There are undoubtedly certain expenses in your life that could be reduced by applying some do-it-yourself skills to tasks you typically pay others to do. To save money, a good first step is analyzing your personal spending patterns to see where the biggest and most frequent payments of this type are occurring, which is where you could potentially cut your costs. Discussed below are five areas of most budgets that become much more affordable when you opt to substitute your own work instead of hiring a pro.
#1 Home, Appliance and Car Repairs
With a can-do attitude, and the wealth of information available on the web and in books, you have the capability to fix many problems that occur around your home and garage yourself. While you will still have to pay for parts, you eliminate the expense of paying the labor, transportation and overhead charges of a professional.
When the issue is with an appliance or vehicle, start by gathering information such as manufacturer and model number, which should be visible as a logo on the machine and possibly a sticker inside the door. Then perform an internet search that describes the situation, such as “2005 Ford Taurus stalling out,” or “Whirlpool washer won’t drain.” For home repair projects, use search terms such as “hot water heater not heating.” While it takes some time and effort to absorb the terminology of the machinery, and you might have to invest in appropriate tools to complete a repair, there is a big sense of satisfaction in both fixing the frustrating issue yourself and saving some dough in the process.
For vehicles, it is wise to invest in a repair guide specific to your make and model. Available at auto parts stores or online, these handy books take you step-by-step through troubleshooting and then repairing almost any problem. When you research online, remember to bookmark helpful websites, so you have references at your fingertips for any future breakdowns. Local auto parts stores are also great resources for amateur mechanics, as some branches rent tools to save you the cost of purchasing them for infrequent use.
Routine auto maintenance like oil changes may or may not be a do-it-yourself project that saves you dollars. Using a coupon and having a mechanic do the work for you may actually be cheaper than buying the oil and filter yourself, thanks to the bulk discounts big companies get on supplies. However, sometimes auto parts stores have sales, or manufacturers offer rebates – like the one from G-Oil valid through June 1, 2012 for 5 quarts of 5W-30 synthetic oil free – that make do-yourself car maintenance the budget-friendly choice.
#2 Personal Grooming
Over the course of a year, most people spend a significant amount of money paying others to enhance their appearance. Grooming procedures include haircuts, dyeing and styling hair, hair removal (shaving, waxing, laser treatments), manicures and pedicures. At-home versions of each of these can be done, and a little research will reveal top-quality products and techniques that will allow you to duplicate professional results at home. For example, you could invest in a sharp new pair of scissors or a top quality hair clipper, then search YouTube for advice on “how to cut hair” to perfect your skill.
#3 Restaurant Service
When you eat a meal at a restaurant, the price you pay covers several services that you are perfectly capable of doing yourself: shopping for ingredients, cooking and serving food. These strategies will save you money on healthy and delicious meals, even if you are pressed for time or a klutz in the kitchen.
Again, the do-it-yourself plan starts with browsing the web. Sandra Lee has made a career out of coming up with quick and easy “semi-homemade” recipes which are a great option for busy people. Other websites like allrecipes or justapinch offer the ability to search for a specific ingredient such as “chicken,” so you can plan your menus based on grocery store sales. After finding appropriate recipes, sort the results based on ratings, which enables you to select tried-and-true, scrumptious dishes that will rival the quality at your favorite restaurant.
#4 Be Your Own Barista
A little more than a decade ago, few people had even heard of “Starbucks,” but trendy coffee drinks are now a billion dollar business and a significant expense for many households. If you partake and simply substitute homemade drinks for those pricey name-brand espressos, you will save a bundle in the long run without giving up flavor or the feeling of indulgence. According to consumersearch.com, Eight O’Clock Coffee 100 percent Columbian is the top-ranked grocery store choice based on taste tests and reviews, and it costs a mere $6 for 12 ounces. The site’s top-ranked dark-roast is Major Dickason’s Blend from Peet’s Coffee at $14 for 16 ounces.
The least expensive brew-it-yourself method starts with buying ground coffee or grinding your beans at the store, but the best quality cup requires the freshness of whole beans and a superior coffee bean grinder. Depending on your preference, consumersearch.org lists recommendations for affordable, good quality coffee and espresso makers that will brew a single cup or a whole carafe. Finish off your custom coffee drink as a traditional barista would, with sweetener, flavorings and creamers from the grocery store. Making a delicious froth to top it all off seems intimidating, but is very easy to do yourself – just pour milk (even skim) into a cup and whip with a hand blender.
Time-crunched individuals can still save money by serving themselves from packages of pre-made coffee drinks from the grocery store, or warehouse outlets like Sam’s Club, BJ’s and Costco. Even if coffee isn’t your preferred liquid, look for opportunities to cut costs if buying other drinks is a habit. Try a homemade version of Gatorade if you’re into sports, or consumersearch.com’s favorite water-filtering pitcher by Clear2O to make expensive bottled water unnecessary.
#5 Making Clothes and Gifts
Investing in a sewing machine, fabric and a few craft supplies can allow you to realize ong-term savings on clothing yourself and your family, and supplying gifts on holidays and special occasions. A search for “free sewing patterns” will pull up thousands to browse through, or you can pay for designer patterns if you prefer. Helium’s Crafts section has hundreds of fun, easy and inexpensive projects that produce excellent quality gifts. Homemade soaps make a thoughtful and impressive present that you can make in bulk, and even use around the house. Other do-it-yourself gift ideas are making a cornhole game, a jean purse, or a bulk lot of candles for family and friends.
Choosing Your Projects
In actuality, almost every expenditure involves paying someone to do something that you could do yourself; you could grow and hunt your own food, or even build your own house if you absolutely had to. Ferreting out the tasks that should get a hands-on approach is a matter of first deciding what is practical given the realities of your lifestyle. Think about whether you will be able to use skills you already have, or whether you will have to invest time, effort and perhaps money in learning a new talent or buying necessary equipment. If you do a particular task yourself, will you be satisfied with the quality of the results you can produce while you’re learning, or ever?
Another factor to consider is whether it will ultimately add enjoyment to your life to commit to doing a certain chore yourself. It doesn’t make sense to pinch every penny and sacrifice your happiness, and it isn’t necessary to see significant savings. Raising your stress level by trying to take on too many unpleasant chores can actually harm your health and eventually lead to costly medical bills. Instead, be selective, and choose those tasks that are enjoyable to you, or at least bearable when you factor in the satisfaction of cutting your expenditures.
If having a professional spa facial or a shave at the barbershop is your one luxury that makes you feel pampered and relaxed, by all means splurge on that. But if you are excited about exercising do-it-yourself skills like building your own furniture or mixing up homemade organic cleaners to save money, it’s a win-win situation. Taking this approach ensures that your quality of life goes up while your spending goes down.