How Traveling for Work Led to an Unexpected Housing Expense

I feel like I am just stuck in a rut right now.   A lot of exciting things are going on at the moment, and I know that I should be enjoying them.  We finally closed on our house and the title is in our name.  The thought of home-ownership was at one point a dream and now it is a reality.   Now the projects begin.  We have an apartment to pack, wallpaper to tear down, walls to pain, hardwood floors to re-finish, and other projects that will emerge at the blink of an eye.   This should be fun; this should be exciting.  But something feels off right now as I write this article from my hotel room.  After sitting at the same looking desk that I have sat at so many times at every Hampton Inn in “you name it” city, it finally it me.  The reason I am feeling off right now is not because of the volume of work that has to be done on my house, but rather, the fact that I will be traveling a lot for work over the next few months  is having negative impact on my ability to complete these projects and even worse, my savings account.

The Initial Plan

Our offer was accepted in the middle of May.  The offer stated that the title was to transfer on July 11th and the former owners would stay in the house (renting of course) until Sunday July 23rd.  We negotiated this based on the unfortunate circumstances of the borrower and were glad to help them by allowing them to stay for an additional couple of weeks to ease the transition to their new home.   They have been amazing people and we were glad to help them out.

When we purchased the house, we purchased the house with the intent to take down the wallpaper, paint the walls, and re-finish the hardwood prior to moving in.  Part of the reason we offered $10k less than asking price was due to the fact that the house was going to need some updated.  And by the way, the house has A LOT of wall paper and carpet to remove.   We aren’t talking about one room with wallpaper and pull up carpet.  We are talking about working on the kitchen, dining room, living room, bathrooms, and hallways.  This is not a small job.  Similarly, the hardwood that needs to be re-finished is also of similar size.   All in all, it is probably around 1,000 sq. ft. of area that needs to be updated for each project.

The initial plan was to move in by the end of August.  Working backwards, we created the following timeline:

  • July 23rd – Tenants Move Out
  • Weeks of 7/24, 7/31, 8/7, and 8/14 – Remove the wallpaper and paint the walls
  • Week of 8/21 – Have Hardwood Re-finished
  • Week of 8/28 – Move into our new home

The plan was in motion at the time of purchase and the timeline was set in motion.  We would have plenty of time to complete the tasks and be ready to go.  I would try to spare a few Fridays and Mondays using PTO to have long weekends for working on my house where I could (but those were hard to come by based on our scheduling as it turns out).

How Traveling Ruined the Plan

Based on the people I discussed this timeline with that have experience working on their houses, they told me that this timeline was ambitious. It could be done, but it would require working on week nights and weekends and require the project to run like a well-oiled machine.  We were stubborn about having hardwood refinished before moving in while the house was empty.  It was something that we discussed before buying and was built into our offer for a house that wasn’t as updated as others in the neighborhood.  It just made sense to us to have this completed while the house was empty rather than doing it at a later date and having to work around furniture within our house.

But to me, that wasn’t the biggest pain point in the plan.  Rather, it was my travel schedule from work that keeps me out-of-town and more importantly, out of the house that has projects that need to be completed.  Here is my upcoming travel:

  • Week of 7/24 – Travel Monday through Thursday
  • Week of 7/31 – Travel Monday through Friday
  • Weeks of 8/7 – Travel Monday through Thursday – This was supposed to be a five-day trip, but I asked to take the Friday off to work on my house and it was approved.
  • Weekend of 8/19 – An Out of town bachelor party for one of my best friends.

I’m on the road a lot in the four weeks that it is CRITICAL that I take down the wall paper and paint the walls before the hardwood specialist pulls up the carpet and re-finishes the hardwood.  Due to how messy the other two projects are, we just want them completed prior to refinishing to avoid the mess that is taking down wall paper and the looming accident that is bound to happen with my clumsy wife and I when we paint our house.

I know what you all are thinking, why am I going to the bachelor party with these items looming?  First, this was one of the first travel items I agreed to on the listing.  Second, this guy was one of my groomsmen and as a part of my wedding, I asked my friends (and a fellow Diplomat who may have been the best man) to buy a suit and attend my bachelor party.  Not cheap by any stretch of the means and my friends did not blink when asked.  Bottom line, I’m not missing this once and a lifetime opportunity for him.

I may have been ambitious at the beginning, but man, I’ve been feeling down about this timeline and the pressures that traveling has placed on accomplishing everything I wanted.  With the realization starting to set in, I started to become very stressed out.  I was having a hard time sleeping at some nights, worrying about how all of it was going to get done.  The only person who knew this was going on was my wife, who would calm me down when I was awake.  This wasn’t right, I knew it. And something had to give…

Selecting the Service to Outsource

Eventually, my wife and I discussed the possibility of hiring someone to do the services to ease my mind.  But with being frugal and trying to keep the costs down, this idea was not my favorite.  But I was open to the conversation.  Between taking down wallpaper, priming, and painting, we figured we would select one of the services to receive quotes about the services.

Ultimately, we decided to outsource the wallpaper removal.  We arrived at this decision based on a couple of reasons.  First, since this was the first item that needed to be done at our house, it set the tone for our repairs.  If there was a delay in taking down the wallpaper, the rest of the project’s timeline would be ruined. So it was critical that this gets completed timely and right.   Second, I talked to many, many people about taking down wallpaper.  It is a dirty, labor intensive, grueling process.  It can be done, but expect to budget a lot of hours towards taking down wallpaper.  Don’t forget, I have A LOT of wallpaper to take down.

We called 7 people to provide estimates multiple times based on Thumbtack, HomeAway, and other websites. Shockingly, we only had three responses.   We had two lowball offers that were about $1,500 and one higher offer.  The two lowball offers didn’t seem right.  They told me if the wallpaper would not come down, the would paint over the wallpaper and smooth the seems so we can eventually paint over it.   Hmm that didn’t sound right.

Ultimately we selected the more expense person.  She offered to have this done in four days, take down all the wallpaper without question (even if it was difficult), remove all glue from the walls, rinse them after, putty over all holes, and sand the walls down after.   The cost (this still is difficult for me to write), was $2/square foot or $2,000 total with taxes.

After several discussions with my wife and my family, I decided to hire the person and incur the cost.  Since that decision, while I am still upset about the premise that my traveling has cause me to incur this expense, my piece of mind is much better and my stress level has been reduced greatly.   It is strange to think about it, but there is a cost of stress and time that I know will help offset the actual dollars paid in this scenario.  It doesn’t mean that I am happy about it.  It doesn’t mean that it is a frugal thing to do.  It doesn’t mean that many of you would have made the same decision.  But stuck in the current situation that I am, which finds myself writing this article in a hotel like I have done way too many times over the last three years since we launched this blog, it was an expense that I had to incur.   There is a larger elephant in the room and a greater question that needs to be asked that is the root of these problems.  Why am I still traveling for work?  But I’m going to save that discussion for another time.


26 thoughts on “How Traveling for Work Led to an Unexpected Housing Expense

  1. DD, I would have absolutely made the same decision, although, admittedly, I’m not as frugal as you. Saving money is important, but so is your time. You were clearly stressed by the situation, and $2000, though not cheap, was a reasonable solution to your problem, which greatly reduced your stress level. Go to your friend’s bachelor party and have fun. You’re making all the right moves to better your financial situation for you and your family. Good luck with the renovations.

    • Thanks Dividend Portfolio. I’ll keep you all updated with the renovations (I’m sure) I’ve learned through this that there is a price for alleviating stress and having piece of mind. Stress can take a tole on you mentally and physically, so why burden yourself when you don’t need. By the way, I took a small amount of wallpaper today working on something else…just learned it definitely was no worth the stress that would have come with it all.

      Enjoy the rest of your weekend!


  2. I will suggest that you should be patient with yourself. You may not need to complete all the projects before you move in. I will say that you have achieved the major milestone. Instead of feeling bad, you need to celebrate it.

    • Thanks My Finance. I appreciate your advice. We definitely aren’t trying to knock everything out at once and will enter our house with a list of things we still want to take care of. We just took care of updating the walls and floors before we set up our furniture and move on in. You’re right though, we need to enjoy this time and make sure we are having fun through it all.

      Thanks again for the comment!


  3. My advice would be to get your priorities in order. The stress you placed on yourself easily can impact your physical and mental health in addition to your wifes’ . Life is too short to let failures interfere – particularly when self-inflicted via unrealistic timelines. Looking at it another way, assume your hourly billing rate is $60. Assuming you are not a wallpaper expert and would take twice as long to complete the job as the expert, I’d wager you are money ahead by outsourcing the work, retaining a day off and getting a billable hour to boot. The issue is not frugality but rather attempting to be too cheap (IMHO).

    • Thanks Charlie! That’s a great way to look at it. You raise a fair point though, we did press this timeline upon our self. We knew that there would be some work with our place and know that is part of the reason why we got it for the price we did. Another thing I was thinking about too is that this will free up our time to focus on making costly repairs on our own versus having to outsource those services.

      But I agree completely about the stress, and that is something I am learning as I get older. It isn’t worth it in the end and a few thousand dollars in the short term isn’t worth the long term pain that may come along it.

      Thanks again for the great comment.


  4. I think DP said it best above, “Saving money is important, but so is your time.” Also, saving your sanity is important too. Like being a long term dividend growth investor you are potentially going to be a homeowner for multiple decades. This, of course, means that you will have time down the road to fix up your home and also know that while floors, wallpaper, carpet, etc. is on your plate you never know what other issue may pop up and throw off your plans in the future. Landscaping, plumbing, roof, who knows… In other words, enjoy the move. It’s exciting. Don’t try and do it all at once or according to some schedule you made up and take it step by step. Like with our dividends we forecast annual income and growth but who says a dividend cut, elimination or low growth can’t change those plans. Enjoy the road and the process.

    • Thanks Divhut – In hindsight, I probably was a little ambitious with what I could accomplish and what I wanted to get done in our place prior to the move. It took a lot of things going right in the plan, but I didn’t factor in some additional travel for work.

      You know I love the analogy to dividend investing and I think it is accurate, especially about how you cannot predict what is coming with certainty. It is very true. There will be plenty of other items for us to fix up down the road and take care of. I could say I’ll get around to something, and then another issue potentially pops up. After walls and floors, it is it for us. We are taking a break from updates and are going to wait and see for everything else. I definitely need to focus on enjoying this process and having a fun time with my wife, family , and friends. That’s the fun part of it all, so why spend so much time being stressed out?

      Thanks for the great comment!


  5. Just relax and let someone else do the work. Your work is probably paying more, not just from a financial perspective. When being frugal trumps your sanity, something is wrong. From the grand scene of things, the cost of remodeling is just a drop in the ocean.
    Btw, after getting stressed out with life/work etc, I’ve changed my priorities last year, and am thoroughly enjoying it. I just focus on the things that are important to me. My investments are still moving along in the right direction. My energy for my work is high. I have another long family vacation in Japan and Singapore. So, it’s just a change in perspective.

    • D4S,

      Do you have any articles about changing you perspective that you can link to? I would be very interested in reading about it and seeing what I can learn from your experience. Was it difficult dropping the habits related to things that were no longer important?

      Thank you very much for the helpful comment – much appreciated right about now! Have a great weekend.


  6. Hey Bert. We bought a complete fixer upper. Everything was basically liveable but was gross. We had dog piss carpets holes in the walls. Not one window in the house opened. The water pressure qas low. One bathroom was a gutjob and full of mold. There was no fence for my dog. The master bedroom and livimg room lights didnt work . My list was long and i worked 50-60hrs a week. So after i didnt want to work on the house all the time. I know what you mean about the stress of the list. Slowly but surely things got done. I hired out the bathrooom gut which cost us 13,000$. There was simply not enough time. 2 years later there is still stuff to do. Thats home ownership theres always something! But when people come by they are amazed at the transformation. Short term it sucks long term it will be worth it! Best of luck with the construction/move.

    • PCI,

      Thank you for sharing your experience. I’m sure it was rewarding and amazing seeing your house transform over the years. I need to remember that everything doesn’t have to get done at once and while it would be nice for things to be finished before we move in, it is okay if they don’t. And I’m sure when we finish these few items, there will be plenty of other items to tackle next haha That seems to be the way it works.

      Cannot wait to see what this house looks like a month from now. The changes will be crazy!


  7. It sounds like hiring a professional is a better move, since this affects the main living area of your house. Considering that travel schedule, it could be a good move to hire someone to do the painting as well. Part of the point of frugal living is that you save enough money to afford something like a necessary house expense.

    • Brian,

      I actually just asked the person today how much it would cost to paint as well, just to see if I would get a great deal. But the cost was too much, so I figured I can get some friends together and we can tackle the painting together. I agree with your statement about frugal living, and I seem to forget that sometimes in my quest to save as much as possible. It can be difficult to know when to spend money, but I need to do a better job of recognizing that.

      Take care,


  8. I wouldn’t dwell on that expense. It won’t be the last one either, it’s the joy of home ownership! You will hopefully get it back in the long run anyways. Sometimes things just don’t go the way you draw them up. 🙂

    • Thanks Mr Defined Sight – That’s exactly what everyone always tells me about homeownership. The spending never stops because there is always something that will need to be repaired. Agree with you last sentence, and the key is learning to be flexible with the plan. This is all still a learning process for me!


  9. Travelling for work sucks, but it has benefits too. How much have you gained from your travelling (points or miles or whatever)? Factor that into the equation before you blame work for a certain dollar amount.

    And you know what sucks more than travelling for work? Tearing down wallpaper. Trust me, you are happy to have subcontracted this one.

    As the other comments have pointed out, your time and your sanity have a value too. In this context $2K was a bargain.

    • That’s a fair point Catfish. I’m receiving a lot of points and we will be able to take a nice vacation as a result of it. I”ve been traveling a lot for five years now; however. And I am at the point where it isn’t worth the points. I’m ready to be home with my wife and family. But from a dollar perspective, the points I am earning this week should be factored into the overall cost.

      What’s funny about the wallpaper. I took down a few areas when doing some work on Sunday…and I could not have imagined doing that for the whole house. Everyone tells me this was the one piece that is the most time consuming and is a PAIN.

      I appreciate your great comment. Thanks for the motivation/thoughtful comment.


  10. Don’t be so hard on yourself 🙁 Congratulations on the new home. I think you did the right thing, dealing with having to do it yourself after being so tired and drained from work will just add to the stress. You should be proud that you are able to do a bit of home renovations! My husband is not handy (he’s amazing at his job but he’s not handy. That’s why I end up hiring this contractor I used to use for home renos who gets the job done without stress lol. By job, I mean child proofing a book case and putting a shelf in the wall!! (My husband and I can’t even find studs in the wall or even reliably know how to use a stud finder!). Sometimes spending a little money goes a long way to decrease stress and worry!

    • Thanks GYM! I think I do learn to be less hard on myself at times, definitely agree. Oh I’m not handy at all and I couldn’t do this without the help of my mom’s boyfriend. That’s what this has taught me. Stress has a price and it should be considered in a decision.

      Take care,


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