Three DIY Savings Projects—Tested!

Gardening tools

Something about summer makes people want to get all DIY and project-y. But is saving $0.03 a day really worth seven hours of hard labor? We put three common DIY money-saving tips to the test, to find out if it’s really worth it to…

Grow your own herbs?
Pros: Tasty fresh herbs liven up everything you cook, and pre-potted plants are cheap. 
Cons: They’re also easy to kill.
Potential savings: $120 per year—if your plants thrive

Verdict: Meh. But if you can keep a plant alive and you love to cook, you can’t beat the convenience and the flavor.

The Math: If you grow three plants from seeds, you’ll need:

    • Three pots ($3 each)


    • Soil ($5/ bag)


    • Seeds ($1.50-$3/ packet)


  • Time (about 2 months to maturity)

Total: about $16

If you buy pre-potted plants from the farmers market, you’ll need:

    • Three plants (about $3 each)


  • Time (10 minutes at the market)

Total: about $9

Going the cheaper, easier route by buying potted herbs rather than the packaged stuff could save you up to $121 a year. (But only if your plants produce.)

Stop buying bottled water?
Pros: Less plastic means fewer chemicals and a smaller stake in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Start-up costs are low.
Cons: Schlepping a reusable container is annoying and heavy, especially if you’re a thirsty type.
Potential savings: $545-$1,900 per year, depending on where you usually buy your water

Verdict: Worth it! Get a reusable water bottle and contribute $500 to your 401k, stat.

The Math: For the sake of argument, let’s pretend you drink the recommended eight glasses a day—64 ounces.

If you buy bottled water by the case, you’ll end up spending about 2.5 cents per ounce. But you’re not buying it by the case, you’re buying it at the deli. So let’s talk about $1 for a 12-ounce bottle, or 8.3 cents per ounce.

Per year, that’s:
By the case: $584
By the bottle: $1,938.88

If you want to bottle your own filtered water, you’ll need:

    • A vessel ($9 for a 16oz Nalgene container)


    • A filter ($10 for a 40oz Brita pitcher)


  • Four replacement filters ($20 for four Brita filters)

Total: $39 for the first year, $20 thereafter (for filters)

We have a clear winner here.

Make your own dish detergent?
Pros: Less toxic than the supermarket stuff.
Cons: Recipes require trial and error, ingredients aren’t actually all that cheap (hello, castile whatever), and you’ll lose some suds and grease-cutting power.
Potential savings: About $0.01 per ounce, using one popular recipe

Verdict:The Earth comes out ahead here, not your wallet—which may be worth it to you.

The Math: Everyone washes their dishes differently, so we’re just going to do this comparison ounce-for-ounce.

A reasonable bottle of store-bought dish soap will run you about $0.14 per ounce.

There are a lot of DIY recipes out there, but one that gets high marks for cleaning power is Frugally Sustainable’s homemade liquid dish soap

You’ll need:

    • 1 ½ cups water (free)


    • ½ cup (4 ounces) liquid castile soap (@ $0.53/ ounce = $2.12)


    • 1 tablespoon (½ ounce) white vinegar (@ $0.06/ ounce = $0.03)


    • 1 tablespoon (½ ounce) washing (not baking) soda (@ $0.16/ ounce = $0.08)


  • ? teaspoon (0.0625 ounce) essential oil (@ $5-$9/ ounce = $0.44)

Total: About  $2.67 for 17 ounces, or $0.13/ ounce

Worth noting: you won’t get the suds you’re used to and it’s not as strong as the store-bought stuff. Many users recommend having additional supplies of vinegar baking soda next to the sink to aid in rinsing and scrubbing, respectively.

Out of the Box
Thinking about making your own eggs (i.e., raising chickens)? The makers of this handy infographic have run the numbers for you. (And suggested names for your birds.)


Do it. What DIY project has actually saved you money?