Frugal Living: Is it Cheaper to buy or Make your own Products?

Many people who are committed to frugal living make many products themselves in an effort to save money.

frugal living

However, there are two schools of thought. The first is that making many products yourself rather than buying them at the store will save you money.

The other school of thought is that you actually spend MORE money by making your own products.

So which type of thinking is right? Well, to find out we need to dig a little deeper.

FRUGAL LIVING AND HOW TO ENJOY QUALITY PRODUCTS

Personally for me I have been making many of my own products for years and years. The ones I continue to make regularly save me money. There has been items along the way though that have cost me more to make in the long run and just haven’t been worth it.

In some cases, if I make it myself it is the cheapest price I can get it at. However, that isn’t the case for everything I make.

There are items I make where I can get a cheaper version. Maybe at the dollar store. Maybe I can get the cheapest quality for less than if I made it.

But the point of being frugal is not to obtain the cheaper quality if it is the cheapest price. The goal is to buy decent quality for the lowest price. There’s a difference.

Many times what you make at home is equal to or even superior to the quality version of that product you can buy in the store.

Let’s talk about some examples.

BECAUSE, WHO DOESN’T WANT THE BEST QUALITY BACON?

Recently I cured my own bacon. First of all, let me tell you that it was the most amazing bacon I have ever had. You know how everyone raves about bacon? Well, if you think bacon in general is amazing, think about bacon that is home cured. There is nothing like it. (If you want to make your own bacon, be sure to check out the tutorial at The Elliott Homestead. It’s the one I followed.)

Could I have bought bacon cheaper at the grocery store? You bet. I could have bought a no name brand and saved some money. And I have, many times.

Now, could I have bought quality bacon from the butcher with no preservatives, and just an all around tastier, healthier chunk of meat for a cheaper price?

Nope, probably not.

It cost me more to buy pork belly from the local butcher’s and cure it myself than it would already cured bacon from the grocery store. But it cost me less than quality bacon that would have been equal to the stuff I made.

But you might be asking yourself, why go through all the trouble? Why spend time curing your own bacon when you can pick up a cheap package at the grocery store.

For us, while I have spent years being frugal and place a high importance on that, sometimes buying the cheapest quality has been detrimental to our health. Over the years I have had a lot of health issues pop up and since moving to our homestead we have continually made an effort to make healthier choices. Which means making our own food when we can instead of buying the cheapest item we can find in the grocery store.

And friends, it has paid off. My health is now better than a year and a half ago when we first moved out here.

I get to choose the ingredients that go into my homemade food and we are better off for it.

It’s the same reason I make our own bread often. Yes, we could probably buy cheap bread that would be comparable in price to what it costs to make my own, but have you ever had homemade bread? It’s worth every. Single. Penny. And, regardless of exact cost, it is still incredibly inexpensive to make yourself.

HOW I HAVE SAVED MONEY BY MAKING MY OWN

Okay, but what about things that we don’t eat?

This week I made a batch of homemade laundry detergent ( I will be sharing the recipe later this week, so stay tuned. 🙂 ) I have been making my own soap for years. It literally costs pennies per load. There is no question about it, it’s cheaper to make your own.

I’m not alone in this. Come across any frugal blog and almost every time you can find a homemade laundry soap recipe on it. There has to be a reason all these frugal people are doing it!

You also have to look at the long-term savings. I make my own bar soap as well. Initially I had to buy the supplies which came to over a hundred dollars. This included a soap mold, and the stuff to make it. I made dozens and dozens of soap for our home and even for selling. The soap I made has lasted over a year and I probably won’t need to make any more soap for another year. But when I do, I won’t need to go buy all new supplies. Most of the stuff I will already have, including many of the ingredients. So while I spent over a 100 dollars the first time around (providing us soap for over two years and also making back around 75 dollars from selling the extras), next time I go to make soap I will probably spend less than 10 dollars.

And I should also mention that in that load of soap I made I gave away some as gifts.

Much of the savings that come from doing things yourself occur over the long-term. Another example is our first year on the homestead, growing a garden and canning. There were initial expenses. Garden tools, and canning jars (why, oh why are canning jars so expensive?). I thankfully already had canning pots and tools, but it could have been a much more expensive start had I not. If we had decided we wanted raised beds and needed to buy lumber and soil that would have been an extra cost as well.

If I gardened and canned for one year and packed it in, there are definitely NO savings there. However, because I plan to do it for many years to come, there are tremendous savings to be had.

Now, while I can give you many examples of making your own items saving you money, that isn’t the case for everything.

SOMETIMES IT’S CHEAPER TO BUY THAN TO MAKE

Well, there are many things that would be cheaper to buy than to make, and are not worth the time. For example, I’m not going to be making my family bags of potato chips any time soon.

If you want to build something like a table, or a shelf and don’t own a single tool, it’s not going to be cheaper to make. You are going to have to buy all the tools AND the supplies.

Another project that could run you way more than if you just bought it is DIY chalk.

These are super random examples. But the point is, you have to look at all angles of a project you are doing on whether it saves you money or not.

Does that mean you shouldn’t make or create something unless it is cheaper than buying?

Heck, no!

I mean, buy it if you want to. There is no shame in that. But, if you want to be creative, or if you want to learn a new skill I personally think it is so beneficial.

There is something about working with your hands, learning something new and becoming capable of something you maybe never considered doing before that is so amazing.

I came into adulthood with very little homemaking skills and absolutely NO homesteading skills. If I always chose to buy something instead of making it because it was cheaper I never would have learned SO many things.

I never would have learned:

to make soap.

To preserve food by canning.

To make my own cleaning supplies.

To sew a rag quilt and curtains.

To make pallet signs.

To raise laying hens and meat birds.

To cure bacon.

To make beeswax candles.

To bake my own bread. and bagels.  and cinnamon buns.

To grow my own vegetables.

…………….and the list goes on. I mean, sure, I could have saved myself the effort, but then what would I have used my time for? Probably too much TV. Even if some of those things cost a bit of money, I’d rather learn a new skill.

HOW MUCH IS YOUR TIME WORTH?

And that goes hand in hand with the last argument people often make when deciding if it costs more to make or to buy, and that’s your time.

Time is definitely a factor and some things aren’t going to be worth your time. What is not worth your time will not necessarily be the same for someone else. But I tell you, when doing the math of how much something costs you to make, a frugal person, and probably most homesteaders usually don’t sit there and calculate the hours it takes them to make it times how much they would make per hour.

We know that if we don’t pay in money, more than likely we will pay in time. And we’re okay with that.

Why? Because many times making our own items bring us joy. Some people like to give their time to sports, or scrapbooking, or fishing. DIYers like to give their time to making and creating things. We love the uniqueness in a homemade item, even something as simple as a bar of soap.

For me, as someone who doesn’t have years of college or university to my name, it gives me a sense of satisfaction that even at 35 I can teach myself new things at home, many times with the help of online tutorials or videos. I was always the type who adored school and would be a lifelong student if I could.

Teaching myself more ways to be self -sufficient every year is a way I get to continually learn, and also benefit from it.

IN THE END, IS IT CHEAPER TO BUY OR TO MAKE?

So, the LONG-WINDED answer to the question, is it cheaper to buy or to make products yourself? The answer is, yes, it definitely can, but not always and that you need to do your research to determine if it does for whatever you are making if that is your ultimate goal.

If your goal is to learn a new skill, make a better quality item for cheaper than the quality product in the store, or make items that allow you to know what ingredients are in them, than cost is just part of the equation.

Related: How to Make Beeswax Candles

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