There’s nothing quite as transformative as a fresh coat of paint. Do the stark white walls in your bedroom make you feel like you’re institutionalized? If so, why not set aside a Saturday morning, get suited up in a pair of coveralls and paint the wall behind your bed a vibrant shade of Tiffany Blue! Or, you could refurbish that boring, old plain oak bedside table by giving it a coat of some sunny yellow paint. Though paint is a fairly inexpensive way to transform a room, it can still be pricey. Fortunately, there are lots of ways to save! Here are eight ways to get that paint for free or cheap:

1. Get it free

Many recycling and hazardous household waste centers encourage people to dispose of their unwanted paint at waste centers instead of dumping them in the trash, which can be dangerous for the environment. Oftentimes, these centers will then give away this paint for free to anyone who comes by and picks it up. Since paint has a long shelf life, this “recycled” paint is pretty much as good as new. Some centers give away paint on a “first come, first served” basis whereas other centers designate “free paint giveaway” days throughout the year. Call your local recycling and hazardous household waste center for their specific policy.

2. Buy mistint paint

When a customer ends up with paint in the wrong color or finish, many stores will allow her to return the paint. The store now has what is known as a can of “mistint” or “oops” paint. Instead of throwing away perfectly good paint, the store will sell it at a significant discount. Your best bet for finding some cheap mistint paint is by visiting your local mom-and-pop hardware store, but national retailers like Walmart, Home Depot and Menards also sell mistint paint. At my local Home Depot, I once got a gallon of Behr Paint & Primer (which normally retails for $49/gallon) for a meager $10/gallon from the store’s mistint section. One woman’s trash is another woman's treasure!

3. Use primer

I know, I know! Using primer can be a pain in the butt! And while not every type of surface requires primer, if you’re painting with a dark color, dramatically changing a room’s color or painting raw drywall, raw wood or other rough surfaces, you really need to use primer. Not only will it make your paint job look a thousand times better, it will also save you money. When you use primer before paint, it helps the paint spread more evenly on the surface, meaning it takes less (and thus less money) to get the job done. It’s cheaper to use one coat of primer followed by one coat of paint than using no primer and several coats of paint!

4. Buy the good stuff

When it comes to paint, you pretty much get what you pay for. While I’m not saying you should buy the most expensive paint you can find, you should invest in better-quality paint. Compared to the cheap stuff, higher-end paint covers better, drips less and is more durable, which means you will need less.

5. Paint like a pro

Inexperienced DIY painters try to squeeze every last drop of paint from the roller. While it may seem counter-intuitive, rolling on thicker layers with a light touch of the hand will give you better coverage and fewer drips, thus saving you money and time. And it will look much better too!

6. Buy in bulk

Just like with food shopping, buying paint in bulk will typically save you money. For example, at Lowe’s, one gallon of Valspar Signature Interior Tintable Paint and Primer in One is $33.98, whereas a 5-gallon container of the same paint is $152. If you were to buy five 1-gallon cans, it would cost you $169.90. Buying the 5-gallon bulk container saves you $17.90—it’s like getting a half gallon of paint for free!

7. Properly store leftover paint

Paint has a long shelf life, so if you store leftovers properly, you’ll be able to use it for future touch-ups or other projects. Here are some storage tips:

  • When storing your paint, make sure you properly label the can with the name of the paint color, the date of purchase, and where you used it (e.g., Tiffany Blue, 11/1/13, master bedroom walls).
  • Use a rag or clean paintbrush to wipe away any paint that has collected in the grooves inside the paint can and on the rim of the lid. If you don’t, dry paint will build up in the grooves and may keep you from being able to properly reseal the can, leading to dried out, unusable paint.
  • Take a piece of plastic wrap, cover the top of the paint can and replace the lid. Use a hammer to lightly tap on the lid until it is securely sealed. Store the can upside-down to create a tight seal. Make sure you store the paint can in a dry location, preferably between 60 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

8. Avoid the guessing game

Don’t just guess how much paint you think you’ll need for a project. Most people overshoot the amount of paint they think they need and end up overbuying. Make a more educated projection of how much paint you’ll need for a project by using an online usage calculator. Paint retailers and manufacturers often have these calculators on their websites (like these from Lowe’s, Sherwin-Williams and the Paint Quality Institute).

8 Ways to Save on Paint (or Even Get It for Free!)