Save money on DIY materialsThere is no doubt that during a financial crisis we all need to pull our belts in a little and conserve our pennies. However this does not stop us wanting to carry on improving our homes, as this is often the biggest investment we will ever make in our lifetimes. Even when there is no world wide crisis it pays to be prudent.

Whilst some homeowners can still afford to pay for the expertise to turn their dreams in to reality, there are those who still would like the dream, but need to face the financial reality. Every home is a money pit and for some the pit is not endless.

So here are a few tips for those who wish to self-build or renovate and save money:

Tip 1:
Don’t always buy the cheapest in the range as you can end up paying twice if the item is of inferior quality. Only buy if you are completely satisfied it will last a good period of time.

Tip 2:
Don’t throw away the junk mail. There are always special offers at DIY stores and it is worth scouring the junk mail to find them. Bare in mind that seasons affect the offers, so during spring it is ‘decoration time’, early summer ‘gardens, bbq’s, outdoor lifestyle, autumn heating and insulation.

Tip 3:
Don’t be afraid to ask for a discount at any store if you are making a large purchase. Many will give discounts when large quantities of one item are purchased.

Tip 4:
Weigh up the pros and cons of travelling distances for the items you need. If you do need to travel then make sure it’s for more than one item to make your purchase cost effective, after all time and fuel cost money. Try to buy locally when you can.

Tip 5:
Many people feel that the cost of hiring professionals is prohibitive, however if you are not a seasoned DIY’er, or there is something you are not confident about trying, you could consider paying for professional advice from a registered Artisan. They can advise you on how to carry out the work and probably the best places to purchase materials locally. You only pay them for the time incurred which would be agreed beforehand. This practice is without a doubt the best way to ensure your new build or renovation is going to meet French building codes (yes they do have them) and it helps give the homeowner the confidence to ‘go it alone’.

Tip 6:
Don’t be afraid to recycle. If you can not afford brand new or are in particular looking for certain items for your house, then don’t be afraid to use the vast resources available in France. If you don’t speak French, take a dictionary to help you with key words or an amiable French speaking friend or relative.

Local Press – Small ads are in abundance so look through the ads for the items you are searching for. Then just phone the number to make arrangements to go and view, and possibly buy, the item.

Websites – There are many French websites that have small ads where you can find virtually anything you want at a reasonable price. The most popular being – Le Bon Coin, it covers all of France and you will be amazed at what you can find on this site. Of course there is also Ebay.fr as well.

Notice Boards – Many of the major supermarkets and DIY stores have notice boards where the public can advertise items for sale.

Vide Greniers – These take a little more effort as an early rise is essential to find bargain buys. Again look for adverts stuck to cars or boards as it is not always the items on the tables that are for sale.

Brocantes/Depot Ventes/Reclamation Yards – Again worth a look, however they do tend to be more pricey. If they don’t have what you are looking for, always ask since there is often other stock elsewhere. Don’t be afraid to make an offer, prices aren’t set in stone, only your budget.

Freecycle – Yes for those acquainted with ‘freecycle’ it does exist in some parts of France. Here items are put up for free, you just go along and take the item away once you have spoken to the owner. If you are still based in the UK, it is worth checking out the UK freecycle.

Charity outlets – The most well known is Emmaus, but there are many more charities in France worth a look. Whereas Emmaus stocks virtually everything, especially in its bigger outlets such as Poitiers (86) places like the Red Cross will stock items to do with decoration such as curtains, cushions etc. Look for smaller associations such as Reve Enfant at Civray (86) and the Red Cross at Ruffec (16) for example. They will also have decorative and small furniture items.

Tip 7:
Take advantage of the eco-prets and tax benefits available. If you are fiscally resident in France, then it may pay to look at the benefits of the new eco-prets (a 0% loan) available for the installation of anything that stops pollution and saves energy eg: new fosse septiques, insulation, double glazing etc. There are also tax benefits for energy saving installations. The down side is that you need to pay a professional to do the work. The upside is that if you pay little or no tax each year, you could end up with 50% of the cost of the installation refunded when your tax return is deposited. Your local tax office should be able to give you information about what comes under the rules.

Tip 8:
If you don’t ask, you will never know. There are organisations throughout France that help with funding towards many energy saving/non polluting installations. Try your local Mairie or Central Social who may have this information. If they don’t contact the Prefecture of your department.

Tip 9:
Buying from the UK can be a false economy – If you are trying to save money by purchasing items from the UK, remember, it will be difficult to return something unless you live there, guarantees do not travel and if you run out of something like paint, how long will it be before someone can bring you some more over? Also, if you are having to pay someone to bring items over, buying from the UK is a false economy and it is better to see if you can get the items locally.

Tip 10:

Talk to people. This is so handy if you want to find out how certain products work, what people think of them and the best places to buy. Horrendous French paints are still around but at places like GP décor, you can find good quality paints and in the colours you want. Search internet and blog sites, saves footwork, time, fuel and potentially costly mistakes.

•With thanks to Karen Johnson

To contact Karen at Enterprise Andrew Johnson renovation services. Email: andrewjohnson@orange.fr or call: 05 45 71 04 93

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