When Your Time Is Worth Too Much to *Not* DIY

Mowing the lawn, weeding the flower beds, repairing the wooden fence, pressure washing the house, repairing appliances, winterizing the sprinkler system, etc. These are all tasks that, in the past, I’ve paid money for someone else to do instead of doing them myself.

There were two primary reasons for this. First, I told myself I didn’t know how to do some of these things. This excuse doesn’t really hold water, for reasons discussed in Sitting at Campfires 🔥. Since I carry the entire internet in my pocket, there is really very little chance that I won’t be able to find information and learn how to do any task, if I’m just willing to sit down at the campfire and listen to the gibberish for a bit.

The second reason for not doing some of these things myself is that I bought into the idea that my time was worth more than what it was costing me to hire someone to do the task. This is a story that we tell ourselves often, but it doesn’t always make a lot of sense either.

The first obvious problem with this excuse is that for a lot of us, we can’t just work an arbitrary number of extra hours and expect to make our “hourly rate.” Either we work salary, or we have a fixed schedule, and we can’t just show up and work an extra hour for money instead of working on the other task at home.

But, even more interesting to me, there are times when DIY takes significantly less of your own personal time than hiring someone else to do the task.

Example

For a concrete example, consider a case from my house earlier this year: our 20-year-old oven stopped functioning properly. Specifically, the temperature up button stopped working, so I could bake things at 350 degrees or below, but not anything above 350. We frequently cook frozen pizza at 400 degrees, so this was a problem.

In the past, we would have immediately started shopping for a new oven, but this time the oven broke just a few months into trying to increase our savings rate. I was determined to not lose a month of planned savings on a buying new oven, and the oven was broken anyway, so I started taking it apart.

“Fixed” in < 1 Hour

I actually had the oven operational again almost immediately. The problem was that a plastic tab had broken off one of the buttons, so pressing the control panel wouldn’t actually press down on the correct button. By removing the informational/decorative cover from the front of the control panel, I was able to expose the real button and we could work all of the oven controls again.

I actually left it like that for a while, and the oven was fully operational again, even if ugly. This gave me a bit of time to look for a replacement part or think of some other clever way to fix it.

Fixing it for real this time

The next day I hopped on eBay and found some sellers with refurbished control panels for my exact oven model. I ordered one of those and things got a bit interesting. I had to start taking the oven completely apart with no instructions, and that was pretty daunting. Youtube wasn’t a lot of help because the oven was so old, but I figured what the hell, it was broken anyway so I might as well keep going.

At one point my oven looked like this:

Yikes. But after another hour or so messing around with it, I had it all back installed and good as new 20-years old. 

Whew!

So, how was this easier than just buying a new oven and having it installed?

This repair took me a total of about 3 hours, which seems pretty inconvenient compared to just pointing to an oven, swiping a credit card, and telling someone else to install it. But having someone else do it isn’t that easy either.

We would have wanted to look at ovens as a couple, which would involve loading up the kids and taking them to look with us. And since we were purchasing, we would feel it wise to “shop around” so we would have gone to at least 2 stores. The “shopping for an oven” trip would have easily taken 2-3 hours on its own. (not counting any online shopping/comparing).

Then, of course, the installers would have given us a 4-8 hour window and we would have ended up staying at the house all day to let them in and oversee the work. Say 4 hours spent on this on the absolute low-end.

After they left, we would have a fancy new oven and would need to spend some amount of time learning how it works. I estimate we would spend maybe another 1 hour learning all the features of the new oven and how to use them.

So:

  • Shopping for an oven – 3 hours
  • Having the oven installed – 4 hours
  • Learning how to work the new oven – 1 hour

Somewhere around 8 hours spent on obtaining a new oven vs the 3 (maybe 4) hours I spent repairing the old oven.

Once you factor in the monetary cost difference, DIY is even more of a winner. And if you want to take it even further, introducing a brand new appliance into a house with 20+-year-old appliances may have led to a desire to go shop for a new refrigerator to match.

And that’s completely ignoring the feeling of personal accomplishment that comes from fixing it yourself.

Give DIY a try

The next time you have something broken around the house, consider trying to fix it yourself. Youtube has videos on almost everything. And, the item is already broken anyway, so you might as well use it as a learning and time/money saving opportunity.

What are some other examples where DIY is easier than hiring someone else?

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