Completing Home Projects without Breaking the Bank

by Karen Kuebler

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Can't Afford Home Improvements

Home improvement projects can take a pretty big chunk out of our household budget. However, with some ingenuity and a good dose of assertiveness, there are a variety of ways to find what you are looking for with little or no cost involved. Here are just a few ideas to begin saving big bucks:

  1. Use your networking contacts to put out the word when you are looking for particular items. Friends and neighbors might have what you are looking for, or know somebody who does. Through these contacts, you can often get what you are looking for at little or no cost. We recently gave some friends a gliding chair and ottoman in beautiful condition. We didn't want to bother with running an ad and trying to sell it. It was taking up space in the middle of our living room. It was a win/win situation.

  2. Check out construction sites for building materials. At the end of the day, you can find all kinds of building supplies in dumpsters outside of construction areas. Nobody will care if you take stuff from the dumpsters. Just don't remove anything from the actual construction site. We often bring home good pieces of wood or other supplies, even if we don't have a current project in mind. We always find a use for them later.

  3. Look at other people's garbage. I'm not a huge fan of going through garbage, but I couldn't resist including this idea. We were recently going for our morning walk and found two beautiful wood medicine cabinets with stain glass designs on the mirrors sticking out of a neighbor's garbage can! I asked if we could take them and received an enthusiastic response. Often there are good useable items sitting outside of people's homes to be hauled away. Many people don't want to bother with donating or selling them.

  4. Take advantage of others' remodeling projects. When remodeling, homeowners need to dispose of existing cabinets, sinks, light fixtures, countertops, tiles, used bricks, furniture, doors, etc. They will probably be happy to get rid of the stuff at very reasonable prices, or simply for hauling it away. This is another time where it helps to have your "feelers" out and network with all of the people you know. Somebody is likely to know somebody else who is going through a remodeling project. A builder recently told me he was remodeling and had an old bear claw bath tub that he couldn't give away. He ended up taking it to the dump! (By the way, checking out dump sites is another viable option for finding things, as long as you are willing to wade through the garbage.)

  5. Develop contacts and rapport with local builders and contractors. This is an invaluable resource for locating items. Not only are builders and contractors involved in new construction, but they are also responsible for the majority of remodeling projects. This is when that good dose of assertiveness will work well for you! Get out there and introduce yourself to builders and contractors and develop a good rapport. Once we remodeled a closet and had an extra set of doors in perfect condition. We offered them to our builder to reuse. He didn't have a current need for them, but if you had been looking for closet doors and called him at that time, they would have been yours for the taking!

  6. Trade with friends and/or neighbors. When you have something to get rid of, let your friends and neighbors know. Turnabout is fair play, and when the time comes that you are looking for something, you'll find it much easier to put the word out to your friends. If you have developed good relationships, you can also swap tools rather than purchasing for different projects. Be sure to return borrowed items promptly.

  7. Garage sales are a perpetual source of bargains. I have been to countless garage sales where people are selling everything you can imagine for home improvement projects including tools, sinks, light fixtures, cabinets, window treatments, furniture, and more. Yard sales are available every weekend, you can't beat the prices, and you can always negotiate.

  8. Browse the classifieds. You can find great bargains, and often free items, through the want ads in your local newspaper and company newsletters. Check the bulletin boards in grocery stores, laundromats, Quik Marts, etc. for more good deals.

Completing projects around the home always provides a wonderful sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. Your fulfillment becomes even greater when you achieve this while saving lots of money. These ideas can help get your creative wheels turning, and before you know it, you will think of many other ways to discover great bargains when planning new undertakings!

Karen Kuebler is a regular featured columnist at

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