Planning for Summer Projects - USAA Member Community


By Chad Storlie


Summertime is project time.  With summer just around the corner, there are lots of ideas in everyone’s to-do list.  Summer projects include painting the house, landscaping, or even routine items such as lawn care and fertilizer.  And always, always, after the good ideas comes the question, “How much will all this cost?”


When you are looking at summer projects, there are some simple rules to keep in mind to ensure you get a complete, accurate, and workable estimate.  Estimates for work are critical because they ensure your aspirations stay within your budget. 


Here is a step-by-step guide for getting an estimate for your next summer project:


1. Create an initial priority list for all of your items to complete this summer. Rank your items from 1 as the most important to 5 or 6 as the least important.

2. Determine your budget for your summer projects. Make sure that you fully account for other budget items for the summer (for example, kid’s day camps) and that you maintain other important budget items such as an emergency fund.

3. Follow these steps for each potential business you’re considering to complete the project:


  • Get the business name, address, and complete contact information including e-mail and phone for the person doing the work.
  • Get a detailed written estimate of the work to be performed including materials that are included and any costs that are not included.
  • Get a direct and simple, all in cost for the work to be performed.
  • Get a start date and an end date for the project.
  • Look up the business at your local Chamber of Commerce® and Better Business Bureau® to check out their rankings and reviews.
  • Look at other services that provide reviews of suppliers.
  • Talk to friends and family members for their perspective and knowledge.
  • Ask the business to provide 3-4 former customers that can provide a review of their work.


4. Perform the actions in Step #3 for 3-4 other potential businesses for each project. As a rule, have at least three written estimates for each project.


5. Keep a separate electronic and physical folder to keep each project and each potential contractor within the project organized.


6. Evaluate each project and determine a primary and an alternate business to complete each project. It is critical that the evaluation process is more than just cost. The quality of the work, project completion dates, and reviews tell you the value of how that money will be spent.


7. Once you have the projects ranked by preferred business with their costs, re-rank your priority list to ensure it fits within your budget.


8. Move your wish list of projects up or down your priority list based on the availability of the business to complete the work and the cost.


9. Step back and review the final list. Does it make sense? Do you feel comfortable with it? Can you use some estimates to re-negotiate with the business providing the service?


10. Share the results with family and friends, they should all feel comfortable with your decision.


Summer projects can be invaluable to improve your wellbeing. As you go through this process, be very wary of any responses such as: (1) “You don’t need that,” or (2) “In over 20 years, I’ve never had to provide a reference.”  Remember, in the end, this is your money – spend it well and spend it wisely. Have a great summer!


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Chad Storlie is the author of two books: Combat Leader to Corporate Leader and Battlefield to Business Success.  Both books teach how to translate and apply military skills to business.  An adjunct Lecturer of Marketing at Creighton University and Bellevue University in Omaha, NE.   Chad is a retired US Army Special Forces officer with 20+ years of Active and Reserve service in infantry, Special Forces, and joint headquarters units.  He served in Iraq, Bosnia, Korea, and throughout the United States.  He was awarded the Bronze Star, the Combat Infantryman’s Badge, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Special Forces Tab, and the Ranger Tab.   In addition to teaching, he is a mid-level marketing executive and has worked in marketing and sales roles for various companies, including General Electric, Comcast, and Manugistics.  He has been published in The Harvard Business Review blog, Business Week Online, Forbes, Christian Science Monitor, USA Today, and over 40 other publications.  He has a BA from Northwestern University and an MBA from Georgetown University.



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