I'm driving down to my mother's house this morning to work on her roof. Over the years, the shingles have been overrun with moss, so my cousin and I are going to spend a couple of hours scraping the stuff off.
We could hire somebody to clean the roof for us, but this seems like an easy way to save a little money. The entire project reminds of a recent article from Liz Pulliam Weston at MSN Money. Last month, she highlighted five things it's cheaper to do yourself. Weston writes:
You can make a good argument for hiring out certain tasks because it frees your time or because the person you hire will do a better job. In fact, people have. Author Timothy Ferriss turned the idea of outsourcing your life into a best-selling book, The 4-Hour Workweek. But when money is tight and you're looking for places to cut, some of the places you're outsourcing now should get a second look.
Here is Weston's list of five things it's cheaper to do yourself:
- Food preparation. “The simplest and fastest way for most folks to cut their budgets is to stop outsourcing food preparation,” Weston writes. Don't pay for convenience. Learn to make your own meals. if you have the space, time, and inclination, then start a vegetable garden. Taking charge in the kitchen is a great way to save money and develop fun hobbies and skills. This is an area where Kris and I do well.
- Home improvement and repairs. You can't do every home repair yourself. For some, such as non-trivial plumbing and electrical tasks, you need to bring in the professionals. But for many household projects, it can be satisfying and educational to do the work yourself. The trick is to learn the difference. This is another area where we do well — in this old house, we've learned to do our own basic home maintenance.
- Personal care. Some of Weston's readers cut their own hair. Some women do their own manicures and pedicures instead of paying somebody else to do them. If you can't do these things yourself, you may be able to find somebody you know who can help. When I was a poor college student, I “outsourced” my haircuts to a good friend, which freed up money for more important things. Like pizza.
- Laundry and tailoring. I used to know how to sew on a button. Also in college, I mended my own clothing — sometimes while watching football games with the guys! I haven't done that in years. Now if something needs to be mended, I send it out. I've also become lazy about ironing. I iron my own clothes sometimes, but just as often, I take them to the cleaners.
- Lawn and home care. Cutting recurring costs for a cleaning service or lawn maintenance can be a great way to save money.
There are other things it's cheaper to do yourself, such as basic car maintenance, computer maintenance, and tax preparation. You may have to take some time to learn how to solve your problem, but after you've done it once, it's much easier in the future.
The first time I repaired a leaky faucet, it was a frustrating experience. By the third time, I knew what to expect, and actually almost enjoyed myself. And I certainly saved some cash by not having to call a plumber. (But I still don't think it's a good idea for me to cut my own hair.)
Have you found that it's cheaper or more fulfilling to do certain things yourself instead of paying somebody else to do them? At what point does it make more sense to pay to have something done? Are there basic skills that the average person might learn that could pay off repeatedly in the long run?
Photo by Chimothy 27.
Author: J.D. Roth
In 2006, J.D. founded Get Rich Slowly to document his quest to get out of debt. Over time, he learned how to save and how to invest. Today, he's managed to reach early retirement! He wants to help you master your money — and your life. No scams. No gimmicks. Just smart money advice to help you reach your goals.