Show me the Money

Actually it is really “just tell me the price!” I like to know how much stuff costs. It helps me decide if I need it, want it or if it is even remotely close to the budget. I come by this honestly. I am the youngest in a big family. We had amazing camping vacations that to do this day I am in awe that my mom agreed to my dad’s grand plans! Considering these trips included five kids for three to four weeks touring national parks…summer after summer. We camped because it great fun. It was not a fancy trailer either but a simple, well designed pop-up tent trailer made by Montgomery Wards. Camping was also economical for our party of seven. Every once in a while much to my sisters’ delight we stayed in a motel for a night and ate dinner away from the campfire at an air-conditioned restaurant once we were all cleaned up! The restaurants were often conveniently adjacent to the hotels since we were in some stunningly scenic but really remote areas of the west.

Hamburger or Steak?


One night as the family legend is told, we stayed at motel somewhat near to Las Vegas but enough towns away to be what my mom considered “family friendly.” It was the sixties with 5 kids from Kansas after all. It was too hot to camp in the Nevada desert. A nice motel where you park at the door was selected with I imagine 20 or rooms. I was too little and unfortunately can’t remember any of it.

The only place to eat in the tiny town was the motel restaurant which was run by the motel owner too. A restaurant so small there were no menus. Only a choice “steak or hamburger?”  With a tight budget and many weeks left on the trip, a round of burgers was ordered no questions asked. The meal was enjoyed and a scrawled bill presented with a single large amount. My dad was taken back after seeing the cost. Considering not much riles my dad, everyone noticed. He asked “How much would the steak had been ?“

The motel owner replied “Same cost we butcher our own meat”. The motel owner also added, “I included the room rate  in that amount to make checking out easy. You might want to leave early in the morning to avoid the desert afternoon heat”. With that said the cost was reasonable. But we could have had steak for same price if we only asked!

As an architect, often I will see a client try to save money by wanting to add a few square feet to thier home in a complicated shape thinking that the general square footage cost would apply. It isn’t that easy. Many factors come into play when figuring a price. So I always start with the big idea and see what it will take to make it happen. The last thing anyone wants is to throw good money after bad only to find out it would have been cheaper to completely gut a room and start over than try to fix, match and repair existing. Or adding 200 square feet in a clean simple layout is easier than 50 convoluted square feet! I suggest ask away and think big! Let your home design professional and contractor know you are open to ideas for your home improvement project and their advice, especially if you are considering doing something that you think will save money.


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