ScoreCard Research Chris Ronzio - The Penny Hoarder

When I bought my first house last year, I accidentally threw a hammer at my father-in-law’s head (true story). A year before, I sawed my toolbox in half as it was propping up a piece of wood I was cutting (it now opens in two ways).

Yet, by some miracle, I’ve been able to save almost $5,000 by building my own furniture.

Like a custom sofa table and desk: $1500 at Pottery Barn, but only $187 in my backyard.

Or our new dining room table: $73 in materials, instead of $1650 at Ballard Designs.

And it’s not just me… my friends are doing the same thing.

Russ built his own outdoor furniture for $113. Travis made a side table that looks straight out of West Elm for $95. David built a vintage toy-box for his daughter’s room that cost $46. John got so good at these projects, he started a side business making furniture for other people.

In addition to helping us all save a little cash, making your own furniture is fun. Here’s how to do it:

Find Your DIY Furniture Inspiration

I don’t spend a lot of time on Pinterest, but when it do, it’s hard to look away. Pinterest is an incredible resource for DIY furniture designs and projects. I started by searching for “buffet table,” “farm table” and “sofa table,” and quickly found that adding the words “DIY” or “Instructions” produced better results.

Along the way, I stumbled across some awesome DIY sites. I first saw my farmhouse-style dining room table on Shanty 2 Chic, which led me to Ana White, where I also got the sofa table plans from.

[caption id="attachment_12321" align="aligncenter" width="609"]DIY sofa table Chris Ronzio[/caption]

Now that I understand the basics, I’ve started taking pictures of things that I want to replicate. I have plans to build a pergola that was on display in Pottery Barn, and a bar that I saw in a restaurant in Boulder, Colorado. Why buy what you can build?

Get Supplies and Tools

To start building your own furniture, you really only need a few basic tools. First, get a decent power drill. Although the battery-powered drills are better to have around the house, having a corded drill saves a lot of wasted mid-day battery-charging time when you’re making furniture.

Next, invest in a Kreg Jig kit. These little things are ingenious, and someone is making a lot of money off this idea! They help to drill small holes where your screws sit inside the wood, making the entire project look incredibly professional. This kit is totally worth the $20 cost.

A miter saw makes cutting wood a lot faster, and an electric sander saves your triceps a lot of agony. My friends and I started by sharing all of these tools, but Home Depot and Lowe’s also rent them out quite cheaply.

For a cheap wood stain, just mix steel wool and vinegar (use more wool for a darker stain) as a way to instantly make new wood look aged and weathered. I’d recommend a little experimentation on a piece of scrap wood to test the color before staining your entire project.

Once you have the basic tools, you’re ready to go!

Plan a Day of Building Your Own Furniture

For my first crack at building my own furniture, a friend and I made identical tables in his backyard. We bought two sets of everything and became efficient about helping each other with measurements and making cuts.

Note: It’s not a good idea to do this outdoors in Arizona in July, when it’s 120 degrees.

Heat exhaustion aside, spending a Saturday making furniture with a friend made it feel fun. And if you’re planning to make money selling your furniture to others, having a few more hands to help increases your productivity.

[caption id="attachment_12322" align="aligncenter" width="500"]DIY side table Chris Ronzio[/caption]

How to Make Money From DIY Furniture

I always thought it was crazy that houses cost so much money when they’re basically made of wood that you can find in the forest. Of course, I appreciate construction more now, but there is tremendous value to capture between the hard costs of the supplies and the price that people are willing to pay for trendy, DIY goods.

The easiest way to start making money? Try selling your furniture on Instagram. When I posted my sofa table, I couldn’t believe how many people came out of the woodwork (pun intended) to ask me “how much?

Remember to take lots of pictures when start sharing and selling your creations with the world. People love seeing the behind-the-scenes shots!

If you’re really getting serious, try setting up your own website with Squarespace,  Wix or my favorite, Strikingly. These services help you spend less time building building a website and more time building furniture. Since he started selling his homemade furniture, my friend John has earned more than $30,000 making everything from coffee tables and coasters to bookshelves and doors.

Your Turn: Have you tried building your own furniture?

Disclosure: We appreciate you letting us include affiliate links in this post. It helps keep the beer fridge stocked in the Penny Hoarder break room.

Chris Ronzio helps business owners organize chaos and get things done so they have more time to do what they love. As a high school student, he founded a nationwide video production business that sold over $2 million in youth sporting event videos. Visit his site for more time-saving tips!

What’s the easiest way to save money on your bills?

The answer is simple: ask for it.

I know it seems too good to be true. But over the years, I’ve developed a process of regularly contacting my vendors and utility providers to take advantage of savings and discounts that I’d otherwise be missing.  With one call this spring, I saved $414 on my family’s cell phone plan. I also learned how to get 20% off every time I dine at my favorite restaurant.

Cutting my monthly expenses simply by asking the question is almost like finding free money! Here’s how to try it yourself.

Step 1: Call All the Companies that Bill You

You might be surprised by how many vendors you pay on a regular basis. Cable and internet providers, cell phone companies, insurance agencies, software providers, landscapers . . . the list goes on. If you don’t have a list readily available, check your credit card or bank statements and make one. (And remember to include that credit card company or bank if they charge a monthly or annual fee.) This is your hit list.

If you’ve ever called your cable company, you’ve probably waited on hold for too long. I use Fast Customer, an app that calls thousands of companies on your behalf and then patches you into the call once someone answers. No more waiting on hold!

Step 2: Ask for Discounts

When you’ve got a representative on the phone, say, “Hi, I’ve been a customer for [#] years, and I want to make sure I’m getting the best deal on my [phone] service."

Then wait. Let the rep do the talking.

First, they’ll look up your current plan or pricing. Businesses often change their rates and offer new specials to be competitive, so merely asking for the best deal is the easiest way to get it. When a company reduces pricing for new customers, they don’t always call their old customers and hand out discounts. It’s your responsibility to ask. Last month, I cut my cell phone bill by $70 per month because AT&T released new plans.

Step 3: Fish for Deals

If the simple question doesn’t work, you might have to dig a little. Ask these questions, and chances are you’ll find savings somewhere:

Use their Marketing

“I saw a commercial about some new promotion you guys are offering . . .  what is that?”

It doesn’t matter if you’ve seen a commercial, or an ad in a magazine, or a banner on their website. Or maybe you saw a competitor’s ad and you’re confusing it for theirs. The point is to ask about marketing, and let them tell you what specials are running.

Use their Competitors

“[Competitor name] keeps sending me things in the mail with really good deals. I really don’t want to leave you guys, so is there something you can do to help?”

This is a hot button, and many customer service representatives are trained to offer deals only when a customer is about to jump ship.

Use Favorable Terms

“Is there any discount for pre-payment, or for paying in cash?”

Local vendors especially will gladly offer discounts for favorable payment terms, and if you’ve got the money, you might as well take the savings!

Use Affiliations

“Do you offer discounts for any associations or clubs?”

AAA has saved me more money than I can count. You also want to check whether they offer gift cards for their service at a warehouse club -- I buy restaurant gift cards at Costco at 20% off.

Step 4: If You Don’t Get a Deal, Get Something Else

If a company can’t or won’t provide any sort of discount or new pricing, they might be able to give you something extra for the same price.

Get Free Trials or Upgrades

“Is there anything else you can do for me? Do you offer trials of premium services?”

For instance, almost every time I call DirecTV I end up with a three-month trial of HBO. With local vendors, sometimes employees aren’t authorized to provide discounts, but they can offer some type of upgrade or one-time promotion.

Get Advice

“Do you run specials at any time during the year, so I can call back?”

Many businesses have annual promotions and their representatives will give you all the details on how to take advantage of those deals when the time comes.

Get Time

“Is it possible to move back my bill date to later in the month?”

Pushing back a due date isn’t something you can do often. However, it can effectively give you a couple free weeks of service.

Step 5: If You Get a Deal, Make it Count

This one is big. If you get a discount, or qualify for a new plan or pricing, ask if you can get a credit for the previous month (or previous several months) that the new pricing or promotion was available. This way, you capture every last cent that they’re willing to give you!

These savings can multiply quickly, and will often be applied as credits on your account so that your bills drop dramatically for the next month.

Why Not Try?

Using this process, I spend less than an hour on the phone every few months and walk away with savings or benefits each time. I’ve gotten better internet speed, a cheaper cell phone plan, free shipping, extra channels, credits toward future purchases and thousands of dollars in discounts.

All you have to do is ask.

Your Turn: How much have you been able to save, just by asking?

Chris Ronzio helps business owners organize chaos and get things done so they have more time to do what they love. As a high school student, he founded a nationwide video production business that sold over $2 million in youth sporting event videos. Visit his site for more time-saving tips!