Today we have the second place winner of the My Secret to Saving contest. Jennifer Duenes of Ditching Our Debt is sharing her creative way to save money which definitely has me inspired!
Several years ago, the idea of building my own furniture had never crossed my mind. On a tight budget for most of our marriage, our own home was furnished with providential finds like a free table and chair set left out on the curb or a sofa generously purchased for us by some friends.
Then I stumbled upon several blogger references to free woodworking plans available on a site called AnaWhite.com. Ana White, a mother and wife who lives up in Alaska, had figured out a way to simplify furniture construction and offered free plans as well as video tutorials to build beds, tables, bookcases, desks, coffee tables, and more. Many of them looked very similar to designs found in popular home stores like Pottery Barn.
I knew that I wasn’t ready to build something as intimidating as a table. While we were blessed to have a home where there was space to build, I had very few tools and money to purchase them. What I did instead was to start with small projects and use birthday or Christmas money to slowly build the basic tool collection I needed. After acquiring the basic tools to get started, I aimed for a very simple project: a play kitchen for my son.
There were quite a few imperfections in that first build. I hadn’t realized that wood can be warped, or that you need to adjust for the width of the saw blade when measuring cuts. But somehow, I managed to cobble together a kitchen with a little sink and faucet as well as an oven.
My next project was a picture ledge shelf for about $10, and then a wall-hung cabinet that I made to store craft supplies using an old picture frame I had found in our home. Again, there were a few flaws, but I felt more confident in gauging what I needed to do.
After that came a new mudroom!
. . . and then a rustic X-console to go behind our sofa for about $50 in supplies . . .
And that table that was so intimidating to me a few years ago? Well, it’s just a few steps away from being finished. The wood for the project cost just around $80 and we will be building a matching bench soon. A table very similar to the one I am building retails for $800-$1000 and that’s without shipping or sales tax!
Learning how to build furniture has become one of my favorite ways to save money, and it’s something that anyone can do thanks to the Internet and a simple investment in some basic tools. But the benefits go far beyond cutting costs. Not only have I build furniture, but I’ve also built confidence and learned to overcome fears and insecurities, and that is worth more than the savings itself. I also love the fact that I can customize the design and finishes of the furniture that I want to build.
If you’d like to learn more about the possibilities for building furniture, here are a couple of great sites that I love. They will get you started in figuring out what tools you need and which projects you could start with:
Jennifer Duenes writes at Ditching Our Debt, a blog about her family’s efforts to slowly tackle $90,500 in loans. She also homeschools her 4 kids and loves cooking, woodworking, sewing, and gardening.