Monday, August 9, 2010

Shop Around

So I realize I might be in the minority here, but it really pays to shop around and not agree to your first quoted price.  I learned this first hand when planning our wedding in 2004.  With so many of my friends now getting married, I keep trying to convey this message all why wondering why are weddings so expensive again (5-8 hours of your life, dont' forget that)?!

After our wedding, our first major inquiry was for granite in our condo back in 2005 (sad fact..still no granite for me and I'm in my 2nd house).  My first and highest granite quote in our new house was from Costco at $6,500 and our cheapest but surprisingly highest quality was from PMG at $2,500.  Both were for grade 1 granite fully installed for 65 sq ft, what a HUGE price difference.  I met with four other vendors who all fell somewhere in between.  Costco's quote threw me for a loop because they are never that much more than their competitors and I started thinking I'd never have granite.  When we went to have our carpet redone, I had crazy quotes from them as well (8k for the same quality as carpet city's 2k quote).

One of the projects we waited the longest to tackle was our small postage stamp sized front yard.

I had wanted stacked stone in our front since we moved in the house in 2006.  It was in March 2010 when we finally bit the bullet and hired someone.  The back to back hemorrhaging of snow in DC helped solidify our plans because it broke many of the branches on our horribly annoying tree. 
This stupid tree shed dime sized leaves for months, almost until it was time for the new leaves to come out in the spring.  Imagine racking that up year after year?!  From the front of the house, the tree looked fine, but from inside, it looked like a cake with a big slice taken out of it!  I was overjoyed because it meant the tree had met D-Day.

Note the leaves still on the tree!

Normally this endeavor would have been a DIY project, but after getting the quotes in, I realized the opportunity cost of not having to fight with Paul about how he may or may not be doing something wrong and vice versa for 12-18 hours was probably well worth it.  If you haven't seen us doing DIY before, get a soda and some popcorn and be ready for some good old American family entertainment.

Our landscape project started with a fun Sunday trip to the Dulles Expo Home Show (I met vendors for granite there too).  The highlight for me was I got to meet the cutest of hosts on HGTV's curb appeal John Gidding and we got to get at least 8 quotes right on the spot for granite and the landscaping design.

After the show, we met with small sized nurseries, private landscape designers and big nurseries like meadow farms.  Economies of scale came into play here and quotes ranged from 2k to what we chose $336!

We choose Joe Hudgins of Meadow Farms Nursery.  He was amazing to work with as he is a really friendly man with an old country charm.  He itemized everything on his quote and allowed me to pick and choose which of the services and products he would render.  His quote was originally high ($1,500) but as we decided which items we could DIY, we had shaved off almost $1,200.  We ended up taking the tree out ourselves; saving us $300, provided our own soil and mulch, surprisingly saving close to $300.  They were going to charge us $9 a bag for mulch and top soil, we paid $3 a bag for mulch and .98 c for top soil at Home Depot.  Getting all the home was a B but well worth the savings.  We also went to the nursery ourselves and picked out our tree saving us $300 and chose to plant it ourselves which saved another $150.  The men from the nursery showed up on a glorious May afternoon and in a matter of two hours were done with our beautiful retaining wall.  I planted three peonies and my clearance petunias, laid some mulch and voila.

My .45 cent petunias!

By 7 pm I was off to dinner with our friends no back pain and most importantly a happy, not cranky husband in tow.  Had Paul and I done this ourselves, buying the stone would have probably cost about $200 and it would have taken us a full weekend, so as I said earlier opportunity cost, opportunity cost.


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