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There’s no question about it: Going the DIY route is a great way to save money.
Spending less money on things you can make yourself ensures that your hard-earned money stays on the correct side of your wallet—in it, that is, instead of out in the wide world, floating around.
I’m sure that you, as a frugal individual, already know you should add more DIY projects to your life. However, it’s easy to cite reasons (aka excuses) for not being a complete do-it-yourselfer:
- It’s time-consuming. Sure, picking up a bottle of wine at the store is a lot less time consuming than making your own. But it’s definitely more expensive.
- It’s more challenging. I spent one summer of my childhood trying to learn how to make my own clothes. My mom, a prolific seamstress, could not pound into my head the meaning of “basting” and “interfacing.” (I’ve long since given up, unfortunately. But had I not? I’d have saved a lot of money on clothes for my kids over the years.)
Despite these mental and time-constricting roadblocks, there’s something truly self-satisfying about making things on your own, and making them cheaply.
In addition to the money you’ll save, here are a few actual mental and physical reasons you should DIY:
- Confidence and self-discovery. You truly feel like you can conquer the world if you choose to make something challenging, like cultivating a garden that feeds your family for a whole summer, or remodeling your kitchen yourself. And even if it’s something small, such as making a pair of earrings for a friend’s birthday—well, it’s still going to build your confidence.
- Boosted brain power. Rather than sit in front of the TV, you can make things for the brain boost you’ll get from sheer learning. You’ll problem solve. You’ll think critically. Stretch your imagination. Happy, healthy people keep their bodies and minds active.
- You can benefit others. If you share your gifts or work on projects with others, your DIY projects have more meaning. If you knit a pair of socks and give them to your sister, or include your daughter in making necklaces for Christmas gifts, you’ve opened up a way to connect with others on a whole new level.
Brain-boosting and confidence aside, here are some great ways (big and small!) to make sure you’re easy on your own wallet:
1. Make Your Own Laundry Detergent
It’s easier to go to the store to pick up a bottle of Tide, but why do that when making your own can cost you just pennies (and is easier on your skin—aka, sans harsh chemicals, fragrances and colors)?
There’s nothing easier than this recipe:
- 2 Tablespoons Sal Suds
- ¼ cup baking soda OR 2 Tablespoons washing soda
Add these to the beginning of the wash cycle.
2. Grow Your Own Food
The health benefits alone should be a great motivator for you to grow your own food.
Even if you have the teeniest, tiniest yard on the planet, you can still grow something, I promise. If you live in an apartment and have just a balcony, why not grow tomatoes in a planter? There’s also hydroponics, sharecropping and vertical gardening options, too.
A lot of people are intimidated by the process of growing their own food. However, as long as you give vegetable plants ample sunlight and water, they’ll be happy campers.
Here’s a great article from WikiHow on how to grow your own food.
3. Cook Your Own Meals
Besides the obvious health benefits, cooking your own food is a no-fail way to save money. Let’s face it: Eating out is just too darn expensive.
Here are a couple of tips for saving money and for spending fewer hours in the kitchen:
- Focus on one-pot meals. These are a great idea, because they often combine vegetables, meat and grains all in one dish—that way, you eliminate the need for sides. For example, add a few whole wheat rolls, and beef stew covers all the bases.
- Find recipes with five or fewer ingredients. Whatever feeds the crew with the fewest ingredients is a bonus. That means spending less money at the store and spending less time messing up your kitchen.
4. Make Your Own Wine
What’s a great meal without a glass of wine?
A couple of years ago, after my aunt and uncle had a graduation party for my cousin, they stored leftover fruit they’d served for the party in the refrigerator. Unintentionally, they left it in the fridge and it started to go bad.
So what did my uncle do? Yep, he made wine, and now brings his homemade wine to share at every family gathering.
Here are some quick instructions. It’s really not that hard, and it’s not hard on the wallet, either.
Also, don’t stop with wine. What about beer and other types of liquor? You know you can save a lot more over time if you make it yourself.
5. Make your own Lattés And Coffee
There’s nothing that quite literally jacks up your latte factor than buying coffee at Starbucks or any other super-expensive coffee shop.
If your argument is that you like “really good coffee, like the stuff they have at coffee shops” you can do that at home.
Your initial investment (such as buying a Keurig or a French press) will be more, of course, but over the long run, you’ll be money ahead if you stop going to the corner coffee shop.
6. Make Your Own Jewelry
Jewelry (including costume jewelry) can be very expensive. Unless you go to consignment shops or garage sales, it may end up being cheaper to make your own.
There are lots of online tutorials on how to make your own jewelry. Note that the beads and other accessory parts can get pricy, which is why it’s a great idea to buy clasps, posts, etc. in bulk.
Be sure to keep an eye out for cheap beads at places like Hobby Lobby. At 50 percent off, you can make expensive-looking jewelry for just a few dollars and tap into your creative side, to boot.
7. Make your own birthday cakes
It can cost anywhere from $20 to a whopping $50 for a birthday cake at my local bakery. How much did it cost for you to order your last cake for your four-year-old’s birthday party?
For something that’s going to be demolished in seconds, I’ve come to realize that it’s really not worth spending the extra money.
Go to the same grocery store, buy a cake mix or two for $2.99, and use on-hand staples such as powdered sugar and butter to make frosting. Homemade cakes can be just as beautiful as store-bought cakes.
Yes, the frosting is what can trip lots of people up. Here’s an easy tutorial for piping frosting—otherwise, any search on Pinterest will help you out.
8. Craft your own makeup
You can go as far as making your own foundation, mascara and eyeliner, or keep it simple and make your own lip balm. No matter which items you choose to make, you’ll save yourself some money in the process.
Many, many recipes exist on Pinterest and on the internet.
Here’s a quick recipe for chocolate lip balm:
- 3 teaspoons coconut oil
- 3 teaspoons beeswax pellets
- 1 teaspoon cocoa powder
Warm on the stove, put in makeup pots and allow to set.
9. Homemade Soap, Bath Salts And Body Wash
My aunt regularly makes her own soaps to sell for her pottery business (this is the same aunt whose husband makes his own wine). My favorite soap she makes is lavender.
I’ve made soap with her a couple of times, and it really is super fun, easy and it makes you feel like you’ve found a foolproof way to save a few dollars here and there.
Also, if you’re looking to scent your bath water, why not make yourself some amazing-smelling fizzy bath salts? Recipes for soap, bath salts and body wash can be found splashed all over Pinterest.
10. Homemade cleaners for your home
Sick of harsh cleaners that irritate your skin and are full of ingredients you can’t pronounce? Luckily, it’s easy to make natural, homemade cleaners for not a lot of money.
Here’s a simple all-purpose cleaner:
- Mix 1/2 cup vinegar and 1/4 cup baking soda (or 2 teaspoons borax) into 1/2 gallon (2 liters) water.
- Store and keep.
- Use for removal of water deposit stains on shower stall panels, bathroom chrome fixtures, windows, bathroom mirrors, etc.
How simple (and economical) is that?
11. Make your own furniture
My husband, a totally handy guy, got sick of listening to me complain about how expensive headboards are—so he made me a bed and two side tables, all for about $350.
He used the website http://www.ana-white.com/, which has Pottery Barn-style furniture that you (really can!) make yourself.
12. Make Your Own Pet Toys And Treats
Instead of buying toys for your pooch or cat, it’s much more economical to knot a pair of old jeans and hand them off to Fido, or tie a feather on the end of a string for your cat.
How about nipping those terribly expensive treats in the bud, too? Dentastix and Greenies are overpriced compared to what you can make for your dog on your own. Check out this recipe for dog treats that I frequently bake for my golden retriever:
- 2 ½ cups whole wheat flour (substitute regular flour or oats if your dog is sensitive to wheat)
- 1 tsp. salt (or less)
- 1 egg
- 1 tsp. Beef or chicken Bouillon granules (can substitute beef or chicken broth/stock)
- ½ cup hot water
- Optional: Add bacon or chicken broth, eggs, oats, liver powder, wheat germ, shredded cheese, bacon bits, to fit your dog’s taste.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Dissolve bouillon in hot water.
- Add remaining ingredients.
- Knead dough until it forms a ball (approximately 3 minutes).
- Roll dough until ½ inch thick.
- Cut into slices or bone shapes (you can purchase a bone shaped cookie cutter to make shapes with).
- Place dough pieces on lightly greased cookie sheet.
- Bake for 30 minutes.
They’re easy to make, easy on the wallet, and my dog loves them, too!
13. Sew Your Own Clothing
I promise, anyone can learn how to sew. Get that sewing machine out of the attic and put it to good use.
If you have a desire to learn, you can take any number of sewing classes that are offered in many communities. In addition, if you really want to learn one-on-one, ask around for a private tutorial.
Co-workers, church ladies, next-door neighbors, aunts, moms, grandmas—they’re all excellent sewing instructor candidates. If all else fails, there’s YouTube, which can teach you a lot, too.
At any rate, sewing your own clothes (and especially kids’ clothes) can have many cost-saving benefits.
14. Craft Your Own Wall Décor
Instead of perusing the internet for wall décor deals, why not make your own? There’s never been a better time to find creative ideas on the internet for super-cheap.
If all you need is a canvas, some paint and some photos of you and your family, for example, it’s a great way to craft something very special for your living room or dining room.
The sky’s the limit to how creative you can be—and if you don’t think of yourself as a creative type, it’s okay. A lot can be done with a roll of tape, a large canvas and some paint. (Really!)
Pinterest will show you the way.
15. Craft Your Own Gifts
Tis the season to get creative. Don’t forget that your mom and dad always loved your homemade gifts when you were a kid. It’s guaranteed that they still will!
Again, even if you don’t see yourself as the creative type, integrating photos into your creations are a wonderful way to personalize something for your family or friends, and can be a real steal.
Those fizzy bath salts I mentioned earlier? My cousin unloaded a bunch of those as gifts one year at Christmas—she found some cool bottles and filled them full for all her relatives.
16. Make Your Own Entertainment
Instead of going to the movies, what can you do to make your own fun? This might deserve another whole post entirely, but it’s something that really can save money.
Eliminating the dinner-movie date and spending time at home with friends or family is a great way to save money, and at the same time, you can be really creative with the activities.
How about game night? BYOB and potluck night? My best friend frequently shows projected movies on a large sheet in her back yard for her kids’ friends and the rest of the kids in the neighborhood. What a creative way to entertain.
17. Remodel Your House Yourself
Remodel your kitchen, or bathroom, or bedroom—or whatever room in your house needs a facelift—yourself.
A project like that can seem overwhelming, I get it. However, if you take in a remodeling project one step at a time, and you don’t have a deadline, it’s possible to absorb all steps involved.
If you need a new backsplash for your kitchen, for example, go to your local Home Depot and ask some questions.
If you need to paint your kitchen cabinets, take a deep breath… and dive in. People do this type of thing all the time.
You’ll save a lot of money with DIY remodeling projects—just remember, calling a contractor is going to cost you big bucks. (But you already knew that.)
One more plug for making things: Doesn’t the thought of going to Walmart to drop $80 on everyday household items make you depressed? Also, just think about the chemicals in a lot of those products listed above. I’m sure it’s absolutely staggering.
Ultimately, the options listed above are a snapshot of all the things you can possibly make yourself to save some money. We’ve listed small, inconsequential items as well as huge, big-ticket items, such as remodeling entire rooms.
Just remember, people do this kind of thing (even the big stuff) all the time.
To save some time, we’ve included a list for you of some other ideas so you can squeeze more DIY into your life:
- Make your own playground or swing set for your kids
- Create your own candles and Scentsy items
- Mix up your own natural bleach alternative
- Homemade paper towels
- Put together your own spice mixes (as in, rubs and seasonings, like fajita seasoning)
- Make your own toothpaste and mouthwash
- Your own deodorant (yes, you read that right!)
- Make your own sunscreen
- Mix up your own glue or mod podge
- Create your own furniture polish
What are some ways you DIY to save money? We’d love to hear from you! Thanks for reading and happy frugaling