I’ve always been pretty handy and like to do things myself whenever I can, especially if I can save money in the process. By the time I started kindergarten, I knew the difference between an open-end and socket wrench. When I moved into my first apartment, I was the one who braved our stopped-up sink with a screwdriver and heavy duty gloves. And when my mom has a problem with anything at home — from the printer to the garage door — I’m the first person she calls.
That said, I also consider my time to be pretty darn valuable, and since so little of it can be considered “free,” I certainly don’t want to waste it. That’s why, as self-sufficient as I am, I have no problem shelling out cash to a professional who can handle DIY projects with much more skill and ease than myself.
Sometimes, the time, effort and trial-and-error that go into learning a new skill or performing a foreign task makes do it yourself projects more trouble than they’re worth. Below are three examples of how doing things yourself might seem like you’re saving money, but likely at the expense of quality, or at the very least, your precious time.
#1. Oil Changes
Gearheads often brag about how much money they save changing the oil in their cars themselves, and most people are more than happy to skip a trip to the mechanic when possible. But how much is a standard oil change, really? To the average person, it might not be expensive enough to warrant doing it at home.
Consider the DIY oil change process:
- Buy oil
- Protect your driveway or wherever you plan to perform the change
- Squeeze under your car or lift it with a floor jack and safety stands if there isn’t enough room
- Remove drain plug
- Drain oil into oil pan and hopefully not on yourself
- Remove oil filter with specialized wrench and some muscle
- Replace plug and filter
- Pour in new oil
- Dispose of used oil at designated recycle center
Then there’s the professional oil change:
- Drive to service center
- Hand over keys
- Wait 20 minutes
- Ignore attempts to upsell you
There’s an opportunity to save maybe $10-$20 by changing your own oil, but considering the labor that goes into it (not to mention the grime — ew), you are probably much better off taking your car to a professional. (Image: vanlaar)
I passionately envy every person who owns a washer and dryer. Spending hours at the laundromat, waiting for clothes to be washed, then waiting for them to dry, then having to stand around in that godforsaken place a while longer to fold everything is pure torture. It’s also pretty expensive if you have several loads to wash. However, for not much more money, you can drop off all your laundry and pay to have it done for you.
Wash and fold services generally charge between $0.99 and $2.00 per pound of laundry, depending on the day, location and turnaround time. While many instate a seemingly high $20-$25 minimum, I was informed that it’s not unusual to unload 30 or more pounds of laundry if it’s been a while since your last visit and have included linens.
So for those who do not have the luxury of a home washer and dryer, for an extra $20, you can avoid spending more than five minutes at the laundromat and not hate your life on laundry day by paying a service instead. (Image: AlishaV)
Imagine the cliché home improvement movie montage: A young couple blissfully painting their home’s walls together, playfully splashing paint on each other’s faces and giggling like they’re having the time of their lives.
If you think your next DIY home painting project will resemble anything close to that, you are sadly mistaken. In fact, if you are currently sharing a home with a romantic partner, consider yourself lucky if you still are at the end of a major home improvement initiative.
Painting a room might be an inconvenience some are willing to deal with as DIY projects, but taking on the whole house is a nightmare to be avoided at all costs. Beyond the time and stress factor, there are a number of reasons to hire a professional to paint your house instead of doing it yourself.
- If you screw up and damage a wall or other nearby property, you’re stuck with the cost to fix it. If a contractor causes damage, you can rest assured that they’ll compensate you.
- Reaching high ceilings or painting exterior walls means climbing ladders and putting yourself in potentially dangerous situations. Fully licensed and bonded contractors will have liability insurance — while it would be terrible if anyone got hurt, at least a professional’s injuries would be covered by the company.
- How much time do you spend painting houses? Even if you practice painstaking precaution, a professional is simply going to have the tools and experience necessary to do a much better job than you, and probably way faster, too. (Image: karindaziel)
When to Take on Do It Yourself Projects
Just because you value your time doesn’t mean you should be totally lazy and throw money at every situation. Like I said, I love doing things myself when I’m confident I can do it fairly quickly, safely and accurately. For instance, here are five things I rarely pay someone else to do:
- Sewing: Everyone should have a good tailor on speed dial, but when it comes to small sewing projects like replacing buttons or hemming jeans, whip out your sewing kit and take care of it yourself.
- Bike maintenance: While a professional tune up now and then is a good idea, most bike problems are easy to fix on your own. Flat tires, rusty chains and more can be handled at home with few tools and little time.
- Car washes: If you’re insanely protective of your car like me, you would never send it through a cheap gas station car wash. Unfortunately, most hand wash and detail services are expensive. Find a do-it-yourself car wash location near you so you can get a full wash for less money and have the piece of mind that your baby is treated right.
- Computer repair: Again, certain situations call for professional help, but this is 2012 — you should not be running to the Geek Squad every time you get an error message. Learn how to troubleshoot common computer problems and save on inflated repair costs.
- Most beauty treatments: There is nothing wrong with pampering yourself at the salon every now and then, but supplementing trips with at-home DIY beauty treatments will save hundreds of dollars. Plus, in my opinion, Sally Hanson Salon Effects looks even better than a professional manicure, and Garnier Nutrisse makes the best hair dye, hands down.
One more tip: When attempting a project, YouTube is your best friend. Don’t reinvent the wheel when someone has already done it and posted a how-to video. There are also a number of DIY sites dedicated to helping people through various do it yourself projects.
There are a number of DIY projects that will help you save money on various maintenance and repair needs. However, unless you truly enjoy getting your hands dirty, prefer to spend your free time performing chores or just really, really love learning, there are just some things it makes more sense to pay a professional to do for you.