BY ANDREA WOROCH
From thrift store purchases to home improvement store shopping, here are some great tips for saving money.
Keep photos on your digital camera of the rooms you are working on within your home. That way, you’ll have a photographic reminder of what will and will not work in the space. Keep tear sheets from decor magazines as crib sheets for choosing paint, wallpaper, and fabrics. If you liked it well enough to save it, a photo can certainly keep you on the right track. And don’t forget to have on hand all your measurements to ensure that you purchase just the right quantity and sizes of whatever you need.
If you’re thinking about stocking up on supplies for your most pressing project, consider the ways you can save when you do-it-yourself:
Big Box Versus Small Stores
For the frugal consumer, shopping smart is always a logical first step. When you’re shopping at the big-box home improvement stores like Home Depot and Lowe’s, there are always deals going down.
The two heavyweight retailers are highly competitive and both stores offer price matching with an additional 10-percent discount on identical products advertised at a lower price at any competing store. Both stores also post weekly sales, discounts and rebates on their websites so you can be prepared before you hit the store. Not to mention, you can always find coupons for these home and garden giants.
On the other hand, locally owned home-supply stores, like Ace Hardware, often provide e-mail sign-ups that allow you to receive special deals on the same items you would find at the big-box stores. While you may not be able to purchase sheet rock, the smaller places may carry everything from plumbing supplies to finishing notes for your home.
Tester Cans and Used Paint
Next to buying a nice area rug, painting is probably the easiest way to change the look of a room. Unfortunately, home improvement stores are aware of this and they like to make you pay for it. There are definitely ways to get around the high prices though.
If you only have a small space or piece of furniture to paint, there’s no need to invest in a whole gallon of paint that’ll inevitably take up space in the garage or closet. Ask about small tester cans that can often be found for $5 or less in a variety of colors. And by the way, when using cheap particle board, be sure to use paint. If you try to varnish, sand, and varnish, you would have to sand it and risk sanding a hole in the board. These sample cans are just right for most pieces of furniture.
The word is starting to get out on used paint, too. When people order large amounts of custom paint, they often order too much. This paint gets returned to the stores, but the merchant can’t put such cans back on the shelf with the rest of the paint. If you’re in the right place at the right time, you might be able to get gallons of paint for around $5. Not all stores will have used paint, but it doesn’t hurt to ask.
Buy Lumber in Bulk
Buying bulk lumber from a lumber yard is often cheaper and almost always a better quality than that of the big box stores. Working with lumber can be intimidating. It requires precise measurements and cuts, or you’ll end up wasting money and materials. Prices vary by lumber grade and wood type, so be aware of what materials are required to get the job done.
Generic Vs. Name Brand
There’s an incredible variety of nails and screws available, but how much of a difference is there really? Generic brand nails and screws are often up to par with the name brands, but cost significantly less. In some cases, the only difference between a generic and the brand name is the box!
The same can be said for pipes and plumbing fixtures. Unpackaged fixtures in a bulk bin can have the same quality as their packaged counterparts on the shelf, but cost much less. Longevity is also something to consider when working on a plumbing project. Copper pipes and PVC pipes typically give you the most bang for your buck, lasting up to 60 years.
Caulk certainly won’t be the most expensive item on your home improvement list, but it’s useful for patching up holes and sealing cracks. Often when people buy a tube of caulk for a small project, they end up making a mess of it and throwing half the tube away.
If you want to keep some caulk around for projects that spring up, try out some caulk singles from General Electric. Much like the fast food ketchup packet, they’re enough for one project and cut back on waste and mess. Watch for coupons to home centers like the Home Depot that offer General Electric’s caulk singles.
Now that warm weather is here, you can replace your old windows and doors with more energy efficient ones. While it’s a big project, it may be worth it when you save on heating and air conditioning costs.
In an effort to reduce energy consumption, the federal government is continuing to offer tax credits when you install Energy Star certified windows, doors and skylights. The credits aren’t as generous as last year, but you can still get 10 percent-off for $200 worth of windows and skylights and a rebate of up to $500 for doors.
Buy Reconditioned, Rent, or Borrow Power Tools
It’s hard to justify buying an expensive power tool, especially when you know you’ll never use it again. If you live the DIY credo, Home Depot and rental stores rent such power tools as power washers, paint sprayers, chainsaws, and buff sander. By renting, you’ll get the professional finish you want without having to cut corners on expensive equipment.
Many power tool manufacturers have online outlets where they sell reconditioned tools at a discount. These tools are certified by the manufacturer, so you have a guarantee they’ll work. You can save even more when you use a Bosch Outlet coupon or a Bostitch Outlet free shipping code for discount power tools.
Even better, borrow the tool you need from a relative or even a neighbor. Just be sure that you are willing to reciprocate with one of your own tools when they need a loan.
Used Hand Tools
The garage sale may still be king for finding good deals on hand tools. Many people don’t enjoy inherited tools and are willing to part with them for next to nothing, compared to new tools. Wrench sets, hammers and screwdrivers made by quality toolmakers like Craftsman and Stanley can stand the test of time and are as good today as they were 30 years ago.
No one escapes a little home maintenance from time to time. If you and a neighbor are working on similar projects, sharing the cost of renting a wood chipper or cement mixer can save both of you time and money.
While skilled friends and family don’t necessarily enjoy manual labor, they can be coaxed into it with the promise of good food, drink, or a labor exchange to be named later. Working with friends gets the job done faster and is usually much more fun.
Buy energy-saving products
Install dimmer switches ($10) and use energy-efficient halogen bulbs ($5), rather than incandescents. Dimmable CFLs are even thriftier, but some flicker at low power. Savings: $20 per fixture on electricity over three years. Halogens tend to outlast incandescents, saving more money over the long haul on replacement lights.
Choose a light-colored roof
Using pale shingles, here in the South, will reduce the solar heat your roof absorbs, reducing the need for air-conditioning. While the cost is the same as dark roofing, you’ll save more than $40 per year on cooling costs.
Plant a shade tree
Plant a deciduous tree on the south, west, or east side of your house. Once mature, it’ll shade your roof and cut your cooling costs by up to 30 percent. Be sure that it’s branches will not be too close to the house or you might have squirrels in your attic. The $20-$30 investment will earn you about $120 in air-conditioning savings. As the tree drops its leaves each fall, you’ll still get the warming benefit of winter sun.#
Consumer savings expert, Andrea Woroch has been featured on NBC’s Today Show, FOX & Friends, MSNBC, ABC News NOW, and more. Follow @AndreaWoroch on Twitter to receive daily savings tips.