With today’s economy as it is more and more Americans are lining up for Welfare, Unemployment and/or Social Security benefits. Yes folks, the future of America looks and feels bleak. And it is that bleakness that is in turn causing stress to increase within American homes. This stress, in turn, is creating a higher number of separations, divorces, domestic violence and child abuse, according to a friend in the child services business. Unfortunately, some of this stress comes from the very home you live in. For example, your house floods and the insurance company doesn’t cover all of the damages or you have no insurance and you have a kitchen fire. In these case scenarios you leave home, looking for a job, and come back to even more stress when you see the state your home is in. So how do you relieve the in home stressors without breaking the already broken bank? Read on to find out, in no particular order, just how to fix your home on a tight budget or no budget at all.
1. Call Chore Corps
If you are 60 and over and/or disabled and on a low income then these people can help. This is how it works. You call their number, 603-448-1825, and explain what your qualifications are and what it is that you need done. To make this process less painful have a list of what you need done handy and make sure the list is prioritized from the most important fix up to the least important. Once Chore Corps has your information and a list of what you need they contact their volunteers and find one that suits your needs. The volunteer is then sent to your home to fix your problems free of charge. However, be mindful that they don’t provide materials so you will need to purchase them yourself but I will give you advice on that as well, further along in this article. Another thing to keep in mind, and help reduce stress, is that they screen all volunteers so you are guaranteed that no ex-cons are entering your home. Since the average contractor charges around $25 per hour for labor, you will save into the hundreds by calling this company. Money saved that can be used to help pay your utility bills, doctor’s bills or car payments.
2. Check Yard Sales, Thrift Stores, Salvage Yards, The Internet And Local Newspapers
Supplies can and will cut into your budget immensely. If you are not qualified for the above program, any cut into your budget is going to hurt since you will also need money for labor costs. If you do qualify for this program, this suggestion will help the money you need to spend on materials to go even further. At any of these locations you can often find tons of great salvage items for half of their original cost. At one yard sale I found the perfect octagonal window for my home for $6. Retail, these cost between $200-$300 each!!
A couple of tips to keep in mind. Always do some window shopping at your big box hardware store. Find everything that you need to fix your home and write down the prices and the store name in a column on the page next to the item. Do this at as many stores as you can get to without overstressing yourself. Now you have a great idea of the value of these items before you set out on your next adventure of finding yourself great deals on the items. You also now have a list of what is the cheapest retail stores for the products you cannot find at the abovementioned locations. Just remember to cross off the items you do find, as you find them, so you don’t double buy.
My next word of advice: be prepared to dicker. If you know that a window is worth $100 retail and it is for sale at a yard sale for $50 try offering a lower price and see what happens. You never know how desperate a homeowner may be, especially in these times, so you may be pleasantly surprised. I personally try to pay 50% less then retail for new and unused yard sale finds although I do try to go lower to test my luck. For used items I try to go to around 25% of their original value. Just keep in mind that if an owner wont budge and the deal is a really good one, give in and be grateful for what you did get. On a final note, remember that thrift store and salvage yard owners are human too. They love to dicker just as much as the next guy so don’t hesitate to ask for a lesser price at these locations. I do it all the time and it usually works out pretty well.
3. Call Habitat For Humanity
Now, if you own a home you wont qualify for their home building program, I understand that. However, you will be able to obtain a listing of their local Restores. These are stores where local contractors and homeowners donate new and used building supplies. These building supplies are then sold to the public, just like at a salvage yard, for cheap prices. Here I have scooped up every conceivable deal known to man. From paint to lighting to furniture, I have bought just about everything from them for around 50% or less of its original retail value. Better yet is that the profits go to help build homes for the people that are even less fortunate then you and I. The families that still don’t have a home to call their own.
4. Go To The Dump, A Construction Site Or The Craigslist Free Section
Become friends with your local dump guys and you may be surprised at what might come of it. I’ve picked through the construction dumpster at our town dump and one day found enough blue board and cement board to do over my daughter’s bathroom. For those in the know, this is an amazing find as each of these tend to be very expensive at retail cost. On other visits I have pulled out trim board, scrap lumber, a $1,500 window and perfectly good doors. My friend, who works at the dump, even pulled out a new shower pan and sink for me. He also pulled out pine wall boards for himself which I and my husband helped install in his basement apartment. The results were simply gorgeous and left us scratching our heads as to why anyone threw it out in the first place.
Another of my favorite activities is to go to local construction sites and ask if I can take some stuff from the dumpster. Most contractors will tell you that if you get injured they are not responsible and allow you to pick the dumpster. Why? Less debris in their dumpster means less dumpsters to fill and less money to pay the dumpster owner for renting the dumpster. On one such dumpster diving expedition, I found 3 new sheets of wainscoting, worth $35 per sheet, wood from a tree cut down in the front yard, and various other bits and pieces of lumber that was perfect for fire blocking and the such. In total I saved myself well over $200 by getting a little down and dirty.
Lastly, a great way to get stuff you need free is to check out the free section of the Craig’s List listings. I have literally been surprised to find such home improvement goodies as lumber, plywood, landscaping pavers and clean fill in this fun to browse listing.
5. Do It Yourself
Think you can’t? Think again! Check out articles from Doc and hit your local big box hardware stores for free how to information. Once you feel that you have enough knowledge go home and give it a try. You might pleasantly surprise yourself with what you are able to accomplish. If some jobs seem too overwhelming to do all by yourself hire a professional that is willing to work with you. Yes folks, they do exist! We have a plumber who allows us to drill all of the necessary holes through the studding so he can run the pex pipe. This saves us, on average, hundreds of dollars in labor charges. He simply marks the studs with an x and we start drilling through all of his xs. Still a bit hesitant. Keep learning. Knowledge is power. Rent how to books and videos at your local library and watch shows, such as This Old House and Yankee Workshop to get woodworking ideas. If all else fails ask a friend to show you how. I hate wallpaper and was griping to a friend about having to put up wallpaper in the kitchen. She showed up the next day and hung it for me. You truly never know so go out there and ask.
6. Call Your Local Church
Many churches offer volunteer help to members and non-members alike. When I was going through the divorce from my now ex I had to prep my house for a court ordered sale. However, my ex had damaged the house and it was looking as if no money would come of the sale. Broke and broken hearted, I felt hopeless until I mentioned my dilemma to my church. They hoped into immediate action with a swarm of volunteers surrounding my property. After a few weekends my home was saleable and my stress was greatly reduced. Fast forward to now and we have all of our current family mishaps that have overwhelmed and engulfed us to the point of us literally drowning in debt and stress. I mentioned the mess to my friend, from the town dump, and he immediately sent over his church. Within a few days we had two rooms completely emptied and ready to be worked on. Both churches, mine and his, bailed me out of some very tight spots and their help was more then appreciated. I could never repay them for their kindness. Then again, they asked that I not even try to repay them because they do their work merely to serve God, not to get pay. Regardless, going to your church or someone else’s, for help will keep that budget, or missing budget, on track for sure.
Know a friend that needs work done that you can do who can do work you need done? Trade labor. Have a friend who has some construction debris that is in great shape and needs a used car that you own. Trade your materials. Don’t have a clue who needs what and who has what? Ask around, post a notice in the local supermarket, and/or check out the Craig’s List barter section. You may be shocked as to what you will find. Think barter is embarrassing? Don’t be embarrassed because you would be surprised at how many people out there are now doing barter to survive. And the best part of barter is that you get what you want, your barter partner gets what he or she wants and no money exchanges hands whatsoever. It is literally a win, win, win situation.
8. Choose Your Battles
When all else fails then it is time to step back and appraise what is truly stressing you the most and what isn’t. If the paint pealing from the ceiling drives you nuts but the high water bill from the leaky faucet stresses you out even more, then it is time to fix that faucet and learn to live with your ceiling. Another strategy, that falls into this train of thought, is to pick the worst room in the house and tackle that one first and then slowly progress from there as you have the money, labor and materials. Let me put it into better perspective based on how Doc herself tackles everything on no budget. First we begin by tucking a few bucks away here and there and, if that isn’t possible, we wait on our tax refund. Then, every year my husband and I pick one major project and get it as completed as we can within that year and within our meager budget. The following year, when we have saved up more materials and money, we start the next big project. Once we run out of major projects we will go back around the house and tie up any loose ends to be found. This therefore spreads out your projects over time, much like paying a loan but without the awful interest rates and added stresses on the family.
Another thing is to consider if a project is a want or a need. A want would be, for example, new red paint on the walls even though the paint is still fine in that particular room. A need would be needing new red paint on the walls because that particular room has pealing paint and/or other damage to the walls. Of course, if the paint is fine, as in scenario 1, then you would want to spend your money elsewhere for now.