When Spending The Money Is Worth The Cost.

This past weekend I helped friends move into the new house that they bought. And when I say “helped friends move”, I mean I lifted a few things here and there, arranged some furniture, and did some babysitting. I didn’t actually do the moving part of the weekend – my friends had hired professional movers to do the really hard work. My buddy and I went and picked up the U-Haul truck on Thursday night, and then the two movers took everything out of the old house , packed the truck to the brim, and then unloaded everything into their new house. Total cost for 5 hours of labor from these guys? $300 + lunch. In my mind, it was worth every penny, as I did the same thing when I moved into this house. It saved me time, energy, and damage to my back. My days of moving all my belongings by myself (and depending on several friends to bust their a**es for me) are long gone now. Certain things are worth the money to me to have to pay for.

Another example of this is when another friend tried to fix his own toilet. This guy has zero plumbing knowledge, but I guess a few episodes of This Old House left him feeling like this was an easy issue to fix and save money on. Well, he ended up destroying the toilet mechanism and the toilet itself, leaving him toilet-less with a few inches of water on the bathroom floor. A few days later, after he had the water cleanup guys come and the new toilet installed, his wallet was a few hundred dollars lighter than it would have been if he had just had the toilet fixed by a professional in the first place. There are certain things that are better left to those who know more than you do, and in this case, it was the plumbing in the house. My dad would have been the first person to call someone in to make repairs, as he knew what he was and wasn’t capable of doing!

Which leads me to you guys – what do you pay for and consider worth it? What do you do yourself in order to save money? I mow my own lawn, wash my own car, clean my own house, and do my own minor repairs around the house. But if I needed a new roof or a tile job in a bathroom, I think I would probably pay someone who could do it better than I could (and do it right the first time, too). What about you?

homepage photo by RBerteig

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Comments (17)

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  1. I was prepared to pay to move a couch I’d purchased from the warehouse to home. My fiancée insisted it would fit in her mom’s van so we moved it ourselves.

    Like you though, moving is worth paying movers if you’ve got a decent amount of stuff. I’ll also always pay a mechanic to change my oil and rotate tires.

  2. Miranda says:

    There are definite things that I am willing to pay for. When we did our fence, we paid professionals to put in the posts (we did the rest), and we had someone put in the sprinkler system and box. After figuring how much time it would take (and the worth of our time), not to mention the fact that these guys knew how to accomplish the task more efficiently, it was worth it to us.

  3. Annie Jones says:

    There is very little we won’t try to do ourselves. We pay a mechanic for major auto repairs and maintenance, but my husband takes car of the minor stuff himself. There are some electrical issues in our home that MAY have to be contracted out, but again, my husband will do it himself if he can. Other than “professionals” (doctors, dentists, attorneys) I can’t think of anything else we wouldn’t try to do ourselves first. I can’t imagine paying someone to move my things from one house to another. We did recently hire an exterminator to get rid of ants that we didn’t seem to be able to control ourselves. It was a waste of money, as their treatments (multiple) didn’t work and we are back to trying to control them ourselves.

  4. Abby says:

    This is one of my husband’s mantras: I don’t do electric.

    I’m always tempted to insist that we could install that ceiling fan ourselves, but he stands firm – and really, he’s probably right. We’ve painted, spackled, resurfaced, stripped and demo’d but wiring? That’s for the professionals.

  5. Sam says:

    I fix everything I can – I tend to find good appliance repair directions at fixitnow.com and have found a reasonably priced appliance parts place on the other side of town.

    I do all car repairs that don’t require a lift or special tools – I know a mechanic who is willing to bail me out (for my coffee cake) if I do get in over my head. So that takes the pressure off.

    I contract out dry wall mudding (I can’t get it even).
    I also contract out my clothing alterations – sewing machines hate me 🙁
    Unless I’m ill, I do the rest. It’s kinda fun.
    I have phone numbers if I am sick & my 9 year old can’t do it. Like I have my driveway snow blowed once this last winter.

  6. J&B says:

    1) Taxes: I’d much rather pay a professional to do oour taxes as they are more knowledgeable about the news rules, deductions, etc. Worth every bit of $150.
    2) Tiles and anything thing Kitchen or Bathroom related (esp. when you only have one full bath): They have the right tools and once again up on the latest material, gadgets, etc.
    3) Moving, Major car repairs and house reports.

  7. Enrique S says:

    I try to do as much as I can by myself, as I’ve had mixed results with contractors. I mow the lawn, I’ve built several decks, done some electrical work, finished a basement, laid carpet, re-tiled a bathroom, shingled a roof, installed a stockade fence, changed the oil on my car, replaced the brakes, and I could go on. I’m a beancounter by day, and a jack-of-all-trades on the weekends.

  8. mapgirl says:

    Movers – they are bonded and insured. My friends are not. Too many guy friends have thrown out their backs helping friends move. Not worth the pizza and beer there.

    Drywall – I agree with Sam. Mudding is best left to professionals.

    Tailors – If I don’t have the time, it makes all the difference to send my pants in to be shortened.

  9. JoeTaxpayer says:

    I am the opposite of Abby’s husband.

    I had my 6 yr old daughter change a broken dimmer. I touched nothing, just pointed, and told her what to do. Of course the first step was to flip the breaker.

    I don’t mow the lawn, but I did build the pantry, a 6′ x 10′ room full of shelves and cabinets. Saved over $10K and bought a ‘Norm’ level table saw. I pick and choose to do what I enjoy, and sub out what I don’t.

  10. Matt SF says:

    I pay for jobs when I stare at a project for more than 10 minutes and still have a puzzled Homer Simpson look.

    Norm and the ‘This Old House’ crew make it look easy, but so does Tiger Woods when he tees it up. So if a weekend hacker like me spends a third of his time in the sand and another third in the rough, you can bet I’m calling a pro when I’m over my head.

    Taxes, pruning tall trees, plumbing, or anything else that costs me cash — or body parts — are always outsourced.

  11. Gene says:

    It’s Gene at http://www.kitchentablenomics.com here. I’ve been exploring both choices recently — learning a new skill, drywall, to deal with consequences of a rented one, some quirky things a friend of a friend did when he gave us a ‘deal’ on some bathroom remodeling. I posted some details last month at http://kitchentablenomics.blogspot.com/2009/05/sometimes-you-need-to-spend-money-to.html if you are interested.

    Otherwise, I do as much of this myself as possible, because the lawn, garden and outside work is good physical exercise too. It’s cheaper than a gym membership, which is a consideration for down-sized career changers like myself.

    Right now, I’m weighing house painting. Our trim needs it. I know I can do it. But 63-year-old ex desk jockeys shouldn’t go up 22-foot extension ladders on a whim.

  12. Melissa says:

    We purchased a house that needed quite a bit of renovating/TLC…we have done most of the work (laying hardwoods, drywall, some minimal electric work, etc) but we contracted out the exterior painting (the house is 3 stories in places), tile work and gutting/rebuilding the bathrooms. DH was really reluctant to contract the work out but now agrees it was SO worth it in the end as it saved time, stress and (likely) injuries! We laugh and say we’d still be demo-ing the bathrooms given the amount of time it took professionals…and we both work FT.

    On a regular basis, we “outsource” tailoring, car maintenence and my (guilty pleasure) monthly mani/pedi…I think that’s it. We do our own taxes, care for our own yard, etc.

  13. AnnJo says:

    There are so many good sites online for repair instructions and parts, I’ve become much braver in recent years. Lately, I
    – removed and cleaned out the clogged trap under a bathroom sink,
    – fixed a constantly running toilet,
    – cleaned out the overflow valve from the dishwasher (23 years living in this house, and I had never asked myself what that gizmo was on my sink, but when the new dishwasher leaked all over the floor and before calling the dealer, I did my research and fixed the problem in 10 minutes),
    – put in new wall sconces in the bathroom,
    – figured out why my washer was leaving white deposits on my clothes and fixed it,
    – figured out why my Foodsaver was smoking and fixed it,
    – ordered and installed a new bracket for a broken door-shelf in my refrigerator,
    – figured out why my cordless screwdriver wouldn’t work even with a fully charged battery (I know this makes me sound like an idiot, but I had no idea that rechargeable batteries eventually stopped taking a charge. Hey, no one’s born knowing this stuff, right?)

    The one project I wish I had decided to contract out is stripping the wallpaper in my bathroom. It seemed so easy at the beginning, but it’s turned out to be a major pain.

  14. Matt Jabs says:

    I’m pretty confident in my ability to most things… as long as I have the proper tools for the job! That said, I always prefer to weigh my opportunity costs regarding any job.

    I have a calculation I do in my head that would appear similar to this I suppose:

    x = difficulty for me
    y = my time spent
    z = cost for professional to do it

    If x+y>z then I will gladly pay the professional.

    If x+y<z then I will usually do it myself.

  15. Slinky says:

    Hemming jeans because my sewing machine can’t handle the layers of denim.
    Moving pianos because I’ve seen so much damage come from people who don’t know what they’re doing.

  16. Robin Poulin says:

    I agree with your equation Matt (Jabs that is). I try to do it myself or find a friend with the skill and return the favor if I can with my skill set. Often I only have my gratitude to offer and the chance for them to feel good for doing something nice for a friend. I’m also willing to give and not expect anything back.
    We definitely pay for our taxes to be done. We tried a couple of years on our own when first married. Then we had a tax accountant friend do our taxes (and did back years we had done). They found another $5000 for us so it became very worth it to spend the $100. She’s amazed us every year. When somebody’s good at their job it’s a work of art and a pleasure to watch their passion/ability.

  17. David says:

    I mow my own lawn, do my plumbing and help my wife raise our kids. She cleans our house, cooks our food, washes our clothes and landscapes our yard.

    Buying things in the marketplace that you can do fairly easily yourself is the guaranteed road to always feeling “poor”.

    Matt is sort of right, but his equation ignores the fact you need something that can be monetized “difficulty” is really the “aggravation cost” of the activity which I would add to the “time cost”.

    Another great way to keep money in your family?

    Buy your wife a pair of 6 inch stripper heels and tip generously.