Building Home: The Realities of Mixing Design and Budget

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Building Home: How we are learning the delicate balance of budget and design | The Fresh Exchange
Image Via: The D Pages

We all know the feeling. You start a new job, move to a new place, or start dating someone new. You build up expectations of this new reality, what it will be and how life will move forward with this new thing. You walk down the path of the experiences ahead for you in this new situation. Then something happens that throws off the expectations. Things take a shift you didn’t expect and it breaks your heart and shatters those expectations. I have learned, now, it is all just part of the journey. Sometimes this is a make it or break it, but many times I find these situations instead are the moment to reevaluate your course and expectations and then choose where to head next. This experience is not much different than what it means to build and bid a home.

We have spent the last 6 months designing and concepting our future home. Each room that is designed I imagine the realities of the experiences we will have. The bedroom for our son where he will grow up. The kitchen where we will make all of our meals each night. The dining table we will sit at and enjoy our meals and gather with those we love. The living room that will warm us in the winter and provide space for dreaming. Each wall that is drawn begins a long list of imaginative stories I create and fall in love with. The dreams in some way become tangible as we watch it come together, but then reality hits and we realize the walls we are drawing may not be the right ones or the ones that are meant to hold our family the way we anticipated. We realize the real costs involved in constructing even a simple home and then there we are finding ourselves back to the drawing board, quite literally.

These months of designing have been a ton of fun but also a lot about letting go and reevaluating our life and needs and budgets. Nothing great comes quickly or easily. I know this from building a business and even becoming a mother. These lessons have been abundant and may be why even now I am more than optimistic and quick to say okay what do we do next, how can we adjust to accommodate this dream.

Since the beginning of building our home, our goal has been to eventually own our home. As business owners, we know the smartest thing we can do is limit our debt. We have worked hard to both save as much as possible while also eliminating school debt, holding any credit card debt, and making our money work the best we can for ourselves so that when there is a hard month we don’t feel the stress as much as we could. Our house will be a debt for us, but one we hope to eliminate over the course of 10-15 years. That said, though a loan may come through for an amount that could afford us something larger and more elaborate, we have decided to build to something that both fits our needs and some of our important wants, while also being within range of something we feel we can own in a reasonable amount of time. Moving here, life was about simplifying and the house must be a soul piece of that vision.

This means that the past month as we have gotten serious about finding a contractor that fits us we also have gone through quite the reality check of what our budget can accommodate us. We have gone through nearly 6 different designs, not out of being picky but out of narrowing into the wants and needs in a budget we are comfortable with. This week reality checks got real and a home we felt was economical was far from it we learned. At first, we were shocked and felt defeated with so much of our hearts and souls going into the design. Then in true Mike and Megan fashion, we went into action to get down to what we could do to make our dreams a reality. After a late night, we took the advice of some close friends and a contractor to design something that will hopefully be THE design.

I tell you all this because just as we have, we all look at homes and spaces on Pinterest, Houzz, Dwell, and HGTV and think…gosh that seems simple and possible, but what we have learned is it is a little more of a huge process than is always explained. Things cost a lot and there is a lot of money that goes into things you don’t see or might mark on your budget sheet such as moving dirt, setting a well, putting in a septic system (if you live in the country), or even the insulation that lines your basement or crawl space. All key pieces to getting to a point where you can even construct that kitchen you are dreaming of. It is the unsexy money you have to spend to get to the fun things, but it is a real cost in the experience.

The concept of Building Home is more than just designing, building, and decorating. It is a labor of love, growth, and reevaluating yourself and your life in order to make a dream a reality. Hard work and humility go a long way in the journey of achieving a goal in life. This is just another opportunity to learn these things in a new way.

We are still in those early days of evaluating pricing and landing on a home we feel comfortable with as far as budget as well as one that meets the needs of a family that will grow in it over the years. It is hard to find the right mix we have learned, but we have learned so much in the process that we look forward to sharing more once we get more thoughts on this new design. I wanted to give an update and let you know how things are going and why the plans I thought we would share haven’t made it here just yet. At the root of it all though I am most thankful I find myself having the chance to walk this path no matter the challenges. I get so filled with joy thinking of our family enjoying life together in something that will take so much from us to accomplish over the next year on top of our already busy schedules. I am finding joy and calm in this process knowing the journey will yield a worthwhile and beautiful result. The difficulties and challenges have a wonderful way of making something even more meaningful and precious.

More to come including plans soon enough, but for any of you thinking of building a home this is all normal to go through this ping pong of design to budget over and over again. It is always best to hammer it out early on before ground breaks instead of once walls are being put up.

I would love to hear any of your stories of designing and bidding your home? I know everyone has at least one that has been through the process. What is your advice? What did you learn? There is no real way to escape the trials of building a home. The variables are far too vast, but the bumps in the journey do not ever outweigh the destination I am sure of it.

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Hello! I’m Megan Gilger,

A strong believer that nature and the seasons are our greatest teachers. We live on a hill in Leelanau County, Michigan just a stone’s throw from Lake Michigan. This land we are responsible for is where we are focused on building a life around the seasons and intention. We spend our days here building a regenerative model of living and focusing our garden on native plants and intensive polyculture planting styles. My focus is less on self-sufficiency and more on community-sufficiency through how we grow and connect through the seasons.
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