Let me start this post by saying I’m tired. I can’t express in words how tired and sore I am. We’ve been at the task of remodeling our house for a bit over six weeks now and I really didn’t think things would take us this long. We’ve done plumbing, electrical wiring, drywall, painting, trim carpentry, yard work and just about everything else associated with starting a new career as a contractor (by the way, I am currently NOT for hire…I gotta finish my own house before I can do anyone else’s!). I’ve spent more time wearing a dust mask and crawling around in the attic than I ever wanted (just a side note: it makes an excellent sauna between the hours of 10 am and 8 pm every day). Along the way, we’ve maintained our status as cheapskates without sacrificing quality and thought it might help those of you who have a few projects around the house of your own if I shared some of the ways we’ve saved money on this “project” we’re finishing up.
First, we’ve worn ourselves out doing much of the work instead of paying someone else to do it. I know that sounds pretty obvious, but there are very few people who can’t do most of the tasks we’ve run into. Let me give you some examples. Stacy has learned she is an expert at removing wallpaper, she can mud and wet sand drywall, she can paint (including cutting in along trim) and she has taken on other tasks she would have never considered before. I’ve cut holes in the ceiling, done a little HVAC, put some new wires in our breaker box, replaced some drain lines and all kinds of other things I’ve never done. The thing I discovered is that most of the time, the principles were simple (and easy to learn, thanks to Google) and a little research before starting a project made it a do-it-yourself project instead of a pay-someone-else project.
Second, since I just encouraged many of you to try new projects which could result in burning down your house or flooding it, we carefully selected some projects to hire out or ask for specialized help. For example, we had a minor leak around the chimney, requiring new flashing, sealant, etc. I was confident if I attempted to fix it we’d no longer have a minor leak – it would be a BIG leak. We decided to hire a good contractor to take care of that for us. Cost = $100 = worth every penny. If you find there is a task around your house that you aren’t sure you can tackle, ask some friends their thoughts. Does it require special tools or advanced education? Is it dangerous? I’ve done lots of wiring in my day, but I still wasn’t willing to tackle our entire house re-wire without some professional guidance. Thus, it was worth it to bring in a friend of mine who is an electrician.
Third, we shopped around. Again, I know that sounds pretty obvious but do you know how much of a difference there is in the price of simple things like lumber? I’ll give you a great example. I went to one of the big box stores and found the baseboard moulding we need. It was $2.17 per linear foot. I went to a building supplier less than a mile away (thanks for recommending them, Mike!) and the same exact moulding was $1.01 per foot. They use the same supplier; they’re just a small local distributor. Considering we needed about 350 feet, the savings was over $400! This held true for every type of moulding we needed and will likely save us almost $800 over buying that stuff at the big box stores. I’ve found the easiest way to shop around is to just browse, making notes of some pricing on some of the items you’ll need. In our case, it was outlets, wire, finish-grade lumber, moulding, basic plumbing supplies, screws and nails. We made notes at each store we visited, then when it was time to buy, I’d make a trip to the cheaper place to buy the stuff. A simple notebook and pencil have saved us hundreds.
Fourth, we’ve kept every receipt. Every time we made a trip to the store, we always bought some extra supplies. It is terrible to get home to work on a project and realize you need one more ____ (insert any supply here) to finish. That is awful, expensive and wastes a ton of time. I’ve had no trouble returning anything to the stores with my receipt. We’ve done it a few times when we’ve found a cheaper price somewhere else and we’ve done it lots of times because we’ve just bought more than needed. Still well worth it.
Last, we stayed on budget and used only cash. This means we’ve waited (and are still waiting) on some of the bigger purchases. Did you know we could save 5% on every purchase and get free delivery on larger purchases by signing up for one of the big box store credit cards? 5% may not sound like much, but I surely would like to pay 5% less for everything we’ve bought. But it wasn’t worth using a credit card to save 5%. It would have made it too easy to spend more, avoid shopping around, and I know we would have spent more money. In other words, it would have made it too easy to be lazy. Lazy is unacceptable – there is too much work to be done!
I’d love to hear your stories – how have you saved money on your home repairs? Do you have any big secrets we need to know? Share them below!