When you’re looking for advice on how to save money, a common thing to find is to do things yourself. Instead of having someone mow your lawn, raze your sidewalk, or fix your toilet, you should do these tasks yourself.
This tip may be good for basic household tasks, but it can be tricky when it comes to more complex tasks. Also, when you have limited time, is it worth doing something on your own even if you’re going to save money?
Read below to find out when it is worth doing it yourself and when you should pay for it.
Is it always cheaper to do it yourself?
Whitney Hansen, host of Money Nerds Podcast, buys furniture on the cheap, refinishes it and sells it for a profit. As someone who has handled dozens of projects, I’ve learned when it makes sense to do it yourself, and when you should leave it to the professionals.
She said that one of the biggest problems beginners face is underestimating the time they take. This often leads to taking shortcuts that lead to shoddy work, or getting frustrated and quitting halfway.
“Sometimes refinishing just one piece costs more than buying a new one,” she said. “If you plan to recreate several pieces, the start-up costs of buying paint, stain, sandpaper, etc. are not too bad for each piece, but it can be expensive to get started.”
If you plan on taking up a hobby, such as refinishing furniture, buying all the tools and equipment makes sense. But if you only need to do it once, it can be less expensive to rent them.
When should you buy
Wondering when it makes sense to skip doing it yourself? Here are some scenarios in which it is preferable to buy:
When tools are expensive
If you need to purchase or rent expensive equipment to complete a project, it may be better for you to purchase it rather than do it yourself. Unless you can resell the items or plan to use them for something else, buying an expensive gadget often doesn’t pay off.
When it takes too long
If you browse frugal forums on Reddit, you’ll often see people recommending changing your car oil yourself. But what they don’t explain is that changing your car’s oil can take at least an hour. It’s also not a fun process – and it probably won’t save you more than $20. It’s probably best for you to find a mechanic that charges a reasonable price and go for it.
When it can lead to a big problem
If you have a large family or go through multiple changes of clothes in one day, you are probably spending a lot of money on detergent. If you want to be frugal and save money, you can try switching to household cleaners.
But this can backfire on you. You can accidentally void the manufacturer’s warranty on your washing machine or dishwasher if you use household cleaner. If you encounter a problem, you may not be able to get replacement repairs or coverage if the technician can tell you that you used household cleaner.
When the result is not better
A few years ago, I started taking sewing lessons at a local fabric store. One trainer always talked about how she made her clothes, including bras and underwear, and encouraged me to do the same. I decided to start by making a basic sleeveless theme for my Halloween costume that year.
It took several weeks to complete the project, and after I did, I realized I could have purchased a similar item for much less money. The cost of the fabric is not as cheap as you think when you buy retail, and you also need to buy a pattern, thread, and sewing machine if you don’t have one already.
Unless you love sewing in your spare time, making your own clothes is almost cheaper than buying them.
When can it be dangerous
If your pup destroys toys within a week, making your own toys out of shoddy T-shirts or old towels may seem more effective. But these fabrics can get stuck in a dog’s stomach and cause serious problems for them. When in doubt, buy toys that your vet recommends. Replacing a toy is much less expensive than taking your dog to an emergency vet.
When you can’t undo any mistakes
When I learned to sew, I thought about the hem of my own pants. As most short women know, even petite-sized pants are always too long, and I’m tired of taking every pair of pants to a tailor. I tried learning how to trim my pants, and while it seemed simple, I realized it was impossible to undo the mistake. If I ruined a pair of pants, I’d have to buy a new pair.
DIY projects that can permanently ruin something are best left to the professionals.
When should you do it yourself
Wondering when it is better to do it yourself? Here are some key examples?
When you do it over and over again
When I was getting married, I decided to make bridesmaids makeup bags as a thank you gift. I learned how to sew makeup bags in a class I took, but it still took me over an hour to make my first couple bags. But the more you achieve, the faster and faster you get. Soon, I could have two in the same time it previously took to create one.
When you have more time than money
One of the most common reasons consumers try to tackle projects themselves is because they have plenty of time to try. If you are short on funds but have enough time, you may be a good candidate for a DIY project. You can find just about anything on YouTube these days, which makes figuring things out even easier.
Post DIY or buy it? It first appeared on the MintLife blog.