DIY-Should You or Shouldn’t You?

For the frugalista doing it yourself is always the first line of defense. This is true because the cost of the raw materials with the added value of your own labor is always the best value. Or is it? Like most other things, it is a little more complicated than that. There are things that benefit so much from economies of scale that both the quality and the price are better if they are store-bought. And there are things that are very hard to get the materials and skill to make them at home. The toothbrush for example. Though you might be able to fashion something that works, it likely wouldn’t work as well, and fashioning just one or two every couple of months would take a long time and be very labor intensive for an item you can buy for under a dollar. But that is not the drawback that really needs exploration.


The real question that needs asking concerns our individual ability to do the DIY project at hand. There are literally hundreds of things a person could make or do for themselves. And we are probably only really good at a few of them, and really bad at a few. For instance, I am a wonderful cook and baker, good at making household formulas and organizing, and good at fixing my own software based computer problems and doing simple home health care. But I am no good at all at building anything, or doing anything mechanical. And there are much better gardeners. At most things in between I am merely adequate.

This is true of all of us. Our skill sets are limited. So, how do we decide whether to do it ourselves or spring for a professional when the task that needs doing isn’t in our top five? Ask yourself how important it is that the results be perfect. If perfection is not a requirement and the task isn’t in your bottom five, why not give it a go? I do all my own food processing including catering my own parties. And if I tear something I mend it myself, and have sewn some of my own clothes, mostly simple things like gathered skirts. But I would never fix my own car. It has to be done right and I’m just no good at it.

Another thing to ask yourself is how much you enjoy doing the task, even if you are merely adequate. If you love to do it and perfection is not a requirement, then dive in. It’s your life and you get to choose your results. But what if you just plain hate a task, even one you excel at? There are things you can do to mitigate the situation before running out and paying retail prices. Try bartering. Many areas have time-banks or bartering clubs. If yours doesn’t, start one. Or just get out there and make some one- on-one deals with your friends and neighbors. Trade your best and best loved task for something they love and are good at but you aren’t. Be sure that if it really has to be perfect your trading partner can make it so. I have a young friend who is an ace mechanic, and is willing to trade, but I wouldn’t make the deal with a lesser talent. Sometimes you just have to get out the wallet. Just make sure that is your last resort instead of your first.

Here are some resources for further consideration: the mother of all DIY publications to get started bartering


2 Responses

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