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Do It Yourself or Hire A Contractor?

By David Bakke

DIY or bring in the prosSomething that has progressed along quite nicely with my ability to get and stay out of debt was and is my ability to fix things. Back when I was mired in debt, I barely knew what a screwdriver was. In the recent past, I have accomplished such tasks as changing out electrical fixtures in my household lighting, replacing a kitchen faucet, installing a privacy fence in my backyard, and a wide variety of car repairs. Maybe not so amazing on the grand scale of things, but considering where I came from, it has worked out pretty well.

The reasons my abilities improved are two-fold. First, I really take an interest in learning new skills and techniques, and secondly, the financial aspect of it. Once I realized how much money one can really save by doing something on their own, it was full speed ahead.

When to Say When?

You do need to know where to draw the line. Taking on a project that you simply don’t have the know-how or expertise to do can really end up costing you a lot of money in the end. These costs come from supplies you may have purchased that you didn’t really need and actually damaging the thing that you are attempting to fix/install/repair/upgrade.

It is a fine line. I think the ego in most men will tell them that they can do it “all.” Well, all I can say is you had better keep this ego in check or you may end up doing more damage than good.

But the question remains—when to say when? You need to consider whether you are really saving money by doing a project yourself.

Ask Around

This is what I do. I have previously written about keeping a host of experts in your circle of contacts and I definitely call these guys up before I take something on. However, in this instance, it’s not to enlist their help; it’s to ask them straight out “Is this something I can do on my own?” An expert will always be more than happy to tell you if a particular repair job is something an “average Joe” can do, or if professional help is the way to go. Plus, if they have some idea of where your level of technical skill lies in relation to that project, they can give you even better insight.

If these experts are not available or helpful, then I usually try to go and ask the professionals. Well, not the actual professionals that may end up doing the job for me (because they’ll ALWAYS tell you that you can’t do it). Rather, I ask some professionals with a more objective viewpoint. And here I utilize the employees of two places: my local hardware store and my local national home repair chain.

These guys are always there to help you and usually have an unlimited wealth of knowledge on just about any subject. They work at these places for a reason (not because of their charming wit, it’s because of their technical skill). I have developed some pretty good relationships with a lot of these guys over the years to the point to where they consider me a “regular.”  I usually get a “Hey Dave” when they see me. This is a pretty good feeling because I know they’ll always give me their best and most honest advice.

Serious Savings

And if you decide to jump into the DIY game, you might be surprised at how much you can actually save. I certainly was. One thing I usually did after successfully completing these DIY projects was to try to get some kind of an idea or estimate as to how much the job would have cost had I had it done professionally. Here are a few comparisons:

  • Privacy fence–$480 (DIY) and $1200-$1500 (done professionally)
  • Change spark plugs–$8 (DIY) and $54 (done professionally).
  • Faucet replacement– $24 (DIY) and $100 (done professionally)

In The End, Use Your Judgment

There is no golden rule here. You just need to use your judgment. And try your best to not allow your judgment to be clouded by your ego. If you have some “fix-it-ability” as I like to call it, then you should be able to do a pretty fair and honest assessment of any new project as to whether you have “got what it takes” to do it yourself. If you decide that you can handle it, then great! You’re most likely in for a great new learning experience and you should be able to save yourself a great deal of money. In the end, I usually put together all of the input I’ve received from my sources, and then determine whether a project is something I can handle myself or if I need to call in the pros.

Do you have a DIY story of your own you’d like to share? Is there a time where you saved a lot of dough? Share it with us below.

(photo credit: NOO)

David Bakke
David started his own personal finance blog, YourFinances101, in June of 2009 and published his first book on ways to save more and spend less called "Don't Be A Mule..." Since then he has been a regular contributor for Money Crashers. He lives just outside Atlanta, GA and most all of his free time is taken up by his amazing three year old son, Nicholas.

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