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I’m always looking for ways to save money. Once you start down the path of living more frugally, it becomes a bit addictive. Whether it’s deciding to make coffee at home or looking for ways to reduce your grocery bill, every time you save money, you can add a bit more to your savings, pay a bit more toward your debt, or just feel a bit more financially secure.
Now that I feel that I’ve mastered the basics of frugal living, I decided to dig a bit deeper and look for other ways to save money. And I stumbled upon projects to DIY to save money. So I made this list of things you can do yourself that can really save you a ton of money. Some I already do, some I have a goal of doing. Check it out and let me know what you think!
I have a confession to make: I hate sewing. It brings back memories of suffering through home-ec. Everyone has talents, but sewing is definitely not one of mine. And because of it, I have several items of clothing that I haven’t worn in months because they need minor repairs. I could take them to the tailor, but I’m cheap and lazy. Two basic sewing tasks in particular are quick and simple ways to DIY to save money.
I have a couple pairs of pants hanging in my closet that I don’t wear anymore because the hems have fallen. They’re otherwise fine, but they’re collecting dust because I don’t know how to sew a hem. It’s time to learn.
Fortunately, it’s not hard to find tutorials and videos with step-by-step instructions. With a few basic supplies like pins, a measuring tape, and a seam ripper, you can be back in business. And don’t think you need a sewing machine. You can certainly hem a pair of pants by hand.
Since it’s been so long since I sewed anything, I plan on practicing on one of my kids’ stained and ripped pants. You could also use a pair that no longer fits or even some old rags lining around to get the hang of it again.
If sewing is too intimidating for you, you have another DIY to save money: seam tape (also known as fusion tape, fusible bonding web, or stitch witchery). It comes in two varieties: iron-on and adhesive.
With the iron-on option, you use the heat of the iron to bond two pieces of fabric together. Which is fine if you’re at home. But there are times when you’re out and catch your hem and it falls out. Then what do you do? Or if you’re super lazy like me and hate getting the iron out. Enter fabric tape.
Fabric tape is one of the best inventions in the world. It’s basically a double sided tape meant for fabric. Stick it to one side of your pants, carefully fold over the other and you have an instant hem! Keep a package in your desk drawer at work for emergencies!
So for a few dollars investment how much can you save by hemming your own pants? $10-25 per pair. Not too shabby!
Another basic sewing tip you should get comfortable with is sewing on buttons. I don’t know many people who would take an article of clothing to the tailor to get a button sewed on. Instead, the item of clothing gets pushed to the back of the closet, never to be worn again.
If you pay $30, $40, $50 or more on a shirt, that ends up being a pretty pricey loss, all for the lack of a few basic sewing skills. Do yourself a favor, check out a YouTube tutorial and get those items back in your wardrobe. Even if it’s not perfect, learning to sew on buttons is an easy project to DIY to save money.
Change Cabin Air Filter
In all of my researching how to save money, one tip both interested and scared me: changing the cabin air filter on your car.
Full confession here: I don’t really get cars. I remember learning how to change a tire, jump a car, and perform other basic car maintenance in driver’s ed, but it never stuck.
Just recently I drove around for months needing tires. I was forced to finally get new ones after I drove over something that punctured the tire beyond repair.
Truly, I am terrible at all things cars.
But I kept reading about how people changed their own cabin air filter to save money. They all claimed it was ridiculously easy and all you needed was a screwdriver. If you’re looking for a project to DIY to save money, changing your cabin air filter was it apparently.
I was intrigued so I did a web search for changing a cabin air filter for the make and model of my car.
You guys: it was a three minute video and basically all you have to do is unscrew part of the glove compartment, slide out the old one, shimmy in the new one, and put the glove compartment back together. If you can use a screwdriver, you can do this (though I did read that some high performance or European model cars can be more tricky).
So how much can you save by replacing your own cabin air filter? The research I did said labor costs between $38-49. That’s some big money-savings for ten minutes of your time! They’re right: changing your own air cabin filter is a great project to DIY to save money!
Once you’ve mastered this new skill, you can also look at changing your own engine air filter or even your oil. I haven’t gotten this adventurous yet, but maybe someday!
Basic Electrical Work
This is another skill that might make you nervous, but learning to do some basic electrical work can save you a ton of money over time.
I’m not talking about replacing your breaker panel or rewiring your entire bathroom. I’m talking about smaller projects like changing an electrical outlet or swapping out a lighting fixture. Changing a light fixture especially is a great way to change the look of your house without much effort or expense.
First things first: whenever you’re doing an electrical project make sure the power is off. Don’t just flip the switch off. Go to the circuit breaker panel and physically turn off the breaker that controls where you will be working, and verify there is no power going to that outlet or fixture before you get started. To be extra safe, consider getting a voltage tester to be sure there’s no current going through the line.
Start by removing the old outlet or fixture. For a lighting fixture, connect the same colors of wires together using electrical tape or wire nuts (black to black, white to white, green to green). Make sure your connections are secure, and attach the new light fixture back to the wall or ceiling. Put in new light bulbs, turn the circuit breaker back on, and you’re done! How simple is that?! You can totally do that. Don’t hire an electrician, instead, DIY to save money! (If you’re a visual learner, check out this video tutorial).
Changing an electrical outlet isn’t that much harder, but I think it’s easier to watch someone else do it first. This is a quick and easy step-by-step guide to get you on your way.
If you hired a professional to install a new light fixture it would probably cost between $80 and $200. Changing an outlet isn’t any better, putting you back over $120! Ouch. Installing either yourself is a great way to DIY to save money.
Eating out every now and then is a nice treat. But if you’re doing it several times a week it’s a huge expense.
Take a moment to think about what else you could be doing with hundreds of dollars a month, or even every few months. Pay down debt? Build an emergency fund? Take the family on vacation? It really does add up!
For me, cooking is one of those necessary chores. I don’t love it (but I don’t hate it like sewing!), but I do love how much money I save by making most of our dinners at home and bringing my lunch to work.
And let’s face it, most restaurants don’t serve the healthiest foods. Between giant portion sizes and the added sodium, restaurant food can have a negative effect on your health, which will end up costing you even more in the long run! That goes for sit down restaurants too, not just fast food!
Anyway, it pays to learn how to cook. You don’t need to prepare gourmet meals or spend hours cooking. You don’t need fancy pots and pans or expensive knives. You don’t need exotic spices and sauces. What you do need are some basic, tried and true meals that you are comfortable cooking and enjoy eating. Because if you don’t enjoy it, what’s the point?
If you’re really a novice chef, I recommend investing in a basic cookbook. I personally like the Betty Crocker cookbooks, probably because that’s what I remember my mom having when I was a kid! Yes, you can find recipes and instructions for cooking on the internet, but I think it’s easier to cook when I’m not worried about splattering or spilling things on my phone or the screen going to sleep.
What’s more, a beginners cookbook often has other handy guides like a measurement conversion table, or suggestions on swaps if you’re missing an ingredient. They also often have a glossary of terms (what’s the difference between a dice and a chop? Or whisking and stirring?). These tips and tricks are immensely helpful in building your confidence as a new cook. The more comfortable you get with cooking, the more apt you are to stick with it. And that means more money in your pocket! While cooking isn’t typically considered a DIY project, learning to cook will definitely save you money!
However, if you’re really in a pinch and crunched for time, you’re not going to be thinking about making dinner. Chances are you’re stressing about getting something on the table and thinking about ordering a pizza or hitting the drive thru on the way home. Again, fine once in awhile, but the expense adds up fast. Instead, keep these fifteen fast dinners ideas in your back pocket and your kitchen stocked so you always have a fallback option!
Do Your Own Taxes
For most of us, taxes are pretty straightforward. Unless you have multiple streams of income, complicated investments, lots of deductions, or you live and work in different states, you can probably do your own taxes without too much difficulty.
I know taxes can be a big, scary thing. You’re afraid of making a mistake and getting the IRS on your back. Or you’re concerned you’re going to miss important deductions and end up paying too much.
Honestly, there’s a lot of hype on doing taxes. Most tax preparation software does most of the work for you. Yes, there often is an expense to that, but it is usually significantly cheaper than having them done by an accountant.
And many reputable websites offer free tax prep and filing for straightforward returns. Other places will do your taxes if you make below a certain income. It can vary significantly by where you live so do a web search for free tax preparation for your area to see if you’re eligible.
Bottom line, taxes don’t need to be scary and overwhelming. If your income situation is fairly straightforward and you can follow directions, you can definitely do your taxes.
How much could it save you? The average fee for filing a state and federal return (standard deduction) is about $176. For itemized deductions, you’re looking at $273. That’s a hefty chunk of change! Again, taxes aren’t typically lumped in the bucket of “projects” but you can definitely DIY to save money!
Painting is a reasonably inexpensive way to completely update the look of your home. I love what a fresh coat of paint can do for a tired and worn room.
It’s also one of the easier projects that you can do yourself, often in one weekend or less, depending on the size of the room. And that means it’s an easy project to DIY to save money.
Painting is one of those times that it pays to spend a bit more on your tools to make sure you’re getting quality products. Cheap paintbrushes and rollers don’t hold paint well and leave a streaky, splotchy mess, which is only going to lead to frustration. Do yourself a favor and spend a few more bucks to get the right tools for the job. We’ve been really happy with Wooster paintbrushes lately.
To really make sure your finished product will be perfect, take a bit of time to sand out any bumps and rough spots on your wall. Using some sandpaper (120-150 grit should be fine for regular drywall), quickly smooth down any bumps with light to moderate pressure. Don’t go too hard or fast or you risk gauging out the wall even more!
If you have holes or dents in your wall that need to be repaired, use joint compound and a spackling knife to fill them in. Again, moderation is key here. Apply with several thin layers rather than a big glob for a quicker dry and smoother finish. Once it’s dry, sand it out so it’s nice and smooth.
These two prep projects, sanding and spackling, will make your walls come out so much nicer. You will be much happier with the end result!
Now it’s time to paint! Pop off any electrical outlet covers and vent covers so you can get a clean finish around the edges. Decide whether you want to use painter’s tape to protect the moldings and trim. My husband hates the stuff and prefers to freehand, but it gives me a lot more confidence when I paint.
Lay down your drop cloth and crack open your can of paint. You’ll want to start with a brush to “cut” the edges. Basically this just means you’re going to go around the edges of the wall by the molding, into the corners, and at the top of the wall where it meets the ceiling. You do this with a paintbrush because you don’t have enough control with a roller. For cutting, a 3 inch paintbrush will serve you well.
Make sure you load up your brush with a good amount of paint, but not so much that it’s dripping. And don’t try to stretch your paint too far.
When I first started painting I always tried to go as far as I could without dipping my brush for more paint. And you know what happened? The paint was thin and streaky, with the old color coming through. So I had to go over it again. You will save yourself a lot of time by using the amount of paint you need to cover the wall rather than trying to stretch it out.
When you’re finished cutting, pour some paint into a rolling pan and get your roller out. You’re aiming for smooth, long rolls.
Once your done, let the paint dry and then determine if you need a second coat. If so, you can probably skip the cutting process and just roll out again.
That’s it! You can totally do that. Painting is an easy project to DIY to save money. You will save hundreds by not hiring a professional!
DIY To Save Money: You’ve Got This
If you’ve mastered the basics of frugal living, it’s time to step it up a notch and DIY to save money.
The projects I have listed here will easily save you hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars if you do them yourself. Pick a project from the list above and try it out. Once you have that down, try another, and another until you’re a DIY pro. Chances are, you’ll be happy with the results, and happy with your bank account.