Anyone can learn new skills. It’s easier if you have someone to serve as an instructor, but “how to” books and videos work great too. An elderly uncle showed my husband how to do electrical wiring, but he learned how to do plumbing completely from instruction manuals. Both skills were learned out of necessity when we had an empty shell of a brand new house to finish and no money to spend on hiring professionals. The carpentry skills my husband learned grew out of the same necessity, with trial and error being his best teacher. My husband has shingled the roof, installed doors and windows, and learned how to make a perfectly smooth wall or ceiling. I have refinished furniture, painted, upholstered, made soap, cheese, slipcovers, curtains, and baskets. Together we have built porches and sheds, framed rooms, installed drywall, carpet, well pumps, bathtubs, toilets and sinks… first learning how, and working slowly and carefully until we could see we had it right. One of our proudest accomplishments is the way that we took a wild, wooded landscape and rock-filled soil and turned it into a lovely yard with a series of gardens and paths.

One of the biggest ways we have saved money through the years is to “do it ourselves.” Any time we can make, repair, or do something ourselves, instead of paying someone else to do it for us, we can save big. One of our most recent projects, for example, was installing hardwood floors in all of the bedrooms in our house. Somehow that project escalated to include repainting the walls and the ceilings, and of course since we’ve done all the work ourselves, it has taken a longer time than if we had hired someone. But because we saved so much money on the installation we were able to choose a much higher quality of hardwood than if the installation had to be included in the cost. Like all of our projects, installing these hardwood floors was a learning experience. Before we began, we studied all the information and how-to’s we could find on the subject, and then we just jumped in. We “practiced” until we were happy with our results, and then we did our first floor… and then the next… and the next… and the next.

Four summers ago we decided we wanted to build a decorative stone path along two sides of the house. We made the entire path using large flat rocks we had dug from other areas of the property, did all the work ourselves, and the path didn’t cost us a cent. One day a landscaper we knew slightly stopped to ask for directions and he asked what landscaping company had done our path and what they had charged. When we told him we had done it ourselves for zero cost, he told us his company would have charged several thousand dollars for labor and materials. It was gratifying to see his amazement, and there is a wonderful sense of accomplishment and empowerment that comes from knowing that you can do things like this for yourself. That feeling grows with each new skill you master.

You can be a “do it yourselfer” without having to tackle big projects. You can become an accomplished from-scratch cook, for example, or learn how to sew or knit or crochet. You can fix leaky faucets, learn to cut hair, or install a light fixture… and save a lot of money in the process. You can grow and can or freeze your own vegetables, make pickles, bake bread, or make repairs around the house.

Once you get started, there is really no limit to what you can learn to do.

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Comments

molly

Like you we love the idea of doing it ourselves, it saves a fortune, you are right, and there is also the satisfaction that comes from knowing our hand is in and around our home in a myriad of places.

Blessings :)

Hadias

I can’t tell you how gratifying it is for me to learn to do something new that ends up saving us money.

Some of the projects that I have tackled have not turned out as I wanted but the process was still a learning experience.

This is a great post.

Frugal Babe

We’re in the middle of painting our house, which is costing us about $250 for supplies. A friend who recently paid people to paint her house – which is only a little bigger than ours – spent $5000. I’m very glad we’re do-it-yourselfers!

Shirley (Choosing Voluntary Simplicity)

Exactly… and said very well! I have been asked the same questions, and I agree completely with your viewpoint. Learning new skills and being self-sufficient is about more than saving money, but unfortunately not everyone understands the pleasure and satisfaction that some of us get from doing these jobs ourselves. It’s always nice to “meet” people who do.

JT

I have been a long time do-it-yourselfer on everything from car maintenance to home repair. Yet I have at times struggled with a common refrain from some of my somewhat materialistic professional friends, what is your time worth?

I.E. Could your time be better spent making a higher wage at your professional job, then paying a lower wage person to do these repairs for you. Wouldn’t it be easier to focus on your professional job that is second nature to you and accrue enough money to take care of all your needs?

My response is, I like learning a new skill and becoming self-sufficient more than I do my professional work most of the time.

I think this highlights a bigger problem, that those in our materialistic society have been moving steadily in a direction of over-specialization that requires an interdependence just to complete the most basic of tasks.

TI

Through experience, we’ve learned that you can actually finish your own projects much more quickly than hiring a contractor. They typically need to move onto either getting new business (‘selling a job’) or starting a new project to keep new clients happy, even though yours has not been completed. How irritating! Also, you know the quality of the work you do…

DJ

Shirley,
I love this post…and I feel the same way. I’ve got a long list of accomplishments that I’ve done myself, yet I still have a huge fear when things don’t go right. I’m wondering if you have that. For instance. I was working on my car, and my husband said he would never do such a thing because he’s too afraid of messing things up. But armed with Google ready to go on the laptop, a service manual, and a lot of confidence, I headed out to the garage. After changing out the fuel filter, the car started fine. I felt like a million bucks. It would have cost three times as much to have the stealership do this simple task. The next morning, my car wouldn’t start. My heart sank. I was honestly so depressed. I slunk into the house and cried. I felt like a total failure. It took a couple of days to get over my feelings of failure before I could even look at the issue. Turns out, there is a pump in the tank that was going bad…and by changing out the filter, I introduced air into the lines. Even though I filled the filter with fuel and primed the filter to reduce the air, it was still enough to cause the weak pump to not be able to push the air out. I know it’s not my fault, that this is a common issue with this type of car. But my knee-jerk reaction was just utter despair.
We, too are looking at hardwoods. I’ll price them out, then stop and panic. What if I can’t do this?
I’m not sure when the confidence comes and stays. I’m afraid I’ll get half-way through, screw up something major and have to call in the professionals to help.
Today I’m at home waiting for the repair man to come fix the oven because I’m way too scared to even TRY to fix it.
I research things to death before hand…but the strangest stuff comes up. Like I was changing the transmission fluid filter on my minivan and broke two bolts off (because the directions supplied by autozone had incorrect torque settings for the torque wrench :(). I felt so incompetent. I can’t even tell you.
The desire to be self-sufficient is still there, I just really have trouble with the confidence part…particularly when I hit a speedbump.
DJ

Shirley (Choosing Voluntary Simplicity)

DJ, you have tackled some really big projects successfully… I think you’re doing great! It sounds like you just ran into some weird circumstances that would have happened to anybody, even a mechanic. I’m also positive that the confidence will just happen as you do more and more of these things. The best part about doing things yourself is that if you do mess something up, you also know how to fix it! It’s normal to be nervous before you start a new project, but you’re doing this the right way by researching first and learning all you can before you begin.

I hope you’ll let me know when you begin the hardwoods project. Compared to the projects you have already done, that one is easy!

Ashley

This is a great post! We love to learn new things and save ourselves money by trying it ourselves. It’s great to see what you can do when you put your mind to it. We just recently finished building a pine log bookshelf that only cost us about $160 and we’ve seen them selling for anywhere from $400-$700! We are also working on making our own bent shaft wooden canoe paddles. My husband is very handy with car repairs so we save a lot by finding used parts and him installing them if we have car trouble! We learned to do all these things just from other people showing or telling us or reading articles online. We wouldn’t do it any other way!

M.L.

This is an area of my life that I want to work on, not only for the purpose of saving money, but to have skills to do things myself. I think one of the reasons that so many people find themselves bored is because they don’t have basic skills that give them things to do in their day to day life. So many life skills got lost along the way over the past few generations. I think we have lost a lot by allowing others to do just about everything for us–it leaves us with nothing to do. I want to remedy this for myself. I know how to cook from scratch and have basic sewing skills, but I would really like to add to that so I can do more things for myself. I would really love to find local groups to learn some more skills because I do better learning hands on with someone by my side to walk me through the process. I’ve been keeping my eye out at the library for bulletin postings on groups offering these types of classes, but I haven’t had any luck yet.

Beth

I completely agree that the satisfaction achieved from completing a job yourself is fantastic and the quality is often better (especially since I am rather “particular”), but I also feel like a good balance (just like with everything) is important. Some things would be worth the money savings, but not worth the time.

Vada

How timely that I came across this post. I am in the middle of completely re-doing my daughter’s bedroom. Painting every inch, including doors and trim, and putting down new flooring. I was despairing over the paint line between the walls and ceiling because we have vaulted ceilings and they didn’t look very good. I was feeling overwhelmed and wondering if I had gotten myself in too deep. Then I came across this post and it gave me the confidence to jump in and try again. They still are not perfect, but are perfectly acceptable. As a single mom living on one income, doing it myself is really the only way to go. It also brings a sense of accomplishment and self-worth that is very welcome. Thanks so much for your posts and blog.

Beth

Have really been enjoying reading all of your posts. I especially enjoyed reading this one as I happen to be a do it your selfer too. With each job I am successful with, I gain in confidence and want to tackle more. I am now pretty good at repairing my own lawn equipment small engines. I have sweated pipes putting in a new hot water heater, done electrical wiring, etc. I just love doing this stuff. At least no one rips me off when I do the job myself. Thanks for the enjoyable reading.