Welcome to Brighter Home Projects! In this series, we explore DIY home renovation, repair, and a variety of related projects by taking to heart this simple idea: you are capable of more than you realize. Each installment focuses on home improvement projects, information, and advice aimed growing both your skill set and your self-confidence.
Because Money Doesn’t Grow on Trees
When it comes to completing successful DIY projects, it can be tough to know where you spend and where you should save. Here at Brighter Home Projects, we operate from the stance that, if you learn to save at the right times, you’ll have enough stored up to drop some coin on a big purchase (like that airless sprayer I’ve been eyeing) down the road.
Now, this blog post won’t be a coupon-clipping guide, and I don’t have a secret retail source for unbelievable deals, but I do have five super-helpful tips on how to save money with your DIY projects – especially if you’re willing to think outside the box.
1) Scrap Saves You Money
I can’t tell you how elated, yet simultaneously irritated, I become when someone I’m helping on a project tosses out perfectly good scrap material. Leftover wood, pieces of drywall or green board, half sacks of mortar, and mostly used cans of penetrating oil are only a few of the things I’ve gladly pulled out of the rubbish bin on work sites, so just imagine what I don’t throw away when I’m working on a project!
Yet, since scrap materials are mostly useful for projects you anticipate in the future, this tip is more of a long-term approach than a quick money saving idea. For example:
- Wire saved from one project came in handy when installing a new light fixture.
- Drywall remnants from another project were used to patch a hole in a friend’s wall.
- Oddly shaped wood scraps were used to repair chair supports and build a mitre gauge mount for cutting those pieces on a table saw.
Saving money isn’t the only benefit. Having an ample supply of materials, a variety of screws, and a stash of odd( but useful) tidbits can save you a great deal of time and frustration by eliminating unnecessary trips to the store.
2) Trash Isn’t Always Trash
I’m truly astonished at what gets thrown away during a home improvement project.
To locate used, yet useful, building materials (some of which cost major bucks at the store), look no further than demolition sites. While some large-scale demolition companies actively sort materials for reuse and resale, many building projects are on tight schedules and require quick demo, which means lots of good stuff gets thrown out with the trash. While not every project foreman is accommodating, as on a few occasions, I have received permission to retrieve materials without having to spend a dime of my own money – including a nice glass storm door. And it’s best to aske people you know personally, as we don’t advocate walking up to random construction sites begging for scrap materials.
Demolition crews aren’t the only ones tossing out expensive yet unwanted items, average folks do it all the time. I’ve become a fan of bulk trash day around my area, as people throw away the most amazing things, some of which end up in my garage. Among my better finds sit a working 6-gallon Shop-Vac with all of the attachments, a nearly spotless lawn cart that retails for $125, a broken heavy-duty folding work table that I fixed it with a new set of nuts and bolts, and a beautiful wall lamp.
And don’t forget your own garbage. That old vacuum has a perfectly good plug and wire. Your old all-in-one printer has a myriad of useful parts including metal rods that can be cut to make metal pins, sheet metal, and a glass plate that can be cut for a variety of uses. All of these things cost money when you want them from your local hardware or big box stores.
3) Search Online
It should go without saying that the Internet is a great place to save money, but when it comes to project materials and supplies, I feel that it’s a very poorly utilized resource.
In case you haven’t given it a look, sites like Amazon do carry nuts, bolts, adhesives, electrical supplies, and tools. And this just skims the surface. The problem most of us face is that, when we need something from the hardware store, we need it now, so you pay full price at your local hardware store. But if you can give yourself lead time on a project, or don’t mind buying multi-packs of things that you frequently use, big online retailers can offer savings that will help you finish your DIY projects under budget.
It’s no secret that you can find home furnishings and tools on Craigslist, but have you been to the building materials section? This little gem is where contractors and homeowners go to unload unused materials at the end of a project, often at very attractive prices. Another Craigslist source of greatness is the “Free” section. This is truly hit or miss, but you can find nearly anything on there, including tools and materials that people simply wish to get rid of quickly (just be quick about it, as it’s often first come, first served).
Depending on where you live, Freecycle can be a fantastic resource, an entire site that resembles the free section of Craigslist. When I lived in Washington, D.C., I furnished most of my apartment thanks to this site, all of which were nice pieces that simply needed to find a new home. I haven’t had as much success in the Dallas / Fort Worth area of Texas, but it’s still a good site for finding money-saving supplies that people simply want off of their hands.
4) Cheap Stuff can be Good Stuff
While I typically rail against buying tools at stores like Harbor Freight, these retailers do have a lot of products that maximize your project budget. Rope, casters, work gloves, sand paper, and magnetic part dishes are just a few of the useful finds that are a fraction of the cost of the big box retailers. It’s also worth noting that, if you have limited need for certain hand tools, such stores provide good alternatives to higher-end hand tools that will ultimately end up gathering dust in the corner of your workshop.
5) Rent – Don’t Buy
If you find yourself in need of a demolition hammer, but don’t have the money or future need for one, pay a visit to your local big-box home improvement store. Home Depot and Lowe’s have a wide variety of tools you can rent without having the hassle of researching purchase options for something you’ll only use once or twice.
It’s also worth noting that for home automotive repair, stores like O’Reilly and Auto Zone also have tools to help you, most of which they will lend to you at no cost.
We all need a little extra wiggle-room in the budget for our DIY projects, so if you’re willing to put the time in and get your hands a little dirty, you’ll eventually collect that extra cash needed to purchase the truly good tools with long-term value.
Do you have any tips for saving money on DIY projects? Let us know in the comments!