A testimony from Marianne
Last summer, my husband and I were able to purchase our first home after renting for eight years. Southern California is a pricey area and we were very blessed to find a 4-bedroom fixer-upper in a great area within our budget.
We reserved some funds for renovations and completed many projects before we moved in the end of October. We had not gotten around to replacing the garage door or front door, but had the money to do it as time allowed. However, the day we moved in, we discovered a serious plumbing problem in the very old and dilapidated main bathroom.
Since we had planned to remodel that bathroom within a few months anyway, we opted to use our remaining funds plus our emergency fund money to get started on a full bathroom remodel, as opposed to paying a plumber to fix the blockage and temporarily patch things up.
Here’s how we made the most of our money to tackle this project:
We Hired “Friendly” Labor
We hired a friend from our church who is a contractor to do the demolition, plumbing, and tub and tile installation. We knew he was reliable, honest, and thorough, and charged less than any other contractor.
We Used Coupons
We collected Lowe’s 10% off coupons (these are also accepted at Home Depot). Our local post office has “new move-in” packets with these coupons and they were kind to give me quite a few. Also, I purchased a pack of seven coupons on eBay for $3.50.
We Purchased Discounted Gift Cards
We purchased Lowe’s and Home Depot gift cards from sites like Gift Card Rescue and Plastic Jungle. The gift cards come in many different denominations, which you buy at a 7% discount. Combined with our 10% off coupons, that saved us 17% on all our major purchases (tile, bathtub, plumbing fixtures, lights, etc.)
We Made Some Exceptions
My husband and I were not in total agreement when it came to selecting the tile for the floor and tub surround. Then we realized that we were both trying to choose from the absolute cheapest options available.
When we agreed to increase what we were willing to spend on tile, we found a nice quality tile that we were both happy with. Sometimes it’s worth a little extra money for the sake of the marriage!
We Shopped Around
We had a hard time finding a vanity that was reasonably priced, and figured we would have to pay full price for one at Home Depot that we liked, but wasn’t as high quality as we were hoping for. We happened upon a clearance sale at a cabinet warehouse and found an unfinished beech wood vanity (without a top) for $25! Then we found a granite warehouse and purchased a granite top and sink, which totaled less than half of what we would have paid for the non-granite unit we had seen at the store.
We love our new bathroom and are thankful the Lord kept us from spending our money on those other projects. And soon after the bathroom was completed, we received an unexpected gift that quickly replenished our emergency fund.
When I’m tempted to be discouraged about the many projects still on our to-do list, I remember how much has been accomplished and how thankful I am that we have our own home in beautiful southern California.
Marianne is a stay-at-home mom and private piano teacher. She has been married to her husband, Mark, for 9 years and they have two cute kids: Alexis is 5 and Grant is 2. They are loving the life God has given us in San Diego.
Have you saved up and paid cash for something — large or small? Submit your story for possible publication here.
Susan in St. Louis says
Good for you!
We’re in the middle of a complete bathroom remodel right now – took it down to the studs on all sides. It’s a big, expensive job! I’m so glad we were gone last week when all of the demolition was being accomplished. 🙂 Now we can watch the new bathroom take shape…
We are just now in the finishing stage of redoing our bathroom but we pay cash for everything other than we do have a line of credit for emergency medical expenses. Ours was out of need we had part of our floor going bad and water that was going behind the shower walls on the tub so we had to replace the floor and the tub surround. Since we had to go that far I decided to change the plumbing to a single handle universal style instead of the old 3 knob faucet we had for the tub before. Can we say headache? First the piping shifted for the toilet so it still doesn’t sit right we will have to go back and fix it again later for now the toilet is shimmed so it doesn’t rock, the piping had to be redone 6 times because my husband decided Pex was cool but neither of us realized that Pex doesn’t work with pipe glue (good thing to note). There are no valves on anything in this house and of course my husband said ‘no we’ll be fine’ so we didn’t install any which means we were without water to the entire house for 6 days (thank goodness the kids were with his parents!). My husband said to buy what I like don’t just go for the cheapest thing when it came to the surround so I did… I bought a wall to stud tub surround but we weren’t willing to tear down the old walls because they had not been damaged by the water I was fearful was pouring in there so we glued the surround to the wall… wouldn’t be a huge deal but the wall to stud surrounds have quite a bit of lip on them so at this point we are so tired of not having a bathroom for 3 weeks that we are paying a friend who is a carpenter by trade to come in and do the trim for us. I replaced all the faucets and lighting to try and get the room to finally match and you would not believe the mess we ran into with that! In the end when I had hoped to spend no more than $800 we will end up with paying about $1500. Never underestimate the cost of remodeling (btw things like the cabinet and counter top we left I hate to think of the cost had we replaced all that) especially if you own an older home where there is a good chance your walls are square or plumb!
Hey, Marianne! I was reading this and thought, “Wait, Marianne? California? Mark! Alexis and Grant.” Hey, I know them. Love your new bathroom and your great tips for saving money. –Cousin Julia
Thank you for the tips-I had never heard about the gift card discounts.
Katie Smith says
Great article, Marianne! And I love your bathroom!
Looks so nice Marianne and you saved so much with the Lowes coupons. We also just finished remodeling our small bathroom with a sink, shower, toilet and vinyl floor. We never thought to find coupons for Lowes or Home Depot. We did find a vanity on Craiglist that was new. The owner had cut off the legs since the wall it was to go on was slanted. Then, they decided to put the vanity on a wall with higher ceiling, but the sink (which was offset to the left) needed to have the sink offset to the right. We bought it for $300. It included a wood cabinet in expresso color, granite top, Kohler facetts, and a large matching mirror. New it would have cost around $1,500 for everything. We bought 4 round legs and painted them a matching color. We bought clearance tile at Lowes for $0.65 per 12 x 12 inch tile. To save more we installed the cement floor (base for tiling) and tiled/grouted the floor ourselves. It took all day to lay the tile and the next day to grout it, but it looks beautiful and we really saved. My husband did all the plumbing for the new sink and NO LEAKS! We kept the same toilet and shower, but I painted the bathroom a neutral color. Like you, we also have a new bathroom on a low cash only budget!
Would love to do this with our house. Just as a word of caution, DO NOT buy any gift cards off Craigslist. We did this one time and were scammed out of $450. We met at Lowes, verified the gift card was for $700. Instantly I got a horrible feeling and would have chased after them but couldn’t due to having a baby with me. Come to find out, they spent the money at a differant Lowe’s actually before we verified it, but got away with it b/c it takes Lowe’s 5 minutes to update all their computers. Just wanted to caution everyone that is thinking of doing something like this. Lowe’s was NO HELP AT ALL. There are some people selling GC b/c they have no use, but I would only purchase the GC if I have something to buy already at that very instant, so you for sure walk away with something. DO GO into your local post office and ask for packets to forward your mail. We received 10% Lowe’s coupons in the packet and received many other coupons in the mail as well as continuing to receive Lowe’s coupons in the mail now.
Cottage Homestead says
Amazing!!!! Love it!
I’ve been buying my Lowe’s coupons on ebay, too. They’re the real deal, and have saved us quite a bit, especially with our “emergency remodel” we had to do in our son’s room this past month.
Thank you for sharing, especially the advice on the tile! I don’t normally comment on people’s story, but felt there are several who are looking to do the same and thought maybe I could offer a few additional suggestions.
When it comes to bathroom cabinets, lighting and vanities, Craigslist is a great resource. Often people change their mind or sadly run out of funds mid-project and decide sale everything for a substantial discount. Another idea is to compare prices of having the contractor build the vanity instead of purchasing one. My friend did this and finished it herself, only to save 80% of what it would have cost at a DIY store.
I love the shower curtain, could you tell me where you got it?
got the shower curtain at homegoods.
I want to live in San Diego…
Thank you for your advice, and your bathroom looks great! I am hoping to do a similar design in my own house.
One word of advice: buying coupons online is risky because there is a greater chance that the coupons are counterfeit. Police just arrested 3 people in Phoenix who were running a website where they sold counterfeit coupons to unsuspecting people online. Just a word to the wise!
Jenny M says
Your new bathroom is beautiful!!!!
Brandi @ Savvy Student Shopper says
Nice job, you guys! 🙂 AlishaT
Oh my gosh! I cannot believe how timely your post is! We have 3 bathrooms needing emergency repair! I cried and cried when the plumber came in to give us the bad news. My husband said, “Don’t cry. We will figure a way to get this done.” We worked out a plan to use our emergency fund, divert some payments of our debt snowball and anniversary gift money from his parents to hopefully get the jobs done. We are using family help for the demolition and removal, a friend referred someone to do the actual remodeling (he’s at least half the price of the other two contractors we called) and my sister is going to help me pick out all the tile, vanities, etc from Home Depot or Lowe’s. I’m going to look into the 10% off coupons and such for added savings. In about two months, new bathrooms in our house and no debt!
I never thought to check ebay for coupons…thanks for the great suggestion! Your bathroom looks great, by the way!
Marianne, your bathroom remodel looks really nice. A question, did you or someone paint the vanity base black? I have been pricing new ones in black and they are expensive so I am thinking of painting.
Yes, we painted it brown-black and finished it with clear coat and are very happy with it!
WHAT A LOVELY BATHROOM, IT’S NICE TO HEAR SUCH WONDERFUL STORIES.
I wouldnt use EBay. On the 10 th of this month there was a huge bust of people selling fake coupons on ebay . The website cents-off dot com tells you all about it. Just a heads up! I would check the post office or I have even seen them in the mid week circulars . I would also see if you can sign up for anything directly from lowes . Good luck 🙂
Liz @ Wonder Woman I'm Not says
Awesome job, your new bathroom is very nice. For some of your remaining projects be sure and check out places like the Habitat for Humanity ReStore if you have one if your area. They get donations from many different places. It’s fun to see the different stuff they have in there.
Congratulations on your new house and your updated bathroom.
It’s beautiful! Thank you for sharing this story! And, I love the tip about the gift cards and the coupon. I never thought about checking at the post office for extra coupons!
This is so inspiring! I am thinking about remodeling our bathroom…which could really use it! Thanks for some great ideas on how to save!