The phrase “do it yourself,” or DIY for short, means taking back the responsibility for something that you would otherwise buy or hire out.
DIY projects are all the rage these days. With a desire to be more natural and get back to basics, many people are interested in discovering ways to be more self-reliant.
The internet is loaded with tutorials for doing things yourself. Pinterest is filled with all of the homemade cleaning and personal care products you can imagine. Images of home décor and home improvement projects abound.
In addition to the projects you can do and products you can make yourself, there are also chores or services – like getting a haircut or changing the oil in your car – that you can choose to hire out or do yourself to save money.
There is a notion that frugal people do things themselves rather than buying or hiring out. Doing things yourself has the potential to save you lots of money, but that’s not necessarily the case.
Is it Worth it?
I love DIY projects, but even when I’m being careful, they sometimes don’t always turn out as frugal as I had hoped. While frugal and DIY can sometimes be synonymous, they aren’t always. You’ve probably seen this meme:
If it resonates with you, then you know exactly what I’m talking about!
Be careful of the DIY projects you undertake. Here are some factors to think about when deciding whether a DIY project will be worth it or not.
Time is usually the biggest trade-off when you choose to do something yourself instead of buying or hiring out. How long will the project take? Do you have time to do it yourself? What is the opportunity cost? If you have options to do work that pays more than the DIY project would save you, then working might be a better use of your time.
Time is not the only factor that goes into figuring out if something is cost effective. You also need to consider the supplies or ingredients necessary for the undertaking.
DIY projects take work, plain and simple. If it’s not something that you want to do, you may burn out before you get to reap any of the benefits from your efforts. At the same time, it’s okay to do hard things that aren’t necessarily enjoyable in order to save money, learn skills, or build character.
Is this DIY endeavor something you know how to do already or do you need to learn and practice before you can really do it yourself? Thanks to the internet, you can find videos and tutorials to teach you how to do just about anything. Still, learning a new skill takes time and practice.
A Recent Example
So here’s the project. I’ve been trying to revamp our laundry system for a while now. Normally I use the living room to sort all of the clean laundry into everyone’s individual baskets for them to fold and put away. With a family of 8, this means part of the living room is a laundry staging area on most days of the week.
Our laundry room is small, but I envisioned a shelf with at least three shelves that would each hold three laundry baskets. Then, as we unloaded clothes out of the dryer, they could be sorted right into everyone’s individual basket. Then everyone could take their basket and fold and put away their clothes when it was convenient for them. I wouldn’t need to use the living room as a laundry staging area anymore!
When I told Mike my idea, he measured the area and drew up some plans for some nice laundry shelves, and made a shopping list.
Time— I figured it would take me about six hours to complete (but honestly I’m terrible at estimating how long it will take me to do things).
Cost— Mike took a look at the shopping list and with the help of Home Depot’s website, he added up the cost. He estimated that it would be about $200 before paint. If he was going to make them, he wanted to use nice hardwood, not the cheapest stuff. That also includes the cost of a pocket hole jig. We have paint in the garage, so we figured there was probably something there we could use.
Desire—Mike always enjoy smaking things and was especially happy to make my laundry dreams come true.
Skills—The shelf he drew up was pretty basic so it was something he could manage without having to learn new skills.
Looking at the factors, we had to decide if we wanted to go ahead with the DIY project, buy something instead, or scrap the idea altogether.
We were good on Desire and Skills. And as far as Time goes, we don’t have a lot of it, but Mike is good at making time for things that are important to me, so I know he would have made time.
When he told me the Cost, I was super disappointed. That was way more than I wanted to spend on this project, even though I was so looking forward to a new laundry system.
Because I had such a specific space that I needed the shelf to fit, I went straight to DIY instead of even looking into buying a shelf. After hearing the cost of the DIY shelf, I decided to take a look at the buying options. As it turns out I found a shelf that would fit the bill online at Sam’s Club for less than half of what the DIY version would cost. Plus it wouldn’t take any time out of Mike’s already packed schedule.
So in this case DIY wasn’t a better or cheaper option. Before undertaking your own DIY project, go through a little assessment like this.
Other Reasons to DIY
Of course not all DIY projects are done in order to save money. There may be some DIY projects that don’t save you money, but you do for reasons of expressing your creativity, customizing something, or being more natural. For example, maybe it’s not necessarily cheaper to make your own shampoo but you do it anyway to avoid chemicals.
I figured cost breakdowns for some of the DIY projects I choose to take on, like making my own yogurt, making deodorant, or laundry detergent, but you have to decide if it’s worth it for you. Our choices in what we do ourselves and what we buy or hire out take so many factors into consideration. The decision is a completely personal one that often goes beyond cost.
Day 23 Challenge
Today’s challenge is two-fold. First, look at the services that you currently hire out (oil changes, haircuts, lawn care, etc). Are there any of those that you could do yourself to save money?
Next, are there any products (i.e. laundry detergent) or projects (i.e. home improvements or auto repairs) that you would be interested in doing yourself? Do research on their cost effectiveness and make plans to give one of them a try.