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Save on home improvements

Bad news about housing is rampant -- foreclosures, upside-down home equity, falling real estate values. But there is some good news about homeownership, and it starts with the Habitat for Humanity organization.

If you are looking to do some home improvements, consider this tip from our Frugal $ense winner for December, Angeline Zemba, of Mechanicsburg, Pa.

Bankrate: How did you come across this idea for saving on building supplies?

Angeline Zemba: I volunteered for the Habitat for Humanity ReStore when I lived in Colorado. They are a nonprofit, and contractors and individuals and big-box stores like Home Depot and Lowe's donate items that they don't use or that a customer might have purchased and was wrong, to the Habitat Restore. Anyone can come in and purchase (a) product at a deep, deep discount, and then all the money goes to build the homes for Habitat for Humanity.

Bankrate: What kinds of items did you see for sale there?

December's Frugal $ense winner: Angeline Zemba
Angeline Zemba of Mechanicsburg, Pa., won $100 for submitting the following tip:

Habitat for Humanity home improvement bargains
"If you are in need of building supplies and would like to help a charity in the process, check and see if your city or town has a Habitat for Humanity ReStore. This is a place where contractors, home improvement stores and homeowners donate new or gently used items for sale to the public. All proceeds minus minimal expenses go toward building homes for those in need. It is a great way to get a deal while helping the environment by recycling gently used items. Most importantly it helps to provide affordable housing to those who need it."
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  Angeline Zemba

Angeline Zemba: They had a lot of reclaimed items, so you could come in and get an old door made of solid wood. I did buy nails and paint. Say someone had ordered paint at Home Depot; then, you can buy, say, pink paint for a little girl's room, for like $5. I purchased a cabinet and stuff like that, so I used it myself.

Bankrate: Do you consider yourself to be a frugal person?

Angeline Zemba: I think I was born frugal. Honestly I do. My friends and family are waiting for me to put out a book or something. I find it a game. To me it is a game, to go and try to save as much as money as I can. I do that in every way possible. If you can save a dollar, I know about it.

Bankrate: What's your take on the current economic climate?

Angeline Zemba: I think everybody needs to be frugal. Honestly, I could be a millionaire and I would still be pinching pennies, because you never know what the future holds. You don't know what's going to happen with anyone's job or with your health. I just think "if you don't need it, don't buy it." If you can get it for free and don't need it, then donate it. But just watch what you're spending and don't buy stuff that you don't need just to buy it.

Bankrate: Speaking of donating, you're donating your $100 winnings toward building a Habitat house. Tell us about it.

Angeline Zemba: Our church is getting involved in honor of its 275th anniversary. That's why I thought that tip would be good, because I worked at the Habitat ReStore and now our church is going to be building a Habitat house. I thought that would be nice to give that money back to church for the house. So everybody wins, basically.'s corrections policy
-- Posted: Dec. 23, 2008
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