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#14: Keeping Supply Costs Down

Updated: Sep 28, 2022

What is UP my friends and fellow busybees. Today’s topic stemmed from some polls I recently posted on my Instagram account to do some market research to find out what some of the pain points are that those who do furniture makeovers and furniture refinishing are experiencing. This kind of information is so helpful for me, not only to help get ideas for podcast episodes that will actually be helpful to you guys but also to help me as I move forward in my business and scaling the services I offer, so if you were one of the ones that voted on those or submitted feedback, thank you so very much! And if you didn’t get the chance to because we aren’t Instagram buds yet, what are you waiting for? Head over to IG and follow me @MelDidItHerself and let’s be friends!

And one more thing before we jump in, because I think it’s something that might be really helpful for you– I just launched a FREE guide to starting your own furniture refinishing business, which I’m super excited to be sharing with my community. I know there are lots of you out there who have done furniture makeovers before, whether it be just for your home or maybe even for some friends and family, or better yet, maybe you’ve even started selling them on online platforms and have absolutely loved it and seen the kind of income it can bring in. But since you’re the kind of person with that creative mind, you may not necessarily come from the world of business and know all the things that go into starting your own official business doing this, and that’s totally okay. I was in your boat not that long ago, trust me!

But I took the time to do the research, do some trial and error, and I’ve caught the bug for learning all about business and marketing and I put together an easy-to-follow guide and checklist of all the key points that I think are important to hit to start your furniture painting and refinishing business and turn you into an ~official~ entrepreneur. Whether this sounds like you, or if you have found yourself kind of falling into creating a furniture refinishing business but you’re not quite sure if you have hit the mark with all the things you should have set up, this guide is for you! I hope you find it valuable, and I welcome any feedback- good or bad!- that you have. Alright, now let’s jump into my tips and tricks for keeping the cost of supplies down in your furniture painting and refinishing business, shall we?

So, like I said, I asked the question of what people’s current biggest struggle is in their business and a lot of people talked about the rising cost of goods and supplies making it hard for them to afford them and be able to get a good profit once they sell their pieces. Which is totally understandable, and I absolutely feel you because I have noticed the cost of some things that I use regularly going up for sure, my go to mineral paint was raised by $3 for a pint awhile ago and every now and then when I go into Home Depot I look at the cost of spray paint and other things and need to do a bit of a double take, like pardo me? $18 for a gold spray paint? And the colour I actually really wanted isn’t even in stock? Alright cool, cool cool cool….

But unfortunately, it IS the reality we are currently living in, and there isn’t a whole lot we can do to combat it (except here’s my quick innocent public service announcement to remind you to always go out and get informed and vote whenever there is an election if you are eligible to do so). But there are some strategic things that you can build into your everyday business or even things just to keep in mind if you do furniture refinishing and furniture flipping as a hobby or just do pieces for yourself to make sure that you’re keeping costs down as much as possible so you don’t break the bank.

I am going to focus on ways to keep supplies down throughout this episode, but first off, I do need to mention that keeping the cost of your pieces low that you’re sourcing to makeover is definitely important to do whenever possible. When and where appropriate to do so, remember to try and negotiate prices down or look for sales or opportunities to get money off of the price of the item you’re buying, whether it’s at a store or from someone. If you need some tips on where and how to source furniture pieces and you haven’t already listened to it, in Episode #5 of the podcast I discuss How to Source Furniture Secondhand to Refinish, and I’ll link that episode in the show notes if you want to check it out after this one.

But thinking more about supplies: one thing I often hear from people is that paint is so expensive (and the price is only continuing to rise). So what can we do about it?

My best advice is to get the most bang for your buck.

Buy paint in larger quantities so that you can get more paint for a smaller price– some brands this isn’t a possibility, but if you are strategic with the ones that do have it, it can really pay off in the long run. One example of this would be with Fusion Mineral Paint, some stockists offer 2L sizes for around 90 dollars and so what I’ll do, is for the neutral colours that I most often use, so blacks, whites, that sort of thing, I’ll order those larger jugs and then put the paint into smaller, more manageable containers when I go to use it. And $90 may sound like a lot, but if you consider the fact that it’s $28 for 500mL, you’re actually saving $22 when you get the 2L container - it’s just obviously more costly upfront.

And putting the paint into smaller sized containers allows for me to be able to better access the paint, and also make sure that I’m not changing the consistency of the paint with having it exposed to air for so long, since it would take me longer to get through that amount compared to a normal pint size container or whatever. Also keep in mind that these neutral colours, like white and black, can be added to other shades to change the depth or how light a colour of paint is so that can help in the long run to avoid having to buy other shades that may be similar.

You can also do this with products that are your go-to basics that you are often using: things that come to mind are primer, various topcoats so maybe having one matte finish, one satin finish and one gloss finish, as well as stain colours that you repeatedly use or find that your custom clients are requesting often.

Along the same lines of mixing colours, I really recommend something that a lot of people may not think of, which is something that I’ve only personally learned because I am a makeup fanatic (fun fact about me). And that’s learning colour theory.

So that’s basically the art of combining colours based on the colour wheel, which is an organized depiction of primary, secondary and tertiary colours. And when you learn this, you can figure out how to combine colours, understand how colours relate to each other, and understand what colours can be mixed to create other colours or shades. This will be really helpful if you are trying to utilize the paint that you currently have in your stock, or if you have a certain colour that you’re trying to mimic or achieve without having to go out and actually buy that certain colour.

It’s also helpful just to know for when you’re designing pieces, because if you’re looking to use two different colours on a piece but don’t know if they’ll look great next to each other, you can obviously do swatches and determine it that way, but if you’re using the colour theory and the colour wheel, you can understand which colours will look best from more of a science-based understanding as well. And then, like I mentioned, you can also just mix in other colours to lighten or darken shades to create unique colours that perhaps others aren’t offering, or just to bring a vision that you have in your head to life based off of another colour that already exists and might already be in your stash.

Another thing that this can be great for, is if you have multiple containers of paint that you’ve already used on other pieces, and you want to create a custom colour from those so that you aren’t wasting the leftovers, but you also don’t want to end up with paint that is the colour of literal shit, this can make sure that you end up with a colour that will be more sought after and ~pleasant~ for your clients.

Another, potentially counterintuitive approach to saving money on supplies like paint, is to not keep yourself too in the loop, on social media or with retailers and stockists or retailers by being on their mailing list. And that is because… you are human. Presumably. And it’s easy to get FOMO. So when you see a bunch of people talking about a new colour that’s been released or a new paint line that’s coming out, or a new brand that someone’s recently discovered, or you get an email about a new launch or a sale from one of your favourite paint companies, you will inevitably feel incentivized to buy. Or maybe even feel like you need that colour. And you don’t. Probably not, at least.

I am absolutely guilty of this too, so I’m not sitting up on a high horse by any means. If you follow me on Instagram, you saw that I recently jumped onto getting two of the new Fusion Mineral Paint colours from their new line, Manor Green and Everett, so I, too, am human. And I try my best not to jump too fast, especially when I know I already have a very full paint stash/shelf downstairs. But I do try to be intentional and take a look at my stash regularly, and definitely before I ever order more paint to make sure that A) I’m not getting a colour that I already have, because that has happened in the past when there was colours hiding, and also B) so I am aware of just how much I have to go through and maybe that will make me think twice about putting in another order, or at least as big of an order if I absolutely have to put one in because, for example, I need a colour for a custom client project.

Another great tip if you aren’t super brand loyal or aren’t super picky about colour and you just quickly flip pieces, or even if you’re just the type of person where you don’t need to feel super, super inspired by a piece to go in a certain direction on it (because I know some people get a certain vision in their head and can’t stray from that once they see it), a great thing to keep an eye out for is the Oopsie or Oops paint at Lowes or Home Depot.

You often find custom colours there and you never really know what you’ll find, so just take a peek any time you walk by it, it’s usually on the side of the paint counter where they mix custom colours up. But do keep an eye on things like the paint finish, so whether it’s flat or matte or satin or semi gloss or eggshell, because that will definitely change the look of the paint on your piece. And make sure that it’s appropriate for the use that you’re doing as well, so if it’s a project for outside for example you wouldn’t want to use interior paint.

But often these paints will be highly, highly discounted and a lot of the time you can get a gallon for like under $10 in my area, and obviously you can do a bunch of projects with that amount of paint so it is a great, cost-effective approach to getting inexpensive paint. Now I do always advocate to use paint that is created for furniture when furniture refinishing, just because the lines of paint are made in such a way that they are for the intended purpose, but that’s not to say that with the proper steps and prep that a regular paint that you would typically use on a wall couldn’t work for that kind of project, as long as you are sealing it appropriately.

And if you do have a certain brand of paint that you typically use, or a few of them that you typically use, or a certain stockist that you always access for your furniture paint (or perhaps there’s only one stockist available to you if you live somewhere more remote), a great suggestion is to talk to that retailer or stockist to see if there are options for using them as your sole stockist because you may be surprised at what you can get if you do some effective networking.

A lot of the time these are small business owners who are obviously looking for continued support for their business, and they might have margins that allow a bit of wiggle room when it comes to offering a cheaper price. Perhaps if it’s a matter of when you order X amount of times you get a certain percentage off or a free item, or maybe they’re willing to exchange a discount or free items for some promotion on your social media or email list if you have a large one, or maybe they’re looking to collaborate in another way because they have a project in mind but just haven’t had the time or ability to bring it to fruition and you could help them to do that and you could set up a partnership that way. The opportunities are really endless, especially when it comes to social media.

And they may not even care as much if you have a large following in terms of numbers, because you have a very specific audience, presumably if you have a furniture refinishing account at least, and that’s a captive audience of people who are interested in the same thing that you do, which means they buy the same kind of supplies that you do. That might be an opportunity that the stockist or the person that you’re talking to sees as a great way for them to market their business. You never know until you ask, as we learned last week!

Another thing that they might have if you look into it, because some businesses have one but don’t advertize it, is an affiliate or referral program. A lot of places have this on their website, sometimes it’s in the bottom navigation bar or within their Contact Us page, or sometimes you might have to reach out directly and ask. This is where you could either sign up as one of their affiliates and get a certain code that your followers could use for a percentage off their orders, or they may have a Refer A Friend program, so if you send anyone their way they might have a thank you gift that they offer to you whether it be for money off an order or free product. So there are tons of options.

These are things that can also be more passive if you have a social media presence and you make those codes readily known and available to your followers, because people could find the post that you put up months or even years after you posted it and use that code which would then either get you some money in your pocket or some money off of product with that business.

So then if we look at supplies that you might be needing and using in your furniture painting and refinishing business more broadly, I always recommend (and realistically this is for any online shopping and not just for these kinds of products) that you look for promo codes. Every time. I mean it would save you money, so why wouldn’t you at least look?

Whenever you’re putting in an order online, whether it’s from a retailer directly, from a hardware store or whatever it might be, always look for active promo codes or referral codes like I just talked about from other creators that you can use for your benefit. This gets you money off of your bill, but also supports those content creators who are putting out content that you consume for free and enjoy and get value from. That’s one way that you can pay them back without paying anything extra out of your pocket, because you already need those products and you would buy them anyways, so it’s a win-win when you can get some money off and as a result, put some money back into their pocket so they can continue to deliver you enjoyable content and build their business.

A great way to go about this if you don’t know any creators with codes off the bat is often when I hear people that I follow mentioning that they have referral codes for certain companies, I just keep a running list in the Notes app on my phone and I’ll write the paint company‘s name, the percentage off, the code, and then maybe the creators name for reference.

Another thing that you can do if you don’t know any and you’re going to put an order in that day, is to look on YouTube (and I hate to say it, but now that TikTok has surpassed Google as the search engine of choice for some demographics, you might want to check there, too!). Go into the search bar and type in that paint company or whatever it is that you’re purchasing and look through some of the larger accounts that have been posting about those things… well, it doesn’t necessarily have to just be larger accounts, I definitely recommend supporting smaller creators where that might make a more impactful difference for them if you use their code, but I say that because typically it’s larger accounts that are getting these types of codes or sponsorships and are posting codes to offer to their community. So anyways, go into these videos and take a look in the written description, somewhere around the middle or end of the description is where they often put those codes, and you can find them and use them. And then again, to save you more time in the future, consider saving that code somewhere for future reference. Work smart, not hard, my friend.

Another option that a lot of people probably already have in use to get money off of their online orders is the Honey extension which is an extension that you can add to your Google Chrome browser, or maybe other browsers too but definitely in Google Chrome, and that automatically looks for promo codes when you go to check out and it works on most sites. So that’s really handy and saves you the legwork. You can also just Google the name of the company that you’re ordering from and “promo code” sometimes I’ll do “promo code” + “summer 2022” or whatever the time of year is to make sure I find current, active, relevant ones.

Another sneaky thing that I also try to do is to guess promo codes if I have a few minutes to do so. Putting things like WELCOME, TENOFF, FIVEOFF, FIRSTORDER, or other things like that sometimes do work. Even things like SUMMER2022 as a promo code… sometimes you get lucky and it’s an active code. Now, I do think brands are catching onto this and making them more unique because people have figured this hack out, but again, TikTok and other platforms are a great place where people share codes they’ve come across, too.

So, moving on, the next step is a tip that I would recommend you do for all facets of your life if you are trying to keep costs down in your budget for things like groceries, home essentials, and other things, is to keep an eye out for sales for the basics. This means things that you are using often and repeatedly like toilet paper, cleaning supplies, non-perishable food items, pasta, rice, whatever, and stock up when you see them on sale, and again, buy in bulk if you have the space because you get more bang for your buck. In the context of furniture painting and refinishing, I like to do this for things that I use often like shop towels, sandpaper, foam rollers, and those types of things. Also if I see certain wallpapers or wrapping papers that have designs that I know are versatile and could likely be used on a style of furniture that I would refinish, I’ll snag that when I see it, especially for a good price because their designs and prints are usually seasonal so I know I won’t likely see it again for awhile. So when you get these items in bulk and on sale when you know that you will eventually work your way through them and you have the space to store it all, the savings can really add up over time, even if you’re just saving a dollar here, a dollar there.

Another important way that you might not readily think of to keep costs down on supplies is to make the supplies you do use, last longer. Or last, period.

So treat them with care, read the instructions and find out how they’re supposed to be cleaned or used properly, so when you’re cleaning things like scrapers or brushes or gloves make sure you’re doing it accurately and properly after each use so that the products don’t dry on there and then you’re having to work extra hard to get them back to that “like new” state. I also recommend keeping sandpaper that no longer sticks to the pad of your electric sander in a container or box somewhere so that you can use it for hand sanding later. That’s a good tip to keep you from having to buy so much sandpaper, but also to avoid unnecessary waste when you can still get some life and some use out of that product.

Another thing I recommend is to always keep the extra hardware screws that come with the handles, knobs and other hardware that you get– even if the screws are not the right length or don't work for the piece that you’re currently working on. Just keep a container or a bag of these extra ones, and other random bits and bobs like washers and wood screws and anything else that you’re taking off of furniture pieces you’re working on or that come as extras in things that you buy. Because you never know when you’ll need them and it can save you a trip to the hardware store and having to buy something, which is annoying because you’re having to spend extra money but you’re also using up your valuable time when you could just run downstairs, find the thing you need, and continue on in your project quickly.

When it comes to tools that you might be using for furniture refinishing, like drill bits or screw drivers or wrenches or pliers or hammers or anything else that you find that you need, I would recommend early on in your furniture refinishing journey that you look at buying a tool set that you invest in that has all of the basics. Even if they aren’t quite as heavy duty or the name brand that you might have normally bought if you were buying them one piece at a time, this could be a really cost-effective way to make sure that you just have a little bit of everything and then you’re saving a lot of money versus buying one piece at a time. And again, saving time because you figure out that you need that tool and then have to run to the hardware store to get it every time, costing you time and money. At places like Home Depot or Canadian Tire or Home Hardware you can find tool sets for, I don’t know, like $100 for 125 pieces. We have one of those sets that we got when we lived in an apartment and not only is it super compact to store, they just have a little bit of everything so we very rarely have to go out and buy a single tool for a lot of the projects that I come across, doing furniture makeovers and also when doing different DIY projects around the house.

No, that kind of a set unfortunately doesn’t include the bigger tools or power tools or things like electric sanders, though you can get those in sets as well and that might be a good investment for you and your business, depending on what you feel comfortable doing and what you feel comfortable using. A lot of those things can also get pretty costly, so one thing that I would recommend to keep costs for you and your business down, is to ask for those big ticket items for gifts from friends and family and your partner if you have one. Things like a birthday or anything else that you might get gifts for typically, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Teacher Appreciation Day if you’re a teacher or something like that. You can obviously ask for the item itself on your wishlist, but if it’s a larger item and you feel like it’s weird or inappropriate to ask for something of that size and that price from one individual person, you can always ask for gift cards for a certain place that you know that sells that product and then once you receive enough you can take your gift cards and go to the store and get that product. Ideally when it’s on sale, too. But also consider the fact that if you mention you want one of those bigger ticket items, that’s a great way for a bunch of people in your family to come together and pitch some money to get you something you actually really want and will use for a Christmas gift or whatever, and as someone who isn’t super great at gift giving, I know that I would really appreciate knowing this kind of information about someone and their desires, so let it be known and let them come together and spoil you! You deserve it!

And something you may not know about me… I love little motivational messages. They literally always get me fired up, and I keep a running list of ones that are especially catchy or speak to me in the Notes app on my phone. So I’m going to end every podcast episode with one of those that I have noted down over the years, in hopes that you leave our time here each week feeling inspired, motivated, and ready to take on whatever comes your way that week.

So this week’s Mel’s motivational message is: You can make excuses, or you can make money. But you can’t do both.

Alright, that’s it for now, I appreciate your time, and I’ll catch you guys next week!

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