Contractors Swear By These Little Upgrades That Can Save You So Much Money

Pro-recommended tools & gadgets for small investments that add up to big savings.

Written by Veronika Kero
Contractors Swear By These Little Upgrades That Can Save You So Much Money
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You might be surprised to know that not every home improvement project contractors recommend has to cost a lot. In fact, Bustle got in touch with a wide range of experts who offered their sage advice on inexpensive improvements that nonetheless make a big impact. Whether you’re looking to lower your utility bills, spruce with speed, or just make your space more comfortable, these are the pro-recommended tools and gadgets that can help.


Using A Microfiber Sponge To Clean Windows

To avoid replacing windows prematurely, Craig Ricks Jr., the president of Acadian Windows and Siding, recommends using a microfiber sponge instead of “harsh cleaners and equipment [that] risk scratching the glass or stripping windows of film or treatments.” Use this sponge with just water to wipe away any built-up dust and debris; its tiny fibers can get into the smallest crevices.


Using Squeegee For Streak-Free Windows

Ricks Jr. also recommends adding a silicone squeegee to your cart because it “allows you to dry your windows gently without producing streaks.” This model has a foam handle that’s comfortable to hold as you sweep away water and it comes with two extra replacement blades.


Adding A UV-Blocking Window Film For Blocking Heat & UV Rays

“If you’re not ready to replace your windows or invest in window treatments, a window film can help to block UV light and heat from entering your [home],” says Ricks Jr. It can also lower your energy bills, prevent UV rays from fading your furniture and flooring, as well as disguise older, scratched glass. It’s available in a frosted glass or wave design within the listing in lots of sizes, and can be installed with just water. Even better, it won’t leave behind a residue when removed.


Lowering Your Electricity Bills With Insulated Blackout Curtains

In addition to sprucing up any room in the house, blackout curtains “allow you to block light and heat from entering your home through your windows, lowering your energy bills,” according to Ricks Jr. This set of highly rated panels is available in 30 colors and several sizes within the listing.


Opting For Energy-Efficient LED Smart Bulbs

Joel Worthington, the president of Mr. Electric, says that “LED light bulbs use 75% less energy than incandescent bulbs and last up to ten times longer.” Each smart bulb in this two-pack will last for 20,000 hours so you won’t have to repurchase often and they’ll help lower your electricity bill with their energy efficiency. They can be controlled with Alexa or Google Assistant to change their color, set them on a timer, and more.


Reviving Old Tiles With A Waterproof Grout Pen

For less than $10, Thomas Borcherding, a remodeling expert and the owner of Homestar Design Remodel, believes that a narrow-tip grout pen “can save you tens of thousands in remodeling costs.” This pen has a low-odor, water-based formula that’s safe to use in any room and it’s waterproof as well, so it can be used in high-moisture areas. A wide-tip version is also available within the listing.


Sprucing Your Trim & Baseboards With Paintable Caulk

Instead of replacing trim, baseboards, and more (which can add up fast), Borcherding says, “caulk is an inexpensive option to drastically improve the look of your home.” This paintable caulk can fill any imperfections, takes just two hours to dry, and is easy to wipe clean.


Using Spray Insulation To Seal Drafts

Spray insulation will reduce air infiltration from any gaps found throughout your home,” says Borcherding. Made to withstand harsh UV rays, this sealant will offers long-lasting results. This formula can adhere to various materials including wood, concrete, brick, stone, metal, PVC, and more to prevent energy loss and water damage.


Wearing Adjustable Aerator Shoes For A Healthier Lawn

Bryan Clayton, the CEO of GreenPal, says that aerator shoes are “a simple tool that can dramatically improve your lawn's health.” Instead of hiring a professional crew to aerate your lawn to allow water, oxygen, and nutrients to penetrate the soil more effectively, use these adjustable shoes that feature tlong spikes on the bottom. The shoes are 11.8 inches long to fit most feet.


Keeping Gutters Clear With These Trim-To-Fit Guards

“By keeping leaves and debris out of your gutters, you prevent water damage, which can lead to expensive repairs such as repainting and replacing rotted wood,” says Clayton. Luckily, this can easily be prevented by installing these gutter guard rolls that can be trimmed to fit. This two-pack comes with a total of 80 feet of mesh that won’t rust or corrode.


Using Some Self-Adhesive Weatherstriping To Seal Gaps & Cracks

“Air leakage, which can make your heating and cooling systems work harder, may be caused by gaps or cracks in the windows, doorposts, and vents,” says Matt Little, the co-owner of Damien McEvoy Plumbing. To give your heating and cooling systems a break, he recommends picking up a self-adhesive weatherstrip to seal large gaps around your doors and windows. It works as a durable caulking that can also keep out dust, pollen, and insects.


Adding Faucet Aerators So You Use Less Water

“Installing a water-saving dual-thread faucet aerator can help you save water usage without sacrificing functionality,” says Little. By injecting air into the stream, each piece in this six-pack can save up to 30% of water during use so you can help the environment and your wallet.


Putting Up A Shiny Mobile To (Humanely) Scare Off Birds

Little suggests picking up these humane bird-scaring devices to prevent woodpeckers from causing damage to your home. The set of 12 pieces can be hung outside windows all over the house to repel birds. “I tried many other internet and local pest remedies but none worked. I was very skeptical [...] but it worked and they haven’t been back in 30 days,” wrote one reviewer.


Using Pipe Insulation Tubes To Minimize Heat Loss

Logan Cox, the assistant general manager at John The Plumber Mississauga, says that this pack of pipe insulation can be used as “a simple and cost-effective upgrade that can have multiple benefits.” The pack comes with four fire-retardant pipes with copper tubing that can minimize heat loss so that you don’t have to run the tap for as long when waiting for hot water. You’ll see a major difference in your water bill.


Repairing Your Drywall Yourself & Avoid Hiring Professionals

Before you hire an expensive professional to fix a small hole in your drywall, Troy Lamsee, the co-founder of Ace of Space Interiors, urges you to do the job yourself with this two-pack of spackle by your side. It can cover cracks and holes up to 3 inches in diameter and comes with a putty knife for smooth application. Plus, the paintable formula won’t shrink or crack.


Sanding Your Walls Before Painting Or Patching For A Pro-Level Result

To make sure that your walls are perfectly smooth after patching them, add this sanding sponge kit to your cart. It comes with four pieces in different grit levels and two emery boards for smaller projects. “A little elbow grease goes a long way. Your bank account will thank you,” says Lamsee.


Using This Painter’s Tape That Won’t Leave Residue

For DIY lovers who want to avoid hiring a professional, Paige NeJame, the owner of Boston-area CertaPro Painters, recommends picking up this three-pack of multi-surface painter’s tape. You’ll have a much easier time getting those sharp and crisp lines and it can be left on any surface for up to 21 days, peeling off without leaving any residue.


Sealing With Waterproof Caulk To Fix Leaks

To lower your energy bill by getting rid of any drafts, NeJame says that all that you need is waterproof caulk. The silicone sealant can keep out both water and air, making it useful for fixing leaks as well. It takes just 30 minutes to dry and won’t shrink, yellow, or crack over time.


Adding A Smart Dimmer Switch To Create Mood & Save Energy

“Not only do dimmers save on electricity, but they also extend the light bulbs’ life,” says Worthington. This smart dimmer switch takes things a step further; it can be used with either Alexa or Google Assistant for hands-free convenience or can be controlled via the app to further prevent wasting energy.


Sticking LED Light Strips Where You Need To Save On Energy

Because its energy-efficient LED bulbs can last for up to five years, Eric Marie, owner of Get an Eric, recommends grabbing a wireless lighting strip to save on energy. This battery-operated model is easy to set up and can provide light in tight (or outlet-free) spaces. Use the adhesive tape or included hardware to place them beneath your cabinets, in your closet, or in a deep drawer.


Installing A Durable P-Trap Kit To Avoid Costly Plumber Visits

If you own a home, Marie suggests replacing your P-traps every three to six months. While it’s something you might not think about because you don’t see it every day but, according to him, taking care of them properly “can reduce sink backups in the kitchen and the cost of a plumber.” This P-trap kit is easy to install and made from lightweight but durable materials.


Using A Thick Draft Stopper To Avoid Wasting Energy

Made of 2-inch-thick foam that easily slides under any door, this draft stopper has multiple benefits. “This is a cost-effective way to lower your energy bills, keep your home comfortable, and keep out bugs and debris,” says Ricks Jr. Just cut the strip into the exact size, slide it under the door (no drilling or adhesive necessary) and you’re all set.


Painting Your Tired Kitchen Cabinets

Eric Bramlett, the owner of Bramlett Residential, says his favorite suggestion to boost your property value while saving money is painting your own kitchen cabinets. This all-in-one paint has a built-in primer and top coat and can be used indoors and out. “A bit of elbow grease later, and you've got a spruced-up kitchen and a property value boost,” says Bramlett. It’s available in 44 colors within the listing.


Adding Solar Path Lights To Spruce Up Your Yard

Bramlett recommends sprucing up your yard and these solar garden lights will help save money on your electric bill, too. They work in all kinds of weather and can make a big difference in your curb appeal. “Never underestimate the power of first impressions,” he says.


Using A Waterproof Timer To Cut Down On Shower Lengths

Ron Wysocarski, a real estate broker, reveals that “you can avoid using too much water just by installing a mini waterproof timer on your shower or kitchen sink.” This model can withstand water to a depth of 1 meter for more than 30 minutes, so you won’t have to worry if it falls into the tub or sink. It has a retractable stand for tabletop use, a hook for hanging, and it’s magnetic.


Installing Insulation Strip To Your Garage Door

“Unbeknownst to most homeowners, the bottom of your garage door features a removable insulation strip,” says Borcherding. He goes on to explain that after cracking or simply wearing down after time, it can actually affect your home’s energy use. To lower costs and keeps drafts out, replace the strip with this rubber garage door seal. The heavy-duty piece is easy to install and several widths are available in the listing.


Using A Compact Dehumidifier To Prevent Mold Damage

Jay Sanders, the owner of Castle Dream Basement Waterproofing, highly recommends getting a dehumidifier for damp areas. “Even a small dehumidifier can pull out excess moisture that can cause mold,” says Sanders. To avoid the costly remodeling and cleaning that mold can require, pick up this petite portable dehumidifier that can easily be moved around. It can cover up to 225 square feet and has an extremely quiet motor.


Replacing Pitchers & Plastic Bottles With A Faucet Filter

“Easy-to-install water filters that attach to your kitchen sink can save a lot of money on plastic water bottles and pitcher filter replacements,” says Marie. In addition to saving you money, this attachable water filter will also remove lead, chlorine, and 99% of other contaminants. Plus, it only has to be replaced about three times a year.


Switching To Silicone Food Bags That Be Reused Over 300 Times Each

Ben Green, the CEO Of Green Leaf Air, describes reusable snack bags as “an eco-friendly alternative for storing food that reduces waste and saves money in the long run.” The durable silicone that each bag is made of can be washed and reused over 300 times. Plus, they have a leakproof double-lock zipper. This 12-pack comes with bags in gallon, sandwich, and snack sizes. Other combinations are available within the listing.


Opting Smart Power Strips To Reduce Energy Bills

According to Green, you can prevent energy waste and reduce electricity bills by plugging your lamps and devices into a smart power strip. This one has surge protection and can be controlled via a free app or voice control. You can easily turn each outlet on, off, or set it on a timer. It features three electrical outlets and two USB ports.


Reducing Waste With Some Cotton Napkins That Come In Over 25 Colors

To reduce waste and lower household expenses, Green recommends switching out your disposable paper napkins for reusable cloth napkins. This checkered cotton pack comes with 12 pieces. They’ll elevate your next dinner party and come in over 25 colors.


Switching To Rechargeable Batteries

“Invest in rechargeable batteries and a battery charger, reducing the need for disposable batteries and saving money over time,” says Green. You won’t have to worry about running to the store at the last minute because each battery in this eight-pack can last for 500 charges. The set comes with four AA batteries and four AAA batteries, as well as an eight-bay charger.


Adding Voice-Controlled Smart Plugs That Track Energy Usage

In addition to saving you money immediately by making sure that energy is not wasted, these smart plugs can also help you save money in the future. Using the included app, “They will provide you with valuable insights which you can follow to improve your energy-saving strategies,” says Wysocarski. Use Alexa or Google Assistant to put your lamps and devices on timers, a schedule, or turn them off even when you’re miles away.


Using A Motion-Activated Table Lamp That’s Battery Operated

Before you buy an expensive smart home system, consider opting for this motion-sensor table lamp. It can project either a warm or cool white light and automatically turn off after you leave the area — you won’t have to worry about remembering to shut the lights off ever again. Drew Mansur, the co-founder and director of TileCloud, considers it a great way to “enjoy the convenience and style of smart technology without draining your wallet on pricier alternatives.”


Adding A Foldable Rain Barrel To Keep Water From Pooling Around Your Home

Add this 50-gallon rain barrel to your cart so you can keep excess water from leaking into or near the foundation of your home. It’s made of anti-corrosion PVC mesh fabric that’s designed for long-term use. And when not in use, it collapses down flat for easy storage. Plus, it “serves as a free option for cleaning cars, washing your house, and water[ing] plants,” according to Sanders.


Switching To A Water-Saving Showerhead That Has 9 Spray Modes

With higher water pressure and lower water consumption, this highly rated showerhead can help you save on your water bill. Little says to look for one “that is easy to install, has adjustable spray settings, and has a high efficiency.” This showerhead comes in several finishes within the listing, has nine spray modes, and can be angled thanks to its ball-joint attachment.


Using A Smart Sprinkler Controller For A More Eco-Friendly Lawn

This smart sprinkler controller makes it possible to adjust your sprinklers, even when you’re not at home. Just use the mobile app (compatible with both iOS and Android) to turn on, off, or set up smart watering so that it automatically replenishes your grass depending on site conditions. “These devices are game-changers for homeowners looking to manage their water usage efficiently,” says Clayton.


Adding Motion Sensor Light Switches With Adjustable Sensitivity

To avoid searching for the switch in the dark or realizing someone left the light on (wasting energy), invest in these motion sensor light switches. They can cover a maximum of 980 square feet and have range and sensitivity settings that can be adjusted. “They are especially great for kids or older parents,” adds Marie.


Installing A Programmable Thermostat That Saves Energy

This programmable thermostat can control gas and electric furnaces, as well as central air conditioners, two-wire hot water systems, millivolt systems, and more. “A programmable thermostat can help homeowners save up to 10% on home heating and cooling costs,” says Worthington. This model offers seven-day scheduling and accurate readings.