New Year, New URL!

Hi friends and family,

Happy 2017! We’ve switched website hosts, so you can catch all of our DIY fun at:


Hello newcomers!

Welcome! Come join us over at our new address and check out our DIY projects in home decor, personal finance, budget travel, and Hugo the Skoolie (we’re converting a school bus into an RV tiny home on wheels!).

If you enjoy video and audio more, come check out our YouTube channel, where you can watch our bus conversion process and other fun activities.

As always, you can find us at any of these social media outlets: Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Pinterest. Follow us to learn how to live large while spending little and saving lots 🙂

Peace & Love,

Lil & Big


{Living Room} Simple Bar Cart to Work of Art


Hi Friends,

Earlier this summer, as Lil and I were spending time at different moving and estate sales in the Hudson Valley, we came across this bar cart – sometimes we don’t know what treasures we will find!

black bar cart

Our $5 Moving Sale Find – Simple Black Bar Cart

We found the bar cart and other great items at a moving sale at a beautiful house in Newburgh that overlooked the Hudson River.  We ended up with the cart, some Crate & Barrel plates, End Tables, a throw blanket, and a bar set, all for a total cost of $20!  Motivated sellers give you the power as the buyer, but that is for a different article.  Today, we want to tell you about how we transformed our boring, black bar cart into something we will display and use at our new apartment.

Lil and I discussed our color scheme at our new apartment well in advance; this allows us to stay focused when we are out thrifting and shopping.  We elected to go with Gray, White, Gold, and Blue-Greens as our central color scheme, so when Lil and I began our bar cart project, the decisions were easy.

Lil started the project by spray painting the black bar cart with the Ocean Mist Rust-Oleum spray paint we picked up from the hardware store.

bar cart with spray paint

Freshly Painted Bar Cart

Then we taped off the edges so we could paint the shelves with our leftover chalk gray paint (purchased for our Coffee Table DIY).

bar cart grey paint

We carefully taped the edges so that our foam roller would only paint the shelves.

Bar cart untaping

Removing the painter’s tape once our grey paint had dried to reveal nice crisp edges

Lil decided to add a personal touch, so we bought a Krylon Copper Leafing Pen from Michael’s for $3 (originally $11 but we found another 70% off coupon through After some searching online for different fonts, we selected one that we both loved. What other word more fitting for a bar cart than “Cheers”?

Bar cart text measuring

Measuring twice, sketch once – we didn’t want our calligraphy to be off center

bar cart top

Lil was up early to work on the top of the bar cart – she’s still in pajamas!


Lil’s first attempt at calligraphy – thank goodness for starting with pencil and having a good eraser!

Bar cart version 2.0

Bar cart version 2.0 – it turned out to be a little too pretty and pristine for our tastes

Bar cart sanding

Roughing up the look of our bar cart with some good ol’ sanding

After we were finally happy with the look and feel of our bar cart, we needed to seal it since it would be in a high-traffic area (living room) and would definitely see drips and spills in the future. We sprayed on the polyurethane we had available; while researching, we discovered polyurethane would provide the best level of protection.  However, we quickly realized the spray-on form was a mistake as it seeped into the ridges and created a yellowish discoloration where there was an excess.


Yellowish streaks from excess polyurethane – lesson learned.

We ended up being able to cover up the discoloration with leftover spray paint and re-sanded for our desired distressed look – crisis averted! We looked up the next best sealant and decided to go with Minwax water-based polycrylic. We applied two coats with a synthetic brush, allowing for an hour of drying in between coats. No yellow discoloration this time, yay!

Bar Cart Final

Bar cart version 3.0 – A Work of Art

Here’s a sexy spreadsheet of cost comparing our DIY vs buying brand new low- to mid-tier versions:

Cost Savings Analysis - bar cart

The “Start From Scratch” price is based off of a the cost of materials for the Lil & Big tutorial without coupons/discounts, but the photo example is from a wonderful tutorial by Kelli & Kristi at Check it out!

Lil’s takeaways:

  1. Since we didn’t have a tutorial to follow for this project, it was important to agree with Big on the overall look and feel of the piece – we both wanted a more rustic/coastal vibe and weren’t quite satisfied with the cutesy look of Bar Cart 2.0.  We decided that the quickest and most economical way to resolve this was to scuff up the mint green spray paint with some light sanding – problem solved!
  2. If a project doesn’t turn out the way you had pictured it in your head, don’t give up and don’t settle! Take it as a learning experience, ask yourself, “HOW can I improve this?”, and make the piece something that will “spark joy” every time you look at it.

Big’s takeaways:

  1. Water-based polycrylic is now our preferred method of sealing our projects. It takes a little more effort to apply but seems well worth the effort to avoid streaking and yellowing.
  2. Build off of confidence! After our successful coffee table DIY, Lil and I were confident and motivated to work on our bar cart.  Lil took the initiative on this project, and I was happy to play my role.

We hope you found our DIY furniture post helpful and interesting! Feel free to drop us a comment below and follow us on Instagram to see how our bar cart fits into our new apartment 🙂

These were some little steps to big savings!


Lil & Big


{Living Room} Ikea Coffee Table Trash to Treasure

Hi Friends,

As Big and I prepare for our big move, we quickly realized that while we both have complete bedroom sets, we’ve always lived with roommates who’ve furnished the common areas such as the living room and kitchen. We started scouring through Craigslist for free or steeply discounted furniture and browsing through various Pinterest posts for DIY furniture tutorials and IKEA hacks!


One man’s trash…

I pinned this particular IKEA coffee table hack by Brynne at not only because I loved the rustic look but also because her tutorial was super straightforward! A few days after showing Big, he came across an IKEA Lack coffee table by his building’s trash area, and his dad called to let us know he had picked up some beautiful planks of wood from a neighbor re-doing their deck – the DIY stars had aligned.

Long story short, we painted our FREE black coffee table white instead of purchasing it new, saving us $45 + tax + transportation costs + time for a trek out to IKEA. Yay!

Painting IKEA Lack coffee table

Saved $20+ by reusing a can of leftover paint

Big’s dad had a can of EasyCare paint/primer in white from a previous project, so, in true DIYtoWealth fashion, we used this instead of going out to get a new can. Don’t forget to lightly sand all surfaces beforehand so the paint/primer has some texture to adhere to! Also, check out this post by our friends at Homeli for the best approach to prepping, painting, and protecting laminate furniture such as IKEA. 

While I painted, Big removed any unwanted nails, filled the holes with wood filler, then sanded the discarded deck planks nice and smooth. He then stained one side of the wood planks with 2 coats of Minwax stain and trimmed excess wood with his dad’s Ryobi hand saw once fully dried (we wanted 2″ of overhang on each end).

Sanding deck wood planks

Taking a break from painting to enjoy the view ❤

coffee table stain

Minwax Wood Finish Stain in Ipswich Pine

coffee table saw

If you don’t have access to a saw, your neighborhood Home Depot or Lowes can trim wood for you

coffee table chalk

Saved $6.70 with our 70% off coupon!

We simplified the process even further by purchasing one paint color for the wood planks vs the three listed in Brynne’s tutorial. Big suggested we check out paint colors at Michael’s since they often have great coupons, either through the store or through He found a 70% off coupon, so we ended up paying only $2.70 for our $8.99 jar of Americana Decor chalky finish paint. We wanted the beautiful wood grain to show through, so we watered the paint down by 3 parts paint to 1 part water. After the first coat dried, we finely sanded the surface to create a “weathered” appearance.

coffee table wood filler

Saved $3 by using leftover wood filler!

coffee table drilling

Drilling pilot holes for our wood screws

coffee table drying

Letting the wood glue dry between the wood planks and top of the IKEA table


Spraying on polyurethane to protect the surface from wear and tear

Coffe table Final 1

Final Product!


Here’s a sexy spreadsheet of cost comparing our DIY vs starting from scratch vs buying brand new mid-tier versions:

Cost Savings for Coffee Table

We were able to keep our costs down by finding the Ikea table, Wood planks, and having paint, stain, and polyurethane leftovers from our family.

Lil’s takeaways:

  1. I appreciate Big’s work ethic (he would always be the first to suggest working on our coffee table each morning) and ability to see the big financial picture (he is the coupon king).
  2. Foam rollers are WAY better than paint brushes when it comes to painting laminate surfaces – the brushstrokes were painfully visible on the IKEA table and looked super unprofessional.

Big’s takeaways:

  1. Always keep a look out for what people are throwing out; with some imagination and hard work, you can make it great again.
  2. 90% of the battle is just showing up! Once Lil and I got going on this project, it seemed like it was done in no time.  Now we are addicted to DIY – it is so rewarding and good on our wallets.
  3. Always use a tarp or cover to protect the surfaces your painting on. We had some drips of white paint on the deck.  We later found out the dollar store sells big plastic tarps, as well as nice sets of foam brushes.

We hope you found our inaugural DIY furniture post helpful and interesting! Feel free to drop us a comment below and follow us on Instagram to see how our coffee table fits into our new apartment 🙂

These were some little steps to big savings!


Lil & Big

The Lil Big Apartment

George Washington Bridge

Once upon a time…

Lil and Big met in Chinatown, NYC 10 months ago, fell in love over skateboards and froyo, and will be moving in together at the end of August 2016!

frozen yogurt at juicy spot

We went back to Juicy Spot Cafe on our 6 month anniversary and ordered the same frozen yogurt Big bought for me the first day we met, because that’s how we roll (pun intended)

After months of [re]searching for apartments on websites such as, Renthop, and Craigslist, and 1 week of viewings, we decided to go with a 2-bedroom 1 bath unit in Uptown Manhattan. Here’s why:

  • Location
    • I get to walk to work, which saves me time and money as I pay off student loan debt
      • Safety was a priority for Big since I work the occasional late shift, so he was adamant that we stay close to the hospital
    • Big can get to work in 30 min with the express train around the corner
  • Value
    • Manhattan 2 bedrooms average $4908/month or $67/square foot (check out this Rental Report for June 2016 prices)
    • Lil Big Apt is $2406/month and $35/square foot!
    • We plan to make the spare bedroom available to friends, family, and other guests
      • Big crunched some numbers and found that we would only need to have 40% guest occupancy to break even
floor plan

The floor plan of our 840sq ft top floor apartment

living room

Big admiring our large living room and beautiful hardwood floors


Our biggest project to come: making this kitchen less of an eyesore


2nd biggest project: bathroom beautification


Guest bedroom!


Master bedroom!

Our apartment hunt for the most updated and spacious apartment for the best price inspired us to seek other ways to save, which eventually spawned this blog. Stay tuned to see how we make this apartment ours while keeping it budget- and rental-friendly.

These are some little steps to big savings.


Lil & Big

Lil & Big’s Tips and Tricks to Get High-End Looking Furniture at Thrift Store Prices

Hi friends,

We love transforming old/used furniture into works of art.  It saves us a lot of money, doesn’t take much time, and lets us get the exact look we want for our Lil Big Apartment.  We plan to write and share a series of articles to help people understand and take advantage of DIY Furniture.

Here are some of the topics we plan to cover in this series:

  1. Coffee Table – watch us transform an Ikea coffee table with some paint and reclaimed deck wood
  2. Baker’s Rack – see how we freshen up a 30 year old hand-me-down with a little spray paint and imagination.
  3. Bar Cart – learn how we take an estate sale find and make it beautiful and functional.
  4. End Tables – watch us rejuvenate “meh” into mid-century modern beauties.
  5. More to come!

We hope these articles prove interesting and informative.

These are Little Steps to some Big Savings.


-Lil & Big

Lil & Big’s Tips and Tricks to Save with the Internet

Hi friends,

Lil and I take the power of the internet and apps for granted. We constantly use technology to save money (and make us money with our investments, but more on that later), and we wanted to share some of those tips with you.  We plan to write and share a series of articles to help people understand and take advantage of the internet.

Here are some of the topics we plan to cover in this series:

  1. Cable Cutting – Netflix/Hulu/Amazon/Etc – Save money by getting rid of your cable bill.
  2. Ride Sharing – Uber/Lyft/Etc – Save time and money by avoiding traditional taxi cabs.
  3. Room Sharing – AirBnb/HomeAway/Etc – Cheaper and often more beautiful than traditional hotels
  4. Digital Banking – Venmo/Paypal/Etc – Free person-to-person transactions
  5. Online Loans – CommonBond/SoFi/Etc – Lower overhead = lower fees
  6. Online Shopping – Craigslist/SlickDeals/Ebates/Etc – Stretch your dollar with these tried and true websites.

We hope this proves interesting and informative.

These are Little Steps to some Big Savings.


-Lil & Big