Does Building Your Own Furniture Save Money in the Long Run?

by Kevin on July 19, 2012

I’m a very blessed man. I’m married to a wonderful woman who loves me despite my faults and encourages me to pursue my passions. When we bought our house last year we specifically targeted homes that had bonus rooms large enough to turn into a decent sized home office / man cave. The one we’re now living in has an amazing space that I figured eventually we would turn into something awesome.

I just didn’t realize how soon that would be. We started work on the Man Cave over Memorial Day weekend. We did all the work ourselves (ahem, my father in law did a lot of the work and I “learned”) in order to save money over hiring contractors. We added thin brick to a wall, mounted the TV and speakers on the wall, and so forth.

We also decided that to make the room extra unique we would try building our own furniture. The goals were: to make something unique, to learn, and to try and save money over having something made for us.

Was that a smart idea?

Can You Save Money by Building Your Own Furniture?

To be honest you won’t save a lot of money up front by building your own furniture. It is nearly impossible to beat something made of MDF in China that was shipped over and marked up for retail sale. You could buy a coffee table or ottoman for $150-200 at pretty much any major retailer.

The only problem is the quality of the product. We were looking for something that would last a long, long time. MDF furniture bought at Target just won’t last a long time. It isn’t designed for that. So you might spend less up front, but you’re getting less and will probably be buying again in the future. (Plus it wouldn’t be unique, which is something I wanted.)

I also knew we could build an audio/visual rack for a lot less than it would cost to buy one specifically for that purpose. I’m not talking about a media table. I’m talking about a 6 foot rack to store all of my computer and a/v equipment.

We settled on a design that we utilized both in the a/v rack and the coffee table. It’s called a flexy rack. There is this simple guide for a flexy rack online. You take some threaded rod, some nuts and washers, and some wood. You drill 3 holes in the wood (2 on one side, 1 on the other) because it is easier to balance on 3 points than 4. You put the rod through the wood, then put a washer and nut on each side of the wood panel. It keeps the wood locked in place. You keep building shelves from there. It’s called the flexy rack because it is flexible height: if your a/v receiver is 6 inches tall and you need 10 inches of clearance to the next shelf, you can adjust. If your Blu-ray player is 3 inches tall you can make the next shelf 6 inches rather than have a standard 10 inch shelf again. It saves space and makes the rack look more conformed and custom to your equipment. (Plus if you add or change equipment, you can adjust in the future.)

We were also drawn to the flexy rack because it meant we wouldn’t have to buy any extra tools besides a 3/4″ spade drill bit (about $4) and a miter saw ($15). No need for a table saw, circular saw, and so forth.

Did We Save Money?

Again it depends on your perspective and time frame. We did make something unique and we did learn something. But we also spent more than most people would. The A/V rack (6 feet with 6 shelves), side tables, and coffee table (pictured below) ran us $700 for all the tools, wood, stain, nuts, washers, and bolts. Included in that price are 2 metal side tables we bought off of Craigslist for $75 total and then added onto to make them unique to the room.

In comparison, a nice a/v rack can run $300 to $500. The side tables and coffee table are a little more difficult to compare because you could go as low as a good $50 find on Craigslist or as high as a luxury furniture store. So it is hard to quantify how much we saved (or overpaid) based on strict comparisons.

However, I absolutely love what we ended up with. The furniture is unique to my interests, fits into the room perfectly, and you can’t buy it anywhere. To me, in this instance, it was worth it.

How Can a Financial Blogger Justify Spending So Much?

I have often written about saving money and cutting back. But I also try to remind you to spend money on what is important to you (when you can afford it). This room was important to me, we saved up the money for everything in it, and I feel no guilt having spent the money.

The best part? My wife was 100% on board. In fact, she was the one that pushed me to do the man cave. I’m the penny pincher by nature and while I of course want a Tennessee Volunteers themed room, leather furniture, and enough PC equipment to run a small internet service provider, I’m also hesitant to spend money. It is a true joy when your best friend and partner in life wants something for you, wants to make your dreams come true, and is heavily involved in the process. (In fact she did all of the staining, sanding, and coats of polyurethane.) My wife, in short, is amazing. (Chalk up another point on “why marrying your best friend is really important.”)

Here’s the coffee table as a finished product:

Those are two wheels of my 1978 BMW 320. I bought new wheels a while back because these didn’t ride perfectly, and integrating them into the Man Cave was an awesome, manly, and personal touch.

What do you think?

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