Beat The Odds and Save Money by Doing It Yourself

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So… we’re inundated with many thousands of advertisements every day.  Almost everywhere we go and everything we do involves ads… and it’s really hard to get away from it.

Here are just a few of the ads you will experience today:

  • Television ads in your living room.
  • Radio and billboard ads while driving.
  • Website ads while browsing the Internet.
  • Mobile ads while using your phone.

Alongside all these ads you will also see signage ads everywhere!  Store signs when driving down the road, placemat ads when dining out, packaging ads when shopping for anything, etc., etc., etc.

Despite what we may like to believe… these ads strongly effect not only the way we shop, but also the way we think!  Think about it… If this were not true, marketing would not be a multi-billion dollar industry.

Buying solutions

Let’s assume you want to start your own seeds for your garden this year.  How would you go about it?  What would be the first step you would take in finding a solution that delivers the results you’re looking for?  Chances are you would go to your local hardware and/or lawn and garden center looking to purchase a seed starting solution – and I’m sure you would find something that would help you start seeds.

But did you ever think to make your own solution using free and/or scrap materials?

The truth is, unless we force ourselves to think of creative solutions, we will always end up at the store paying more for a solution someone else created and marketed to us!

Creating solutions

If you haven’t already picked up on this, I like to stick-it-to-the-man whenever possible.  Sometimes that’s a blessing and other times it’s a curse!

Don’t worry… in this example it’s a blessing.  🙂

Consider the following seed starting solution that uses free materials found around the house or somewhere close by.

  • 3 bales of straw
  • 1 piece of plexiglass
  • Dirt

Arrange the 2 bales of straw horizontally against the south wall of your home.  Arrange the 3rd bale parallel to your home at the far end of the other bales creating a box.  Fill the box with dirt (only up to the foundation, do not pile dirt against your siding.)  Plant your seeds.  Put the plexiglass over the box.

You have just created a greenhouse to start your seeds in… for free.  Water it several times each day and enjoy the proceeds.

The challenge

The point is… stop automatically thinking you need to buy consumer solutions and force yourself to think creatively about alternative DIY solutions that save you money.

Next time you think you need to buy something I challenge you to think of how you can do it yourself.  Make sure to let us know what you did in the comments.  🙂

Here, I’ll start.  Instead of buying “stoppers” to go behind the tires of our pop-up camper I used pieces of wood instead.

For more reading on this topic I suggest the book Early Retirement Extreme by my friend Jacob Lund Fisker.

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1 Thomas

I understand and agree with your point. I’m not sure I agree with your greenhouse example though. Piling up dirt against your home at any point above the foundation can cause all kinds of problems (termites and other wood destroying pests).

My wife and I tend to consider DIY before we look into buying something. Some of the things we’ve come up with include:

1. Doing our own car maintenance
2. Growing our own fruits and vegetables
3. Making our own shampoo
4. Using Freecycle and Craigslist to acquire the things we need. We have a huge container garden and most of the pots and dirt were acquired for FREE or for pennies on the dollar. We’ve acquired various household items in a similar fashion as well.
5. We started leaving a large wash basin outside to collect rain water, rather than buying a rain barrel.
6. We repurposed our plastic cat litter containers: one is used for holding dirty cloth diapers, another is refilled with cat litter (local pet store has cat litter in bulk), and the other one is used to hold the used cat litter (verses using plastic bags).
7. We cut out scratch paper up into “post-it” sized pieces and use them for notes, rather than buying post-it notes.
8. We walk places as much as possible, rather than drive (most of this is me walking to work because we live less than a mile away).
9. We put up with our old cars, rather than trading them off at the first sign of trouble.
10. I always try to use the tools I have before going out an buying new ones. In fact, the other day, I needed to cut some wood and came very close to going out and buying a power saw, but I resisted and made do with my manual saw I had in the garage. Price savings: at least $100.00.

And the list goes on……


2 Matt Jabs

Thomas… these are awesome tips. I’m proud of you for going against the grain and solving problems creatively – care to write guest articles for DFA detailing individual tips? 🙂

PS… I updated the article to be clear about putting dirt against the foundation of your home, which I knew but failed to mentioned. Thanks for bringing it to my attention – resolved.

3 Heather

I’ve been looking more and more for free or less expensive solutions and appreciate creativity … but who has bales of straw and pieces of plexiglass laying around their house???

4 Matt Jabs

Most rural dwellers will have straw laying around. I guarantee if you look on craigslist, or go to the local dump or to a local farmer, you’ll hit the jackpot.

5 Early Retirement Extreme

@Heather – Anything that will make four sturdy walls will do. 2x4s, logs, bundled newspaper, boxes, 5 gallon buckets… Instead of the plexiglas just use clear plastic sheets.

@Matt/All – Thanks for mentioning my book. It does indeed contain large sections on DIY thinking and improvising. It was reviewed on The Simple Dollar, here

6 Matt Jabs

Good form mentioning more alternatives Jacob… the true spirit of creative solutions!

Your book is great, and I plan to publish a review of my own soon enough.

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