6 Home Improvements for misers, tightwads and skinflints

Charles Dickens ebenezer Scrooge on his way to the pound shop

Does spending money fill you with dread?

Are there moths flying out of your wallet?

Is it NEVER your round down the pub?

Do people know you as the neighbourhood “Scrooge”?

Then this article could be just what you are looking for, if you need to do some work on your home but don’t want to dip into your pocket.

Does spending money on your home fill you with dread?!

Any sort of home improvement surely requires at least some form of financial outlay, after all, owning a property is a commitment and avoiding spending money or doing essential repairs can seriously kick you in the backside in future years.

Avoiding having your roof fixed, for example, means much more expensive water damage to deal with later , and of course the bill to repair the roof.

What about non essential repairs like replacing a worn out carpet or painting the outside of the house?

What can you do if you don’t have the money to pay for it, or at least, you don’t WANT to pay for it?

You tightwad.

Oh well, this article may at least give all the misers and penny-pinchers out there some tips, so all you will be spending out on, as such, is time and effort and they are free, so now you have no excuse.

Six top ways to carry out home improvements for penny-pinchers.

“Watch the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves.”

Watch the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves?

Watch the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves?

The thing you need to do before you start any of this is to make a list of what needs to be done, a plan of sorts, and write it down.

It may be helpful to work out what most “normal” people (!) would pay for each thing and see if you can beat that, to get something the same or equivalent for free or at best, very cheaply?

Oh, make sure you write it on old paper or the inside of an old cereals box instead of PAYING for paper down at the stationers of course!

Tip one: Get FREE stuff online

There are a variety of ways to actually get “FREE” stuff, some easy, some hard and some just downright illegal so avoid the final suggestion there eh?

Free stuff can be found on the internet, in the form of give-aways online, the most well known place to source free things is FREECYCLE and you can find your local freecycle site by typing in freecycle and then the name of your town or county. All sorts get given away but of course you will have to put some petrol in your car and go and collect it!

Other websites have free sections too, such as the well established classified sites like Gumtree and Craigslist, but it’s sort of etiquette to also offer something back too, don’t just take in life, it’s good to give back also.

You may find that you do have something around the house that would be better off out of it, such as a large unused wardrobe, so make use of their site and help people too.

Of course you can also get free things from word of mouth so keep your eyes and ears open for anyone you know who is having some home improvements done themselves and see if they have anything they were going to throw away but will let you have.


Tip two: Use time banks, swap services and help people at the same time.

Since the recession, these “time banks” or time swapping clubs have popped up and it’s a fantastic way to meet people, get some well deserved karma and street cred, and most importantly, save money too.

You can find your local one by going to timebanking.org and clicking the “find your nearest…..” button on the home page.

Their website states that ……….

……”Timebanking is a means of exchange used to organise people and organisations around a purpose, where time is the principal currency.  For every hour participants ‘deposit’ in a timebank, perhaps by giving practical help and support to others, they are able to ‘withdraw’ equivalent support in time when they themselves are in need.”

A very noble thing it seems. They also go on to state that….

“In each case the participant decides what they can offer. Everyone’s time is equal, so one hour of my time is equal to one hour of your time, irrespective of whatever we choose to exchange.” Source: timebanking.org

So this could mean, for example, painting an old ladies house, in exchange for her making you some new curtains from from spare material she may have.

Or perhaps, mowing someone’s gardens, and they would then come to your house and erect a shed, the possibilities are endless, and no money changes hands.


Tip three: Skip diving, scrounging and “finding” what you need in bins.

So who, (apart from tramps), enjoys going through bins?

There has been much talk about “Freeganism”, helping yourself to discarded but perfectly edible food out of skips (or “dumpsters” for our USA readers), but building materials, amongst other things, can also be sourced from these too.

What's in that skip? Can I use it? Should I ask or just take?

What’s in that skip? Can I use it? Should I ask or just take?

A certain amount of chutzpah and subversiveness is called for if you really want to get things for free out of a skip without actually stealing them, (which is something I would not recommend.)

It does take a certain gutsy attitude to do this and often best done after dark unless you want your neighbours to see you going through rubbish bins or skips, and call the police and social services.

If clandestine night time swoops on dumpsters is not for you, approach builders or contractors whilst they are working on a house, or even the home owner and explain your predicament and ask if you can look through the skip yourself, but be careful as there may be sharp objects in the bin also, so tread carefully and you may find what you need, for free.

This gave birth to the phrase “Upcycling”

The ability to take someone’s trash and make it useful again, keeping it out of landfill rubbish tips and therefore helping the environment too.

Who knows what you may find?

  • A chair that, with a lick of paint, would look great in the kitchen?
  • A bedside cabinet that can be made to look “Shabby chic?”.
  • A Victorian hardwood door?
  • Enough slates or tiles to mend your own roof?


Tip four: Tap into grants offered by the government

There are many schemes, often aimed at energy saving home improvements, that can be accessed for free, however most require the applicant to be in receipt of some form of state benefit to qualify.

People struggling and on state welfare can often get improvements done to their house for free.

These commonly include:

  • Replacement boilers and heating
  • Loft insulation
  • Cavity wall insulation
  • Energy saving shower heads
  • Draught excluders.
  • Flush bags (Reduces the amount of water in your loo cistern)
  • Smoke detectors and fire blankets
  • Adaptations for disabled people such as ramps
  • Security door locks and other crime deterrents

Most of these give-aways have criteria, such as being on welfare, as we mentioned above, but they can also be accessed if you are working but on a low income, so contact your local council who should be able to point you in the right direction to access some home improvements for free.

Tip five: Enter competitions to win free stuff for the home

Do you feel lucky?

Win win win!

There are ways that you enter competitions and win stuff but of course this is a gamble and success largely depends on luck, especially as in some cases, tens of thousands of people also enter these give-aways.

They can be found in your local, and national newspapers and magazines, but there are many other websites that collate all these competitions together and are far easier to enter multiple prize draws and giveaways.

People who do this full time and are known as “compers” and some people actually make a living from it, but you have to enter 1000’s of competitions and prize draws EVERY MONTH to be in with a chance of winning.

Suggested sites to start “comping” would be loquax.co.uk, theprizefinder.com, competitorscompanion.com, ukcompetitions.com, freetvcompetitions.com but there are loads more, it just takes time to find each one and then register, and you never know, lady luck may shine on you and you will start to get loads of free building products through the post, although this is perhaps the least effective of all five tips here but it is worth doing, remember, it’s FREE.


Tip 6: Fifteen minutes of fame?

There are also sites like beonscreen.com where you can apply to be on a property TV show, in fact we got our house completely redecorated, and de cluttered FOR FREE when we appeared on Sky TV in 2008, so if we can do it, so can you!

mark-durden-smith from Gutted TV show UKTV Home

mark-durden-smith and me, taken in Exeter whilst filming

Be careful though, if you get picked to be a on a reality TV show as sometimes it doesn’t quite turn out how you think and TV production companies can be outright liars at the best of times, just so they can get “good TV”, the residents of C4’s Benefits street being a prime example.

Home improvements can be costly at the best of times, even if you religiously get 3 or 4 quotes before deciding on something, but if you use at least ONE of my suggestions today, you could find yourself getting home improvements done for free.

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