The Financial Pitfalls Of A DIY Attitude

I’m willing to bet that every frugal person you know loves a good DIY project. Let’s face it, a DIY attitude goes a long way when it comes to frugal bragging rights. In fact, I have used such bragging rights in my own life on more than one occasion. Yep, I am definitely no stranger to the DIY attitude. I stained my own fence, painted the whole house, and upgraded all our light fixtures! But as with most good things, there is a downside. Sometimes it’s just less expensive (and less stressful) to outsource the work. This goes back to the whole, I’m only spending money on things I value bit. Let’s explore a little more before you frugal die-hards bite my head off!

A DIY Attitude Is Not A Frugal Requirement


porcelain tile - DIY attitude

Porcelain tile installed by a pro!

Am I the only person on my way to financial independence who doesn’t think a DIY attitude is a requirement for frugality and massive wealth building? Sometimes it feels that way. I spend hours and hours each week pouring over the latest and greatest in the personal finance world. To me, it’s especially satisfying to read blog posts that talk about reaching financial independence without having had made all the right money moves along the way. I suspect that’s because that’s the boat Mr. MMM and I are in. We definitely weren’t always financially savvy and didn’t always subscribe to extreme frugality. Finally seeing the light right around the time we were getting married (shocker, I know) was our incentive.

Ahhh, life. Time never stops, things keep moving forward, and people change. That’s what happened to Mr. MMM and me when we suddenly woke up one day and realized we had been full-fledged adults for nearly two decades without honing our financial savviness. We weren’t broke, but we certainly weren’t in the Early Retirement in our 30s Camp. Womp. Womp. So, we changed, literally overnight. Thankfully we already had higher than average salaries, minimal debt, and the willingness to be coached by some of the best the Internet has to offer. We decided to be purposeful with each and every dollar. No longer do we blindly go out to eat or buy something out of convenience. The new US consciously decides where to focus our resources. Sometimes that involves a DIY attitude to save our hard-earned cash, and sometimes it doesn’t.

It’s Okay To Outsource Some Tasks


light fixture - DIY attitude

Upgraded light fixture installed by yours truly.

Don’t get me wrong, we do love insourcing a lot of little tasks that we feel we can complete just as efficiently and expertly as, well, an expert. Tasks that we often insource to save cash include power washing our house, mowing our lawn, painting our house (minus the vaulted ceiling in our family room), cleaning, pet grooming, installing light fixtures, small household repairs, cooking, and on and on and on. But, there is the other side of the coin. You know, those tasks we DO outsource due to a number of reasons (think: time, energy, hassle, and willingness).

Tasks we don’t blink an eye over outsourcing include:

  • Car repairs – Mr. MMM and I are not mechanics. When something goes awry with one of our Monster mobiles we typically call a local garage we trust for the repair. They treat us well and we’re happy to give them our business in exchange for a speedy, reliable repair.
  • Lawn treatment – Now, I know what you’re thinking. Why on earth would anyone pursue financial independence and pay for regularly scheduled lawn treatments? The answer is, simply, because I want a manicured lawn and don’t want to do it myself. I know it’s “not that much work” to do it yourself, and I have done it myself in the past. But I must admit, the results are definitely worth bragging about with a pro on the job!
  • Haircuts – Luckily, Mr. MMM shaves his head! Frugal score on that note. As far as myself and Mini Monster, we go to a nice salon and are okay to give some good cash to a talented stylist. Because we both have long hair and neither one of us has highlights or any color (Mini Monster is still under 10), we’re able to keep our trips to the salon to a minimum.
  • Large home upgrades/repairs – Think: tile floor installation and roof repairs. No way are we attempting tasks this big. The high risk of messing up such a task makes the prospect of hiring a pro from the start a no-brainer. We like no-brainers!

The Financial Pitfalls Of A DIY Attitude


power washer

Power washing – a DIY task we tackle!

By now you’re probably breathing a sigh of relief hearing that even a die-hard frugal subscriber doesn’t suggest insourcing all tasks. In fact, we are often quite happy to pay someone else to do our dirty work. There are many financial pitfalls that can occur when attempting and failing to complete a DIY project. Case in point, you could actually mess things up. If you do mess things up, you’ll likely end up paying more money in the long run – not very frugal. You also can’t simply ignore the required time investment.

Let’s consider this as an example. If you’re researching how to repair a plumbing issue in your home, it’s vital to analyze how much time this will take from your life and how many times over the course of the rest of your life you will use the skills you will acquire. If this is a once and done deal, it’s probably not worth it. And again, let’s not forget the potential of screwing it up. I’m guessing that would be a pretty awful thing in relation to your home’s plumbing.

Another consideration is how much money it will cost to gather the necessary supplies and to make X number of trips back and forth to the home improvement store. How many times have you thought you had everything needed, just to realize you don’t? There goes another trip back and forth – not very frugal. When you add all these things up, sometimes it’s actually less expensive to call a pro. Consider that!

When Not To Invoke Your Default DIY Attitude


Mad Money Cat DIY attitude

Mad Money Cat outsources every task. #gofigure

Obviously, in our household, it is NOT okay to stay committed to a DIY attitude when the quality of work will be compromised without hiring a professional. We are all about doing the job once and doing the job right. If we feel we can handle that commitment with a minimal amount of time and effort, we jump on that bandwagon! If we feel the opposite, we don’t hesitate to call in the Big Guns (AKA – A Professional).

So when do we call a pro instead of tackling a DIY project ourselves? Here’s our quick and dirty decision tree:

  • Do we want to tackle this task and do we think it will be pleasant enough to save us money and provide us with bragging rights? If the answer is no, we call a pro. You heard me, regardless of how small the task is, if we just don’t WANT to do it, we don’t. And we don’t feel guilty about it. Life is too short to expend time and energy on things you don’t want to do. Full stop.
  • Is the amount of time required to learn how to complete the DIY project, acquire materials, and actually complete the task, worth the time, energy, and hassle that will be required? If the answer is no, we call a professional without hesitation. Yep, that’s right, despite how easy YouTube makes a project seem, if we suspect it’s going to be a huge time suck and hassle, we skip it.
  • And sometimes, the decision comes down to time. Simply, how much time will this take from our lives? If the answer is a lot (of course, this is relative) we outsource the project. We are firm believers in spending quality time with our family and friends. If a project stands to eliminate our free time for an extensive period of time, we vote for paying someone else to complete it for us.
  • Do we think we could do just as good of a job as a professional? If the answer is no, we hire it out. Personally, I don’t think we could do a great job repairing our sidewalks or seal coating our driveway. Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t want to take a gamble finding out. And if I’m right, it would cost us more to have it “fixed” than just paying a pro up front.

Now, of course, we do complete many DIY projects in and around our home, as mentioned above. But, we also give ourselves the option of opting out. It’s a good feeling.

How do you feel about having a die-hard DIY attitude? Do you allow yourself to outsource tasks, big or small, without guilt? Or, do you subscribe to a DIY attitude through thick and thin as a part of a frugal lifestyle? I’d love to hear your thoughts!


DIY Attitude | How to DIY | Financial Pitfalls | Cost of DIY via @MadMoneyMonster

DIY Attitude | How to DIY | Financial Pitfalls | Cost of DIY via @MadMoneyMonster

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  • Carolyn Sep 23, 2017, 8:35 am

    Good point about will you use the tools you acquired and skills developed for the DIY project to make it worth it. My husband laid hardwood flooring in our bedroom, the dining room/kitchen and my studio. He had most of the tools, rented a floor nailer the first time and borrowed a pneumatic one from a friend the last time. Quality of work is professional level, saved big bucks, but it is grueling work. So he does it, but not something he would want to do every day. We planted a garden, fruit trees and mow our own lawn. Costs of tools and maintenance far cheaper than outsourcing. My husband is very handy with the shears and clippers. He does my two boys monthly haircuts and every other month I take a seat for him to trim my locks. He acquired the proper tools, capes, clips and keeps the shears sharp and the clippers and attachments clean. It easily saves me over a grand a year when I calculate in my time and transportation costs. And being hubby is very meticulous, there is never a wonky bad haircut. My best friend stopped by when I was gettng my locks trimmed and she watched very intently as he continued to let each section down and trim my hair. When he finished she complimented his work and asked if he had time to give her a haircut. So now she stops by for a free trim, saves her a lot and she said there is something very wrong when I paid $80 and got a bad haircut at the salon, and your husband does a better job for free. My mom stopped by when hbby was giving my boys their monthly haircuts and mentioned she needed hers trimmed, to cut to the chase, she gets her haircut at my house now as well. So it was a good investment for him to get the proper tools, watch the YouTube videos and give great haircuts as it is a recurring expense that we would have to outsource, and not get the same level of quality, and I always dreaded the trip to the salon where the stylists did what they wanted, not what I asked.

    • Mad Money Monster Sep 24, 2017, 6:12 pm

      Wow! Your husband sounds like a catch 😉 If only I could get my husband to trim my hair like a pro. You definitely have a keeper!

      • Carolyn Sep 29, 2017, 8:34 am

        I know I am very fortunate that he took the time and effort to acquire the skills to do my hair for me. He loves my hair long as much as I do, so there is never a worry he will get scissor happy and leave me shorn like a sheep, like I had happen too many times at the salon. I especially appreciate his talent when I see other women with absolutely horrible haircuts in passing and I feel sympathy for friends when they are quite upset after a bad haircut at the salon. I mean, these are people who are getting paid to do the job right and make the customer happy.
        I love my personal service. I get a glass of wine set out for me, my hair combed out, he capes me, then secions and pins up my hair. I like the feel of the comb on my back as he combs my hair and I know just the ends are being trimmed neatly, no losing several inches. And when he is finished he checks his work ensuring it is even. Then he steps back and tells me I look beautiful as always, of course. He will braid my hair for me as well. I find it very relaxing having him comb out my hair and braid it for me. I actually have heard more women tell me they are having their guys trim their hair for them more than I used to. I don’t know if it is because the salon is just so expensive and inconvenient or more guys are willing to step up and do it for their ladies, but I think it is a great thing, but you need to do a little research, get the right tools and watch how to video tutorials, not the ones where you have someone put it in a ponytail and saw through it leaving it uneven and ratty looking.

  • Jeff @ Maximum Cents Sep 22, 2017, 11:13 pm

    You posted this on the day I have a DIY post on fixing electronics, ha! If something is too hard or time consuming leave it to the professionals. Otherwise, DIY saves a lot of moment over time.

    • Mad Money Monster Sep 24, 2017, 6:09 pm

      Haha…great minds think alike!

  • FullTimeFinance Sep 22, 2017, 11:42 am

    It’s a balancing act. Sometimes diy can cost you more in the long run. Less time to do more financially productive things. Or worse, you do it wrong and make things worse. Paying someone to fix your diy mistake can cost you more in the long run. Still I do get a good feeling knowing I fixed something rather en call someone.

    • Mad Money Monster Sep 22, 2017, 1:47 pm

      I must say, I do enjoy a good DIY project. I repainted our entire house one week on vacation. Granted, my wrist was swollen for a few months, but I did a great job and saved us thousands in the long run. Frugal score! But for other tasks, the ones where I’m sure we would mess something up, we skip the DIY stuff and go straight for the pros. Thankfully, we have the extra money to have that option.

  • Dads Dollars Debts Sep 22, 2017, 10:34 am

    My wife told me the person who cut my hair last week did a better job then the time before…I cut my hair the time before! DIY fail I suppose. I do somethings myself (like lawn care for now, but more so because I enjoy it) but leave things like digging holes for my fruit trees and expanding the irrigation system to paid experts.

    I figure I might as well do the stuff I enjoy and outsource the stuff that is of less interest to me. This becomes even more important since my time at home is time for my son. So I do not want to be taking away from that time for less enjoyable tasks.

    • Mad Money Monster Sep 22, 2017, 1:46 pm

      I totally agree that time at home is time with family. I hate using that precious time for tedious tasks that I could hire out. The kids won’t be little for long. We better enjoy it now!

  • Steve D Poling Sep 22, 2017, 10:31 am

    My DIY approach for my rental properties & home maintenance issues is start it and when i understand what must be done I decide in-source vs out-source. When I do the work and it doesn’t hold, I won’t make a second attempt, but hire a professional.

    • Mad Money Monster Sep 22, 2017, 1:44 pm

      Love this approach. We, too, have a rental property. DIY is great if it’s quick and fairly easy. Aside from that, we’re hiring it out.

  • Sarah Saverdink Sep 22, 2017, 9:17 am

    We have a fantastic mechanic that we use for car repairs and even oil changes occasionally. My husband used to try and do car repairs himself, but the time, cost (buying specialty tools, fixing things that broke in the process of the repair…) and frustration negated almost all potential monetary savings. Our mechanic is honest and has very reasonable prices. Worth every penny!

    • Mad Money Monster Sep 22, 2017, 9:44 am

      Yes! I couldn’t agree more. I didn’t even mention the part about buying one-time use tools. Good point!

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