Here, Tracey O'Malley, tells the story in her own words.
G￼azing in awe at the beautiful home we were inspecting, I looked at my partner, Tom. ‘It’s perfect!’ I gushed.
Even though there were a few other buyers milling about the open home, I could see us living there. We’d been putting money aside for a few years for this moment, working overtime and giving up treats.
The place needed a lot of work, which meant it was within our budget, but to Tom and me, it was full of character too.
‘We could put a kitchen down here!’ he shouted excitedly, rushing into one of the rooms. I shushed him, conscious of the other people around. ‘We haven’t even got it yet!’ I chided him. ‘We will,’ he smiled.
As usual, he was right! Just six weeks after putting down the deposit in 2016, we moved out of our rental and into our first proper house. Now I wanted to turn it into our dream home.
The first thing on our agenda was the kitchen, but quotes came in at $15,000 to $32,000. There’s no way we can afford that, I thought.
Scrolling online, I happened to come across a man on Gumtree who was selling his entire kitchen.
Hardly used, it had 25 pieces, including the oven, for $2500. ‘What do you think of this?’ I asked Tom.
He agreed it was a great find and went to pick it up in a truck. Then we resprayed it all white so it looked new. Rather than paying professionals, we fitted everything ourselves and did all the tiling.
Next on our list was a nice fireplace. After having such great luck on Gumtree, I decided to have a look.
For a gas fireplace to be installed brand new, it was going to cost around $6000. Incredibly, it only took a few minutes for me to find a second-hand one online.
‘I’ll pay $200 and we’ll come pick it up now,’ I said to the man. It was a deal!
When I checked out what it was valued at, I couldn’t believe it. ‘It was $3700 new!’ I said to Tom.
Slowly, our home was coming together and we were saving bucket-loads of cash. But there was something else we really needed – a staircase. Getting one engineered from scratch would cost between $4000 and $30,000 – money we just didn’t have.
So we knew we had to put our frugal skills to the test again.
Back on Gumtree, I saw a man was renovating a house nearby and everything had to go, including a staircase. So we drove over to see it.
With Tom being an engineer, he was certain he could remove it all himself. ‘Don’t hurt yourselves!’ the owner called out, leaving us to the job.
Grabbing a saw, Tom started trying to dislodge the shell of the staircase as I held onto it.
It took about three hours before we’d finally managed it. That night, Tom noticed something wrong with his ribs. ‘I’m so sore!’ he winced.
After a quick trip to the doctors, we realised he’d cracked his ribs! ‘It was worth it to save so much money!’ he joked.
After that, I got door handles and kitchen stools from second-hand sites.
Constantly on my phone, I would check the sites before work and during lunch. ‘I’ll have to ban you from that,’ Tom teased.
But when I found a spa for our garden, house plants, an ironing station and door frames for free, he let me off. He even set me challenges to find more obscure items online, including a bathroom sink.
Calculating it all, I was astounded to find we’d saved more than $40,000.
We’re still not finished, but with more savvy shopping we’re hoping to complete it soon.
My kids Katelyn, 14, and Daniel, 10, love their home and have even pitched in a few times to help.
I’m so proud of how much money Tom and I saved. We’re quite the team and haven’t had a single fight! It really pays to find bargains online. There are so many people who just want to get rid of their old stuff. Don’t be afraid to negotiate and if you think you can find a better deal, you probably can!
Read more in this week's issue of that's life!, on sale now.