Monday, February 6, 2012

Let's talk money.

So. Here's the part I'd like to avoid. Mostly because I like my husband and want to stay married. But first, some background/perspective...

I firmly believe that to break into a new hobby it costs $1,000. You could argue with me about it, but I would win. If you don't invest enough initially, you probably won't have enough fun to stay interested. For example: Kayaking. I decided last year that I wanted a kayak since every time I ever used one I walked away saying "dammit, I want one". So driving home from 4th of July in Maine last summer, I said to my husband "dammit, I want one... Ima grown-ass woman, I work hard, I get that paper, can't tell me no." So I whipped out my phone and started perusing Craigslist. I researched options, read reviews, figured out exactly what I wanted but wasn't about to buy a new outfit. I didn't know for sure if I would stick with it, and I generally believe that buying anything new is a waste of money. So I found a used one. In friggin' Pennsylvania. But it was the exact model I wanted, even the color, and dude said he had only used it about 6 times. Came with a nice seat, dry-bag, fiberglass paddle, and for $500. I bit the bullet, and drove down to get it. 13 hours round trip. Alone. Long story short, absolutely worth it. I got so much use out of it last summer and I can't wait to get back in this year. After I bought a few accessories, roof racks, etc. I had spent about $1,000. Had I spent less, and got a beginner cheapie boat that was slow, with crappy tracking, tippy stability, heavy aluminum paddle, no hatch, blah, blah, blah... you get it. I wouldn't have been satisfied, and may have seen my initial $250 investment as a waste of money, never to paddle again. See what I mean? You don't have to buy extravagant, top-o-the-line shit. But you have to be reasonable about your expectations for what you'll get for the money and find some balance. There is truth in the 'you get what you pay for' concept.

And now the dollhouse damage. For those of you still reading. I carefully added all my receipts and it came to a whopping grand total of $1200. Don't even think for a minute that all of that went into what you see in yesterday's pictures. That number is the enemy. We're about to start subtracting for things that don't count.

Firstly, tools. I went through those receipts and totalled how much was spent on tools. Tools don't count since I'll have them forever (or until I break them, I'm clumsy) and I can use them on non-dollhouse projects. I consider tools to include any of the following: sandpaper, saws, adhesives, punches, storage containers, drill bits, dremel attachments, exacto blades, etc.
Tools: $150.

Secondly, returns. I plan on making a shameless amount of returns. I have a bunch of paper, supplies, etc that I thought I would use, but didn't. Gonna send a bunch back, and I don't feel bad about it either.
Estimated returns: $100.

Sweet. We're under a grand now. I feel better already.

Thirdly, gifts. Dad gave me $200 for my birthday (in November) and another $200 for Christmas. I also amassed $70 in Hobby Lobby gift cards. Mom went to Earth and Tree Miniatures and bought quite a few items for my B-day (I spent an unreasonable amount of money there, myself). That place is like the Louvre. You could spend a week in there and not see everything. It helps that their prices on electrical supplies are as good as anything you'll find on the interwebs, and I don't have to pay shipping/taxes, or wait a week for it to show up. It's 15 minutes from my place of employment. It's natural to be jealous. If you live in the area, they offer dollhouse wiring classes. I did not partake, but it was comforting to know that if I couldn't be self taught, it wouldn't be disastrous. And the people that work there are incredibly friendly/helpful/passionate about miniatures. No they didn't pay me for the plug. I just like them and their operation.
Gifts: $470.

Now for the hardest part. Out of the money that's left over ($480), what actually went into the dollhouse? Here's the problem. If I wanted one or two craft mirrors for anything, I had to buy a bag of a dozen. And so on for anything that can't be purchased individually. Which is pretty much everything. Ya dig? All of the following figures are honest estimates of supply costs.

Electricity/Light fixtures: $150-200. Seriously. I spent the bulk of that on bulbs/wires/adapters/components to make unique one-of-a-kind pieces. Actually wiring the house was super cheap and easy. I bought a Cir-Kit starter pack for $20 using a 40% off coupon at Hobby Lobby. I needed an extra 5' of tapewire, outlets, and spring-loaded eyelets on top of that. I read the included manual cover to cover, and didn't have one single problem doing the electrical myself. Anyways, way cheaper/cooler than paying to have someone else wire it, and buying generic plastic fixtures. Making modern, stylish, operational miniature lighting is actually my new favorite thing to do. I have ideas for more light fixtures than I have places to plug them in.

Woodwork/Lumber: $200 total? This estimation is dicey. I bought a lot of mini lumber. Mostly basswood, a little balsa, but a few choice pieces of walnut, too. I have a lot left over for future projects. I like having plenty of my preferred sizes on hand in case I get an idea that I want to execute in a quick way. The beadboard in the girls' room was pricey but worth it at $4.70/3"x24". The railing on the treehouse loft was over $13 for a 10" length. Total spent on trim (baseboards, chair rails, etc.) probably about $40. Plus I made a bunch of furniture. So maybe $100 worth of that wood actually made it into the house. But it's details like trim, window, and door casings that separate the men from the boys.

Metal: $25. For various brass/aluminum/copper items (tubing/rods). 'Sheet metals' (30-something gauge embossing foils, at least one 12"x10' roll in each metal) were free, because I'm a very lucky girl.

Fabric: $50. Again, totally guessing. The only receipt I'm missing is the one from the fabric store. I may have used $15 worth. But fabric is for keeps. If I bought it, I loved it. And there's no buyers' remorse in that.

So that leaves us with around $100, which I spent on beads to become vases, and various other accessories (pots, pans, etc.) to make a house feel like a home.

That's about the best I can do for a breakdown of what I spent on this venture. Did I overspend? Nope. I don't think so...

How many hours of entertainment did I get for my money? In any other context this sounds like a very dirty question.

I estimate that I spent approximately 300 hours designing, sketching, building, decorating, and so on. Based on having 4 months to work minus 3 weeks around Christmas when I was totally burnt out on this project, discouraged/relieved (if that's possible) about the deadline extension. I spent an average of 3 hours/day (less on weeknights, more on weekends). Eh, it's a rough estimate could be more, could be less. But that's a lot of 'entertainment' for the investment. It would be more entertaining and less depressing if there was some closure to this thing. I'd practically pay the challenge creators to post something challenge related at this point. I hate feeling like I spent all of this time and money in vain. Since we're in the circle of trust here, I'll be honest and say I'm more than a little bummed about the silence. Chill out. I'm not going to slit my wrists over it. I'm still really glad I participated. It was fate (call me cheesey, but everything happens for a reason). This project has reconnected me with a part of myself I thought I had lost. No matter how life may try to hold you down, or how many hard-knocks hit you... no one can take your creativity away.

In the end, challenge or no challenge, I ended up with a unique, heirloom, 75% handmade dollhouse that I can be proud of and pass down to important people who don't exist yet.

On a lighter note, I picked up a deck chair at the Portsmouth Goodwill yesterday. $5. Love at first sight. I started to walk away from  it for a minute, you know, to think it over. And some bitch started towards it with that look in her eye. I hot-footed and snatched that shit right up. Five. Dollars. Why was I even wavering?! The aluminum is worth more than that if I scrapped it (don't worry sweet little chair, I would never). The seat is hand woven by someone with serious macrame skills. It's tight enough to bounce a quarter off of, and comfy as can be. I wrote this entire wordy post sitting in it.
And it's sparkly! Yep. For realzies. Even the cashier said it was the 'find of the day'. Pretty sure she knows what she's talking about. Success.


  1. interesting assessment of how much investment is required to work in mini. i'm not even going there, my materials tools etc...aieeee *head starts throbbing*

    great find! wish our thrift shops had such nifty stuff. i've never actually been to one, hrm...maybe it's time to start. or not!

    1. Hey! Sorry if I'm a little starstruck... I'm a big fan of your work! I was just watching one of your tutorials last weekend! I haven't gotten into any clay yet, I think that's one to leave to the experts :) Not to mention how many more tools I'd have to buy!
      I don't know if my estimates are really fair. Luckily, before my mini-craze, I already had a fairly well appointed craft room. My primary craft is jewelry. So getting into this hobby has been cheaper for me than for most, but still quite pricey!
      Thrifting can be as addictive as miniatures, but so much cheaper! It's always hit-or-miss though :)

  2. OMG, how have I not found your blog until now? Wow wow wow. Great work on the Giant challenge. Your estimate is dead on. When I first started collecting modern miniatures, I tracked all of my spending in a spreadsheet and hit $900 in less than 5 weeks. Sadly, most of it was bad purchases and overbid ebay items, and almost none of it is use 4 years later. Sigh. I wish I would have waited until I had a better idea of my style and what I wanted. After that I stopped keeping track, as I too would like to stay married, so the incriminating paper trail had to go. It can be an expensive hobby if you let it, but well worth every penny of it. Thanks so much for your blog. Your work is fab!

    mini smiles,

    1. Thank you!! I'm so glad you're here! I've been drooling over your blog for months! I, too, have a few overbid ebay items. Once I got them in the mail I was so dissatisfied. I don't even look at ebay anymore. You had me giggling at 'incriminating paper trail'. Now that the challenge is over (sort of?) I will most likely tell cashiers to keep the reciepts to themselves :)

  3. First I have to say I'm so glad to find your blog (via Mini Dork). Second...where the hell have you been Lady? Funny, fresh modern mini blogs are like rocking horse shit dangnabbit! =0)

    After the first £500 you sorta lose interest in eating and paying bills. It works out in the end =0)

    1. Well, I've been here since October but I'm useless with computers and all things related. I didn't really understand how to promote the blog until recently when Mini Dork became something of a mentor and took me under her little angel wings :) I'm thrilled that you've found me!!

      Oh! So that's why I've been losing so much weight. I skip groceries! Funny, my wine consumption remains stable... priorities. :P

  4. Whoa! I know that new hobbies can cost a lot, but I'm still surprised of the total sum. I still claim that I did not use more than 100 euro/130 dollars on my house. I did not get any new tools and my dollhouse is way smaller and very minimalistic. Also my sum does not include the items I already had at home.

    I have about same feelings about the challenge. I even sent Emily a personal message saying that it would be appreciated if she did somekind of post where people could link to. I'm sure many are finished, there are just no links to their work.

    1. Hey! I remember having drooled over your teahouse. It's breathtaking. I love that you did something different, and made it authentic. And to have built it from scratch? I'm blown away. I also applaud you for staying on budget :)
      I went into this without setting any budget, not because I have unlimited funds (believe me, I don't) but because I knew I was gutting this house, adding electricity, and I also knew that I was making something to pass down to future generations. I wanted it to be special for them, so I didn't want to cut any corners. Yeah, I dropped a small fortune, but I think it was money well spent. I have large amounts of supplies left over for future projects. Sure, I could've done it cheaper, but at the expense of my personal satisfaction.

      I'm glad you wrote to Emily, I think she should know that she's letting some people down. I know she's busy, but we all are. Mini Dork over at painstakingly wrote up an update just yesterday, with links to the 75 participants she could find. You're listed. Go check it out!!

    2. Oh, wow, I did not know about that post of Mini Dork. Thank you so much for telling me about that.

  5. I just stumbled across your blog after searching shamelessly for modern miniature dollhouse decor and whatnots. LOVE the dollhouse, the details, and the effort you put in to making each little piece unique. I love your candid approach to blogging about it as well and feel like I am sitting in the room with a girlfriend. SO glad I came across your blog and will be reading your regularly since I started this new dollhouse obsession. I literally *found a massive, wooden 7 room dollhouse on the curb waiting for the trash truck. I *rescued it immediately to redo with my 6 year old daughter. I've pretty much taken over until I can get past the demo of undoing all the 80s decor and repairing the damage done probably from tossing it on the curb. One day I will post before and after pictures, but I'm not even close yet. Luckily, I'm a scrapbooker and avid crafter so my investment has been tiny so far (loved your breakdown on this aspect of a hobby). I already had loads and loads of stuff on hand to enable my new passion (probably to my husband's relief). However, I am missing tidbit wooden pieces and wonder where you buy your small wood bits. Specifically balsa and basswood. I'm a novice to wood crafts and would love to use my husband's saws and such, but haven't put on my big girl panties to try it yet.

    1. Welcome! Glad you found me :)

      A 7 room dollhouse is a massive undertaking, but it seems like you're the right girls for the job! I was lucky to also have a well-appointed craft arsenal at my disposal at the time I started all this nonsense. Definitely cut the costs a bit. Demo was the worst, but after that, it's all fun stuff!

      As far as the wood goes, any craft store (Michael's, AC Moore, Hobby Lobby, etc.) should stock various sizes in both woods. Basswood is a little harder/denser than balsa so it is stronger and holds up to sanding better. I get the best deals on that stuff at Hobby Lobby, it's often on sale 30% off if you hit it on the right week. The fancier woods (walnut, mahogany, maple, etc.) I get at my local miniatures shop ( I would recommend picking up a mini miter box and a razor saw. You can sometimes get them as a set, around $15. Don't worry, you'll thank me later.

      I love being able to help people out, so if you hit roadblocks or have questions, don't hesitate to shoot me an email. I'm no expert, but I've got 6 months experience and tons of ideas. Best of luck to you and your daughter, I'm sure it'll be an experience she'll remember fondly forever :)

    2. Thank you so much for the advice! I recently read about a mini miter box and razor saw. It looks much less intimidating than hubby's scary saws in the garage. I really want to build most of the pieces myself, so looks like I am out to find these little gems. I appreciate the offer to email you. Don't be surprised if you hear from me again. =) I've spent the better part of the day drooling over vintage furniture on ebay. Dan-ger-ous!