If you are embarking on a DIY build on your own, start by mapping out a timeline of your process, and what each stage/project can be expected to cost. That will make it much easier to prioritize your wants/needs, and get an idea of where you can cut corners financially, what you probably need to pay full-price for, and what you can put on the back burner to invest in later.
When you are building your budget, set REALISTIC projections. Don't assume that your lumber budget is going to be $0 because you want to use all reclaimed wood. If you end up saving money by getting stuff for free, or snagging some sweet deals on Craigslist, that's AMAZING, but you need to build in buffers so you don't get caught by a surprise expense. I know it seems counter-intuitive to budget -more- money in order to save yourself money, but it will always pay you back in the end to set realistic parameters for yourself.
Another seemingly counter-intuitive piece of advice—don't try to do every complex project yourself. While a quote from a plumber may seem daunting in comparison to handling the labor yourself, you can actually save yourself money by hiring a pro. First, keep in mind the cost of your own time! It may not have an exact dollar sign on it, but if you are spending an inordinate amount of time educating yourself on how to tackle a project, maybe making a few missteps that have to be corrected, and procuring all of the necessary tools and supplies yourself... you are likely short changing yourself in the long run. If nothing else, you're drawing out your build process and pushing your move-in date out.
The right professional trades-person has all of the tools they need for the job already, has wholesale hook-ups to get cheaper materials, has trained in how to do a project correctly and in the shortest amount of time, and will warranty their work (within reason). I don't mean to discourage anyone who wants to learn how to run wiring, or hook up a sink, or anything of the sort. Just do your research and try to keep your eye on the big picture!
Other, more traditional, ways I saved money during my build:
Once you have a clear idea of what materials you are needing for your build, shop around for deals! Spend the time searching for end of season sales, second hand stores, demolition yards, or try to find end of line stock that stores are trying to get rid of. Figure out what you are prepared to spend up large on and what you are ok to spend a little bit on. Often someone’s leftover paint tins and leftover tiles from a large house build that are useless to anyone else are just what you need to finish your tiny house. Putting the time into finding deals will save you a lot of money!
The best way to save money during your build is through free or low-cost materials. You’d be surprised how much good stuff you can score from Craigslist, or from construction site dumpster diving (with permission, of course). But to get the goods, you need to be constantly on the hunt. Begin collecting materials months before your build. Remember, you’ll need a place to store them. Paying for storage space can cancel out your savings. So, if you don’t have space, ask your friends or local farms. Offer a little work/trade like lawn mowing, in exchange for storage and even build space.
In our build, we used numerous salvaged and reclaimed materials. At times, processing these materials was very labor-intensive and time-consuming. But in the end, we saved a few thousand dollars and added much character to our tiny house.
Pro tip: connect with your local Habitat ReStore procurement director (title might vary) to ask about donations they can’t accept, like lumber. That’s how we got the tip about an old farmhouse scheduled for demolition. Habitat could only take the fixtures, but we were allowed to bring a group of friends to take down the tongue and groove paneling. Eight hours later, we had two pick-up truck loads. Worth it!
If you don’t know HOW to do something specific and are tempted to hire it out…. Pause and do a quick search on YouTube!! There are probably step by step instructions there! We saved a lot of money by NOT having to hire out people bc we figured out how to do it ourselves.
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