Here is another one of those “no brainer” ideas for saving money: do it yourself. More than a long heralded principle of frugal living, “DIY” has become quite the vogue fad in the 21st Century. With the advent of home improvement stores like Home Depot and Lowe’s and the popularity of home fix-it programs, everyone is jumping on the bandwagon. We even have shows like Flip or Flop feeding the notion that there is money to be made by simply buying old structures, renovating them, and selling them for huge profits.
We men are particularly vulnerable to DIY urges, as the belief that any man worth his salt has an inherent ability to use tools and fix things seems to run in our DNA. The problem is this is a myth. And as someone who speaks from experience, believe me, you can easily come out in the red — both in terms of money and time — if you embark on a DIY project without the necessary, skills or know-how.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for doing the work yourself and saving the money of outside help provided you know what you are doing. This again is largely a problem for men, as our male pride constantly prevents us from acknowledging our inabilities and shortcomings. So let’s learn from one of the great macho icons, Clint Eastwood, and realize once and for all that “A man’s got to know his limitations.”
I’ll give you a classic example. I’ve tried a few times now to change headlight bulbs on my cars. The first time went OK, but still harder than I expected. The last two — both Hyundai cars, by the way — were nightmares. For some reason, attempting to remove those damn lens covers and working my way around the various clamps and other impediments proved to be a nearly impossible task for this layman. I sweated my way through it, but eventually could only get the bulb in half-way, without securing and aiming it properly. So in the end I had to take the car down to a service station and have a mechanic finish the job. The end result was that I pretty well ruined an evening, scratched up my forearm, and STILL ended up forking over twenty-five dollars, plus the cost of the bulb.
Now, wouldn’t it have been a lot better, from a quality of life standpoint, to have just paid the mechanic to do it in the first place?
Sadly, this is not just an isolated example for me. Other times I have embarked upon do it yourself projects, only to find myself capitulating after a few hours of tortuous frustration. The worst examples are those occasions when I get about three quarters of the way through before finally hitting a hurdle that I can’t clear. The result is that I end up paying someone to do the job after all. And, sorry, but there are no price discounts when the serviceman has to come out to the house to finish the job you have partially done.
Even if you do have the ability to do a given project yourself, consider your efficiency. After all, it really makes little sense sweating and cursing for an hour or two through a project that you could pay someone thirty bucks to do in ten minutes. Time really is money, and many of us have a tendency to under estimate the value of personal time.
In the end, doing it yourself can be a great way to save money, but as with any strategy in frugal living, you have to think it through — preferably before wasting an evening and self-inflicting wounds.