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7 Frugal Life Skills to “Do It Yourself” and Save Money

By Heather Levin

Hand sewingHave you ever added up how much you spend every year getting your car’s oil changed? Or, how much you’ve spent on fresh vegetables, gourmet jam, or having your pants hemmed?

Chances are, it’s a fair amount.

I recently stopped to think about all the products and services I pay for, that I could be doing myself. My oil changes are a good example. I spend around $90-$120 per year paying a mechanic to change my oil. That’s something I could easily do myself for a small fraction of that cost.

Recently, the S-bend pipe under my kitchen sink broke. I had to call a plumber to come replace it because I had no idea how to do it myself. When I saw how easy it was to do, I cringed…I could have easily done that on my own.

Of course, outsourcing some tasks does give us the time to do other, possibly more productive (or fun) things. And taking on a bigger or more complicated task than you are capable of can cost you in the long run — a simple fix can turn into a pricey repair if you mangle the job.

But taking the time to learn just a few simple DIY life skills can save you some significant money over the course of the year. Here are some of the most valuable, and do-able, DIY projects that will save you money.

The Top 7 Money-Saving DIY Skills

1. Basic Car Maintenance
Knowing how to change oil in a car is a biggie. Want to learn how to do it yourself? Start by checking out a few of the comprehensive car-maintenance tutorials on the web.

It’s also really helpful to know how to change a flat tire. Again, Internet tutorials like the one here is the place to start.

2. Pet Grooming
I know some people who spend $50 per month taking their dog to the groomer. That’s $600 per year!

Learning DIY grooming skills can really help you save money on pets for health and supplies, especially if you have a long-haired dog. Yes you’ll likely need to buy some clippers, but those usually run around $50. You can find innumerable tutorials for at-home dog grooming online.

3. Sewing & Mending
Do you know how to sew a button back onto a shirt or coat? Do you know how to hem your own pants?

Lots of people don’t. But learning to sew is free, and shopping for and buying new clothes when you don’t have to or taking them to the tailor all the time is expensive. There are tons of books out there as well as online tutorials that teach you the basics of sewing.

4. Canning Your Own Food
I learned how to can my own food last summer and I was amazed at how much fun it was. Yes, I did have to spend money up front on jars, pots, and ingredients. But overall, I’m saving money.

Why? Because I haven’t had to buy a jar of jam or pickles since I learned how to can. I’m even giving away a lot of my canned food as a unique and frugal Christmas holiday gift idea. And on top of the savings, the food I can myself tastes way better than anything I can buy at the store.

If you want to learn how to can, start with the USDA-approved recipes and instructions at the National Center for Home Preservation.

5. Growing Your Own Vegetables
According to the National Gardener’s Association, the number of home gardens jumped 20% last year. And, most seed companies saw a 25% to 30% jump in sales. Gardening has gotten big.

One of the reasons is that growing your own vegetables at home or in a community garden, really can save you a lot of money. How much you save depends on the size of your garden and what you grow, but some gardeners have reported saving thousands on their grocery bill. If you can, sell, or trade your excess produce, you can reap even more of a financial harvest.

I started my own garden last year and found a ton of valuable tips on Backyard Gardener.

6. Cooking At Home
Cooking at home is an easy way to save hundreds or thousands of dollars a year. One Money Crashers writer even manages to eat for under $4 per day cooking at home.

I love cooking at home because I get to try diverse dishes for a fraction of what I’d pay at a restaurant. Sure, it’s extra work. But I’ve learned to enjoy the process of cooking, and now I find it a relaxing, meditative way to close out a busy day.

One of my favorite frugal cooking blogs is Cheap Healthy Good. The writing is entertaining and the recipes are not only tempting, but cheap to make. You can’t get any better than that. Another cool site you’ll want to check out is E-mealz, a frugal meal-planning service that provides you with some new recipe ideas based on the grocery store sales in your area.

Here at Money Crashers we’ll soon be starting our own frugal recipe column, so stay tuned if you want to learn how to make some delicious frugal meals!

7. Packing Light
Packing for a trip isn’t exactly what comes to mind when you think “DIY.” But traveling light has practically become a spiritual movement the past few years thanks to steep airline baggage fees. And rumor has it that come summer 2011, they’re going to start charging for carry-ons too. When that happens, I’m sure a lot more people will look to travel cheap by bus or train.

Whenever my husband and I travel, we bring one carry-on bag – that’s one small bag between the two of us. We do this even if we’re staying somewhere a week or more. That’s around $100 in fees that we have saved on a round-trip flight, just by packing efficiently.

Packing this lightly is a skill, however. If you want to learn how, OneBag.com will show you how to do it right.

What do you consider the most valuable money-saving DIY skills? I’m sure this list doesn’t cover them all, so I’d love to hear your thoughts!

(photo credit: stevendepolo)

Heather Levin
Heather Levin is a freelance writer based in Detroit, MI. She's passionately committed to living green, saving money, and helping others do the same in their life.

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  • http://frugalbohemian.blogspot.com Olivia

    Liked your list. Gardening, canning, and cooking at home are by far the most money saving things out there for our family.

    • Heather Levin

      Olivia, great, thanks so much for reading!

  • http://www.thequarterroll.com Mike

    Great list and you are right number one is a big one. Home repair is another. This year learning how we saved a lot by learning how to install faucets on our own as well as repair toilets and do basic insulation around the house.

    • Heather Levin

      Mike, yeah knowing basic DIY plumbing skills is something I really need to work on. But I agree about the insulation; we did that ourselves this year too and saved a ton!

  • Ari Sonshu

    grooming yourself is a very important skill. In my country (Venezuela) women spend big time and big money styling their hair and nails, is amazing! I do it myself and save money all weeks.

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