How to get cheap or FREE home improvement stuff

One of the most surprising insights so far on my Retirement Diva journey is how much satisfaction I get from doing as many of my home improvement projects as I can.

It started nearly 10 years ago when I bought my house. Built in the 1940's my house has great bones, but the part you could see was very outdated... and that's putting it politely. I took care of the major cosmetic improvements in the first few years (new countertop, backsplash, flooring, ceiling fans, lighting, etc.). The next few years were spent on the structural improvements like having the attach insulated and water-proofing and encapsulating the crawl space.

Now that all that's done, and after living here for quite some time, it's time to change things up a bit, so I'm applying #3 of the 6 Core Principals of the Retirement Diva model and finding creative ways to get my DIY home improvement projects done by spending as little money as possible.

Here are some of the ways I'm making it work:

Habitat for Humanity's ReStore. This is what I call the "Goodwill Store for contractors". With nearly 900 Restores nationwide, Restores is a great place to find just about anything you'd need for your home improvement project. Items are donated by contractors, building material suppliers, and regular people who are ready to get rid of things they no longer need. The website describes them as "home improvement stores that offer new and gently used appliances, furniture, building materials and more at a fraction of retail cost." Shopping at a ReStore is a win-win because not only can you find great bargains, but the proceeds help build up your location community and other communities around the world.

Here's a list of just some of the items I've bought for a fraction of the price from the ReStore near me:

  • wire closet shelving for my new greenhouse

  • new covers for my ceiling fan bulbs

  • art work

  • PVC pipe for craft projects

  • wood stain

  • hardwood floor cleaner

  • paint

  • ceramic tiles

  • linoleum tiles (peel-n-stick)

  • light fixtures

  • planters

  • a large sink to wash veggies in my new greenhouse

  • landscape fabric

  • lawn chairs

  • screens for windows and doors

  • storage units

  • a coffee table that I'm planning to strip and stain

  • tools

The options are endless and are always changing. A word to the wise, though... if you see something you want, buy it then, and by a little more than you think you'll need, because there probably won't be any more left the next time you go back. The one downside is that the don't accept returns with a refund, but you can always re-donate.

Goodwill. This is another place to find all sorts of items for your home improvement projects... and a great place to donate gently used items that you no longer want or need. While ReStore is more heavily geared towards building items, tools, and parts, Goodwill is a great place to find things like artwork, planters, furniture, kitchen accessories, and knick-knacks.

Some of my great buys from Goodwill include:

  • a vintage leather chair

  • a vintage leather ottoman

  • lots of artwork

  • a brand new pasta machine

  • planters

  • a 4-drawer filing cabinet that I spray-pained hot pink for my office

  • storage bins

  • home improvement books

  • throw pillows (i stick them in plastic bags and use them when I'm pulling weeds or planting flowers)

Next Door. This is a new favorite spot to buy and sell all sorts of items. Sometimes you're even able to find great deals for free! NextDoor is a neighborhood online community that allows you to connect with your neighbors to buy/sell and donate items, recommend a local business, make neighbors aware of things going on in your neighborhood, or post ISO (In Search of Ads).

It's a great place to find furniture, home decor, lawn and garden items, baby clothes, tools, patio pavers, plants, electronics, and so much more.

In my first month on Next Door I've:

  • Offered a few items for free (no contact porch pick-up)

  • Sold a lawnmower

  • Purchased a lawnmower

  • Found a GREAT handyman who came highly recommended. (He's already built my greenhouse and added a multi-level rainwater collection system. Next is a storage shed for my lawn gear)

  • Got referrals and then estimates from tree service businesses. I ended up hiring one for a big job and was shocked at how reasonable the price was

  • And, while I thought paying $4-$8 for wire closet shelving from ReStore was a bargain, last weekend I drove to the other side of town to pick up 5 - 6' shelves with the original stickers still on them... for FREE. The same shelves are available at HomeDepot for $16.98 each!

Next Door is free to join, but there's a process. Click here to learn how to sign-up.