How to Source Low-Cost Materials for Your Project

A flea market with a table full of goods for sale.

Home improvement, homesteading, gardening, crafting, and general maintenance can have a serious impact on the wallet. Although it’s great in theory when you want to update a room, build your own garden box, or jazz up that old contractor’s mirror in the bathroom, the project can get sidelined when the cost analysis is complete. A quick internet search will yield thousands of projects that people just like you have completed without spending a month’s wages. It is possible to create the look you want without breaking the bank. Here are some ideas for sourcing the materials you may need for your next project.

Resale Stores

A resale store

We’re seeing a growth in minimalistic philosophies which means that Uncle Dan is no longer holding on to every scrap of lumber just in case he gets around to using it. People are hauling garbage out of sheds and barns to make room for other things or to purge for better peace of mind. With this new attitude towards, “stuff,” or a reduction thereof, the resale market is booming.

It’s likely that you can find what you’re looking for at your local Habitat for Humanity, Goodwill, St. Vincent de Paul, or another donation shop. From appliances to paint, keep an open mind while scouring the inventory. Maybe they don’t have the exact tile you hoped for, but with some flexibility, you can find something that will work just as well. Be sure to check in often because inventory changes daily as new donations arrive. You can also put a word in with the manager and they may be willing to contact you when they get a load of baskets perfect for your gift basket side business. Antique shops are another option for the perfect upcycle opportunity.

Personal Resale

A garage sale sign.

There is also a huge number of people selling items directly. Keep your eye out for local garage, yard, and estate sales, all of which are great places to find free or very inexpensive supplies for your project. You can often barter prices, especially late on the last day when they are starting to agonize over how they are going to get rid of that pile of lumber or rebar.


The internet is a great resource for tracking down discounted materials. There are discount lumber warehouses, metal scrap yards, and online stores like eBay. Check Craigslist nearly any day of the year and you’ll find supplies and materials for sale. One convenient aspect of Craigslist in particular is that you can perform a search if you have a particular item in mind. You might have to travel a little further for it, but the cost savings are likely worth it. Also check out for items in your area. This is more frequently used in some areas than others, but it’s worth a look. Facebook is another lottery of opportunity. Join local buy and resell groups in your area. If you live in a larger city, the groups might be very specific such as, “Craft resale” or “Landscaping supplies resale”.

You can also use your own social media accounts to let people know what you’re looking for. Sending the message that you need wax for candle making, a cake mold, bricks for a pathway, lumber, concrete, marbles, wine corks, or anything else on your list might just give someone you know the opportunity to clear out some stuff they’ve been wanting to get rid of.

DIY projects are fun and rewarding — even more so when you save money in the process. There is no end to the ways you can find supplies so it is important to keep an open mind, along with open eyes and ears. Check for pallets at local businesses and watch the side of the road as you travel. Free items usually go fast.

When you hear people talking, let them know you’re interested. Offer to help a friend dismantle a shed and ask if you can keep the metal. Lend a hand at local school improvements, park clean-ups, and other community events while in search of materials. Also try connecting with other people who do similar projects and find out where they are sourcing their supplies. Perhaps they will know where to fund your endless need for yarn, concrete, or canning jars.