6 Sneaky Little Ways I Saved So Much Money on My Remodel (It Was Easy!)

published Apr 18, 2024
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Woman installing laminate flooring
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I’ve always been a naturally frugal person, so after I bought my house, I immediately began looking for ways to save money on home improvements.

My home didn’t need much work and, more importantly, it didn’t need any major or complex upgrades that would’ve been best left to professionals. But I did want to make some cosmetic changes to the interior and the exterior without spending a fortune in the process. 

And I’m not alone: A recent Today’s Homeowner survey found that 71% of homeowners are opting to DIY their home improvement projects, rather than hiring a professional, to save money amid rising inflation.

Below is a snapshot of some of the budget-friendly materials I used to help spruce up my house — for less — and where I found them. I’m not sure exactly how much money I’ve saved in total by going this route over the years, but it’s undoubtedly in the hundreds (or maybe even thousands) of dollars. Plus, I’ve had some fun along the way; challenging myself to find affordable, secondhand, and used materials feels a lot like a treasure hunt.

“You can save several hundred dollars, depending on the size of the project, by buying materials secondhand,” says Amanda Wiss, founder of the New York City-based home staging company Urban Staging. “Whether they’re used or just extras, they should do in a pinch.” 

The “Oops” Paint at Home Depot and Lowe’s

If you don’t have your heart set on a specific hue, visit your local Home Depot or Lowe’s and ask a staffer to point you to the “oops” paint section. Here, you’ll find ultracheap paints and stains that someone else bought, but later realized weren’t quite right for their project and returned. I’ve found “oops” paint for as cheap as 25 cents a pint. 

Sometimes the colors are a little weird, but other times, they’re trendy or neutral. My best “oops” paint score was a deep green-ish gray that I used to paint an accent wall in my guest bedroom. 

“If you’re willing to work with a potentially colorful option, the cans in this section are on a steep discount,” Wiss says. 

If you’re in the market for paint and you’re not in a rush, I recommend visiting every week or two, because the “oops” paint inventory changes frequently. You never know when you might find the perfect shade for just a couple dollars.

Home Improvement Reuse Stores

Most thrift shops and secondhand stores won’t take building materials. But, fortunately, there are some reuse stores that specialize in items you can use to fix up your house — things like kitchen cabinets, doors, windows, hardware, light fixtures, flooring, tiles, and more.

One of my favorites is Habitat for Humanity ReStore, a nonprofit with more than 1,000 locations in six countries. In Colorado, where I live, we also have Resource Central, a nonprofit that sells unwanted or used building materials like appliances, sinks, landscaping stones, and lumber. 

A few years ago, I decided to create a mulch border around the grass in my backyard, and I was able to find an entire pallet of paver stones at Resource Central for dirt cheap (pun intended). I also love the fact that buying secondhand building materials keeps them out of the landfill. 

Wiss is a big fan of shopping at reuse stores, but she recommends steering clear of anything upholstered, unless you can guarantee there are no pests. “Sturdy wood furniture — that may need a few simple repairs or refinishing — and other building materials are definitely a great find here,” she says.

Facebook Marketplace and Nextdoor

People in my neighborhood are often giving away free (or very cheap) home improvement materials on Facebook Marketplace and Nextdoor, simply because they don’t want to deal with the hassle of carting them off somewhere. Their laziness is my gain: I’ve found patio furniture, a compost tumbler, paving stones, houseplants, and moving boxes this way.

The only downside to scouring social media sites is that you have to be willing to drop what you’re doing, hop in the car, and go grab the materials at a moment’s notice. Even still, you might be too late, because lots of other deal seekers are also out there looking for freebies.

Thrift Shops

All thrift shops are different, but I’ve had good luck finding floor lamps, furniture, wall art, flower pots, and rugs to help decorate my home. When I first moved into my house, I also bought more utilitarian items — like a snow shovel, a garden rake, and a power strip — from my local thrift shop.

You may not find everything you’re looking for in one trip. But I like that thrift shop finds take a while to curate and help give my house a more lived-in vibe (compared with buying everything new at the same time).


Craiglist may have a bad rap for being creepy, but it’s also a treasure trove for home improvement supplies. I often navigate to the “Materials” section, where I’ve seen people selling or giving away power tools, windows, skylights, doors, cabinets, and bathtubs. Craigslist can also be a good place to find helpful little items like nails and screws, door hinges, cabinet hardware, and landscaping tarps.

Local Recycling Centers

My city lets residents drop off tree limbs, branches, bushes, leaves, and other types of yard waste at its recycling center. Then, it turns this material into free mulch that anyone can use.

I’ll admit: This yard waste mulch isn’t as fancy as what you’ll find at a landscaping supply store. But it certainly gets the job done — and you can’t beat the price. For me, it was a great way to build up a thick base layer of mulch in the border around my backyard to keep weeds at bay. Once I had that in place, I splurged on nicer-looking mulch for the top inch or so. 

The other downside to scoring free mulch is that you have to be willing to load it (and unload it) yourself. And moving mulch is a dusty, dirty job. But I wore an N95 mask, borrowed a friend’s old pickup truck, and simply buckled down for a few hours of sweat equity.