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25 Essentials That Are Better and Cheaper to Make at Home

in Money Basics

Today’s article was provided by Miranda Marquit.

Right now, many people are interested in saving money with do-it-yourself projects.  This includes everything from making your own cleaners, to creating your own makeup, to growing your own food.  While most of these can save you money, they will end up taking up some time.  For those who enjoy a certain level of self-sufficiency, the time investment required can be very worthwhile.

Around the House

  1. Vegetable garden: You can grow your own food, enjoying the bounty without having to pay very much. While it can be time consuming to tend a vegetable garden, it is well worth the effort. You get exercise, it can be done as a family and you experience the great feeling of accomplishment at harvest time. Green Daily has a helpful vegetable garden guide, including a section on herb gardens. If you don’t have a lot of space, container gardening can help you grow at least some of your own food.
  2. Can/bottle your own fruits and vegetables: If you have a garden, you probably have excess. While you could give away some of your extra produce, or sell it, why not save it for later? You can preserve your fresh produce at a lower cost than buying it already canned or bottled. Farm Gal offers a complete guide to different methods of preparing fruits and vegetables for storage.
  3. Seasonings: Want to add a little different flavor to your food? You can with do-it-yourself seasonings. These are much less expensive than buying specialty seasonings. And if you have an herb garden, it makes the process even less expensive. I’ve dried my own oregano, basil, thyme and rosemary for years. And if I want to season something with fresh herbs, all I have to do is go out an pick it. The Conscious Kitchen has a variety of ideas for delicious flavored salts. Reduce Footprints has a great taco seasoning, and Stop and Smell the Chocolate offers a ranch dressing recipe.
  4. Candy: You can make your own candy and even ice cream for a fraction of the cost of buying it already made. Alicia’s Recipes features a number of candy recipes that can have you saving money and enjoying the sweet life. We quite frequently make our own ice cream. And while you can save over time with an ice cream maker from the store, Suite 101 has instructions on making your own ice cream with coffee cans (one of my favorite things to do growing up).
  5. Baby food: If you have a little one, you know that buying baby food at the store can be expensive. The crazy thing is that you can make your own baby food for a great deal less. Babies can eat a lot of what we do — especially fruits and veggies — as long as they are properly prepared and mashed up. Rookie Moms has a guide on making your own baby food, doing it in batches so you have a lot of it that you can store in the freezer.
  6. Laundry detergent: Keeping your clothes clean can start to add up. Laundry detergent is one of those household items that costs a great deal. You can pay about 30 cents a load at the store, or make your own for about 3 cents a load. Courtney has a great recipe for do-it-yourself laundry detergent.
  7. Household cleaners: Most of the cleaning you need done can be accomplished with the help of simple, everyday items that you probably have in the house. You may need to buy some Borax, rubbing alcohol or chlorine bleach, but all of these things are relatively inexpensive. From window cleaners, to floor cleaners to disinfectants, Living Easy offers helpful and easy recipes for household cleaners.
  8. Pesticides: You can create your own bug killers. This is great for the garden, and the lawn. Greeniacs offers a handy guide to making generic pesticides yourself, as well as targeted pesticides.
  9. Generate electricity: A movement for more individual energy production is underway. You can actually set up your own personal wind turbine and/or install solar panels. There are tax credits available for these efforts, and a number of products available, some of which you can install yourself. Depending on how you go about it, it is possible to make back your initial outlay sooner than you might have thought. Rod Warnock offers a common sense guide to figuring out the best way to approach building your own solar or wind system. However, be warned that many of the small, do-it-yourself systems will not generate a great deal of power. But they can help defray some of your costs.

Health and Beauty

Healthy and beauty products are among the most expensive items on the market.  You can save a ton of money by creating these yourself.  It is important to note, however, that you should be careful when dealing with health and beauty concoctions. It is not a bad idea to consult with your doctor, since some of the ingredients used can have side effects for people with certain conditions (like pregnancy).

  1. Use witch hazel: In terms of health and beauty, there are few things as useful as witch hazel. Wisebread has a list of uses for witch hazel, some of which include instructions for mixing your own solutions.
  2. Lotion: With a few relatively low-cost products you can buy at the grocery or craft store, it is possible to make your own lotions. You can make a variety of lotions, even some with different scents, fairly simply. The Idea Queen has some good lotion recipes for everything from dry skin lotion to mint scented lotion.
  3. Facial: You don’t need to go to the spa to get a great facial. You can give yourself a facial for very little, using items that you probably have in the kitchen. About.com Beauty shows you step by step how you can create your own facial.
  4. Deodorant: You can actually make your own deodorant at home. In many cases it is safer and works just as well as the expensive store-bought stuff. The Greenest Dollar offers a number of recipes and helpful hints (and a video) of how to make your own deodorant.
  5. Sun screen: You need to be protected from the sun. Your child needs it even more. Making your own sunscreen can be a cost-efficient way to have a healthier summer. The blog at Wabi Sabi Baby offers simple directions for creating sunblock yourself.
  6. Mosquito repellent: Malaria may not be a problem here in the U.S., but West Nile is an issue. During the summer months, it is important to protect you and your children from mosquito bites. Making your own repellent is a good way to do that. DIY Life offers an effective (and fairly inexpensive) recipe for mosquito repellent.
  7. Cosmetics: There are a number of ways to make your own cosmetics. Lipstick, eyeshadow and foundation can all be made at home. Splendicity offers an excellent list of resources and a guide for making your own cosmetics.
  8. Pet grooming: The health and beauty of your pet is important. However, it can be expensive to go to the groomer’s regularly. By buying a few items now, you can save money over the long haul by taking care of pet grooming yourself. Petside has a list of things you need for proper cat grooming, and World of Dogs offers a guide on dog grooming.

Holidays

Holidays can be very expensive. Here are some guides to fun, do-it-yourself holiday ideas for a number of occasions.

  1. Holiday Wreaths: No matter the time of year, you can look festive and in the spirit by creating your own holiday wreaths. My sister-in-law saves a ton of money by making her own wreaths — one for every month of the year. Do It Yourself offers a guide to making your own holiday wreaths.
  2. Christmas: This is the granddaddy of holidays. Gifts can get expensive, though. You can save money and give a gift from the heart with a homemade gift. Get Rich Slowly offers a list of gifts that you can make yourself for an inexpensive and fun DIY Christmas.
  3. Halloween: Another holiday that can get expensive is Halloween. Decorations and costumes can get a little crazy. Thrifty Mommy at BlissTree offers 50 do-it-yourself Halloween ideas that include costumes, food and decor.
  4. Valentine’s Day: Yet another commercial cash cow. You can express your love without breaking the bank, though. The blog at Popular Mechanics describes 10 DIY gifts that show you care, without the need for indulging in consumerism.
  5. Easter: You can actually make your own Easter baskets for Easter. There’s no reason to spend up to $10 or more on a nice Easter basket when you can make one for less at home. One Crafty Place has several easy Easter basket ideas.
  6. 4th of July: You can offer a great party on the 4th of July for a little bit of money and if you have a little bit of creativity. Life 123 offers simple and cost-effective ideas for DIY 4th of July decorations.
  7. Birthday party: This counts as a holiday since the kids love it. You can put together a great birthday part at home for a fraction of the cost — as long as you are willing to put in the work. About.com Entertaining has a pretty thorough guide that can help you plan a good children’s birthday part.
  8. Wedding: Your special day of joy can also be do-it-yourself. My wedding was largely DIY, and I think it turned out rather well. It was fun, and it was simple. And it didn’t cost a whole lot. Green Panda Treehouse has a great guide to creating a classy DIY wedding.

Baker: There are two reasons I wanted to feature this article by Miranda.  First, she touches on a topic that is a weakness of mine, DIY-projects and self-sufficiency (although I’m trying to improve).  Second, it contains so many insightful links from other valuable resources around the web, many of which I’ve visited for the first time.  I hope you enjoy the change of pace!

What did Miranda leave out?  Feel free to post your own favorite ideas and links to other essential products that you can make at home and save money.  I know this is a passionate topic for many of you and am interested to read your experiences below!

{ 30 comments… read them below or add one }

Matt Jabs August 20, 2009 at 8:52 AM

Anyone who reads DebtFreeAdventure.com knows that this stuff is right up my alley! :-)

My wife and I have been making more and more of our own products. Yes we save money, but as Miranda points out… the benefits go far deeper than just a few dollar bills.

We are already employing some of these money saving, DIY techniques – but thanks to this awesome list we will be doing a few more!

Cheers.
.-= Matt Jabs´s last blog ..Mr. Credit Card Interviews Matt Jabs =-.

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Baker August 20, 2009 at 6:30 PM

Matt, as you well know, your blog is a super inspiration for Courtney and I to improve in this area! Especially in regards to the side benefits (other than cost) of these little things.

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Miranda August 20, 2009 at 9:05 AM

Thanks for using it! I was actually rather surprised at the things you can do yourself. Making your own deodorant? That was, I think, my favorite…
.-= Miranda´s last blog ..Money, Material Things and Status =-.

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Baker August 20, 2009 at 6:30 PM

Thanks, Miranda, for the fantastic contribution to the site!

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Matt Jabs August 21, 2009 at 1:49 AM

My wife & I make our own deodorant, it’s only one ingredient… 99% rubbing alcohol. Just buy a little spray bottle, fill it w/the super cheap liquid, and spray it on. Works like a charm and will save you a lot.
.-= Matt Jabs´s last blog ..Mr. Credit Card Interviews Matt Jabs =-.

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Dave August 20, 2009 at 9:36 AM

Great Post! Always looking to save a little more in each of those areas. Thanks Adam!

Dave
LifeExcursion
.-= Dave´s last blog ..Top 9 Reasons Minimalism is for YOU =-.

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Craig August 20, 2009 at 11:28 AM

Great list, would love to see a follow up on how they can specifically help and why they are essential and some do it yourself techniques.

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Baker August 20, 2009 at 6:31 PM

Yeah, it could definitely be expanded. Luckily, a lot of the individual links do this very well. Once Courtney and I start implementing some of these in our own life, I’d enjoy getting much more in depth about them.

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Kosmo @ The Casual Observer August 20, 2009 at 12:23 PM

I wonder how much of a credit I can get for a small nuclear reactor in the back yard :)
.-= Kosmo @ The Casual Observer´s last blog ..What is a Cougar? =-.

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Baker August 20, 2009 at 6:31 PM

I’m sure you’d get much more than a credit ;-)

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Chris @ FitAndBusyDad August 20, 2009 at 12:46 PM

Very timely post.

Another cost effective thing that people can do at home is to stay in shape. Lately, I’ve renounced going to the gym and have started a mini-movement of followers that train at home. It’s great because you can get really creative and not use any equipment at all!

Thanks for the great posts, Adam (or I guess I should call you “Baker”, right?)

Chris
.-= Chris @ FitAndBusyDad´s last blog ..Diet Hacks: 4 Actions You Can Take NOW To Improve The Way You Eat (or Not Eat) =-.

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Baker August 20, 2009 at 6:33 PM

Chris,

Haha, yeah “Baker” is good. Staying in shape is a great addition to this list. I’ve recently become interested in bodyweight exercises and minimalist ways to stay in shape without having to have a lot of fancy equipment or expensive gym membership.

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Kevin M August 20, 2009 at 2:37 PM

You had me at “candy”. Great list, Miranda.

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TheDebtHawk.com August 20, 2009 at 4:47 PM

I laughed when I read item number 8 of Around the House. When I first read it, I thought you said that it is better to make babies at home. While that is not what you said, maybe you should add it to your list!! LOL
.-= TheDebtHawk.com´s last blog ..Credit Card Debt Relief =-.

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Baker August 20, 2009 at 6:33 PM

Trust me… I know from experience that making babies at home is NOT cheap… Although it might be cheaper than making babies elsewhere ;-)

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Mrs. Smith August 20, 2009 at 5:25 PM

It’s a great feeling to ‘make your own’. It’s an even better feeling to teach the next generation how to make their own. Beats television for entertainment ;)
.-= Mrs. Smith´s last blog ..Ghost from Bankruptcy Past =-.

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Baker August 20, 2009 at 6:34 PM

This is a great point. I can’t wait until Milligan is old enough to be able to pass down some of these things. It’s a great way to spend some family time (especially the holiday ones).

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Christen August 20, 2009 at 6:26 PM

Hey, I love your blog. We are avid followers of Dave Ramsey and have paid off all our debts….now working on the 6 months savings!

If you are interested, I created a website – NurtureBaby – wholly dedicated to homemade baby food recipes and nutritional info. You can save a LOT of money making homemade baby food, not to mention it’s healthier for your baby. http://www.nurturebaby.com

Enjoy!
.-= Christen ´s last blog ..sample-5.jpg =-.

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Baker August 20, 2009 at 6:36 PM

Christen,

It’s awesome to hear from someone who’s been able to destroy their debt! Thanks for swinging by. Let me know how the shift to savings goes. I know it can take a change in mentality sometimes.

Very interesting site, by the way. Courtney spent some time making homemade baby food for Milligan out of some of our leftovers for a while. We haven’t been able to keep it up while traveling, but luckily she’s eating mostly solids now.

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FFB August 21, 2009 at 9:02 AM

We’ve become such a service-orientated nation that I think we forget that many of the things we buy we can make. Thanks for the great list and reminding me to brush up on my DIY skills!
.-= FFB´s last blog ..Now You See It… Cash For Clunkers Ends =-.

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Shawanda August 22, 2009 at 2:53 PM

Although I’m not big on DIY projects, I admire those who are. As the title suggests, making things at home can be better quality and better for your health. When I do get around to doing these things myself, saving money will be a bonus.

Cooking can be seen as a DIY project. Sometimes I save money cooking my own food. Other times I don’t. However, I do notice the decrease in my weight within a very short period of time once I control what goes into my meals. Which is the main selling point.

This year I will make Christmas gifts instead of going with the old reliable alternative: not giving any Christmas gifts at all.
.-= Shawanda´s last blog ..4 Reasons You Should Never Cosign A Loan =-.

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Meghan Porter August 23, 2009 at 4:05 AM

Great post! Can’t wait to share it with my friends. I love how helpful these tips are. I especially like your tips for saving money during the holidays. I’ve been to some of those sites before and they’re really great! I especially like the ideas for Christmas gifts because there are always so many people to give presents to during the holidays, that it can get rather pricey. Have you considered creating a http://bit.ly/4bybHr poll for your readers? I find them pretty useful and I love voting! :)

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Alan August 24, 2009 at 5:32 AM

Your article on this blog is fantastic.
Well done! I’m a big fan of your blog and be sure to keep up the great work.
I plan on returning and linking to your site.
Sincerely,
Alan H.

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Wabi Sabi Baby August 26, 2009 at 10:01 PM

Great list! And thanks for the mention…wanted to add that my blog contains much more than diy sunscreen – lotion-making 101, baby skin care, etc… and I show you how easy it is to make at home. If there’s ever a consumer product you ought to make yourself, skin care should top the list. Most skin care products contain over 50% water so what you are really paying for is the packaging, preserving, and transporting of water. Here’s an easy one to start with: 3-ingredient lotion.
.-= Wabi Sabi Baby´s last blog ..Green Tea Lotion =-.

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Sharon August 28, 2009 at 10:37 AM

What a great list! Thanks for compiling so many good ideas in one place.

I have found cooking from scratch to be the mother of all money savers — bread, yogurt, pizza, pita bread, salad dressings, croutons! Much easier to make at home (and tastier too)

For the ladies, I got a great tip for shaving your legs — use hair conditioner!

And finally, this week I learned how to effectively kill fruit flies and it worked like a charm! Here’s the link: http://www.goodtrueandbeautiful.com/2009/08/how-to-kill-fruit-flies-sorry-peta.html
.-= Sharon´s last blog ..Learning to Fix It on Friday =-.

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The Prudent Homemaker August 30, 2009 at 1:18 AM

When we moved into this house and need overhead lights and ceiling fans installed in most of the rooms, my husband did those himself.

Today, he went out and fixed the sprinklers.

Knowing the skills to repair things at home can save you a lot of money, too.

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Jenna August 31, 2009 at 6:26 PM

As a single parent who was found in debt. I instituted a no electric night.Each and every wednesday when I left for work I turned off all the circuit breakers in my apartment all but the fridg. They stayed off until Thursday am that gave me 24 hours of no electric bill each week. I bough oil lamps and candles we ate cold chicken or ham with fruit and cheese for dinner we played board games and if the kids had school projects they had to go to the libaray or a friends I simply had to cut back . It worked amoung other things but it did help!

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kj November 8, 2010 at 1:16 PM

I totally agree with everything you’ve said in this post, with one exception. While it is absolutely essential for dog and cat owners to keep their pets well groomed, it is dangerous to suggest that they do certain parts of the process themselves. Every owner should learn how to give their dog a bath and how to brush their dog or cat, but that website about cat grooming suggests getting clippers for shaving which is a very precise task that should only be attempted by a professional groomer. Cats have very thin and stretchy skin that can be easily cut if you don’t know what you’re doing. I was a groomer and I have to say that if you have any pet that needs any kind of haircut, DIY pet shaving is akin to DIY dentistry, dangerous and potentially very painful for both the human and the animal. Also, if you clip your pets nails and they bleed the you’re doing it wrong.

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sarah September 14, 2011 at 8:48 PM

great list and I am always looking for ways to save a few pennies.

As the saying goes “if you watch your cents, you won’t have to worry about the dollars”. Or something to that effect…. :)

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john stokes April 4, 2012 at 10:15 AM

great stuff, im in the process of moving to a very remote area in the scottish hillside and really need these extra tips to keep us going, its 45min drive to the nearest shop and there is no cellphone signal just in case, we have a private natural water supply and use rayburn wood burning stove and hot water system, surrounded by trees its perfect.

any extra tips would be great.

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