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Surprising Do-It-Yourself Ideas

by Emily Guy Birken

We all know that it doesn’t make sense to stop at Starbucks for a $5 cup of coffee when it’s possible to brew at home for pennies. But what other potential budget busters are hiding out there in our everyday purchases? Many things that we don’t bat an eye at purchasing can easily be made at home or done with just a little investment of time. If you really want to help your bottom line, try doing some the following yourself:

Cheap and Easy DIY Money Savers

DIY Food

homemade chicken stock

Easy homemade chicken stock recipe

Not only is homemade food tastier and healthier, it also saves you a great deal of money. From jam to mozzarella cheese to marinara sauce, there is an array of foods that you do not have to purchase pre-made. One of the simplest foods to start with is bread. Baking your own bread is surprisingly easy, and it costs a great deal less than the pre-sliced and preservative-filled loaves you usually pick up at the grocery store. Bake several loaves at once and freeze the extra. This simple recipe will get you started baking bread.

For other recipes you can make yourself, check out this website: DIY homemade foods. You can also click on the image to the right to check out our easy homemade chicken stock recipe.

Homemade Cleaning Supplies

The anti-bacterial cleansing industry is big business. You can find cleaning supplies in every type of store from gas station convenience stores to supermarkets to office supply stores. But it’s possible to get your home spic and span enough to satisfy any germaphobe using cheap staples like vinegar and baking soda. Check out these cleanser recipes and never spend $4.00 on a bottle of cleaner again. See how you can do-it-yourself.

Natural Homemade Cosmetics

While you will never be able to recreate the selection of eye shadow colors available in the local drug store, it is possible to whip up some of your favorite cosmetic luxuries in your own kitchen. Makeyourcosmetics.com is an excellent recipe resource for anything from body scrubs to soaps to lotions. You will never feel the need to splurge at Bath & Body Works again.

Make it Yourself Toys

Every parent has seen a child ignore the brand new and expensive toy to play with the box it came in. Sometimes simple toys make the best memories. You can make some toys at home, and involve your children in the creation of their playthings. This could be as simple as whipping up some play dough, or as elaborate as making a dollhouse. Making your own toys is a fun way to keep your budget in check and teach your children how to do things for themselves.

Handmade Gifts

Birthdays and holidays can end up draining your wallet. You don’t have to rush out to the store for every gift-giving occasion—even if you don’t knit, sew, work wood or paint. The secret to homemade gifts is creativity and knowing your strengths. If you’re a good cook, throw together a gift basket of some of your greatest culinary hits. If everyone asks you for music recommendations, put together an old-fashioned mix tape (can we still call it that in 2011?). If you’re the family photographer, create a digital collage of the best photos of the year. Some of the best gifts cost the giver nothing, so really think about what you can give to delight your friends and family. Chances are, it doesn’t have a price tag.

It can be a little intimidating to start doing things yourself when you’re used to buying. But stepping outside of your comfort zone can be fun, and you might just find a new family tradition that also saves you money.

Looking for more DIY tips? Check out these DIY websites for more tips and tutorials to make your next DIY project a success!

Do you have any Do It Yourself tips for having fun and/or saving money?


Published or updated January 16, 2013.
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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Chris

Nice article and some good tips. My wife very often bakes bread, and I brew my own beer as well as make kefir, yogurt and have started on cheese. Not only does it help with the budget, but they’re fun family activities as well. Another fun website for lots of DIY projects is http://www.instructables.com

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2 Mike

I used to love my cup of Starbucks coffee, but after marrying a Brazilian woman and moving to Brazil, I’ve learned there’s a lot of things you can live without. We don’t own a coffee maker – she makes coffee with a filter and a thermos. Our can opener is like military issue – made from a single piece of metal. However, we hardly use canned goods, so we don’t really need one – she cooks with the basic staples: beans, rice, macaroni, powdered milk, etc. We don’t even have hot water. In Brazil you can survive cold showers, but it takes some getting used to.

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3 HedgeHoncho

Do you like to…do it…yourself? haha, i love that line from 40 year old virgin.

Anyways, a couple of my buddies tried making their own beer one time. That’s something that I think I’ll try in the future.

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4 K.C.

I made a homemade valentine for my wife last week. She loved it. It didn’t cost much in material but I spent at least 4 hours of work on it. All in all, not a money saver when time is considered, but her reaction was worth the effort.

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5 Thrift Boss

Cooking, next to farming, may be the most practical skill of all. It’s a crying shame we’ve lost touch with it, and people are at risk (those of you who can’t cook) of future starvation. I’m not joking. All the over priced, pre made crap that fills the shelves of walmart: eating this “food”, will guarantee you suffer serious illness: Allergies, Colitis, Diabetes, Cancer.

It’s not cheap…….getting sick!

Actually the topic of food get’s me a bit bent, I don’t know where to begin. I go to the grocery store and see what people buy for themselves and their children, and as a chef, a father I honestly get repulsed. Are these people idiots? Are you? Frozen pizza, pop, cheese strings, nacho chips, pork rinds, hot dogs. Extremely over priced calories and totally toxic.

Me, I live in an older city and the way it’s laid out, Big Box hasn’t been able to penetrate, it hasn’t been able to take hold – kinda a time warp. So, the family grocery, butcher, and baker have all thrived. They’re on every corner. The food is fresh and local. I’ve eaten this way forever: fresh and local. I pay very little for groceries and I eat exceptionally well – as well as most fine dinning restaurants, without the price tag. I think cities like this (walking orientated and decentralized) are the only cities that won’t be suburban shanty town nightmares in the future.

We’re are a turning point in history. The old ways of being irresponsible for your own well being are done. Decadence, laziness….not gonna work no more. Learning to produce and prepare food will make or break one’s ability to save and grow wealth – food prices are rising!

I am passionate about teaching people how to cook. Food in America, going forward is going to be a game changer. Those with access to affordable, fresh food and with the know how to prepare it, will thrive. Those who can’t will see their quality of life diminish. Ask yourself, “can I butcher a chicken?” “can I blanch asparagus?” “Can I peel a pound of potatoes in under 30 minutes?” All these little chores, make a big difference in how you eat and your food expense. If you can do them, you save, if not…you over pay.

Which side do you want to be on?

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