10-plus ways you can lose money by doing it yourself

Garding DIY can cost you moneyThe Moneyning blog recently did an excellent post on 10 expenses that will cost you more to do yourself than it would to hire someone to do it for you or simply just buy the finished product. This list, however, is just the tip of the iceberg. It included:
  1. Growing your own food
  2. Printing your own photos, notices, etc.
  3. Building your own computer
  4. Sewing your own basic clothes
  5. Making your own pet food
  6. Installing/altering appliances to make them more green
  7. Making your own musical instruments
  8. Fixing your small appliances
  9. Selling your own personal items (rather than using a consignment shops)
  10. Doing your own taxes
This list is just the starting point. There are plenty of other ill-advised DIY chores that just aren't worth the time, money or frustration. Here are three things to consider before you embark on that ambitious project.

Cost of supplies: Growing your own food sounds like a good way to trim expenses; that is, if you already own pots. a trowel, tomato cages, a cultivator, a shovel, a spade, a garden rake, a leaf rake, a weeder, a hoe, a pesticide sprayer, garden gloves, a hat, knee pads, a garden hose, a sprinkler, a fertilizer spreader, a compost bin... you get the idea. Taking these expenses into consideration, that that tomato isn't such a bargain.

In the same manner, I have a shelf full of tools I bought to use once, the expense for which I will never recoup. For example, the bookshelf that I bought a router to build -- a router I haven't used since -- ended up costing me over $120. I could have bought a better bookshelf for $40 at Staples. And don't even mention my chop saw, Dremel tool, pipe wrench...

Time sucks: How much is an hour of your life worth? If you don't enjoy the DIY job you take on, ask yourself, would I work for this wage? Gardening again is a good example. You may reap a harvest of 100 pounds of string beans, but by the time you do they'll be in season and every grocery will be selling them for $0.39 a pound. So you'll have $39.00 worth of string beans. If you put 8 hours total into those beans, you were working for under $5.00 an hour.

I've fallen into the money vs. time trap again and again, often because I have to go to the hardware three times for every job. Clearing brush, laying a brick sidewalk, installing a garage door, painting porch railings, running new phone lines; I've wasted countless hours just to save a buck or two an hour. What are your time sucks?

Lack of expertise:
The worst aspect of this money trap is that, by doing something ourselves, taxes, for example, we never learn just how much money it really cost us. I've fancied myself at various times capable of installing a hard drive in my computer, hanging a ceiling fan, pruning my birch tree, patching my membrane garage roof, tuning my recumbent bicycle, and doing a brake job on my van. Each time I was forced to admit defeat and resort to that most foul-tasting of money traps, paying an expert to clean up my mess.

Of course, the list above contains many activities that people find enjoyable, and in that case, the difference between hiring to get the job done and doing it yourself can be written off as recreation. If you don't enjoy a task, however, before you do it yourself to save money, calculate your total expense -- in supplies, time, and the potential to screw it up for lack of expertise. I suspect you'll farm out a lot more jobs.
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