idea of what it might cost to get your home painted, I'd love to come by and give you an estimate so you can start saving up. I'll even help you come up with a Home Renovation Savings Plan to help you get there.
Click on our link below to learn more about our program!