The forums are buzzing with new money-saving tips and tricks. “We don’t purchase these anymore,” and “we’ve done this ourselves.” “I found a new way to do this,” and “I always wondered why people would pay for that?” For some of us, these ideas are intriguing, but seem a little out of our “do-it-ourselves” reach. I gathered ten of my favorite DIY discussions to read in on, and did some research on their viability for different kinds of people. I challenge the Consumer in each of us to consider leaving room for our inner Do-It-Yourself-er.
A Haircut. Browsing the forums, I’ve noticed there are two sides to this story, many times in the same comment: DIY undeniably saves thousands over the years, and “It’s only hair, it will grow back.” Eek! If I approach my hair with a “it’ll grow back” attitude every time, I’d rather go to a hairdresser and have a “I’ll look great in a half-hour” look. However, I’m tickled pink I can lop off my boys’ hair every month for free. The happy medium? If you have a more difficult hairstyle or lower confidence, you can head to the apprentices or the schools for a quarter the price or less.
Nails. You can go to the salon, or if you know what you’re doing you can DIY, maybe by buying a $20 video. What’s the difference? Practice and patience, a quiet spot and uninterrupted time. I’d say, a person with three kids under five should take the time away and get her nails done professionally, unless she’s willing to do it herself between diaper changes around midnight. Some things, like alone time and peace, are more valuable than the money spent to let someone else do it. Otherwise, kick back and make good friends with your fingertips.
Pet Grooming. Quality shampoos are available for use at home. Use your bathtub or use your kiddie pool, warming the water in the sun. Buy good brushes, good nail clippers, and a hair clipper with vacuum. Professional pet grooming can become a bill of your past — unless you have the most unruly, un-washable, wild and wiggly, nippy and scratchy pet on the planet. Then, leave that mess to the pros to clean-up. Some pets can take it, some just can’t.
Greeting Cards. I’ve seen DIY solutions from printing on cardstock to reusing cards received. However, from the dollar store or after Christmas/other holiday sales, buying greeting cards can barely make a dent in your cash stash and takes markedly less time than crafting or re-crafting the massive number of cards some send out. Are you out to spend some quality time with the kids making cards, is it a single occasion where you know your handiwork will be appreciated, or is it the letter inside that really counts?
Digital Photo Printing. Cheaper and safer than having a mysterious roll of film processed, digital printing is a more hands-on approach to the final product. You can crop, color, reshape, and choose the photos you would like to have in physical form before you print. Now, should you print at home and make sure you own a great-quality photo printer, use amazing amounts of your own ink, and have trial and error waste, or should you send your photos away and pay someone else for that hassle? Depending on your level of commitment, tolerance of potential headache, and satisfaction with the final product, you should choose to DIY or not to DIY.
Baking. Mmmm.the bread maker has just finished, and you didn’t have to toss the water you boiled potatoes in, and your kitchen smells great. Slice, bag and there’s sandwiches for the week. Cookies? Fifteen minutes from now should yield some great chocolate chippers. You can roll your own cinnamon buns, make your own pies, raise your own cakes, toast up some crackers, braid some pretzels — now it’s beginning to sound a lot like work. If you can take the heat, like in the chilly corners of the wintertime, bask in the glow of your oven and warm goods. If it’s the middle of summer, grab stuff from the freezer that you made last winter. Choose what equipment you want to purchase based on what goods you’re willing to make, and invest in a good timer and thermometer. Make sure you’re buying the best volume of ingredients for your level of dedication. For everything else, your neighborhood baker probably has a good deal and something for your sweet tooth.
Frying. Tortillas, donuts, chicken, potatoes, fish, sopapilla, shrimp, jalapeno poppers, ravioli, zucchini, turkey and anything else you can get into your Fry Daddy or frying pan you can make at home instead of buy. You can have control over what kind of oil you fry in, the ingredients your food is made from, and the quality of the final product. However, it is hot and messy, and it requires oil disposal, work, and care. Frying your own food is not instant food. Happy medium? Invest in the right equipment if you eat enough fried foods to warrant DIY.
Canning. Gardening is rewarding, and so is reaping edible rewards. After your neighbors are tired of veggie gift baskets, save your foods through the winter by canning. It’s a process, and you’ll probably have to set aside a couple of days of work in the kitchen to accomplish everything. Make sure you have a good resource and follow the directions carefully to avoid spoiling your summer’s efforts. However, if you did not grow your own food, is it worth it to buy food to can, instead of buying canned food now or the food fresh later? If you are not regularly eating from cans, or deeply involved with your region’s harvest, it’s probably a better idea to buy your food fresh later. Canning is a method of preservation, and in today’s American society, food is available year-round.
Bottled water. Buying boxes of bottled filtered tap water is an idea that has put a damper on the whole bottled-water health and convenience phenomenon. Yet, the whole need for easily portable water has been revealed and bottled water still has a market. Should you bottle your own? Make sure you understand the safety of the bottles and of the water you are bottling by doing research: GreenOptions is a good place to start. Make sure your bottles have been scrubbed clean, and do not fill them much longer than a few days before consumption to ensure you are not breeding bacteria. But, there is nothing wrong with buying real spring water like Ozarka, Eldorado, Volvic, and Fiji. Nor is there really anything wrong with getting a Dasani or Arrowhead while you’re out for its convenience and potibility.
Adult education. Are you fit to teach yourself? Of course you are! As an adult, you are constantly learning, whether it is how you should handle a particular client, routes in a new city, or computer software, learning is part of your everyday life. Should you do it yourself? Work and children, family and career are standing in the way of many adults returning to school. Just because you are not in a classroom does not mean you should not be dedicating the appropraite amount of time to the task, so if you will have the tendency to short-change the student aspect, don’t. Otherwise, be brave! There are many self-instructional programs out there that can improve your foreign language skills and correspondence classes that can help you explore more than a degree. Lastly, can you afford it? Make sure you budget; though it may be cheaper than cutting work hours to hit the classrooms, self-teaching is not free. Be comfortable with the reputation of the investment, or use your library to indulge your curiosity for the self-taught accomplishment for free. Teaching yourself puts the burden of school supplies, field study, and resources on you.
So, should you DIY? If you’ve been thinking about it, give it a shot. Have confidence in your ideas, creativity, and capability. Do some research and ask around. Do enough that it works for you, because as your interest grows, so can your industriousness. An amazing trait of humanity is flexibility. Trust yours and have fun.
Image courtesy of Dazed81