Tips for Saving Money on Paint

For smaller trim painting projects, you might be able to get free or discount paint. (Photo: Kevin Rosseel/ can get expensive, especially when you opt for high-quality, lasting paints with good coverage that will stand the test of time, which you definitely should. It’s tempting to look for shortcuts to save on paint, but remember that you can encounter some pitfalls if you’re too focused on the bottom line.

Instead, check out our tried and true tips for savings, so your walls and your wallet can be happy by the end of the project.

  1. We’re going to assume you know the obvious first tip, but we’ll say it anyway: Do the work yourself! You can save substantially by not hiring a painting company, because you’ll only be paying for materials. If you really need help and your friends and family scatter when they see you coming, you might be able to find someone through an online job board or bulletin board at a local college, library, or similar public place.

1. Danielle Chalom of the American Coatings association wants to remind consumers of their Five-Point Program for leftover paint, which discusses how to handle paint responsibly when you’re done. The first tip? Buy the right amount for the project, which will cut down on initial costs as well as expenses associated with disposal. At the paint store, provide information about the size of the area being covered and what you’re painting over to get a recommendation on how much paint you’ll need.

2. Check out free paint options! Sometimes hardware stores, contractors, and recycling centers list free or low-cost paint, as do people with extra paint left over from projects. Some good places to check include online bulletin boards or the front offices of businesses to see if they have any paint available.

3. Consider free samples. Hardware and home supply stores often sell or give away samples, which are perfect for small projects. They can also fill the gap if you need just a little bit more to finish a project. If you’re working for a charitable or community organization, a paint store might be willing to give you a few extra sample containers to cut down on costs for the job.

4. Oops, I did it again. So-called “oops paint” was mixed improperly or returned because a customer didn’t like it, but it’s perfectly good to use, even if it’s not quite the color an earlier customer wanted. It’s often free or low-price, and some stores will mix it again for free as long as you’re taking it off their hands, so you can get the color adjusted to suit your needs. And, guess what? Sometimes it’s very high quality paint that normally sells for $30 a gallon or more!

5. Hit up thrift stores for drop cloth material. You don’t need expensive durable hardware store drop cloths, or disposable versions that always seem to fail at a crucial moment. Thrift stores often have sheets and vinyl tablecloths that are great for the job, at a fraction of the price. When you’re done, allow them to dry completely and fold them up to use for other projects.

6. Don’t be afraid to spend money on primer. If you’re covering a dark or unusually porous surface, buy a heavy primer before you start painting. While the up-front cost can be higher, you’ll save money in the long term by not having to apply as many surface layers of your final finish paint. Specialized primers can also add protection for kitchen and bathroom walls.

7. While it might seem counterintuitive, it’s important not to be cheap when it comes to buying paint. Very inexpensive paints can sometimes be of high quality, but others may run, drip, smear, take forever to dry, or offer poor coverage. Before buying paint, look up some consumer ratings on the different brands available, and consider spending a little more per gallon for a paint that will last longer and frustrate you less. Remember: Redoing a job because the paint was of poor quality in the first place will cost money too! Take time to price check, too. Once you know which brand you want, look it up at several stores to see which have the best deal.

8. Coupons, coupons, coupons. Become a coupon shark. Don’t just read through circulars, check out store websites to see if they have any web-only deals or special offers. You might also want to try looking up home improvement couponing sites, which regularly round up the best coupon deals for their readers. Sometimes you have to register to get access, but it’s worth it—and you can create a throwaway email account to avoid spam! Don’t be afraid to ask for discounts at the store, too.

9. Think carefully about your colors. Covering a dark purple wall with pale peach is going to be an uphill battle. Try layering darker on light, or refreshing existing colors, to reduce the number of coats you’ll need for full coverage.

10. Bonus tip! Always prepare your surfaces well, because your painting job will look better in the end when you do. Make sure to remove all switch plates and covers, protect installed appliances, wash the wall and allow it to dry, and fill in any cracks and holes. If you’re replacing wallpaper, remove it rather than painting over it. Take the time to make your painting surface smooth and even before you start, and your paint will go on easier, faster, and cleaner.

Happy painting!

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