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When You Should (and Shouldn’t) Pay Other People To Do Things

Published October 20, 2020

5 minute read

David Ning

By David Ning

When we think of frugal living and living within our means, we often think about doing more things on our own. Whether it’s building our own shelves or changing the oil in the car, it’s easy to think about ways to save some money by putting in some effort. I even asked my wife to cut my hair during the pandemic. Every few dollars count! After all, why should you spend extra to pay someone else to do jobs that you’re perfectly capable of doing something yourself?

But today, I want you to challenge this commonly accepted idea of DIY.

While it can be a great money saver to do some things on your own, there are some services you should (almost) always pay others to take care of. Before you decide to engage in a do-it-yourself project, here are some things to consider.

Do You Have the Expertise?

First of all, you have to ask yourself if you have the expertise to get the job thoroughly completed. Some car maintenance activities can be accomplished by just about anyone. However, more advanced jobs — like major repairs — are a little more dicey. Do you really have the skills necessary to do a good job? The last thing you want is your brakes failing when you’re speeding down the highway because you lazily followed a YouTube tutorial video on how to replace them!

Don’t forget that a skilled technician will also spot additional problems when they do routine maintenance. Take my friend’s recent experience as an example. She went in for an oil change and they spotted evidence of mice running round inside the hood of her car. Upon further inspection, they found that the little critters started chewing through some of the wiring. It could have caused a fire if left unchecked.

She could’ve changed the oil herself and saved $50 every six months. However, she never would have noticed the other problem. It would’ve been pretty disastrous if her car exploded in a traffic jam.

Complicated wiring, many plumbing tasks, and a number of other projects probably require a skilled hand. Don’t just assume you can do it if you have the “right instructions.” Not every job is as easy as assembling Lego or IKEA furniture. Be wary of your limitations. It’s best to recognize that there are people who have been trained to take care of some of these more complicated projects. If you don’t have the expertise, you should probably pay someone who does. Otherwise, you risk making the problem (and the eventual bill) much worse.

Do You Have the Necessary Equipment?

Another consideration is the equipment needed. Some projects require specialized equipment. You might be physically and mentally capable of completing the project. However, that knowledge doesn’t do you much good if you don’t have the right equipment. In some cases, you can rent the items you need. Even still, you need to weigh the cost of the rental against what it would cost to just hire someone. And if you have to buy an expensive, specialized tool that you’ll only use one time? That factors in to the cost too.

How long will it take you to complete the project? If you have to rent the equipment for several days (partly due to you needing to learn how to us it), then you need to think twice before you attempt the job yourself. This is especially true if an experienced professional can have it done in a matter of hours. You should also be aware of the nature of the project. If you think that you will use the equipment for another project, it can be worth it to just buy it.

Lessons I Learned The Hard Way

Speaking of equipment, it’s extremely important not to fool yourself. Don’t make the mistake of believing that you can just get the job done quickly by skipping the necessary equipment. I once tried to replace a cartridge in the faucet in my master bathroom because it had a leak. The YouTube videos made it seem like it’s extremely easy to do.

You literally twist off the faucet, pull the cartridge out, put the new one in and then tighten the faucet back. The videos were literally three minutes long. Surely, I didn’t have to pay a plumber a minimum of one hour just to get him to come replace this. It would probably take me longer to make the phone call than to fix it myself, I thought.

I Was Wrong…

When I tried to perform the task though, things quickly went south. I just couldn’t get the faucet to come off. Apparently, hot water faucets can have so much mineral buildup that the faucet can get “stuck”. The right way to get it off is to use a clamp on one end and then use a wrench to twist it off. I didn’t have a clamp though. If I kept trying, I would probably have put too much force onto the assembly.

Without the clamp, I could’ve broken the whole faucet assembly. This would make an “easy” $20 replacement become a $100 replacement, or more. That’s assuming I could even find a matching faucet that looks like the cold water side. If I couldn’t, then it could easily become $400, since we have two sinks side-by-side. Each sink has two faucets, for a total of four. Did I mention that $400 is just for parts? I still have to find a plumber because I now have four faucets I need to twist off!

Do You Have the Time?

Finally, determine whether or not you have the time to do the project. Too many of us discount what our time is truly worth. Do you really have the time to spend on your DIY project? Add up how much time it takes you to complete the task. Chances are good that you could be doing something better with your time. You could be earning more money by starting a side hustle. Or you could be improving yourself with classes or certifications. You could even be spending quality time with your family. In many cases, you’ll get more out of an hour with your kids than you will spending the time changing your oil. So just pay the $50 to let someone else do it.

The Bottom Line

Obviously, you won’t be using every waking minute of your days trying to improve yourself or earn more money. It’s not like you could easily “out-earn” the outside help if you simply work during the time when your job is being outsourced. However, if a job is a little bit out of your expertise or likely to cause you serious stress, it could harm your money earning activities.

When you truly consider all the costs (equipment, your time, quality of work), you may be surprised. Maybe paying that professional for a few hours of their time is actually a better idea than blowing through multiple weekends of DIY struggles. Carefully weigh the costs and the realities. There are tremendous benefits to do many things yourself. But there are times when it just isn’t practical.

Man Fixing Sink While Woman Watches


David Ning

Experienced Finance Writer

David is a published author, entrepreneur and a proud dad. He firmly believes that anyone can build a solid financial foundation as long as they are willing to learn. He runs, where he discusses every day money issues to encourage the masses to think about their finances more often.

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