With the economy as it is, budgets have gotten tighter and our fingers have been pinching more pennies. But the fear of the economy has scared some into some not-so-cost-effective solutions with do-it-yourself projects. With a quick tap of the wand (or hammer), the DIY magic has made their coins disappear — and they tricked themselves into thinking that they saved their Benjamins.
But not all DIY projects are a rip off. Which projects are worth it? We don’t have the answer, but you do know the person who does: You! You may not know the answer yet, but consider the following factors, and you’ll be on your way to enlightenment so you can work smarter, not harder.
Paying the Price
The first factor to consider when determining the most cost-effective solution is the actual price you will have to pay. To figure out the cost of the don’t-do-it-yourself route, you will need to look and ask around to find the cheapest price while still getting the quality you desire.
The Internet is a blessing. Whether you are looking for a specific product or someone to hire, use the Internet to find prices and reviews, so you’l know whether Bob-the-Builder really is a builder or just some guy who will steal your money.
After you have determined the professional price, take a close look into what it will cost if you do it yourself. Think about every step of the project and every material you will need for that step. Every nail. Every hammer. Every gallon of gas you will use in driving to collect everything. Think of everything.
People often underestimate the cost of a DIY project because they don’t take into account the tools they will need. A professional already has the high-priced tools that they use all the time, and do-it-yourselfers won’t necessarily use the tools again, which can hike up the price of the DIY route, says Dr. Lynn Burbridge, assistant professor of economics and regional economist at Northern Kentucky University.
Time is Money
With money on the mind, most people think about the actual price before they take on a project, but many forget about the time cost involved. When you hire a professional, you hire the whole package — materials, tools, time and talent — so you need to consider the whole package when you hire yourself.
“A do-it-yourself project takes away from doing other things, which could bring in income,” Burbridge says. So to determine the true cost of your project, you will need to factor in the time you will spend. And listen to the advice your teachers always gave: Use your time wisely!
Every project will take a certain amount of time, so before you begin, figure out just how much time you will need, from start to finish, to complete the project. And be realistic. Setting a due date just because that is when you would like to be finished might seem like it will motivate you to be quick and efficient, but it will most likely end up just stressing you out. Remember to include time you will need to gather all of the materials, do a practice run (when applicable), and research to familiarize yourself with the project and the tools involved.
Once you figure out how much time you will need to complete the project, determine how much your time is worth. Divide your two-week paycheck by the number of hours you worked in that period, and the result is your hourly income. Figure out how much the time you will spend on the project is worth based on your hourly income. (If your husband will be helping you, do the same for him.) Then add the time cost to the cost of tools and materials.
When DIY Makes You SOL
You’ve figured in the costs of the materials, tools and time, so it’s time to compare the don’t-do-it-yourself route with the DIY path, right? Wrong. You have only prepared for the expected, but you need to remember that you never get off the hook that easily. Something is bound to go wrong (especially if you don’t plan on something going wrong).
Obviously, this can be tricky because it is impossible to estimate the cost of an unexpected cost. But you can get an idea of what might go wrong (or whether you should even attempt the project yourself) by recognizing your experience and skill level. People need to “be honest with themselves about what their skills are,” Burbridge says. “I’m not going to build a deck in my backyard because I don’t have carpentry skills.”
If you have worked with the same drill 1,000 times before and never had problems, you might be OK. But if haven’t, you may end up messing up a couple holes, which will make you need more screws or, worse, need to start all over.
Besides money in materials and time, some projects you aspire to do yourself may increase total costs with hospital bills. Safety is a major factor you need to consider. Everyone knows that doing electric work can be a shocking experience, but you should always research your project thoroughly in case it has some not-so-well-known dangers. For instance, of all the causes for DIY fatalities or injuries, gardening is on the top of the list for women.
While it is nice to drive through your neighborhood without seeing wires stringing from house to house, the underground wires can pose a danger when you’re digging. On average, an unsuspecting digger hits a utility line every minute. So what was once just a DIY fence or tree has now turned into a much bigger and more expensive project. (If you are planning a digging expedition, call 811 to have a professional mark your utility lines for free.
Now that you’ve added up the price you will pay in materials, tools, time and disasters, you can compare the real price of your DIY project with the price of just hiring somebody else to do it. If the price is right and you’re up for the challenge, go for it. If not, enjoy watching somebody else do the work for you as you savor the summer (while you still can).