DIY Do It Yourself Projects Can Save You Money

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DIY, do it yourself projects, can be a great way to save money and add value to your life.

peg wall

I was a DIY kind of girl back in the 80s and 90s. It might have started with a touch of Wannabemarthaism, but eventually it became just plain good sense. If I made something myself, I could save money. Doing it yourself can be a great way to save money.

In high school I had a friend whose mom had taught her to make her own clothes. She told me how cheap it was to make a pair of shorts. I was astounded. Since I paid for a lot of my own clothing back then, that spoke to me.

I went home and asked my mom to teach me to sew. I might not have ever wanted to learn if I hadn’t realized it could save me money. I don’t sew now because it doesn’t make sense. But, in 1989, I could buy a yard of fabric for less than three bucks, thereby garnering myself a very inexpensive pair of shorts. I could stretch my dollar farther by making something myself.

The same has held true for many things in our life as a family. There’s a multitude of ways to save money by doing it yourself. 

Here are some of our favorite cheap, easy DIY projects:

Build it.

Hubs builds whatever we need if it’s cheaper or better quality than what we could buy. Our bedroom dresser is a sturdy, heirloom piece of furniture that only cost a few hundred dollars in materials. It cost him time, but it’s worth it to us.

Over the years he’s built a number of items for us to add to our home, like the pegwall above or this picture frame. Not only did he save us money, but those pieces mean more as a result of his time investment.

Fix it.

This week, FishPapa did a lot of work on our cars. He saved upwards of $300 changing the brakes and rotors on a vehicle himself.

For the past 20 years, he’s done many home repairs as well. He does exceptional work and his labor is “free”.

Clean it.

While I really struggle with housekeeping and would love to have someone come do it for me, I just can’t justify the $100/cleaning to have a service do it for me. It may not get done as well or as quickly as it might if we brought someone it, but I’m saving money.

The same goes for cars and laundry. We can wash and vacuum our vehicles ourselves much more economically than a carwash. I purposely don’t buy dry clean only clothing so that I can clean something myself instead of paying someone else to do it.

homebaked bread sm

Bake it.

I’ve fallen off the baking band wagon. I was reminded of it when I read Carrie’s post about how much it costs her to make bread. If my pricing were the same to make at home ($1.15/loaf for sandwich bread), it might not be worth my while since our sandwich bread is $1.99 at Trader Joe’s with exceptional ingredients.

But, I know that my artisan bread costs me $0.25 to $0.50/loaf for baguettes or boules, compared to the same $2 for a baguette at the French bakery. It might be a good move to start baking at home to save some coin.

Make it.

Making gifts can be a huge money saver, depending on your skills and materials already on hand. One year I made homemade calendars with supplies that I already had on hand. I filled them with pictures, bringing my costs to about $2 per calendar for a very customized, keepsake gift.

Check out the DIY: Great Gifts series for inspiration and instructions on a multitude of gifts you can make yourself.

Carnitas Tacos

Cook it.

In our newlywed days, we spent more on food for the two of us than we did ten years later with a houseful of kids. Once I became a mom, we transitioned to one income and needed to cut corners. I learned to cook more and to make specialty items at home.

I can make my own crepes, pan pizza, tamales, biscotti, corn tortillas, granola, and a wealth of other items that I might previously have paid big bucks to buy elsewhere.

We can feast like kings without having the budget to match!

That said, there are some times, when it’s not really worth your time or money investment to do it yourself. See this post for a discussion of when to buy and when to diy.

What are your best projects to DIY?

Got a favorite decorating DIY or a favorite make-it-yourself recipe? Do tell.


This is Frugal Friday. In an effort to make these weekly financial discussions more interactive, I’m no longer posting a link-up. Feel free to leave a link in the comments. But better yet, chat with us on today’s topic.

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  1. Yes, DIY projects are an awesome way to save. Besides saving money, there’s joy in conquering difficult tasks. It makes me feel really good to succeed at something I did not know I could do.

    Yesterday I spent hours replacing a zipper in some top quality rain gear. Why hours? Well, there were snaps right through the zipper fabric. But I managed, and the nonprofessional aspects are not obvious at all. I’m proud of myself and can’t imagine the cost of getting that done at a specialty outback store!

    And now two of the kids are off on a wilderness canoe trip, and it’s cold and raining, and this mom is worried about hypothermia. But the rain gear is in good condition and should make a huge difference.

    Thanks for linking to that tortilla recipe! We were just saying we needed one. Is it better to use a cast iron frying pan than a simple aluminum one? And is it easier to make little tortillas than big ones?

    1. We only make corn tortillas. They are MUCH better tasting than storebought and therefore a better value. Flour is not worth the effort, in my opinion.

      As for the making, we use a tortilla press, so the size is pretty much determined by the press. They all vary in size, so some are a bit on the small size, but we’re okay with that. I use an electric griddle to cook them on. I don’t think it matters what you use.

  2. Appliance repairmen jn our area charge at least $50 just to ring the doorbell. Then you pay for labor and parts plus surcharge. We have been able to repair most of appliances by using google and youtube. We have repaired the dishwasher (multiple times), replaced the Ice maker motor, replaced the gas stove igniitor, and dryer heating coil (twice) by doing an internet search on the model and symptoms. Many of the repairs have detailed video instructions on how to trouble shoot and replace the part. Once we isolate the problem, we compare prices at our local parts warehouses and the internet since prices vary significantly.
    Since we save so much, we figure we can afford to make an occasional mistake, but so far we are batting a thousand. Since the cost of repair is so much less DIY, we tend to repair appliances instead of replace. It is a good thing, too. Because it never fails that our appliance breakdowns always coincide with one of our kids leaving for college. Not a good time to replace appliances or shell out big bucks for repair!

  3. Hi Jessica! I have been making our own yogurt in the crock-pot to save money. I was really afraid to try it for years, and at the beginning of 2012 I delve in, and was so glad I did, because it is so easy and the time I am working is about 5 minutes total. The more we can do ourselves and training our children to help with them, the more we save, and the more equipped our children become (unlike I was when I got married). I also make my own bread which I figured costs $0.61/loaf. In fact sometimes I even make the bread in the crock-pot like now when it’s getting hot outside.

  4. we do a LOT of stuff on our own. Hubby is in construction so thankfully, he has skills 🙂 Sometimes, we do have to get something diagnosed(like a vehicle) but he can do most of the work himself once he knows the problem(unless its something electrical, he wont mess with that in the house or on a vehicle). I know we still save a ton of money because I’ve had to break down and pay someone to get a job done when he’s been out of town before!

  5. DIY definitely save money and they are also fun to do! When it comes to home repairs we have a very good friend that has blessed us by helping us out and all it costs is a batch of homemade cookies 🙂 A few DIY items that I incorporate in my home is homemade laundry soap, homemade dishwasher soap, and baking and cooking from scratch. These few items have saved us some money in our budget.

  6. We have been building our own fence the past couple weeks with the help of family. It’s a much better fence for about the same cost and we get to pay family members who we trust to do quality work for the labor.

  7. I don’t sit still well so I knit while sitting in the car while my hubby drives, or I locker hook trivets while chatting with friends, or I knit round scrubbies while watching TV with the kids. These projects not only enable me to go deeper into conversation and help me to listen better but they also make great gifts to give and have become so loved by others that I now sell as many dishcloths as I can knit every year around Christmas time. I try to use coupons to keep the price of yarn down and the fabric for the locker hooking I find at yard sales and thrift stores.

  8. I am baking my own bread. I got a great deal on a $2 bread machine at a church rummage sale 6 years ago. Sadly, it just died this week. However, I have a Kitchen Aid mixer, so will let that knead my dough, and continuing baking my own bread. It’s really not hard, but it does take time. I love your Frugal Friday posts, Jessica!

  9. We do a lot of our own projects with the help of others. We have a great family and a great friend circle at church. By the time you pool all those people together you have a lot of skills. We have a carpenter, 2 mechanics, 2 IT people (one is my husband), a teacher, a person who loves yard work and is very knowledgeable, and lots of capable bodies for labor. We will ask for help and either pay them a little $ or often they will just work for food. I always ask what the people helping want to eat and make their favorites. Cheaper, allows for fellowship, and it’s always more fun and less stressful than trying to figure it out yourself.

  10. For the holiday season, I just posted about cheap & easy DIY Patriotic Decor and Entertaining tips. We love having friends over for holiday meals, but it does get expensive!! I also love decorating the home for the seasons, but that too can add up if I’m switching out stuff every month! In my post, I give some alternatives to trendy expensive decor, lots of DIY stuff (which tends to always be cheaper!) and ways to reuse decor pieces with each season to cut down on costs but still have fun decorating for the holidays! I hope it will be of use for some 🙂