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Encouraging Heroes. You can be one too.

As tax season is quickly approaching, many people will be making decisions on what to do with their refund. Since the economy tanked a while ago, some of these people have been very cautious about spending any money at all.

However, when it comes to the home, sometimes the need for repairs is greater than the concern for putting the refund into savings. The bright side to this is that most repairs go beyond being necessary to actually helping the value of your home. In other words, home improvements are often an investment.

If you are going to spend that tax return, it makes perfect sense to put it into home improvement…rather than a new TV or vacation, especially if your finances are tight. So, let’s take a look at how you can make an investment, and spend as little as possible in doing so…

1. Make a List

The first thing you should do is to start a list of everything you need (and want) to have done around the home. Don’t worry…I’m not suggesting you actually do everything on the list.

After the list is complete, go through it to narrow it down by considering what actually needs to get done first, and how much return you can get on the project. For example, if your roof is leaking, that should be taking priority over new carpet. Or, if you are deciding between new windows and a paint job…the windows will allow for a higher value on the home than carpet would, if you decide to sell the home. Also, new windows can help reduce your utilities, which will stretch out those dollars you just spent on them.

2. Do the Small Repairs Yourself

If you can, do some of the small items on the list yourself to save on labor. If you are unsure on how to do it, call Home Depot, Lowes, or your local hardware store to see if they offer classes. They quite often hold various classes on paint techniques and other various do-it-yourself projects.

Another way to learn more about doing smaller projects would be to watch some of the home shows. They take it a step further at the DIY network, with a website showcasing several educational videos for people wanting to learn how to do a do-it-yourself project.

However, even if you don’t want to do it yourself, hiring a local handyman for the smaller projects will probably be cost effective. But, don’t assume they all will be lower priced than larger contract companies. Ask their prices.

On the other hand, if you have a larger project such as installing cedar fencing, adding a room, or putting up siding, you would probably be better off hiring the work out…unless you have experience in that particular area.

3. Hiring the Right Contractor

For the larger projects, or if you are not up to doing your own, then you might consider hiring a contractor. While this will obviously cost more than doing it yourself, you can take steps in ensuring that you will not overpay for the work done. Of course, this requires hiring the right contractor. Here is how to go about doing that:

  • Get Referrals – Ask your friends and family if they know of someone who is known for doing good work, at a decent price. Make a list of the names you are getting.
  • Search Online – Once you get the names, search online for their name or company to see what kind of reviews are being posted on various sites, such as AngiesList.com (know ahead of time what the answer should be).
  • Ask for Estimates – Get an estimate from every contractor that passes the above ‘tests’ and have them break it down by labor and supplies, which I’ll explain further in a minute.
  • Check References – Call the references that they give you to get as much information on them as you can. Don’t be afraid to ask questions such as “How do you know Joe?”
  • Interviews– Interview a few contractors who made the cut so far, by asking them several questions such as a time frame, if the crews are insured, and whether or not they use permits.

It’s best to know as many of these answers as possible before the interview. For example, if you need a permit, know that ahead of time, and gauge their knowledge and honesty on their answer. After you determine which contractor you want to hire, there are some ways to save money…

4. Save on Labor Costs and Supplies

Perhaps the best way to save money, if you can’t do the entire project yourself, is to do part of it. For example, if you are having a room painted, see if you can get a discount for things like moving the furniture out and taping everything off. Or, if you are replacing the carpet with hardwood floors, see how much they will knock off the bill for removing the carpet yourself. You might see now how having their estimates broken down by labor might be beneficial.

If you are using a licensed contractor they are probably able to get a discount on supplies. However, make sure they can…or, will before the project starts. If they can’t get a discount, look for products for best prices through discount stores either locally, or online. Another option would be to shop in clearance centers.

As you can see, there are ways to save a little money when doing home repairs. But, you also have to factor in that most home repairs are an investment and the money you spend will come back to you in some way.

About the Author

Melissa Cameron is enjoying a successful online career in Internet marketing and freelance writing. She loves working from home, but can be found occasionally on her laptop at the local coffee house as well. Her topics vary, but quite often stem from information she reads online. In fact, the above article was developed after reading an article about a fence contractor in Milwaukee and thinking of her own home improvement projects. When Melissa is not working, she spends time with family, especially looking for new places to hike and kayak.

Earnest Parenting: help for parents who want to be careful with their home repair dollars.

Image courtesy of massdistraction via Creative Commons license, some rights reserved.