Ordering an IKEA kitchen without going to the store

So I finally (I think) ordered my kitchen from IKEA. Since I used a kitchen designer, and my design was uploaded directly to IKEA’s Kitchen Planner, I was able to send a request via IKEA’s website,then they validated my purchase list by phone, and I entered my credit card info via a web link. There were a few hiccups along he way, so here are my recommendations for you, should you do the same:

1) Use your best phone number as your primary phone number. Perhaps it goes without saying for those of you who love your cell phone, but I used my home number as my first phone number. That meant that every time my designer called me back, she used our home number. When I was at work or out of the house, I needed to call her back and go through their crazy-making automated system. Despite begging every person with whom I spoke, our kitchen consultant would not use the second number I listed.

2) Go through every darned thing on that list.  Yes, all of the Swedish nouns will make your eyes burn, but would you rather they burn now or later when you have your kitchen counter measurers on their way and you don’t have a critical piece?  I was missing a door, hinges, shelves, and other various bits.   

3) If your bill exceeds your credit limit on,your credit card, you can call in and make the payment on two cards. Our cabinet bill was in excess of $9k, and even though we regularly use our credit cards, we also pay them off every month!  Since we rarely make such large purchases, we had a little problem.  We attempted to prepay some of the bill so we would have enough room, but the transaction still wouldn’t go through.  We then called IKEA and broke our payment up into two parts to put on two cards.

4) Call well early to find out what the average delays are for your store, and then plan your order accordingly. I called our store about a month before I was ready to order, and they told me that since I was ordering a super popular door style that they are generally in stock, and the delay to deliver a kitchen is approximately 5-7 days.  Note that 5-7 days for IKEA means 5-7 days, they work weekends!  When I made my initial call on a Thursday, they were ready to deliver on Sunday.  I pushed them off until the following Friday to not have too many boxes for our contractor to trip over

5) Eagerly await your 258 boxes!  That’s right, our kitchen consultant confirmed that we will have 258 boxes delivered on Friday!  I am preparing myself for lots of Swedish swearing next weekend!

How to change between USD and CAD inexpensively?

Since we moved to Canada twelve years ago, we have maintained a financial presence in both the U.S. and Canada.  Some things don’t follow you (we had zero credit history when we moved here, and had to start again by using a credit card that we had already pre-paid), while other things do (U.S. taxes follow you everywhere!).  And keeping things separate isn’t all that difficult, but moving money back and forth can be tricky.

Enter our home project, at which point we put all of our chips on the table (Goodbye, Roth IRAs!  Goodbye, US Savings!) to make our long-term home.  And to do so, we needed to convert some money from USD to CAD.

Our first step Continue reading “How to change between USD and CAD inexpensively?”

Design help

As we have gone through this transformation experience, I have had lots of people ask if we were getting design help.  Well, much as this is quite the luxurious process of remaking a house as we want it to be, I am basically a frugal person.  So for a period of years, I imagine, we will be improving upon the individual rooms to make them more lovely, homey, and inviting.  And it will never, ever, look as lovely as rooms assembled by those friends that really take lots of time and care for the details.

The one place where we are looking for some design help is our kitchen.  Cue Inspired Kitchen Design (aka IKD), a Florida based company that helps design your IKEA kitchen.

Have you spent any time in IKEA trying to put together your ideal closet or entertainment centre?  I love the Swedish-retailer more than your average bear, and have gone for meatballs and some candles on many occasions (we gained much understanding of the huge candle selection during our time in Stockholm).  I dig that stuff, but putting a whole kitchen together with all of the bits and bobs makes me want to touch terracotta (my own personal nails on chalkboard kind of thing).

So IKD tells us they will spruce up our existing kitchen design, and then spit it out in a IKEA friendly shopping list that we can just hand over to them!  Sounds simple, and I hope it is.  I am about to bite the bullet and pay the $245 US – I will let you know how it works.

Review of the City of Montreal’s Major Renovation Subsidy

franglais: a mix of French and English, often spoken in Montréal, North America’s largest francophone city

Today’s post needs to be a bit in franglais, because it is the language in which I live.  For 12 years and 4 days, I have lived in my adopted city of Montréal and loved it.  I arrived not knowing much more than how to read a menu, and now I live and work in French.  But a good many of my thoughts and expressions use the best of both languages, and given that today’s post is about a city program, it will inevitably be in franglais.  So please stay tuned after this public service announcement in French:

Pour ceux et celles qui cherchent plus des renseignements sur la programme des Rénovations Majeurs de la Ville de Montréal, n’hésitez pas de m’écrire directement.  Il me fera plaisir de vous parler de mon expérience.  

Now that we have that out of the way, here has been my experience with the City of Montréal’s Major Renovation program.

The Narrative

We applied for the program last autumn, with our initial inspection taking place on the 14th of December 2017.   The agent we met with, we’ll call him Agent A, walked us through the program, the expectations, and the benefits.  For us, the benefit would be a $15,000 subsidy to help with our home.  Since we seemed to fit the criteria and are willing to work an amount like $15k, we got started.

In February we had another visit, this time from Agent B.  In March he delivered a mass of paperwork that we needed to go through, which we returned as quickly as possible. It is worth noting at this point that, in the package of information we received at the beginning of March, there was a work plan.  The work plan provided by the City was exhaustive, including things like minimum specifications for the kitchen cabinets, arrangement of closets, and the beauty of the backyard.  When I reviewed this 20-ish page document in detail, I flagged about a dozen items that weren’t relevant or weren’t included in Phase 1 of our project (ex: backyard beautification – our renos will finish in the winter!).  Agent B was cool with all of it.  There was also mention (for the first time) of the need for a notary – I asked specifically about this and was told that it came later in the process.

During March and April we were also getting bids and evaluating them.  In May we submitted all of our documents to the City so that they could submit to our arrondissement (neighbourhood) for the permit.  At the end of May, I started stalking Agent B to find out how it was going, only to find that Agent B had gone on extended sick leave.

I only learned that Agent B was out on extended sick leave because I had been stalking him.  And I only got a call back 4 business days later from Agent C because I stalked everyone I knew within the department (including Agent A) to get a prompt response.

Unsurprisingly, nothing had been done under Agent B to move my file toward permit, and Agent C was completely new to the program.  It took him 15 business days to submit my file to the arrondissement, and he made no other notes about my file.  I knew that he also needed to make sure our funding was secured with the City, so I gave him two weeks and started following up.

When I didn’t get a prompt reply from Agent C, I called the main number only to find that Agent C had gone out on extended sick leave.  Argh!  I asked for a call back, and got a ring the next morning from Agent A (at least he was vaguely aware of my file)!

I brought Agent A up to speed, and asked him to make sure we were approved for funding and move the notary process forward.  He asked for a week to do so, so after a week, on the 14th of July, I emailed him and he responded with several questions about my file.  Some of the questions were straightforward (he needed an invoice from our structural engineer that had never been requested and some financing information that we had sent to Agent B while he was already on sick-leave), others were trickier.

For example, we had thought that we might participate in our project by doing some of the demolition ourselves.  Not ones for taking down load-bearing walls, we just wanted to eliminate some of the plaster and lathe and save some bucks.  We thought this would be alright since the General Contractor would still be responsible for the bulk of the demolition (we are moving the stairs!).  I was informed by Agent A that this was not acceptable.  Further, he noted that the City had been supported by the Ombudsperson when others had brought complaints for just such an issue.  We may think that we are qualified to do something such as paint our own interior, but, Agent A informed me, ben non!, we are not!  Much better if all of these details are taken care of by the contractor.

Same thing for purchases; all purchases should be made by our entrepreneur.  I asked him specifically about our IKEA kitchen, which everyone tells me takes hours and hours of store time to get together, so it’s better if we just buy it ourselves.  This would allow me to get exactly what I want and to save the fees of the contractor, who would have to do the exact same work that I have already done.  Reflechissez-bien, I am told by Agent A, it would be much better for me to give the list to the entrepreneur and have them be wholly responsible.  (And in my head, I am thinking that yes, they would be responsible, but at double the cost and this program is only giving me 5% of my overall budget… wait, who is in charge here?)

Well, if you sign up for the Major Renovation program, the City will be in charge, regardless of the tiny amount they give for your major renovations.  So upon reflection, we have decided to withdraw from the program.  Here are my thoughts for you if you are considering signing up for it for your home:

The Lesssons: 

  • Make sure it is a good wad of cash that you are offered, and then cut the expectation in half.  Yeah, the city will be good for the full amount, but you will have delays and unexpected expenses as a result of this process.  For those that keep a rentable unit in their place, the rewards can be much larger (a friend got $40,000.)  Also don’t forget to factor in your stress level: I will un-humbly note that I am pretty awesome at managing a project, and this bureaucracy brought me to tears.
  • Plan on having every single thing, from nail purchases on upwards, done by your General Contractor, and that you want to do it all at once.  If you want to have any tiny bit of control over purchases or want to have a hand in low-skilled work like demolition or painting, this program isn’t for you.  Same if you want some cosmetic things, like landscaping, to happen later – it all must be done within the confines of the program.
  • Sit on your Agent to go to the notary around the time they apply for the permit.  For us, this was the last straw.  Agent A told us that there was a delay of about 15 days from the time we got to the notary until the documents were enregistré.  Given that we were already delayed by Agent B’s sick leave (3 weeks minimum) and that Agent A wanted to review each line item despite the fact that they had been reviewed with Agent B, I feel like the funding is far from guaranteed at this point – in fact, it is likely to cause much more stress and entirely possible that we will get nothing from it.
  • Then sit on your Agent to have the Ouverture du Chantier as soon as possible.  There will be an official opening to your project when they present you with your permit.  No one talks about this until the time is almost upon you.  Given that we are hot on the heels of Québec’s construction holiday, it’s not the best time to bring us, the City, and our General Contractor all together.
  • So since there is no flexibility for cost cutting and high requirements from the City, I recommend this program for wealthy masochists!  

I hope this is helpful to someone out there who wants more information on the program and what it entails, because when I was searching for information on this program, I couldn’t find a darned thing.  Nothing – no one wrote about how they did it or what their experience was like.  So perhaps in the writing of this, I will have better prepared another applicant who will be able to make it work.

Tell me your frustrations or successes with a government subsidy program – I would love to celebrate your success (or commiserate).

 

House-iversary

One year ago today, we bought our future home.  Today, we actually will take full possession of all of the units and begin to whip them into shape to be our family home.

I have read about a practice of celebrating your personal anniversary of your home by taking care of some home project – either large or small.  Well, on this house-iversary, we are embarking on our biggest home changer ever – a complete gut-reno.

Let the games begin…

Building permit – the city cashed my cheque…

Now what?

Part of our renovation plan has been to apply for as many subsidies as we can get for our renovations.  One of those that we’ve applied for is the City of Montreal’s Major Renovation Program.

Electric box
Does your electric box look like this? Then you, too, need some major renos!

I will get into the details of the program in a later post, but to be brief, we will receive about Continue reading “Building permit – the city cashed my cheque…”

Follow the money (or Y I love YNAB)

“Follow the money”
All the President’s Men

It had been a long while that I had thought…

  • I really need to track my expenses.

  • I need to see where my money goes.

  • I want to have more control over my money.

    And then finally, one fateful day last August just after we had purchased our beloved money-pit, er, home, I signed up on a budgeting adventure like no other…

Continue reading “Follow the money (or Y I love YNAB)”