DIY projects around the house can become expensive really quick! As we are currently building our house with our own hands as much as possible, my wife & I have found the beauty of Craigslist and the money it has helped us save in our construction process so far. So here are five ways we were able to shave about $4,000 from our home construction estimate with discoveries like flooring, cabinets, and countertops.
Craigslist might not be the best option for some people depending on your circumstances or needs. While you are looking for anyway to save money, perhaps it is better to buy the replacement item new (i.e. less risk of malfunction or more personalized design) or the item you want is too far away to justify the purchase.
We would like to buy new everything for our house, but we are in our late 20's and doing it on a budget. We are still opting for quality (not compromising for cheap junk that will break in one or two years), but we don't want a high mortgage just to have “new” everything. All the finds we listed are good quality and will save us money now. In a couple years when our mortgage is paid off or our design tastes change, we will have the opportunity to spend more money for our wants at that time.
What Do You Need To Sweep Up These Good Deals
Four words: Pickup and a trailer
If you are familiar with Craigslist, you know you can buy most anything through the site if you are not in a particular hurry for the item you need & if you are willing to drive somewhere (quickly to beat the other suitors) to meet the prospective seller.
The same two concepts apply to buying home construction and DIY remodel using Craigslist. Patience and Transportation. So not all our purchases require you to pull a small trailer behind you, but if you are making a large purchase like kitchen cabinets & exterior decking material you are going to need access to one.
My wife looks at Craigslist once or twice on a daily basis looking for potential good deals. She will also check the forums of nearby cities as well. We live in the Knoxville, TN vicinity so most our finds are on this board, although we found our flooring & exterior siding finds on other boards (Asheville, NC~2 hours & Nashville, TN~3 hours). The extra drive time was well worth the cost savings.
Another suggestion for Craigslist is not to always jump on the first sale. Using the example of kitchen cabinets, there are always listings for cabinets but we waited several months before finding some solid oak ones that were finally advertised. The majority of cabinets listed are made from pressboard, stored outside exposed to moisture, or there simply were not enough of them to fit our house.
So as I write this post, our estimated savings so far is about $4,000 although that figure will likely increase. We are only in the beginning stages of building our house, so we still have lots of materials to buy still. Whether you are building a house or doing a simple remodel, the intent of this post is to let you know there are awesome finds on Craigslist.
Without further ado, let's look at the different savings. I apologize in advance for not having excellent photos of our finds. We purchased these items & put them away in storage until the time is needed to install said items.
Savings Opportunity #1: Deck Material
Now that Spring is almost here, we are getting ready to build an exterior deck. We are doing this first as it will make the exterior siding installation process a lot easier for that side of the house. back of our house is a walkout basement with two stories above ground. The deck means our scaffolding and ladders only needs to go up two stories instead of three to reach the roof.
Our first find isn't that much of a savings, but every little bit helps.
We saw an ad that was selling a used deck for about $200. It was all disassembled & only needed to be hauled away. The above picture is what we came away with for $80, after some haggling and relatively little was salvagable. All we came away with was the joist boards that vary in width from 2″ x 8″ to 2″ x 10″. New boards would cost about $10 and $13 respectively. These boards are what hold the deck walkboards in place. They run parallel to the ground and what you might bang your head on when doing yardwork around the deck.
These boards required a work on my part to be ready to install, as they needed old screws and brackets removed. We took the month of February off from the construction process due to the weather, cold, and early sunsets (we work during the evenings & weekends.) So I used this time to work on the boards instead. Not my idea of fun, but it saved us money during this season of life.
Our total savings was approximately $300 compared to buying new. We still need to buy the rest of our deck supplies new, so the local hardware stores will be getting about $1000 from us to finish the project.
Savings Opportunity #2: Exterior Siding
This find was a wholesale building material warehouse that advertised on the Nashville forum. Because of the cost-savings, we were able to install fiber cement siding (sometimes called Hardie board) instead of vinyl siding.
Because of the wholesale price, we were able to get the cement siding for just a little bit more than vinyl siding. Vinyl is good (it's the most common siding used because it's affordable) but it will need to be replaced between 20-30 years due to fading & weathering and it's also less weather resistant.
The fiber cement boards have a 50 year lifespan, and will only need to be repainted once. It's more durable than vinyl when exposed to the elements and looks better than basic vinyl. It requires more work initially (especially if you buy the unpainted variety), but you reap dividends as the years roll on.
Our estimated savings buying wholesale compared to the best price at the local hardware store was $500 (if we bought retail at Lowe's we saved about $1000). My brother-in-law just finished building his house, so his savings was an additional $500. I will say he had to borrow a heavy-duty pickup and trailer to get this (siding pallets are very heavy), but this particular warehouse offered to deliver it to us for about $250. So this might be an option, before resorting to Lowe's, Home Depot, or 84 Lumber if you plan to purchase exterior siding.
Sub-Cost Savings Opportunity:
While on the topic of wholesale warehouses, we are planning to buy our flooring from one outside Asheville, NC (two hours from us). We can get cabin-grade (2nd grade) quality flooring for a really good deal. We don't have a potential cost-savings for this yet as we are still deciding what to get & how much to buy. But you can easily save several hundred dollars.
Cost Savings Opportunity #3: Soffit
This is just a partial savings and we need to buy more. But somebody was selling their unused remnants of vinyl soffit for $20. This same quantity at Lowe's costs $150 new.
Soffit is the vented looing stuff that runs parellel to the ground, located between the roof and the exterior walls. We still need to buy more, but so far our cost savings was $130. Not bad considering guy was finished with his weekend project & wanted it off his hands quick.
Cost-Savings Opportunity #4- Kitchen Cabinets
I don't have a nice looking photo for these (yet), but we found some 30-year old solid oak cabinets for $500, from somebody just finishing a remodel. It should be enough cabinets to do our kitchen and the person also included some old bathroom vanities too.
We might have to do some touchup on the vanities, they look dated because of the old paint, but we can't complain too much. Thankfully we have a place to store all these in a controlled climate, otherwise we would not have bought any cabinets until we got closer to the installation date. Maybe some quality ones would have been available, but most of the ones in our area are pressboard cabinets for the same price or in small quantities.
Nothing wrong with pressboard, but solid wood is better quality & receiving the quality at a reduced price was important to us. Although the selling point was there were enough of them to stock our kitchen, we didn't want to be known as the people who mix-and-match odds & ends to save a buck.
It's hard to put a cost-savings on these cabinets, they are 30-years old so they will require some touchup but I estimate a savings of $2000 compared to buying new cabinets from Lowe's or a cabinetmaker.
Savings Opportunity #5: Kitchen Countertops
We haven't quite made our mind up with the exact location for these countertops. They are tan Corian from a remodel. We got an L-Shaped bar, and two smaller pieces (& the kitchen sink) for $120. We still need to get one more small piece to complete the kitchen, although we are talking about making a cutting board top from scratch.
We shall see. So I estimate our savings around $1,000. That might be a little low, but I would rather lean on the side of caution.
Additional Money Savings Tips
Like the Energizer Bunny, the savings just keep on going. Craigslist is an easy way to save money for your various DIY projects (or buying a new [to you] car).
But you can't buy everything on Craigslist. For those things that we cannot buy used, and can be purchased from a national retailer, we use Ebates.
This may sound peculiar, but it can be an excellent option for large purchases from Lowes or Home Depot (or your regional hardware store). We are currently writing a list of everything we need to complete our exterior deck. Our list is around $900 (lumber is expensive). They are currently offering 3% cashback. So we will place the order & they will have it ready for pickup later this week. Hardware stores typically only offer around 1% cashback, so the extra savings is like sprinkles on top.
We can't do this everytime. Sometimes you need to look for your items in person to choose the right one or it might be an inconvenience if the total is only $30. But for large orders like $900, it's great if you can get a precise list of all the material needed. Plus you save the time of having to wander all the aisles and be helped by teenagers who know more about Microsoft Paint than the difference between latex & oil.
Although I'm not a fan of store credit cards, you can get an additional 5% discount if you order your supplies with the respective hardware store credit card if you or your contractor has one.
Do You Like Craigslist?
So have you found any treasures on Craigslist? If not, I think you should give it a try. Yes, we've had some real duds and ended up not making the purchase after driving to meet the person. Overall the forum has more positives than negatives.
I've sold two cars on the forum, so it's a free way to sell your old treasures without paying the classified newspaper fee.
Like any opportunity in life, you need to check often and be able to beat the other potential buyers to the product to get what you want.
I hope our savings have inspired you to consider the possibilities of secondhand treasures. They aren't for everybody, but they can help make certain projects a reality.
Thanks For Reading,
Josh founded Money Buffalo in 2015 to help people get out of debt and make smart financial decisions. He is currently a full-time personal finance writer with work featured in Forbes Advisor, Fox Business, and Credible.