25 Things You Can Make Yourself to Save Money (Including Home Decor, Cat Condos and Hiking Gear)
You might think, "I'm not an artist or craftsman." No worries, these DIY suggestions are for some of the simplest things you can make to easily save money.
For example, to save $400 by making a king-size bed, I just put together two single mattresses and lashed the frames to each other. And by the way, if you are going to make a few things, starting with the big stuff is not a bad idea, since that's where you'll save the most money.
But you can also do a number of small, simple projects to save money. Here are some examples of both types.
Make Your Own Clothes
Yes, making your own clothes can be expensive and complicated. But there is a way to keep it cheap and simple: Just modify existing clothing.
- Bleach Painted Shirts: It takes about five minutes to learn how to paint clothing with bleach, and you can make some pretty cool designs. Use your old t-shirts or buy them for a dollar at thrift stores and then get out the bleach!
- Distressed Jeans: There's no need to pay big bucks for beat-up jeans when there are so many tutorials online about how to make distressed jeans.
- Studded Clothes: Adding studs to clothing is a cheap way to remake old clothing you no longer wear, or to modify thrift store purchases.
Make Your Own Furniture
Making your own furniture to save money might sound intimidating, but these simple projects require minimal tools and skills.
- Tub Tables: While waiting to find new furniture after our many moves, my wife and I have used plastic tubs with nice cloth covers as end tables. Buy $1 per yard material in the discount bins at Walmart. Two yards will cover a large tub and drape to the floor. Plus, the "tables" double as storage space.
- Bed Frames: I made a bed frame (for a spare bedroom) with 2-by-4s and plywood. Keep it simple and have the plywood cut for you at Home Depot. You can easily cut the other pieces using a hand saw. Screw and glue the side bars and legs together and it will be rock solid. Hide the whole thing under a dust ruffle and only you’ll know.
- Desks: Check out 20 DIY desks at Homedit.com. The ideas get more creative (and cheaper) as you scroll down. For a simple standing desk, find the right size table to anchor on top of your existing desk. This worked well for me because I could still use all of the space on the lower desk, and even drop the monitor and keyboard down to that one when I wanted to sit.
Make Your Own Patio Decor and More
Outdoor furniture and decor doesn't always need a perfectly-finished appearance, so it’s a great opportunity for DIY projects.
- Wooden Benches: I've made benches from 2-by-4 lumber for less than $15, and I can tell you that it's almost as simple as it sounds (but use screws, not nails). If you want to save even more, make a bench from recycled lumber.
- Cement Block Planters: Cement blocks start at about $1.25, and can be stacked in various ways to create flower gardens.
- Fire Pits: I've done a basic fire pit with free rocks I’ve collected, and it looked great for the setting. For a professional-looking one that will still save you money, use fancy blocks.
- Barbecue Grills: Cement block grills are simple, or you can use bricks for a better look. You’ll find plenty of block and brick barbecue ideas on Pinterest.
Make Your Own Cat Stuff
If you like to spoil your cats like my wife and I, you know it gets expensive. A basic "cat condo" can top $100, and a scratching post can cost $40. Here are some things you can make to keep the cats happy for less.
- Cat Scratching Posts: Screw a 30-inch-long piece of 2-by-4 lumber to a 2-by-2-foot piece of plywood (from the bottom). Our cats like this "raw" version and the ones I carpeted. For the latter you'll need a staple gun, some carpet samples and a carpet knife.
- Cat Toys: Our cats have made it clear that they won't play with anything that costs more than a dollar, so we just tie objects to yarn. They love these toys! For more elaborate fun, save boxes and cut various holes, windows and doors in them.
- Outdoor Cat Enclosures: In a previous post, I explained how you can make money building cat enclosures, but you can save money by building one, too. Why spend $2,000 for one? The photo in the post shows the 8-by-8-foot cat enclosure I built for $110.
- Cat Furniture: I took an old TV cabinet, nailed some scrap lumber to it for platforms and covered everything with carpet. The cats could go inside it, come out through a hole in the back and climb up three levels of platforms. Total Cost: about $3. Just use anything you have and make it look cool by covering it all with carpet samples you can often buy for $1 each at carpet suppliers.
It's great to have the newest outdoor gear, but it's also expensive. And not everything needs to be high-tech. Here are some cheap ways to make simple gear.
- Superlight Backpacking Stoves: Plenty of online tutorials will show you how to make your own lightweight backpacking stove. I've done this to cut weight (mine weighed one ounce), but it can also save you a lot of money.
- Backpacks: I’d never make a conventional backpack. It requires a sewing machine, for starters. But I did discover that a lightweight duffle bag tied to an old aluminum backpack frame makes an affordable, light backpack.
- Walking Sticks: Expensive trekking poles are nice, but I’ll leave things behind if they're not attached to me, so I stick to making walking sticks for the trail. If you already have a knife, your net cost will be zero.
- Hand Warmers: Cut five holes in old socks and put them on your hands. You can wear gloves over them but still have protection for your wrists and hands when you need your fingers free. It doesn't get more simple than that.
- Balaclavas: Cut a sleeve from any stretchy old thermal shirt, sew or tie one end shut, pull it over your head to mark the right spots and cut out three holes for eyes and mouth. Mine weighed one ounce -- lighter than anything I could buy (I hike light).
- Insulating Vests: I cut a hole for my head in a 4-by-2-foot piece of polyester batting (the kind sold in rolls). I wore it like a tunic under an outer layer, and it kept me warm on numerous cold-weather adventures, including traversing glaciers above 20,000 feet.
- Other Gear: See the section on making outdoor gear on Backpacking.net.
More Things You Can Make to Save Money
Here are a few more ideas for things you can make, gathered from around the Internet.
- Money Clips: You can make a money clip from a spoon (pretty cool). I've also just removed the clip from an old cell phone holder.
- Wall Hangings: Dave Pollot modifies thrift store paintings by adding pop-culture references to the picture. He sells them for up to $800, but you can also do this as a way to cheaply decorate your walls.
- Lamps: Some of the 21 DYI lamps on ViralNova.com are elaborate and probably expensive to make. Others could cost you just a couple bucks in materials, and look really awesome.
- Bread: You don't have to be a baker to make good bread. In fact, using a bread machine is about as simple as throwing the ingredients in the machine and turning it on.
Your Turn: What have you made to save money?
Steve Gillman is the author of "101 Weird Ways to Make Money" and creator of EveryWayToMakeMoney.com. He's been a repo-man, walking stick carver, search engine evaluator, house flipper, tram driver, process server, mock juror, and roulette croupier, but of more than 100 ways he has made money, writing is his favorite (so far).