One of the things I love most about people who believe in living frugally: their dedication to DIY. The do-it-yourself mentality goes hand-in-hand with living well on less and saving money. Frugal folks know they can save big by handling their own errands, chores, and projects.
I appreciate that people who love saving money also love the value of hard work and taking care of their own responsibilities. But we can’t ignore reality. DIY has its limits, and it’s not always a guaranteed way to save a few bucks.
At best, attempting a do-it-yourself task that you should have outsourced to someone else can cost you time that you can’t recoup. At worse, you could be out even more money than it would have cost to hire a professional to help from the outset.
There’s a time and a place for saving money by doing things on your own. Let’s discuss why and how to identify those situations where it makes more sense to pay someone else to handle it for you.
What Does it Mean to Outsource?
It’s never been as easy as it is today to figure out how to do or make something on your own. Have a question you need answered? You’re not forced to browse through the Yellow Pages to find a pro. You can just Google your way to the information you need.
Need a tutorial on how to install a toilet? YouTube has countless videos walking you through how to do any home repair, maintenance, or upgrade that you can imagine.
ARTICLE: How a YouTube video saved me $132
Want to create homemade products, foods, or gifts? Surely you can find a blog post explaining how to make what you want via Pinterest. Want to manage your money? You can learn anything you want about investments and smart consumerism from financial sites like this one.
The Internet has made us a nation of DIYers. But sometimes, we need to outsource.
This means hiring others to take care of tasks we could do — or could figure out how to do — on our own. Instead of cutting down that tree we no longer want in the backyard, it makes sense to hire a tree removal service to take care of this for us. Rather than spend hours every week scrubbing our floors and trimming the hedges by the driveway, we can hire a cleaning service and a landscaping crew to come in and get these tasks done in half the time we could manage on our own.
Yes, outsourcing — buying a ready-made product instead of making something yourself or hiring a professional service provider — can mean spending more money than going the DIY route. But there’s a reason that it still makes good financial sense.
How You Can Outsource the Financially Savvy Way
Even though it may cost you money to hire a pro, keep in mind that “pro” means professional. For some jobs, you need an expert to handle the task for you. Attempting to handle the work yourself can end up costing you more than if you had outsourced it to begin with.
If you try to handle your own plumbing job and make a mistake, you could end up with a huge mess and a massive bill when you finally decide it’s time to call a plumber to take care of what should have been a quick and simple fix.
If you have a complicated financial situation or a large amount of financial assets, you could lose money if you refuse to hire a pro to prepare your taxes or manage your wealth. Improperly filing your taxes could lead to a big mess and IRS fines (plus interest!). Making emotional decisions about your money could cost you a chunk of your nest egg.
Of course, you may be a financial whiz kid or a regular handyman yourself. But you’re unlikely to be an expert in every field. (“Jack of all trades and master of none,” right?) Be honest with yourself about your skills and abilities, and accept help in those situations where it could cost you more to try DIY first.
Considering Time Costs
Outsourcing the financially savvy way means hiring help when doing so is likely cheaper than trying it yourself first vs. then making mistakes or making the situation worse. But that’s not the only time it makes sense to outsource, because there’s more than just money involved here.
Your time is just as valuable. Arguably, it’s more valuable. You can work to earn more money, but you can’t work your way to more time. The only way to create more time in your life is to free it up. That means outsourcing the tasks that cost less than your time is worth.
Let’s look at an example to illustrate this idea. You may believe that it’s your responsibility to keep your own home clean and that paying someone else to come and clean says something negative about your ability to care for your house and family. You might even feel guilty about having someone else clean up after you.
But if it costs $25 per hour to have someone clean your home and you value your time at $50 per hour, it makes good sense to hire a cleaning service to spend two hours cleaning your home top to bottom. That’s because it costs less than what you price your time at — and it gives you back those two hours you’d otherwise spend cleaning.
This applies to bigger projects, too. If it would take you 3 months to lay down a new type of flooring in your home — but it would take a contractor 3 hours — the money you’d a pay to outsource this task would be worth it because you’re essentially buying back your time.
Determining When To Splurge on Professional Work
You may feel like you can do anything yourself — and with enough time, patience, and skill, you could. But you probably have a full-time job, hobbies, family obligations, and other responsibilities. So make the savvy decision from time to time and splurge to hire someone whose full-time job is handling the work that needs to get done in your business, your home, and your life in general.
What kind of professional work you need to outsource will depend on those things we mentioned above: how much time you’re willing to devote to DIY chores, how much patience you have to get it right the first time, and how many skills you have to get the job done. There are some circumstances, however, when it makes sense for almost everyone to outsource.
The Money-Guy Show, a financial podcast, discussed some of the times they believe it’s smart for us all to outsource, and touched on the following:
- Moving and cleaning homes
- Serious yardwork like cutting down trees
- Mechanical work
- Financial services
There’s nothing wrong with testing your DIY skills on some projects and tasks. But keep in mind you can outsource — and should — in a way that’s financially smart. You could save money in the long run, and you’ll always save something even more valuable: your time.
About the author: Kali Hawlk is the founder of Common Sense Millennial, a resource for members of Gen Y who want to do more with their money. She works as a writer and content manager, and is passionate about personal finance and business. You can connect with her on Twitter @KaliHawlk.