One of the inescapable facts of life is this: when you have plenty of money for do-it-yourself home improvements, you have no time. And when you have time, you’re probably short on money. There are a number of ways to do home improvements for a fraction of the cost.

Start with a Master Plan. List all the projects you’d like to do in a small notebook (1 or 2 pages for each project. List the materials you need for the project, as well as measurements and counts for things like handles, knobs, and hinges.

The next step is to do some homework. Visit websites like Freecycle or Craigslist to see if anyone is giving away or selling materials you need. Check your local classifieds under “building materials”. Visit your local thrift stores. While some thrift stores focus on clothing, books and housewares, others (such as Habitat for Humanity stores) are a treasure trove of building materials. Salvage stores are another excellent source for things such as cabinets, doors, and windows.

Home improvement centers have regular sales, and many offer price matching. So if Store 1 is sold out of the advertised special, if Store 2 offers price matching you can usually find your item there. There are often unadvertised discounts as well. Clearance items and damaged items are often priced to move fast. Be careful of “going out of business” sales. Even at 75% off, many stores raise prices to “suggested retail” before applying the discount.

Almost every store that sells paint has clearance priced cans of “mistake” colors. You can often find top-quality paint for about ¼ the regular price. Other retail stores may also offer everything from carpet and linoleum remnants to discarded store fixtures or shelving.

How to save money for home improvements?

You can also think about quick decor items like stair treads for your stairways. These will not only offer you an amazing update to your stairway, but will also offer an extra level of comfort and safety.

Finally, rummage sales and flea markets are another excellent source for tools, materials and decorative touches. Carry your project notebook and tape measure with you so you can measure your finds.

You don’t have to spend a fortune to improve your home. For example, one family increased the appraised value of their home by $5,000.00 with an investment of $75 (10 gallons of pain at $5 a gallon and three decorative chandeliers from the thrift store at $25). Another family built a wooden privacy fence around their entire backyard with free lumber from a local mattress factory’s broken box spring frames.

Think creatively. Can’t reach the ceiling to paint it? Instead of paying up to $15 for a roller extension pole, a piece of scrap ½” PVC will extend your reach. Don’t throw away old shower curtain liners—they are a lot heavier and more protective than a flimsy plastic drop cloth.