how to build a man cave on a budget

The Ultimate Guide To Building A Man Cave On A Budget

A man cave is not just a space to be alone without any disturbance from the outside world but it is also somewhere that you can kick back with your buddies without disturbing family members. But what do you do when you don’t have the money to build an elaborate man cave like the ones you see in magazines and on the internet? Can you build a man cave on a tight budget?

How do you build a man cave on a budget? There are specific steps you can take to reduce the costs associated with building a man cave. The biggest saving you can make is to locate your man cave in an existing room in your home instead of outdoors. You can also save money by sourcing items from used stores, garage sales and online.

How to build a man cave cheaply

Normally the cost of building a man cave will range from $5,000 up to $10,00 or more. I have outlined these costs in detail in the article How Much Does a Man Cave Cost and reviewing that post will give you some idea of what you need for your man cave and how much each part of the process of building one usually costs.

Here though, I want to discuss ways to reduce those costs substantially as some of the readers of this website have expressed that they are on a very tight budget and would like advice about creating their man cave as cheaply as possible.

Well when it comes to saving money on building a man cave one word stands out for its importance so much that it often gets repeated three times. It is:

“Location, location, location”.

This phrase is important in real estate and it is just as important for building a man cave when you are on a budget, though for slightly different reasons.

Location, location, location

Where is your man-cave going to be built?

location location locationIs it a spare room in your home or is it in an outbuilding that has no utilities and only basic protection against ground water and the weather?

The first choice for a man cave conversion is often a garden shed that is a distance from the main building of the home. Oftentimes this shed will have no utility connections and only basic weather-proofing.

Another popular choice is a stand-alone garage that is unconnected to the main home or other outbuilding.

Although these are great places to get some solitude and enjoy your interests away from other family members, they are often not the best candidates for man caves if you have a limited budget to spend.

Outbuilding conversion is not budget-friendly

I have covered the steps you need to follow to convert a shed into a man cave extensively in the article How to Turn Your Shed into a Man Cave in 10 Easy Steps and if you plan to create a man cave in an outbuilding  I urge you to read this to see exactly the type of costs involved in such a project.

Now, at first glance, converting an outbuilding into a man cave might sound like a great option but if you plan to use a standard shed, or similar outbuilding, then it is unlikely to be the best place for a man cave when you have limited funds to play with.

A standard outbuilding is unlikely to have been treated with the appropriate chemicals for proper protection against mold nor will it have the appropriate weather-proofing materials and insulation needed to make it suitable as a livable space. It also may not be properly protected from ground water.

The cost involved in turning an untreated outbuilding into a livable space, which is necessary if you intend to spend any real amount of real time in it, can be substantial. These costs are further increased if the building is not connected to any utilities.

Of course, if you have an attached garage that is fully weather and damp-proofed then you are good to go.

Likewise, if you have a shed or outbuilding that has already been properly treated and is already connected to utilities, or at least electricity, then this is also a viable option for a man cave conversion though you will probably have to incorporate some type of climate control into your budget even that only involves buying an electric heater and a fan.

Having saith that, it is always much cheaper to simply convert a room in your home into a man cave as the costs associated with this type of conversion are considerably lower.

Converting an existing room in your home is the cheapest option

If you have a spare room available in your home then this would be the best candidate for a man cave conversion.

A room in your home will almost certainly be already connected to electricity and be within walking distance of other utilities such as water and a toilet.

Your home will also mostly certainly have been already treated against damp and mold and will be water-proof and weather-proof.

It is also unlikely you will have to buy additional climate control such as heating as your home will already have it.

Converting your attached garage will be slightly more expensive but still less expensive than converting an outbuilding. Most attached garages are already fully weather-proofed, protected against groundwater and have electricity so they are find to use.

Man cave decor on a budget

After you have settled on a location for your man cave the next thing to consider is decor. When it comes to a man cave it is decor that is often the biggest thing to consider and the biggest strain on your budget.

However, it is the decor of your man cave that sets it apart from the rest of your home and makes it a place that is exclusive to you. So you need to get it right.

squeeze the budgetBut how do you decorate your man cave when you are on a strict budget?

Although I have already covered man cave decor ideas in-depth, here we will look at how to approach man cave decor in a way that saves money.

One way to save money on decor is to buy your items online.

Online sellers can often offer a substantial saving because they have lower overheads than a brick and mortar store. These sellers then pass on these savings to their customers thus saving you a lot of money.

Although you can certainly purchase items cheaper by sourcing them online, and I will show you how to do this, by far the best way to obtain man cave decor cheaply is to repurpose stuff that others consider to be junk. Doing this also means you end up with a truly unique man cave.

I will break this section down into multiple parts to give you the best possible information on this subject but I also suggest you read the post dedicated entirely to man cave decor.

Identify the man cave’s purpose and make a list

The first thing you should do, before you buy anything for your man cave, is to choose a design and make a list of the types of things you will want to put into it.

When you are armed with a list of potential items you “need” you will then be in a much better position to find great deals on them. Too many guys will start a man cave without having any real idea about how it should look and what it should offer them in way of a recreational and relaxation space.

So, decide on the purpose of your man cave first and then choose a design that you would like to use. Although there is no end to the types of themes you can use in your man cave here are the 7 most popular man cave themes at the moment.

By far the most important thing to consider here is the main purpose of your man cave.

Exactly what do you want to use it for?

In order to know exactly what type of items you need for your man cave you need to know what you are going to use it for. Makes sense right?!

Once you know what you will using your man cave for, you can begin to make a list of items that are necessary for fulfilling that purpose.

For example, if you want a space for socializing with your buddies then you will need chairs or stools and probably a table. You will most likely need a TV if you are a sports fan.

If, on the other hand, you want solitude and you love to read in a peaceful atmosphere then just one comfortable chair, some good lighting and at least one bookshelf would be good choice items to put on your list.

Don’t get too caught up in the smaller details at this point. As you start to populate your man cave with items your list will probably change as you realise you need some things not on the list and don’t need others that you previously thought you would.

When you create a list in this way you are armed with knowledge and can apply that knowledge when bargain hunting.

Get a baseline price

Once you have a basic list of the type of things you will need for your man cave it’s time to check their associated prices. This is easy to do.

Most stores have an online presence in the form of a website or at the very least a Facebook page and simply checking an items price from several different stores will give you a good idea of what what it costs.

get the base-line priceNow that you have an idea of the prices you would normally be expected to pay, you will be better able to make a decision on the purchase of those items. Do some of the items on your list need to be removed, due to their high cost? Or, do you need to source some items, that you positively must have, cheaper somewhere else (using the strategies outlined below)? Would an alternative, cheaper item suffice?

No matter how cheap an item is you will probably be able to get it cheaper using the following strategies. So, don’t automatically buy an item you see just because it is within your budget.

Even the money you save on low cost items could mount up to a fairly large sum over many purchases and be put to purchases of things you just can’t source cheaper. Or, those savings could be used to help buy those large items that still strain your budget even when you get a huge saving on them, like a TV.

Cheap man cave furniture

Furniture is a big expense when you source it new from regular stores.

Although you can, and should, look for some bargains on new furniture there are other ways to furnish your man cave that are not nearly as expensive.

Re-purpose old junk

creative re-purposed guitar shelvesYour furniture doesn’t have to be new.

You can re-purpose old junk and turn it into chic, funky and original pieces of furniture – sometimes referred to as upcycling.

It is possible to make furniture out of just about anything given enough creativity and desire.

Like the seat made from part of an old truck shown further down this page you can get creative and use all types of old items and appliances for re-purposing.

Get creative.

I’ve seen over-turned bath tubs, with hardwood hammered to the back and, covered with throw-overs and cushions make a functional and very comfortable man cave sofa.

You could use an old guitar and remove the front to make shelves.

Or perhaps you’d like a cassette case lamp?

Browse through Pinterest to see if any ideas jump out at you.

re-purposed steel drum furniture
Re-purposed steel drums made into furniture

Use car seats

Buying sofas can be expensive. So, while you’re looking through all that old junk why not visit a junkyard to look for old car seats.

Go for car seats that are in good enough shape to use on their own or that will serve the purpose when covered with blankets.

For under $50, you could get amazing seats like the ones from my favorite vehicle, a Corvette. Go to your local furniture shop and have legs nailed. Or, if you are handy with a hammer do it yourself.

This should not cost you more than $30.

If your budget can stretch consider having a metal frame welded to the seats to make a sofa like the one shown below.

Car seat sofa

The following information applies to all items in your man cave including furniture.

Where to get cheap man cave stuff

When most people design their man caves they have a theme in mind. Most themes require very specific items to be included in the man cave in order to help it better reflect the intended theme.

For example, a nautical themed man cave will usually have one or two rum-type barrels and a ship’s wheel.

Buying these items can be expensive if you go down the traditional purchasing routes so you need to get creative.

For example this bin is shaped like a whiskey barrel and retails for an amount which will undoubtedly be out of your budget but you could just as easily make something similar with a cheap barrel-shaped plastic bin and cover it with wooden plank wallpaper or you could just source an alternative much cheaper.

Look in local shops

Local stores can be a great place to start your search for the items on your list.

Local stores are also great places to look for cheap items if your man cave has a topographical feel to it and is very much designed after the area where you live. For example, a man cave based on the local area could use copies of old local historical newspaper clippings framed on the wall or pictures of local athletes from a past era etc.

Another example is a rustic man cave which could use home-made shelves made from old wood or even plywood dyed or stained to look old.

You will have a much easier time sourcing items for these types of man caves locally than anywhere else.

Consider ex-display items

Don’t be afraid to ask about ex-display items.

Often you can get huge savings on items just because they were displayed in the store and can no longer be sold as brand new.

Haggle

In our modern society the skill of haggling is fast becoming a dying art.

What most people do not know is that the vast majority of stores can easily afford to give a 10% discount on their goods without it adversely affecting their profit line.

Ask the teller can they give a discount. If they say “no, simply reply “then who can?”

Watch for new product releases

This tip can be used even more effectively if you combine it with the one above.

look for clearance itemsHave you ever noticed that those shoes you paid $300 for 3 months ago are now on offer for $150?

When a company launches a new line of products it will often discontinue its old line – especially if a new product is an updated version of an old one.

When the new line is released there is often a backlog of unsold products belonging to the old line. Shops want rid of these, so they will usually sell them at a reduced price.

This happens in every market, including furniture.

When you see a new line of products being release don’t be afraid to ask if there is any discount available on stock of the previous line of products.  And don’t be afraid to ask for extra discount if they are already on sale; the shops want these items cleared from their inventory and more often than not they will give you an even better deal if you simply ask them.

Take advantage of online savings

Although it is not always the case, 9 times out of 10 you will get the same product cheaper online than you would get it offline.

Local stores, and even large chain-stores, have big overheads. Such a store will have to pay high rent for a premium location that gets enough “foot fall” to attract paying customers. It will have to pay the utility bills associated with such premium premises and it will have to pay customer service employees to staff the store.

An online business on the other hand often only has an unheated warehouse and packing staff. They also usually buy goods in large quantities getting a discount because they buy in bulk – which a small store cannot do due to storage restraints.

This means an online store will usually save large amounts of money on overhead costs. And, almost all of them pass these savings on to the customer in the form of lower prices, as this drives increased sales; it’s a win-win for everyone.

So shop around online to see what savings you can make.

Bargain hunt offline

The internet is huge. If you can’t find something on the internet then it doesn’t exist … right?

Well … maybe not!

Sometimes there may be items that vendors no longer offer for sale or there may be items that are so hard to come by that even eBay doesn’t have them.

There may also be items out there that you wouldn’t normally think of looking for but that you just know are perfect for your man cave when you come across them.

So how do you find such items?

Visit garage sales

Garage sales are a goldmine for man cave items.

One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.

You would be surprised how many cool items I have found at garage sales.

Although it may take you several trips to different garage sale events they are definitely worth the effort from a money-saving point of view. You are also very likely to see at least a few things that would fit well with your man cave that you had not previously considered.

Shop at used/second-hand stores

Used stores, like garage sales, are a goldmine for man cave items and for all the same reasons as mentioned above.

I picked up a Thin Lizzy Whisky In The Jar original 1972 UK release for just $1 and it’s is worth about $60. It isn’t in my man cave but I thought I’d share this story with you to highlight the potential savings you could make. If I ever build a music themed man cave that single will go on the wall.

Try charity shops

Charity shops offer all the same advantages of “used stores”.

The lower prices of many items that are almost-like-new is staggering and you also get to help the needed with your purchases.

Look-out for house clearance sales

House clearance sales are a little like garage sales except you can expect to find more stuff, that is usually in better shape and you’ll probably find bigger items too.

Shop around at several house clearances and you’ll be shocked at the type of stuff you can pick up.

Be warned though, you will probably end-up buying household items for your home as well because they are just to good to miss.

Rummage around in junkyards

Junkyards are another treasure-trove for man cave items.

truck seatYou can find some amazing things in junkyards; they’re like a poor man’s antique’s shop. 😉

You can get really creative with some of the things you find in a junkyard like the bench seat made from part of a beat up old truck (see right).

The only problem with junkyard hunting is that you usually need to know what you are looking for before you go as many yards will not let you rummage around on your own for safety reasons. This is especially true of yards with old stacked vehicles.

Check the 100 man cave gift ideas list

Check out the article 100 Man Cave Gift Ideas as it has some really neat items on it that sell for less than 20 bucks.

It may also spark some ideas of your own.

How to save money on big purchases

At the point when you have been working your way down your man cave list and have sourced most of its items cheaply or for free your man cave will be looking good. But your work is far from finished.

What about the big ticket items that you can’t create from junk or source in charity shops or through the other means outlined?

What about things like:

  • A TV
  • A music system
  • Gaming systems
  • Gaming tables

You can use some of the tactics outlined above to obtain these big ticket items cheaper such as:

  • Bargain hunting online.
  • Looking for house clearance sales.
  • Haggling on over-stocked old product ranges.

But, for the most part you will need to take a different approach.

Be willing to downscale on size

Biggest isn’t always best. Sometimes a smaller item can be just as good an alternative to a larger item.

For example, a 2 speaker system can create just as good surround sound effects in a normal-sized or small room that an 8 speaker system would provide. The extra speakers offer very little value due to the restrictions in space; for an 8 speaker system to be really effective and to really show its worth it needs to be used in a large area.

Another example can be see with a TV.

A 55″ TV will look just as good in most man caves as a 77″ TV will, and there is a big difference in the price. In fact if you have a small man cave then a 77″ TV may be uncomfortable to watch.

So take advantage of the huge savings on offer when you simply opt for a smaller TV.

Here is an example:

  • A Sony 77″ Ultra 4.K Full H.D Smart T.V with Bravia OLED-Display costs $10,000.
  • A Sony 55″ H.D T.V with Netflix-enabled will cost you $980.

However, even $980 may be too much to spend when you have a tight budget. So how do you get around that?

Avoid brand names

Brand names cost more and not always because they are better quality.

By avoiding buying brand names you can save a small fortune on big ticket items.

Let’s assume you have decided to buy a 55″ HD TV. To get a top of the range television you can expect to pay several thousand dollars.

Example:

The Samsung 55″ 1080p LED TV UD55C retails for around $3,950.

Of course you can get a cheaper model that is still a brand name like the Sony mentioned above Sony. Sony is a well known brand that makes great TVs.

So again the Sony would cost:

  • The Sony 55″ HD TV with Netflix-enabled retails for about $980.

That’s a great saving over the Samsung … right?

Well, you can do better.

If you are willing to forgo the brand name altogether you can pick up a perfectly acceptable great quality TV from a relatively unknown brand for about a 3rd of the price of the Sony and a fraction of the price of the Samsung.

For just over $350 you can get:

And, if you are willing to drop down in size to a 49″ TV then you can make huge savings.

For less than $250 you can get:

Use dual or multi purpose items

You can save money by buying multi-purpose items as well.

Instead of purchasing several different types of entertainment that do only one thing go for an item that has multiple uses.

For example, if you want some form of gaming table entertainment, that you can enjoy with your buddies, instead of buying a pool table or a table tennis table buy one that does both.

Or better still, get one that can also be used for air hockey like this amazingly low priced Fat Cat Pockey 7 ft air hockey, billiards, pool, and table-tennis all in one table.

Likewise you could get a 3-in-1 foosball table that gives you foosball, pool and air hockey.

3-in-1 pool table
3-in-1 pool table

When you should not try to cut costs

Although you may have a tight budget and be very aware of the available funds you have to spend there are some things that you should positively, definitely not try to cut corners on!

There are a few key areas where cost-cutting not only isn’t recommended but it may also be illegal.

Electricity

This is a serious one.

Don’t cut costs on any type electrical installation such as utility connections.

Always get a professionally accredited electrician to connect your man cave to the electricity supply.

Obviously this only applies if you are converting a previously unconnected room or building. But this point is so important is deserves to be stressed.

Electricity is dangerous and not only do you run the risk of serious injury, or even death, due to botched DIY electrical jobs, you also run the risk of creating a serious fire hazard.

Just don’t do it!

Use the services of a professional electrician.

Messing with a HVAC System

Not only is this dangerous but it’s also illegal.

Air conditioning and heating maintenance calls for a licensed professional who has undergone a rigorous training and certification process.

If you really need some form of DIY heating and/or air conditioning you’ll have to settle for a heater and a fan.

No trying to install a hot water tank

This is another danger when DIY is attempted.

Although many DIY guys feel fairly confident hooking up a water supply when you get to warm water things get a little trickier. A hot water tank requires electricity and as I already mentioned messing with electricity is a big “no-no”.

When you have to build your man cave in the backyard

As I have already mentioned by far the cheaper option for budget-savvy man cavers is to build their man cave indoors in a free room in their house. But what if you just can’t do that?

If you have no other option but to create your man cave in the backyard you may wish to read my article How to Turn Your Shed into a Man Cave in 10 Easy Steps. The information in that article along with the money-saving tips below will supply you with enough information to build your man cave for as little money as possible.

How to build a man cave shed on the cheap

If you want to convert that backyard shed into your man cave, here are a few ideas to get it done on the cheap.

Make a rustic man cave.

Go for a rustic look man cave. You are using a shed. So, you don’t have to infuse a rustic look. It is already rustic.

This will save you money on decor.

Want a dining table?tree trunk table Don’t bother buying an expensive one. Get a stump of a tree or part of a tree trunk. It’s cheap and very, very manly.

You can literally get these type of stumps for under 20 bucks.

Sand down the part that you want to use as a table top and cover with a sturdy varnish or stain. Or, alternatively cover with a thick plate of glass. You can also use other material as your table top top such as any type of hardwood.

These tables bought from a store can cost up to $800 but you can create one yourself for less than $100 (or even less if you source your wood).

Want to add character to your rustic man cave without spending much? Go to a local junkyard to find old tools.

You can use spanners, wrenches, hatchets or saws etc.. , and hang them on the walls to add to the rustic vibe.

How to convert an existing outbuilding into a man cave cheaply

The only way to really do this is to use a building that is already fully weather-proofed and protected against ground water.

You will need to skip the utility connections and instead use battered powered or gas lamps for lighting.

You will need some form of mobile heater that does not require electricity, such as a gas heather like this propane gas heater that only requires a propane tank.

You will also have to use battered powered entertainment devices such as battery-powered radios.

Cheap man cave ideas for a small room

If you are building a man cave in a small room then you will be able to save lots of money on purchases as you will not need as many items for your man cave, due to space restrictions. You will also not have the room for very large, and costly, electrical items such as big TVs and large fridges.

Get space-saving multi-purpose items

One important practice when you’re building your man cave in a small room is to buy things that serve multiple purposes.

I have already covered some such items and also in the 100 Unique Man Cave Ideas post but here are a few additional examples of great space-saving ideas:

The foosball/coffe table combo available from Amazon acts as a a table but can instantly transform into a fun foosball game.

The 3-in-1 7 ft Multi-Purpose Pool Table Set with 2 Benches – this can be used for pool, table tennis and as a functional table with benches that accommodate several people on each side. The benches store neatly underneath the table when not in use.

Downsize

Reduce the size of all the items inside your man cave. This might seem obvious but is still worth noting nonetheless.

The fridge, the recliners, the TV – they can all be smaller.

Maximize space

Concentrate on increasing the open floor area.

This basically means, make sure you have enough room to walk around. Don’t fill your space with so many things that the functionality of the room is compromised.

That guitar you have sitting on a stand could hang just as well on the wall and still be fully accessible.

The same goes for other items you use but that have the potential to be hung on the wall.

However, try to avoid protruding wall hangings as they will cause the restriction of movement just as much as floor clutter would.

Use the walls to your advantage by putting up shelves; anything that can be hung or stored on shelves should be.

I have covered the subject of creating a man cave in a small space in much more detail in this post and if space is a concern then I advise you to read it.

Building a bar

If you also want to add a bar to your budget man cave you should read the article How to Build a Man Cave on a Budget.

Final Advice

There’s no need to throw old furniture out.

You can work on it in your home and use it in your man cave.

Always look for stuff that can be modified or refurbished or reused in your man cave.

If you are replacing your refrigerator, instead of disposing of it take it to your man cave. You may even be able to convert it into a kegerator so you have your very own beer on tap. It doesn’t cost much to do and you can do it yourself.

These are some of the ideas to build your man cave on a budget and I truly hope they have been of help to but don’t be afraid to get creative and try your own ideas.

If you have enjoyed this post and found it useful I’d love you to post your pictures of your own man cave conversions below with a quick outline of what they cost.