There's no denying it — remodeling, repairing and decorating your home can be an expensive undertaking. But with a little creativity and some wise shopping decisions, you'd be surprised at how much you can save on your next project!
There are a number of different lumber grades available, and the higher grades also carry higher price tags. If you don't need the increased structural capacity or better appearance of the higher grades, save some money by selecting a lower grade that's appropriate for the intended use. Also, many lumber yards have piles of lumber that are culled out because it's warped, split or otherwise unsuitable for sale at full retail. You can often pick this material up at sizable discounts, and it's perfectly good for job site uses such as blocking, temporary bracing, etc.
Another place to save some money is with the purchase of beams. Many structural-engineered lumber beams come in long lengths that are cut on site at the lumber yard, leaving drops that are too short for long spans. You can often pick these up cheap, and they can be used as headers for doors and small windows, or in other framing applications.
Large versus small packaging
Some construction items, such as nails, screws and other hardware, are available in both small and large packaging. Buying in larger packages saves you money on a per-pound basis, so long as you have a need for the items now or in the foreseeable future. If you only intend to use a few of the items, you're better off buying the smaller packages — even though you pay a little more per pound, you don't waste money on excess you'll never use.
Along those same lines is buying in bulk. Items such as sand, topsoil, gravel, bark, and other bulky construction and landscaping materials can be purchased in bags, but you really pay a premium on a per-cubic-yard basis for that convenience. If you have a pickup truck or a small trailer, picking these materials up yourself in bulk will save you quite a bit of money. For even larger quantities, paying a small fee to have them delivered will still result in a sizable per-yard discount over bagged material.
For small jobs such as setting a fence post, you can't beat the convenience of bagged concrete mix. But once your project gets up around a quarter of a cubic yard, bagged concrete becomes a whole lot harder on both your wallet and your back. Many towns have small-yardage concrete companies that are much more economical, and you can also have a full-size concrete truck deliver the wet material for a very reasonable "short-load" fee.
Small pieces of plywood
Many home centers and lumber yards have smaller, pre-cut pieces of plywood and other materials, and you can save yourself some money if you only need a small piece for a one-time project. However, these small panels are quite expensive on a per-square-foot basis, so if you have a future need for the plywood and a place to store it, you're definitely money ahead by buying a full sheet and cutting it yourself.
When a home-improvement project calls for a particular tool that you don't currently have, consider how often you might use that tool in the future. If it's a basic item, such as a circular saw or even a paint brush, that will see a lot of use over the years, then buy the best you can afford. It's safer, easier to use, and its long life will more than pay for itself when compared to cheaper tools that require periodic repair or replacement. A tool you might only use a few times could be a lesser expensive model, so long as it's safe. If the tool will more than likely be a one-time use, consider renting instead of buying.
Got a little more time than money? If you're having work done on your home, talk with the contractor about what things you can reasonably do — and the key word is reasonably — to save some money. Perhaps you can do your own painting, or scrap things out and clean up the site at the end of each day. But whatever your agreement is, get it in writing!
Seconds, roll ends and discontinued items
Many retailers have items such as appliances and plumbing fixtures that they sell at sizable discounts because they are slightly blemished, have minor scratches or are in the store because someone mis-ordered them. Flooring companies often have "roll ends" of carpet and vinyl for sale at a fraction of their original price, and that are perfect for smaller rooms. Many paint stores will have sales on mismatched or mis-tinted paint, or wallpaper that was mis-ordered. Tile stores often have a sizable inventory of discontinued tiles, stones, grouts and other materials at great prices. If you can be a little flexible and creative in your design thinking and are willing to do a little research, you'll find there are bargains all around you!