One of the ways to save money is to do something yourself. From putting a fence around your backyard to changing your oil, there are some things you can do on your own. When you do something yourself, you avoid paying someone else. You save money and potentially learn valuable and useful skills.
However, it’s not always a good idea to do something yourself. There are times when it makes more sense to spend the money to hire someone else. Deciding when to hire someone rather complete a project yourself requires you to review your situation and priorities to see what works best in your interest.
Do you have the right tools?
There are some jobs that require special tools. Andy Rodenhiser, of Rodenhiser Plumbing, Heating, A/C and Electric, points out that plumbing is a prime example. “A typical homeowner may have the basic tools for home repairs, such as a wrench screwdriver or hammer,” he points out, “but they most likely do not have the tools that an experienced plumber has bought, used and mastered over a career.”
Other specialized jobs, including those related to more complex electrical projects, and projects that require large equipment used outdoors, might not make sense for DIY efforts. If you can buy or rent the tools economically, it can be worth the cost, but in some cases, depending on how much time it will take and how often you will use the tools afterward, it might be more cost-efficient in the long run to hire someone (and their tools) to do the job for you.
Do you have the expertise?
Some DIY projects, such as changing the oil, can be learned without too much trouble. There are a number of things, from building shelves for the garage to fixing a toilet to installing an icemaker in your freezer, that can be done with a little help from instructions and a few basic tools and parts.
Other projects, though, require more specialized training. Depending on the project, there is a possibility that you could do more harm than good. What happens when you install something incorrectly and everything comes crashing down? Now you’ve spent the money on your DIY project, but still have to pay for repairs and clean up, and you might still need to hire a specialist to complete the work. It can be more expensive in the long run if you do something wrong because you don’t have the right expertise.
Do you have the time?
Don’t forget about the time involved. Yes, I know how to change the oil in my car. I could conceivably do it myself. However, it takes longer for me to change the oil than it does to take it to a professional garage. An oil change isn’t very expensive, and I can easily make up the cost of the oil change with less than hour of work. I’d rather spend the time doing something with my son, or enjoying an activity I like. When you do something yourself, you make a trade off. You might save money, but you could lose out on time.
Susan Bender Phelps, the founder of Odyssey Mentoring & Leadership, has a rule that she applies when deciding whether a DIY project is worth it: “If it is something that will take more than one hour to learn, and I will only need to do it once or twice a year, I hire an expert.”
If you enjoy the DIY aspects of some activities, it makes sense to do them, even if they are time consuming. Additionally, if you anticipate the need to engage in something several times a year, learning how to do it yourself can save you thousands of dollars over your lifetime. There are some things I think are worth the time, and others that I don’t want to mess with.
Do you have a choice?
It’s nice to consider that you have a choice between DIY and hiring someone else. However, this might not always be the case. In some instances, you may have little option beyond doing something yourself. If you are short on money, and you are capable of spending the time on a DIY (without it costing more in the long run), then you might have to engage in the project — even if you’d rather not.
Another reality is the availability of time. If you have little time to spend on DIY projects, you might need to pay for help, even if you would rather save the money. Carefully consider your situation, your preferred use of time, and the money you would save. In my case, the savings from changing my own oil aren’t big enough for me to spend the time on it. For someone else, though, changing the oil might provide a bonding experience with a teen child (who helps), or offers the chance to work with his or her hands in a satisfying manner.
Think about what’s important to you and your finances as you ponder the merits of DIY projects.