Do-It-Yourself the Frugal Way

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We go the do-it-yourself route to save money, and when the results take us where we want to go, we feel pretty smart. When the results don’t go where we thought they would, we can end up costing ourselves time and more money than we thought we would save. We have another sadder-but-wiser tale of woe to add to the do-it-yourselfer’s lament.

Asking yourself a few questions before venturing onto the do-it-yourself path can help determine whether the path will lead you to success or whether a professional should take you there.

Home Improvement Projects

One important question to ask is: Do you really know enough about what is required for your project to produce professional results? Reading a book may or may not be enough.

If you have never worked with power saws, but you want to build a bookcase, consider having the pieces pre-cut to the size you need at your lumberyard or home improvement store. Be satisfied with putting the hammer to the nail, and sand the wood by hand before applying your chosen shade of paint or finish. If you didn’t know that you need to sand the wood before applying the finish, read more how-to books on carpentry, and settle for a bookcase kit with predrilled holes this time.

If you have tried assemble-it-yourself furniture kits before and found if difficult to turn the screws into the holes, buy a chunk of beeswax at your home improvement store or at a fabric store, and apply the beeswax to the screw threads.

Two other questions to ask are:

  1. Do you have the right tools for the project?
  2. If you don’t, are you going to use them often enough after completing this project to make it worthwhile to invest in them?

If you won’t have much use for the tools after completing the project, find out if it is possible to rent or borrow them. Some areas have a tool-mobile that brings tools into neighborhoods.  Residents borrow the tools for home repair and improvement projects and then return them.

Before you begin your project, aks yourself one more question:  Are you willing to do the planning and preparation needed for  professional looking results? For example, before repainting a room, the walls and baseboards should be free of dust, dirt, and old wallpaper. Before painting, you may need to strip wallpaper, and then, wash the bare walls with trisodium phosphate. You will also need to remove the covers from switch plates and electrical outlets and cover any woodwork that you don’t want to paint with painter’s tape, making sure that the edge of the tape sticks firmly to the woodwork.

If you are planning a landscaping project, you will need to research the trees, shrubs, and plants to learn how tall they might grow, whether or not they will thrive in your climate, and if they might spread to areas where you don’t want them.

Saving money isn’t the sole purpose of undertaking a project. You want it to look as if a professional completed it. If you honestly cannot invest the time in the necessary planning and preparation, it would be smart to invest the money to hire a professional to do the work.

Other Do-It-Yourself Projects and Tasks

You can ask yourself the same set of questions for any do-it-yourself project to help decide whether it is smarter to do-it-yourself or hire a professional:

  1. Do you have the expertise needed for the project? Are your taxes so complicated that you need an accountant, or could keep your records and file them yourself without missing important deductions?
  2. Do you have the necessary tools or equipment? Do you need access to the equipment at a fitness center to achieve your fitness goals or will handheld and ankle weights, an exercise mat, a fitness ball, and an outdoor walking trail work for you?
  3. Are you able to invest the time needed to achieve good results? When it comes time to file your taxes, are you willing to go through gasoline receipts and mileage records to determine if you are eligible for an itemized deduction for transportation? Do you need a personal trainer to keep you motivated to stick with your fitness program?
  4. Are you able to produce better results than the person you hire to do a job? Have you found that your accountant has made mistakes that you wouldn’t have? If you have someone else clean your home, do you have to do the work over after they leave? Do you have to do cleaning that your cleaning person should have done?
  5. Is there an alternative to hiring an expert? Could you have your taxes done by a tax preparation firm? Could accounting and tax preparation software reduce the time you need to find deductions? Could working out with friends keep you motivated without the input of a personal trainer?
  6. If you were not doing the do-it-yourself project you are considering, what else could you be do with that time? Which is the more valuable use of your time to you, the do-it-yourself project or the other use of your time? Spending more time with your children, starting a small business, or exploring your creative side through writing, art, or music  might be more valuable to you than doing a home improvement project or household cleaning chores yourself.

Doing It Yourself the Frugal Way

Doing it yourself is not always the frugal way. If the person you would hire to do a project has better equipment and can produce better results, then hiring that person might be the smart choice. If the person you would hire would do a better job and hiring that person would free you to do something in which you have expertise and that is more valuable to you, hiring that person is definitely the smart choice.

For more ideas on how to live frugally click here.


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