Saturday, June 1, 2013

Why DIY? #1 - Save Money

DIY involves hard work, no doubt, and it's not for everybody.  But there is a price for convenience.  Service industries exist for the sole purpose of making money.  There is nothing wrong with this, and I salute those individuals that have dedicated themselves to developing the specialized knowledge and skills to make us whole when homeownership throws us a curve ball.  But leveraging experts in any field costs money.

Anyone who has ever owned a house and "had work done" has likely choked when presented with their first quote.  Even seemingly minor visits from qualified repairmen can come with bills that can temporarily evaporate household entertainment budgets.  A $75 bill to have someone show up and stick their head under your sink for 15 minutes can be tough to swallow.  But that bill covers not only the repairman's salary, it pays for the truck (and the gas and the auto insurance) that got them there, the tools of their trade that you didn't have to buy, and the benefit of their experience and the implied assurance that their work will be done on time, on budget, and to professional standards of quality.  It also pays for a broad range of things related to keeping a home improvement business afloat that you, the customer, never have to worry about beyond writing the check.

Where DIY saves you money is in separating you from those "extra" costs; in business terms, the contractor's labor, overhead, and profit.  You still have to pay for raw materials, but you save the markup that most contractors would charge on top of what you would pay yourself if you bought the same materials at the local home improvement store.  Depending on the job, the total savings of DIY can easily cut your out-of-pocket costs by more than half compared to hiring it out.  I've done projects where I've calculated my out-of-pocket savings to be more like 70% to 90%.  On large renovations, a successful DIY job can save you thousands (or tens of thousands) of dollars.

Realizing those kinds of savings, however, is not instantaneous.  Embracing a DIY philosophy involves some up-front investment, though with a fairly rapid rate-of-return.  Once you start, every step is a deposit on making the next project that much easier and cheaper.  You will pick up tools that you can use later.  You will pick up experience that will give you confidence to tackle bigger projects that would have cost even more money to hire out.  And, perhaps most importantly, you will learn what it really takes to get certain home improvement tasks done, which makes you a more knowledgeable consumer when the time comes to shop around for a contractor when you have the flexibility to not DIY.

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