Saving for home improvements
5 MIN READ
GoalSaver winner Valerie Bergin-Carter and Niall Carter moved into their home with just the bare essentials.
They were hoping to finish decorating and furnish all the rooms later.
But life didn’t go exactly to plan.
Eight years later, through twists and turns, and despite trying to save money they are living downstairs.
The upstairs of the house remains unfinished and unused.
Except as a dumping ground for old toys, the Christmas tree and even some of Valerie’s sister’s stuff.
Valerie describes the ‘dumping ground’ upstairs
The problem is we have the space so it just fills up.
You can see everything the kids had since they were born. I never threw anything out, you see, I never de-cluttered.
I just thought ‘I’ll put that upstairs.’
That’s all the Christmas stuff over there in the corner.
That’s a polisher for the floor over there.
He was donated that from where he was working.
Niall’s a devil: ‘I’ll take that, I’ll use that.’
He took shower trays that are over there and we have our showers already.
There’s cement in the corner and paint and a fire extinguisher.
There’s a couple of them.
She explains how it ended up like this
I’m from Durrow, County Laois, originally, and Niall’s from Ballinakill and we met nearly fourteen years ago in a nightclub in Kilkenny on my birthday.
He offered to buy me a drink.
No, I asked him to buy me a drink!
We built our house roughly eight years ago.
I said we’ll have a house before we’ll have a wedding.
Niall has diggers and machines for his business so for that reason we couldn’t be in the town of Abbeyleix so we found a site and built the house.
It’s a fine big house in a nice quiet area.
We had it done within a year.
Niall and my Dad worked on it and his uncles are carpenters.
We brought in bricklayers, a plumber and an electrician but everything else was family.
We started in March and we moved in Christmas week – which I’d recommend no one to do!
But although they had the house built, they didn’t have the funds to finish everything off inside
We had our kitchen, the bare necessities, the cooker, a bed that was given to us from Mam.
We had Sky, which came Christmas Eve, that was the first thing that was put in.
But apart from that, the house was a shell.
We had no table in the kitchen, no nothing.
And then the recession and the arrival of Noah, their first child, put a dent in their finances
Two years later I fell pregnant with Noah my eldest boy – he’s six and a half now.
That was the year of the very bad weather.
I’m on maternity leave and Niall’s out of work from November to March.
You pick yourself back up.
There’s a recession, you keep going.
I’m very lucky that he always did have work it was just the weather that stopped him.
It was all that month of snow.
I go back to work.
I decided that work wasn’t for me.
Niall is self-employed and the hours are very late so you’re in work and there’s no one to pick up the kids from the crèche.
I gave up work when Noah was two and a half.
Then we got married in Kilkenny and then I was expecting Danny.
He’ll be two now in June.
Choosing between home improvements and investing in Niall’s business
Since then Niall has had to replace a digger and a tractor so that side of it takes over because that’s what makes you money so our money had to go into that.
The house was just left with what we moved in with.
(Read our tips for setting up a rainy day fund).
Gradually, we added bits and bobs.
We finished a sitting room and floored rooms that were never floored when we moved in but upstairs was just left as a dumping zone.
In the meantime, I’ve taken stuff that belonged to my sister when she moved out of her house.
I took it on. I was like, ‘oh I’ve got space, give it to me.’
Niall’s income varies from month to month
With Niall being self-employed there’s no single amount coming in each month.
If I put a bit away but a digger breaks down you have to take it out of that.
There are other things that are a priority, I suppose, other than putting down a floor that we don’t need (but we do).
There’s always something the kids need for school.
There’s school tours, there’s this, there’s that, and Noah’s quite an active child so he likes to take part in everything he possibly can.
There’s hurls broken, there’s helmets needed, there’s football…
Valerie developed a savings habit early in life
I would have always have been a huge saver.
My parents would say put away €20 a week and by the end of the month you’ll have €100.
I would have always have done that.
I had a Post Office account then I had a bank account then I had a direct debit when I was working so it always went out to savings.
What difference will the GoalSaver winnings make to her and Niall?
Outside we’re only after building that wall (between the front garden and the road) for the safety of the kids and now there’s gates going on and we’re putting them electric.
Downstairs, the kitchen is literally the base coat on the walls and cream is not a good idea with the kids.
You can see hand marks to a certain height and now they’re able to climb you can see them higher.
Me being foolish, I put carpet in the sitting room.
It’s just wrecked now and it’s coming up.
Things spilled on it and stuff – they never come clean.
The kitchen itself is fine.
The bedrooms are fine.
Valerie describes the home improvements she’d like to make
I’d love for each of my boys to have their own room.
Upstairs, you’ll see it’s just blank.
The walls are painted but the floors are literally the plywood floors that were put in just to get us in.
I’d love for each of my boys to have their own room and not end up sharing and for a stay-at-home mum to have a little space of my own upstairs – not a drawer in the spare room!
I’ll hire a skip and clear out all the stuff upstairs and give some to charity shops.
They love seeing me coming.
I even brought stuff from my own house when we moved in here.
I said, ‘oh, I’ll keep that, I’ll use that but you don’t.
It’s hard to say goodbye to stuff but if you don’t use it within a year get rid of it.’
GoalSaver helps you to save regularly for things like a holiday of a lifetime, a wedding, a car, a new baby, home improvements like Valerie and Niall or for whatever you feel will make a difference in your life.
All photos: Neil Cubley
All efforts were made to ensure that the information in this article was accurate at the time of original publication. The content of this article do not constitute financial advice.
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