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)