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Self Sustainability Has Its Costs

When doing it yourself (DIY) isn’t all it’s cracked up to be

Many of us hold a reverence for the self sufficient human. Much of the time the DIY approach is the fastest and most affordable solution to a problem. There are countless projects when you own a home or maintain a yard, and while some are therapeutic, many are a colossal timesuck.

When you are capable and focused, there is not much you cannot take-on around the house. But how much is too much, and when do you ask for help or hire someone to take on the job? In our household, we do the projects that can be done in half a day. If it would take me longer than half a day to watch the YouTube videos, gather the supplies or tools, and properly execute the project, we will hire someone to take care of the job for us.

We do that so that we can spend time together as a family having fun, rather than fussing over a complicated project. Most recently, it was the dryer ventilation under the house. I actually thought I’d have the time and energy to crawl under there and fix what I had been told by a contractor was the issue. Then I saw the scale of the problem –– the sheer distance to be covered and the amount of duct work required. I quickly asked my wife to find us someone to do the work. Instead of being under the house all morning, we went to the park and out to lunch as a family.

These guidelines will help you decide when to DIY and when to make a call for help


Is It Gardening or Yard Work?

They sound the same, right? They aren’t. While gardening is relaxing and rewarding, even meditative, yard work can be backbreaking and time consuming. If you’re growing a garden or planting a new row of hedges, there is a lot of money to be saved by going the DIY route.

Get the whole family involved in gardening. The rewards are endless. But when it comes to removing stumps or clearing brush, you might be best served to hire your help. Imagine the time you get back when you can spend a summer Sunday watching your kids play baseball instead of cutting and stacking a year’s worth of brush and fallen trees.

Even if you do go it alone, try a junk removal app like Go Trashy when it’s time to get rid of the yard waste. Yard waste removal is no one’s idea of a fun Saturday afternoon.


Do You Have What It Takes?

My wife will be the first to call me out when I’m about to get in over my head. “Really?! You’re going to rewire the outlet for the new dryer. Really?!” she asked a couple weeks ago. See, the project had passed the first test; I had the time and the tools. What I did not have was the knowledge of electricity to avoid killing myself or burning the house down.

That is what a good partner is for: calling you out when you may not have what it takes. When it happens, don’t argue. Just hire someone to help you. In this case, you won’t save money, but you will still save time. In my case, hiring an electrician might have saved my life. What was I thinking?

Be careful when you are assessing what you can or cannot take-on. If you turn to YouTube for How To videos when you are starting a new project, you need to remember that they are edited and shaped to make it look easier and more accomplishable. Do not make the mistake of allowing yourself to think, “Well, that looks easy,” without truly considering whether or not you have what it takes to do a project safely and well.


What Is The Project P and L?

It might sound silly, but a little Profit and Loss analysis from the business world can work really well in this scenario. It basically works like a quantified Pros and Cons list. Take out an sheet of paper and list the reasons you should take on the project by yourself. Those are your Profits –– what you stand to gain from the DIY approach.

Then make an equally exhaustive list of the reasons you should not take on a project by yourself. These are your Losses –– your expenses and risks in taking on the project. If you DIY, will you end up in the black? If you spend the money to hire your help, will it actually cost you less in the end?


Remember to quantify your time as an expense when you take this approach. You will have to give up your most valuable or resources –– time and attention –– to accomplish any task. How much is your time worth?

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