My Garden Plans: Achieving My Pipe Dreams
Since we moved into our house in York three years ago, I have been on a mission to make it a comfortable family home. I’ve always been an obsessive thrift shopper – there’s nothing I like better than to spend the day trawling the charity shops for vintage treasure. When I started posting pictures of my home updates on Instagram two years ago, I was regularly asked where the items in my home came from or how I had upcycled my finds, so I started writing a weekly blog based on styling your home without spending a fortune to detail what I did. I have always found that the most popular posts are based on budget updates.
Everybody wants their home to look beautiful but it’s not always feasible or affordable to spend money on new furniture and home accessories. As a transient decorator, I am always updating and revamping my home and I’ve become pretty good at sticking to a budget. I have a Future Plan Of Action List – a schedule of planned projects that I keep to hand at all times. It details the ‘To Do’s’ for each room in my house with details of what needs to be either worked on or purchased. I try and tick an item off the list every month, even if I’m not planning to revamp that room until later in the year. By referencing the list, I’m spreading my financial outlay so I’m not landed with a huge cost in one go. It works really well. I’m also a huge recycler, so if I’m no longer keen on a particular piece or it no longer works in my home, then I will sell it and use the proceeds to tick another item off the list. It’s a simple way of keeping my costs down, but it works brilliantly.
Keeping to a budget is something that I haven’t always been great at doing. When Experian asked me to talk about Pipe Dreams, a campaign which emphasises the importance of taking control of your finances, I was immediately reminded of my experience in my late teens. I’d signed up to and belonged to a book club – this was prior to the advent of online purchasing – but was always forgetting to pay the bill on time. I moved house and forgot to tell them and before I knew it, they’d issued a County Court Judgment for an outstanding sum of £24.50. I panicked and quickly paid it, but it was too late. When I went to apply for a mortgage two years later, I was refused the loan due to my bad credit history.
I can most definitely put that incident down as the most embarrassing of my financial past. Store cards were another nemesis – in my twenties I was always a dead cert for signing up at the till and had about four in my purse that were regularly used. It was disastrous for my financial state as I was always forgetting to pay on time. When I finally realised that I had to get my accounts in order, I took a consolidation loan which got me back on track. Since that time, I’ve tried to be savvy with my money and I like to think that I am far more in control than I was then.
Nowadays, it’s much easier to keep an eye on what’s going on with your finances. You can check your balances online, manage your accounts and receive texts when you hit overdraft. You can also find out how you are viewed by the lenders and what your credit rating is. By being informed, you are in control and personally, this makes a huge difference to the way I think about money.
Experian’s services are focused on making you more aware of your financial data and the role it plays in your life, so that situations such as I experienced above don’t occur. To check your credit rating, enter your address history details and some other basic information and it will score you from 0-999 with 0 being Very Poor and 999 being Excellent. It’s the information from your credit report that lenders look at when they decide whether or not to offer you credit or financial services or products, so it’s essential to know where you stand.
When planning for this blog, I went online and registered myself as I was unaware of what my own personal credit score was. As someone who has in the past been prone to putting my head in the sand, knowing my Experian Credit Score really made me feel in control of my finances and it was reassuring to be aware of what lenders may see when making credit lending decisions. Plus – and most importantly – it means that I can plan ahead for things like holidays. If there is one thing that my family love, it’s a holiday. We prioritise this outlay ahead of all others as we always look forward to some sunshine, relaxation and time together.
So aside from a week in Greece, what financial plans do I have for this year and how will I go about achieving my own, personal Pipe Dreams? We have two large outdoor areas at the rear of our house that are really exposed to the elements. There’s a fairly busy road at the front and open fields, so it feels less than cosy when you’re sitting outside. My aim for a few years has been to create two covered areas, pergola like structures but with a solid roof. This would effectively create two extra rooms, as there is already lighting in these spaces which can be utilised. It’s a big job, but it would really add value to both our standard of living and to the value of our property as the spaces could effectively be used throughout all four seasons with the aid of outdoor heating. We do live in Yorkshire, after all.
This year, I’m going to achieve that dream. How will I do this?
Firstly, I’ve been allocating money from our household budget at the beginning of every month for the last year and putting it into a separate account. This is a great way of saving for a project – if it’s in the current account then the chances are it will be spent on something else. If I can’t see it, it can’t be spent.
Add To The Pot
There’s a huge treehouse on stilts in our garden that came with the house. My children have no interest in it as they are too old to play in it. I’ve had ideas of converting it to an outdoor Gin Bar (it overlooks the Yorkshire Wolds) but my sensible, financial head says sell it. So it’s going on to eBay and the funds will be put towards the project. There’s a few other garden items in the garage that are suitable for selling, so I’ll be listing those too.
I’ll be scouring the charity shops and vintage stores for suitable furniture and accessories. I’m a huge fan of bamboo and these sets can often be picked up reasonably priced second hand. I’ll be adding some new items too – my usual route is to find an item I like online and then search and compare until I get the best possible price. Last year I did a blog post based on creating your own outdoor oasis for under £200, which even included a bottle of Prosecco. In some cases, I managed to take a third off the price of an item just by shopping around.
Taking The Inside Out
We all lead busy lives so in reality, I know that we won’t be spending as much time outside as we would hope. Therefore, I’ll be taking the inside out – using rugs, cushions, throws and side tables that I already have in my house but that would look equally as lovely outside on a lazy day. It’s always really satisfying to multi task pieces and it’s particularly good when you can create an outside area that looks amazing without having to buy lots of extra products.
I’ve planned the two structures to an obsessive degree. They need to be waterproof and very sturdy to withstand winds so the ready made pergola style packs you can buy won’t cut it. I made sure I obtained three separate quotes from garden designers to do the job and managed to find someone who totally understands my brief. He’s created a plan that is perfect for the space and within my budget.
So that’s my plan. Achieving this garden project within my budget is really important, both to me and to my finances, so I’m going to ensure that I do it as economically as I can. By planning ahead and saving monthly, I’ve managed to bring the project to life and I’m really excited about it.
Whatever your savings goals, whether they be plans to fly off into the sunshine, a new car or home improvements, checking your credit status and seeing how lenders may view you is a great place to start.