When Should You Do it Yourself?

April 6, 2009

My dad is by far the best do it yourself-er that I know.  Not only is he good at fixing things (home repairs, car repairs, fixing lawnmowers, bikes, etc) he’s also good at figuring out do it yourself systems and solutions.

For example, he started his own one-man medical practice a few years ago and assembled the hardware, software, and processes for his own office automation systems that allow him and my mom to run a “digital practice” with no staff and low overhead. 

He’s taught me everything I know about DIY, which is why I wasn’t surprised to see his email response to my recent post on getting things done by hiring others.  Here’s what he had to say:

“A couple of my reflections, from a dyed-in-the-wool DIYer. I think you are right about finding a professional. Some jobs are difficult and if you don’t know anything about it, you’ll not only spend a lot of time learning how to do it but you may make expensive errors and end up having to pay more to have it re-done than it would have cost originally.  And of course there are jobs which are dirty, messy, and physically painful or dangerous and are better done by someone else. 


But sometimes, you come on a challenge that you would LIKE to know more about: maybe it comes up often, or maybe you learn a new skill that you can use in other areas of your life. 


Or maybe it will save you a lot of frustration down the line to know more about a function/repair and the time spent up front will pay off in spades down the line when you can handle that or similar problems more quickly and easily.   


Finally, there is just the challenge of overcoming adversity. Whether it’s a hard problem to solve (maybe where parts are not available so a novel fix is called for) or maybe just a tough diagnosis, there is value is overcoming tough problems. My two cents worth.”

What’s the Cost of Do It Yourself?

I think a big part of the decision to outsource tasks depends on what your goals are in life.  Our time in this world is finite so we have to spend it wisely.  For example, if one of your goals is to become a home repairs guru then tackle your leaky roof yourself.

But if one of your primary goals is to create a global charitable foundation or to start your own software company, the time you spend working on the roof is time you’re taking away from accomplishing your big goals. So the cost of doing it yourself is an opportunity cost for your life goals.

Of course if the task builds skills and knowledge that you can apply to your goals the opportunity cost isn’t as high but for me it’s hard to find applicable skills in a task like mowing the grass or painting a fence.

Goals vs. Reality

Of course practicality and reality play a major role as well.  The leaky roof is going to cause water damage every time it rains so if you don’t have the money to pay someone to fix your roof you’ll either have to borrow the money or do it yourself.

Especially in tough economic times, many people will choose to go with the lowest cost method and figure things out themselves.  However, the bad economy potentially presents an opportunity for outsourcing.  With so many unemployed people looking for work, or even employed people looking for side jobs, chances are you can hire someone to help you out for reasonable rates.


Will this article help you save or earn more money? Get others like it simply by entering your email address below. Your email is used only for delivering daily money tips and you can opt out of delivery at any time. Click here to see all your free subscription options.


Ben Edwards, the founder of Money Smart Life, saved up enough to buy a Nintendo back when he was 12 years old. When he used the money to buy shares of Wal-Mart stock instead, he knew he wasn't like the other kids... His addiction to personal finance has paid off for his family and now he's helping you to afford the life that you want. Check him out on the web at Google Plus, Twitter and Facebook.

All posts by


5 Responses to When Should You Do it Yourself?

  • Jamey

    I’m a huge fan of DIY however my husband and I recently did some DIY in our house and between multiple trips to multiple paint shops, me buying a ladder that was too short, both being perfectionists…we ended up not quite like those lovey dovey movies with paint on our noses and a shared shower in the end, but rather mostly not speaking to each other the whole weekend.
    Maybe this was good practice, or maybe in the future we’ll go enjoy a pleasant day out together while the workmen stay behind and paint.

  • Kate

    How interesting! I was actually watching House Hunters last night and they were talking about why sometimes DIY is not as cost saving as you would like it to be. Sometimes, even though it costs more up front, the best thing to do is to hire a professional. After all, they know how to take care of all the small details that us novices might overlook. And the power of small is more important than you might think: a loose pipe or a crossed wire could mean huge problems for your house! But, when it comes to small cosmetic fixes, I’m a DIY-er all the way.

  • Grant Baldwin

    Nice post…

    Our family moved into a new house a few weeks ago so we’re running across little tweaks and improvements that need to be made. I’m not a real good handy-man but I hate spending money, so this is a battle for me. I could probably figure out how to do it if I fiddle with it long enough, but is it worth the time?

    Thanks for your (and your dad’s) thoughts..


  • Weekly Roundup - Almost Frozen Tomatoes Edition | Start Living Frugal
  • Weekly Roundup - Almost Frozen Tomatoes Edition | Frugal Dad