Some People Aren’t Cut Out For DIY

duct tape car repair

One of the best ways to save money is to Do It Yourself. Whether it’s home or car maintenance, repairs, cleaning, or crafting usable items out of trash, the more you can do yourself, the more money you can save. It is almost always cheaper to buy materials and do the labor yourself than to pay for specialized labor or to buy a commercial product. Sometimes you have no choice, such as when the task outstrips your ability, but generally the more you can do on your own the better off you are.

The good news is that DIY is much more accessible than it used to be. With all the online resources, books, and classes available these days, most people can learn to do just about anything. Note that I said, “most people.” Despite the easy availability of tools and resources, there are still just some people who shouldn’t tackle anything more involved than changing a light bulb. It’s not that they’re stupid (in most cases), it’s just that, for whatever reasons, they tend to make things worse.

My neighbor is a perfect example of this. He’s a nice guy, and an intelligent one, but he is a disaster when it comes to home projects. (A bigger problem is that he doesn’t think he is, which leads his long-suffering wife to call for help behind his back. It’s like an episode of The Cosby Show over there.) His biggest problem is that he’s impatient. He tries to rush things (like not waiting the required time for glue to set) and gets frustrated when he rushes and things don’t turn out well. Another problem is that he’s unfocused. He’ll start a project and then leave it, sometimes for weeks, while his wife waits for the repair to be completed. Finally, he’s clumsy. This man has no business near sharp tools, ladders, or power equipment. There have been at least three ambulance visits over there this year that were related in some way to DIY projects. He’s a success at many things, but not DIY.

If you aren’t gifted at DIY, what do you need to do? Well, you have three choices. The first is to try to get better at things. Maybe you can take some more classes, work with someone more experienced, or practice more. Maybe you can adjust your attitude and learn to be more patient and focused. The second is to try to barter for the work you need done. Maybe you can’t hang that new light fixture, but you can bake a great birthday cake. Maybe you can barter with your more talented neighbor for him to install your light fixture while you bake his kid a birthday cake.

If neither of these work, your only other choice is to prepare financially. If you are inept at DIY, you’ll need to have a larger emergency fund than someone who is more self-sufficient. Every household, appliance, or automotive repair is going to cost you money and you need to plan for that. In addition to preparing for unplanned repairs, you’ll also need to plan for the more routine chores such as oil changes, lawn care, painting, gutter cleaning, pressure washing of your house, basic maintenance, and anything else that’s beyond your skill or ability level. Finally, you’ll need to prepare for big improvement projects such as remodeling, repainting, replacing a deck, installing new flooring, or building a play set in the backyard.

This is also why it’s so important to save for your older years. Even if you’re capable of DIY today, you may find yourself more limited when you’re older. Arthritis, illness, less energy, poor balance, and reduced mental functioning can mean that you can’t or shouldn’t do as much as you used to. You’re not only going to need to pay for healthcare and all of your retirement expenses, but you may have to start paying others to do the work you used to do.

If you are limited in your DIY skills and can’t/won’t/shouldn’t do more, you’re going to need to have a lot more money put away. While some people can save money through DIY, you’re going to have to find other ways to save money. You may have to have a higher paying job or extra job to cover the work you cannot do. It may mean that you don’t travel as often, or that you don’t buy as many extraneous items. However you get the money, you’re going to need more than some people. If you aren’t willing to save more, you may have to make other adjustments in your lifestyle such as living in an apartment or rental house where most of the maintenance is handled by someone else.

That sounds depressing but like so many things in personal finance it’s simply a matter of realizing that you have a limited amount of money and that the money needs to cover certain expenses. If DIY isn’t your thing, more of your money is going to have to go towards repair and maintenance than that of someone who can do many things themselves. The trade off (if you’re looking for the positive here) is that while your neighbor is sweating his weekends away cleaning gutters and changing oil, you can be sitting on the sofa watching football.

(Photo courtesy of dave_7)

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6 Responses to Some People Aren’t Cut Out For DIY

  1. Alexandria says:

    Eh, I think it kind of evens out in the end, at times.

    I personally come from a family of meager means and so my dad just did everything himself out of necessity. I did not inherent this DIY attitude. I watched my family do home renovations that were not done right and were costly to fix. My dad tried to talk me into doing my own oil changes, but it seemed to me cheaper in the end just to go to jiffy lube. (Paying for filters, oil, and disposal, and ruining clothes in the process – for what? I wasn’t even saving anything doing it myself!). Obviously if I were low income I may be making some of these same choices (when it comes to that or do without), but at higher income levels I think it makes more sense just to get it done right. There is an element where it makes just more sense to focus on making more money, and then hiring out your needs (higher quality work – might not need to spend so much time fixing things if you get a professional in the first place).

    As far as cars and handyman type stuff we have always had awesome people who could reasonably help us.

    On the home improvement front we shopped carefully to avoid having to do a lot of work on our house. We bought new construction, and we will likely sell it before it needs any significant work. We look forward to owning a condo again in the future – no exterior maintenance or yard to worry about. For that, our non-DIY tendencies could save us money in the long run. A condo is extraordinarily less expensive than a house.

    I don’t personally feel we have expended a lot of money over the years though we tend to hire stuff out. But, admittedly we are very frugal and I am sure there are many other areas where we are more DIY. My spouse is very tech savvy – I am fincially savvy – so we don’t hire computer help, financial help, tax help, and on and on. I think everyone has their strengths and weaknesses. I have a complete willingness to do the DIY route if it makes any financial sense, and if it does not compact quality too much. There are certainly types who don’t think about any of this and just hire anything and everything out – and that is definitely tough to keep up financially.

  2. Wowitsawonderfullife says:

    If you think that the car mirror in the picture summarizes the situation you need to look at the web site called “there I fixed it”. Google it

  3. jay says:

    I think you can parse DIY projects: there’s the oil change, then there’s the roof repair. Both potentially DIY, but big difference in complexity and impact.

  4. Gail says:

    I personally feel that just about any one is capable of doing things for themselves yet they mentally choose not to. Those episodes of being clumsy, rushing, etc. are all cries of ‘I don’t want to do this and if I do a bad job maybe they will stop asking me to do it’. Really, I mean, some personal hygiene tasks use the same fine motor skills as the DIY project they just messed up. A woman who has all her clothes perfectly coordinated by color that can’t get the concept of coordinating fabric for a quilt, is just showing in a passive way that she really doesn’t want to quilt even those all the rest of her friends are currently into quilting. This is just my opinion of course, but in all the years I have lived I’ve seen a lot of people bungle their whole life, not because they truly are bunglers, but fouling up a project is easier than telling a spouse or friend that ‘I know we can’t afford it, but I really don’t want to bother doing this myself.’ Otherwise how could these same people get and keep jobs that require many skills?

  5. Marcia says:

    We all have different talents and abilities. My hubby isn’t really a handyman and after 35 years of marriage I’ve quit insisting that he be one. But we have two plumbing heating guys in our church who have saved our bacon with our pellet stove and furnace more than once and yeah we have to pay them but at least we can usually work something out with them. We have DIY guys in our church who usually are willing to give us advice or even help out. And I have discovered to my amazement that some people think I’m incredibly talented because I have taught myself to do home canning and make jam and jelly and I also do my own baking. Don’t think I’ll be on Food Network any time soon but I can follow a recipe. You may not be able to do it yourself every time but you may be able to do more than you think and the more independent you can be the better off you are.

  6. Roberto says:

    Several years ago I started doing my own repairs. The problem was that I did not know what I was doing. But thank goodness for the internet. Through YouTube I started learning to do my own. A bit frustrated at first but I was persistent and stubborn to the point that it became much easier for me and was actually getting good at it. Eventually I opened my own car repair shop in Boca Raton.

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