How To Complete Home Projects on a Budget

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    Other than actually completing the work, budgeting your home projects can be one of the more difficult tasks which limit things you might like to get done. This is true for any size project and most contractors will tell you that on your first few projects you should add 50% to the time and 15% to the cost of any job.

    Underestimation of cost and time which can also be labor costs if you are hiring people to do some or all of the work is one reason most people don’t like dealing with home repair. Often they will attempt a project that is larger than they know how to complete or they will not budget for all of the materials necessary. This is due to inexperience but it can also be due to not taking time to plan.

    I find that when I first attempt something that I never have before it takes me much longer than other people. Only after I have done the same task a couple times do I reach the same completion times. This is the unknown factor reeking havoc on a project. When this happens it can be due to under staffing a crew or simply waiting for materials that I had no idea were necessary. However most of the time it is due to the fact that I want to complete a job the first time as best is possible. Taking longer and not cutting corners the first time you complete a project means every following job won’t mean saying I should have done that the first time.

    When you are working on your own projects you can often take the extra time but there comes a point where things just need to be done so you can move on with your life.

    Taking time in a project can save you money. If you are thinking about completing work in your home that isn’t an emergency like a leaking roof or a necessity like a broken heater in the middle of winter then you have time to research materials options and the best methods to complete the work.



    Not only do you have time to find the best deals for materials you also have the ability to purchase over time. For example if you are thinking about remodeling your bathroom you should find a set design. This can take quite a long time but once you have the design hold on to it and don’t make major changes. Then you can begin to purchase items you know you will need and store them until you are ready to begin.

    If you can purchase items without using credit you will save yourself whatever percentage you may be charged by your bank or a credit card. Right off the top that can save you 5% or more. Then you can use a cash back credit card to buy items you know you can pay for in the first month and save more.

    You should also look for sales. During the planing stages you are likely to pick out items you would like to have and you should note the prices. If you see huge discounts or maybe discontinued products for 50% off you should grab them. Not only that you should limit your choices to items that are on deep discount if they aren’t the basic necessities like Drywall which really never changes in price.

    I once walked into a home warehouse store and saw a bucket of drywall screws that I didn’t need for the job marked down to $5 that normally sell for $45. It was a price I could not refuse and since I was keeping them for myself I used them on many future projects not just drywall.. that required screws. I have picked up wiring, drop cloth and plastic and dozens of other items including lumber that has been marked down only to keep them for the future. It does mean my shed has less space but hey thats why there is a shed… to store things.

    Dumpster diving is also an option but you have to be careful about this now. In the past especially during the housing boom builders invited you to remove their materials from their dumpsters because it meant they had reduced trash fees which can be many times higher for construction materials. Today with fewer houses being built contractors don’t like people rooting through dumpsters as much because it often attracts people who will walk on to sites and take good materials. Just ask before you take. The laws in your State may vary but only take stuff that is actually in the dumpster and never around or leaning on or next to it even if you can completely believe it is trash or broken beyond normal use. You never know and you don’t want to take chances.

    Used Materials from dealers are sometimes a good choice however often these sources mark up products higher than they should. I have walked into a habitat for humanity restore only to see things like half used gallons of paint for full retail price… or used doors and windows that really can not be reused and priced three to five times what they should be. These items obviously never sell and never help the charity they are simply used as inventory to justify paying salaries which is sad because who are they helping then.

    In addition under code you are not suppose to use some types of used materials in remodeling. This includes many items that are sold at these reclaimed material stores. Toilets, faucets, windows and many other items should not or are not allowed to be used and could end up having your inspector make you tare it all out and do it over.

    You should never use any used lumber in a structural project. If you are dumpster diving for lumber then use it for shelving or other things but not for holding up walls or sheathing them.

    Final Note

    I really like the idea of buying over time to complete a project because this way you know you are getting the best price. Some items you will need to purchase new and from a home store but others you can pickup from a variety of places and save 50% or more just by being a better shopper.

    Doing this lets you complete more projects and often means you can get marked down products that are a higher quality than regular priced lower end items.

    The best part is in the end you aren’t hit with a bill you have to pay for years.

    Even if you are thinking about building a large addition on your home you can save now and it will help. Save until you get a large portion of the project paid for up front. Maybe 20% or maybe 80% it depends on your needs and the budget.

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