To give you an idea of how new it was to us, when my oldest child was about 6 weeks old, I accidentally flushed one of his cloth diapers down the toilet.
I’ll never forget the sense of panic I felt, since that toilet was the only one in our apartment, it was a Sunday night, and neither one of us had any idea how to remove such a clog from our plumbing system.
I will be eternally grateful and always hold in warmest regard the young plumber we found in the old yellow page listings in the phone book that night.
He came promptly, removed the toilet, found the diaper clog in the waste pipe, reinstalled the toilet for us, and then charged us only his normal hourly rate when he could well have milked us for a substantial extra payment for an emergency response on a Sunday.
I cannot tell you what that meant to me at that moment.
My husband and I now laugh about our helplessness back then, for we’ve long since learned that removing and replacing a toilet is something that any reasonably able-bodied person can do.
We’ve done it countless times in the intervening years, along with many other, far more complex tasks that we’ve learned to do over the course of several home renovations.
But that incident with the toilet was the impetus we needed to set about learning how to do things for ourselves.
Even at the young plumber’s very fair billing rate, it was a major eye opener to us just how expensive hiring trade professionals would be for us as homeowners and how hard it would make it for us to reach our financial goals if we paid others to do what we could learn to do ourselves.
So we promptly bought some repair reference books and began teaching ourselves some of the basics. We still have some of those books on our shelves to this day.
We relied on them for information on everything from refinishing and repairing used furniture, to refinishing floors, to regular car maintenance, to painting and wallpapering, to electrical repairs, etc., etc. And of course, for plumbing repairs.
At the beginning we only did the odd job or repair here and there, but over time we took on bigger and bigger projects ourselves as we gained confidence and realized the enormous cost savings we would realize if we did the work on our own.
In the process we have gradually became more experienced and seasoned, to the point where the only thing that prevents us from taking on a major task now is the physical toll it will take on our aging bodies.
Still, it’s rare for us to hire anyone for much of anything around our house. The exceptions would be for anything involving major roof repair or replacement, or jobs that require heavy equipment.
And even in the case of the latter, it’s now possible to rent small excavators to do the job that required big machinery just a few years ago.
It is no exaggeration at all to say that we have saved hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years with the work we’ve done on our homes ourselves.
That’s money that we were able to put towards buying ourselves some financial security so that when my husband lost his job, we did not have to panic.
D.I.Y Beyond House Projects
And it’s not limited to just house issues.
We regularly take care of our own car maintenance and repairs. After all, why pay $50 per hour for an auto mechanic to change some filters or car headlight when you can do it easily yourself?
And my husband recently did a fix on his 17 year old truck that will keep it running for a few more years and miles. He was quoted a price of $2000 to have it done by the mechanic. He did it for about $50 and a day’s worth of labor.
That was time well spent, I'd say.
Why D.I.Y Is Essential for Financial Health
Here’s the thing: knowing how to do things for yourself is essential for anyone trying to live on a budget and meet big savings goals.
Hiring people to do things that you can do yourself is a recipe for always being broke and never getting ahead, unless you’re one of the very fortunate few who make big money and don’t need to watch what you spend.
That’s not the case for the vast majority of us, though. Most of us struggle to find ways to save the money we need to build a nest egg that will buy us some financial breathing room.
And as I’ve mentioned in previous blogs, the only two ways you can increase your savings are by increasing your income or decreasing your expenses.
A Win-Win Situation
When you do something for yourself that you would normally have to pay someone else to do, you’re actually doing a bit of both – you’re saving yourself the expense of paying what sometimes very substantial amounts of money to someone for labor you can perform. Which is, in essence, like you're paying yourself with those (sometimes huge) savings.
That’s a win-win, particularly if you would have instead wasted that time you spent on the DIY task it is by aimlessly surfing the web on your phone or laptop, or binge watching a TV series for hours on end.
Getting Started with Low Skill Tasks
Now, I can hear many of you saying, “But I don’t know how to do anything.”
So let me just say that some DIY projects require very little skill at all.
Yard work is about the easiest DIY project there is, yet I am constantly amazed at the people who will pay to have someone mow their lawn and do their raking and snow removal - to the tune of many hundreds of dollars a year.
That just makes no sense to me at all. Do those yourself and save. It's also great exercise, by the way, just as a kind of bonus. And that's exercise with a purpose, unlike any that you do at the gym.
Tapping into Available Resources for Higher Skill D.I.Y Jobs
As for other things around the house that require more skills, it’s never been easier to get the information you need to do projects on your own than it is now.
While we had to rely on the printed word and illustrations in books, now there are tons of websites and video channels available where anyone can view do-it-yourself techniques in vivid detail.
We particularly like www.familyhandyman.com, www.diynetwork.com, and www.doityourself.com. But there are many out there, including some major players such as HGTV (www.hgtv.com/topics/home-improvement) and Hometime (www.hometime.com).
YouTube is also a wonderful resource, as long as you find someone who really knows what they’re talking about. Do a search of a topic, and many options are bound to pop up.
Check out a few to see which ones you find the most helpful, and I can guarantee that you’ll find the information you need to get many a DIY project done. Check out my blog on the topic here.
And stores like Home Depot and Lowe's often offer how-to classes for a variety of home improvement projects. Check their websites for upcoming tutorials.
And don't forget that DIY is by no means limited to home repairs and maintenance. Car repairs, appliance fixes, and all kinds of tech hacks can be found on the internet. Some, of course, are mere clickbait and useless, but there are far more that are legitimate if you take just a bit of time to look.
What's Stopping You?
Two things typically stop most people from getting started on DIY. One major stumbling block is a lack of confidence about undertaking something that’s unfamiliar and intimidating. And the other is a lack of tools.
Get Yourself a Basic Tool Set
For this reason, I recommend acquiring a basic set of tools for yourself when you’re starting out.
It’s my opinion that every household should have at least an 18 volt cordless screw driver/drill, along with some hand tools such as a saw, a flat-head and a Phillips-head screwdriver, a hammer, utility scissors, a straight edge (yard stick), and a small level.
You can get quite a few basic chores and minor fixes done with those fundamental tools. You will add to your collection of tools and supplies as you need them.
As to the fear factor, I recommend starting small, with such things as furniture repair or refinishing, or a simple household fix, or a routine car maintenance task to build confidence and get you going.
With a couple of successes under your belt, you’ll soon be confident enough to take on bigger jobs, and will begin to enjoy the sense of satisfaction that comes with doing for yourself, to say nothing of the savings you’ll realize.
I say go for it. You will love what it does for your bank account.