Finding a Contractor on the Cheap

Planning to hire a contractor to tackle one of your home improvements projects? Here's how to minimize the bill.

Target the off season
Contractors generally don't get as much work during the cold months of the year, so you may find it to your advantage to schedule your project for the winter. Arrange for estimates from several contractors, and then inquire about any discounts they can offer for off-season work. Not every contractor will go for this, but it's certainly worth trying to track down one who will.

Do some of the work yourself
Sure it's nice to hire someone to handle a project from start to finish, but this may not be the cheapest approach. To minimize the expense of your home improvement project, ask yourself if there are parts of the job that you could do yourself. If, for example, you are hiring someone to finish your basement, consider doing some of the finish work yourself. A little do-it-yourself painting and trim work could be the ticket to a lower bill.

Tackle multiple projects
If you have several home improvement projects going on at once, consider giving them all to the same contractor. You may just be able to negotiate a discounted price for the overall project.

Talk up your project
Often the best way to find a contractor that works for a fair price is to mention your project to friends and family. People are generally quick to recommend contractors that worked out well for them.

Be flexible
A rush job is always going to cost more, so try to be flexible with your completion date. If you can wait until the contractor is able to clear a few projects from his schedule, you may just be rewarded with a cheaper price.

Go young
Contact your local high school or community college to see if there's a class that would like to take on your project. Vocational teachers are often looking for projects to offer students hands-on experience in their field. Since the teacher is responsible for supervising any such project, there's little reason to worry about the quality of the work that you'll receive, and often you'll only be responsible for the cost of the supplies-not a bad way to knock out the labor costs.

Become an advertiser
Many contractors will deduct a certain percentage from your bill if you're willing to post a sign in your front yard that advertises their services. This may not be the quickest route to beautifying your yard, but it is a quick and easy way to save money.

Contractors have the experience and know-how to ensure that your home improvement project gets done right. Put that experience to work by finding a contractor that will work within your budget.

˜Erin Huffstetler

Erin Huffstetler is a freelance writer specializing in frugal living tips and tricks. Her work has appeared in numerous print and electronic publications, including Family Circle, Guideposts For Kids and Pregnancy. As the stay-at-home mom of two young kids, Erin is always looking for new ways to live better for less.

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