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When Frugal Is the Worst Thing We Can Be // On Time Vs. Money

Right now we have three major home projects that need dealing with: a leaky shower valve, a metal roof in need of a tune-up, and exterior lights that require new electrical boxes to be hung correctly. What this means in real terms: 1. Our shower has been leaking for weeks, though we’ve been using buckets to collect that water, which we in turn use to flush the toilet and to fill our water filter. (We hate waste!) 2. When it rains, we’re getting small leaks in the house from the roof. And 3. we have no exterior lighting, but do have some fun exposed wires. Um, yeah, we live like grown-ups.

We want to fix these issues, but we haven’t been able to get to them. And we’ve been unable to bring ourselves to just call a plumber, a roofer and an electrician, because we know that we should be able to tackle these projects ourselves. The problem is not willingness, it’s time.

But despite this perfectly reasonable explanation for not being able to fix these things, we feel stuck. We’ve so ingrained in ourselves the frugal DIY mindset, that it feels like any outsourcing is a failure.

Frugality tells us we should fix this stuff ourselves. Common sense says we should just call in the pros and write some checks. If frugality is so logical, how can frugality and common sense be in opposition? Today we’re taking on the question!

OurNextLife.com // When Frugal Is the Worst Thing We Can Be -- On Time Vs. Money // The Frugality Mindset Trap, When Common Sense Should Win Out // Early Retirement, Financial Independence, Simplicity

Time Vs. Money

In the future, when we are retired, we’ll have more time than money. But right now, we have more money than time.

Time Vs. Money -- Prioritizing Decisions According to Which We Have More Of // OurNextLife.com

There are for sure people in the world who have lots of money and lots of time, but they are the rarity. For most of us, we have more of one or the other (though undoubtedly most of us believe we have an insufficient supply of both). We can trade our time for more money, or we can sacrifice the money in the interest of time. Trade-offs.

When we have more time on our hands, it will be easier to get home projects done, even if they’re intimidating projects that require shutting off the water to the house (the leaky shower) or roping up to climb onto the steep roof.

The Frugality Trap

The DIY mindset is fantastic, and something we’re huge proponents of. The worst thing we can become as humans is helpless, and knowing that you can handle your own business is hugely empowering. Self-reliance ftw.


Sometimes that same mindset can be a trap. Feeling like we must make the most frugal, self-reliant choice puts this pressure on us not to just hire out the work and be done with it. Sure, it would be great if we had time to do everything ourselves, but we don’t, and yet not doing this stuff makes us feel like we’ve failed, like we haven’t lived up to the frugal standard. Like we’re possibly even frauds.

Frugality makes a big assumption: that we have time to do everything ourselves.

Almost none of us, at least those of us who are still working, have time to do everything. (And judging by the comments that retirees often share, you guys don’t have time to do everything either!)

We have to make choices about what to insource and what to oursource. It’s easy to buy bread at the supermarket for cheap, so purchasing bread instead of making it doesn’t even feel like oursourcing. But hiring a plumber sure does, even though in reality it’s not different, it’s just that a loaf of bread is a lot cheaper than an hour of a plumber’s time. But we place this judgment on the bigger ticket outsourcing than we do on the small scale stuff, even though most people will spend a lot more in a lifetime on bread than on plumbers.

The Reality of the Choice: Frugal Vs. Common Sense

So far we haven’t made any calls, so by default we’re still in the DIY camp for the shower, roof and lights. But in reality what “DIY” means in this case is “DIMS” (“Do It Maybe Sometime”), which effectively translates to: stuff ain’t happening. Taking a dogmatic approach to frugality is getting us nowhere.

Which is better? Not doing something because we lack the time, or paying someone else but then having it done?

Frugality says: Find the time.

Common sense says: Pay someone and move on.

Right now, frugality and common sense stand in opposition from one another, which is not a fun place to be. If frugality really is an overarching principle for life, it should not come with glaring inconsistencies or unrealistically high expectations. It reminds me of economic models that believe consumers make perfect choices, because those models assume we all have perfect information.

There is no perfect. No one knows everything, and no one has time to do everything.

Instead of Frugal, Practical

As fun as it’s been to schlep buckets of water and pretend like our bathroom exists in the pioneer era, we can’t do this forever. We need our shower to stop leaking, just as we need to resolve our roof issue to avoid causing serious problems in our house. (Thank goodness we live in a super dry climate, so mold isn’t a real concern!) This stuff needs to get done.

And that means we need to change our mindset.

We need to stop making the perfect the enemy of the good, and just weigh things according to the situation. So how’s this:

New Rule: When Frugal does not equal Common Sense, Go with Practical // OurNextLife.com

We will still do as many things as we can ourselves, in part to save money, and in part because we love feeling like we can manage our own things.

But we’re not going to hold ourselves to an impossible standard. We’re not going to beat ourselves up if we have to outsource work in our home. And we’re not going to suffer with unresolved maintenance issues until we can magically find the time to fix them ourselves.

What Do You Think?

Where do you draw the line between frugality and common sense? Have you had any decisions like this come up recently, and if so, what did you ultimately do? Any great definitions of frugality out there that help you navigate this when you get extra short on time? Let’s continue this in the comments!

UPDATE: We spent $230 on a plumber and $160 on an electrician, and now have a leak-free shower and no more dangling wires on the outside of our house! Just waiting for a roofer to call us back…

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83 replies »

  1. Nice post, and you are right, sometimes you have to take a call between saving some coins or saving yourself some hardship. The practical option often lowers your stress levels and increases your happiness, it might have cost more but, what value does lower stress and happiness add?
    It reminds me of a good friend of mine who will do ANYTHING to save some money (I’m talking 30 hours bus journeys to save £40 on travelling the same trip in 5 hours) I always ask him if his time is really worth that little to him.
    All the best. R.

    • Totally with you — you can’t put a price on lower stress and happiness, but they should definitely be factored in to the decision. And we’ve officially reached that point where the stress of not completing these projects is high. Time to pony up the funds. :-) And wow, that seems extreme what your friend will do to save a little money! He should read Your Money or Your Life and think about what his time is worth!

  2. I think this falls under the heading ‘this is how life is right now’. As we continue to get up and go to work every day to earn our FI money, we have already chosen to give up the majority of our day to something other than DIY projects at home. Mr. PIE and I have come across this problem, with projects large and small that don’t get done if we don’t outsource. Yes, it’s not the most frugal choice, but we’re also safe in the knowledge that it won’t always be like this. Once we’re done with the daily grind we can happily apply ourselves frugally to any and (almost) all projects

    • Well said — this IS how life is right now, but we we plan for that to change in the near future! Sort of like how we buy some grocery items now that we won’t buy in the future because we plan to make almost everything from scratch — being practical in those instances is easy, so we should let it be an easy choice on home maintenance stuff, too. :-)

  3. I often balance how much stress trying to be frugal is adding on me when balancing doing something myself vs paying someone to do the task. If the stress of the task not being done due to time is putting a strain on myself or my marriage, then that is the point where we decide to hire out for the service. Granted, we need to take a lesson in frugality from all of our favorite bloggers, but even so…I always think there will be an aspect of balancing the stress.

    • I think that’s a great measure, and we’ve definitely hit that point. I’m just OVER the bucket in the shower! :-) So time to call the pros. As you said, saving money is great, but it should never come at all costs!

    • That’s great that you can make that distinction so clearly! I think we started with the illusion that we’d find the time, but now weeks have passed, and we still haven’t — so it’s time to make the calls!

  4. Ah yes, the push and pull of ever do-it-yourself frugal person! The moment I had to finally give in was when I had a very large tiling job ahead of me and no time to do it. I had done several tile jobs before, so certainly I wouldn’t pay someone else to do what I could do. My wife was pretty persistent that I needed to outsource so to prove her wrong I got some quotes. I was busted when I contacted a neighbor (also very frugal and loves do-it-yourself projects) who actually had a guy he used for tile. As it turned out the guy was very reasonably priced (much lower than I expected), very reliable, and did great work. Needless to say I sold my wet saw and he did all the remaining tile work at our home we remodeled. And it didn’t derail our saving and early retirement goals!

    • How great that you found a well-priced tile guy! Can you send him our way??? :-) We have done lots of tiling, too, though it’s definitely not our favorite thing. But hiring the pros is usually so expensive, and often leads to crappy results even with that high price.

      • This hits the nail on the head for me. Like you, we default it DIY. Which means, we have a constant list of “sh..stuff that needs doing.”
        If we could find quality contractors at a reasonable cost, I’d have no issue outsourcing a good number of these and crossing them off the list. Unfortunately, in three years of living north of Atlanta, we’ve managed to find *one* contractor that both does A+ work and does not try to up-size his boat with every job.
        That one contractor is an electrician and every job I’ve called him for (after that first one…) was something I could have done myself. But, for a reasonable cost, I actually feel good about supporting this guy and keeping him in business (I’ve given referrals for him as well – he’s since hired two more to his team).
        You simply can’t call in the “pros” for every two hour job if it is going to cost you $500-$1000 each time.
        Great post – thanks for the food-for-thought!

      • After five years in our house, we just found the first tradesman we’d bring back, a plumber. We’ve had all the same challenges you’ve had, with the added fun that in mountain towns, there’s such a contractor shortage that half the time people don’t even call you back. Fun. :-) But how awesome that you found an electrician you really like and trust, and you’ve helped him build up his business! The thing that won us over with our plumber, besides him correcting past mistakes and explaining everything to us was when he said, “Hey guys, want to watch me do this so next time you can do it yourselves?” It was pretty much love after that. ;-)

  5. I love that you’ve chosen the term practical to encompass your philosophy here. I think there is a huge difference between DIY & DIMS (love that too!) and when you just can’t get around to something, it’s time to call in the pros. We’d be labeled as “frugal” by most, but frugality makes a pretty poor controlling life principle if you ask me. We cannot let “spending less money” be the purpose of our lives. Thanks for taking on this topic–I think it can get confusing in the midst of all the “spend less” advice out there.

    • I agree with you! Frugality is not a good controlling life principle. We are generally pragmatic, and believe frugality has its limits, but we’ve definitely gotten stuck on these maintenance issues! We just have to let that go, and be practical!

  6. We have noticed that the more frugal we become the more we treasure our time. Therefore, we never shy away from leaving the big stuff to the pros. We also believe that a job done right saves on both time and money which is very important to us in long run.
    We currently have several projects that we need to accomplish around the house at the moment with the biggest one being a much needed kitchen remodel. We more than likely will tackle some of this ourselves, but we will be giving in and letting the pros handle the rest. :) – Mrs. FE

    • That’s so interesting! You might be the first self-identified frugal people in history to not feel the DIY pressure. :-) Good for you! I hope you’ll tackle some of the kitchen remodel yourselves — not because of the money you save (which could be massive), but because of how awesome it feels to know YOU did that. It makes the revitalized space so much more special!

  7. Since we recently bought a house, we have also tried to do everything ourselves. Time has been an issue, but if I’m being honest, it also takes time because it’s a chore more than anything else.
    So I came up with a rule : when we want to fix something, we put this on a google sheet and if we can’t fix it ourselves for a month of ‘trying’, we then call someone to do it. That automatically helps us outsource what we could not or had no interest in doing!

    • The chore factor does for sure add to it! But it’s not just actually doing the task, it’s also researching it, buying everything we need, etc. — that all adds to the time, too. I love your idea of the month-long period for DIY, and calling someone if it doesn’t happen in that timeframe!

  8. I totally agree with the common sense trumping the frugal mindset most of the time. If, say, my water heater went out I could certainly spend the time to research and fix. However, not only would that be dangerous for me, but very time consuming and quite possibly frustrating. I would certainly pay someone to come and fix for me.

    The Green Swan

    • Water heater is a great example of a no-brainer! We replaced ours a couple of years ago, and didn’t hesitate to call in the pros. Funny how some problems seem so obvious, while others we feel like we should do ourselves — in truth they’re all essentially the same and it’s a question of weighing the time vs. the cost.

  9. DIMS. Love it! I agree that our time is limited. I sometime will outsource the chore, however I have started setting yearly goals for getting these tasks done and with split them up with DH. I don’t have to do everything and neither does he. Generally we can find a block of time to do it.

    • That seems like a healthy approach. :-) We really should set a time limit on these tasks, and if we haven’t gotten to them by X date, then we hire someone. We’ve got to change our mindset about this stuff, at least temporarily until we have more time. :-)

  10. It’s a battle, especially as a homeowner. I am not looking forward to this.

    Is there a middle ground? I don’t know how to fix any of those. I’m a natural over-researcher, which is probably why I wouldn’t take action… yet. It would be nice to use the fixes as a learning experience. If this were me, I’d call my uncle who could fix the shower and the light and have him explain what he’s doing. I’d pay him and be more comfortable handling the fix myself in the future.

    • Yeah, renting is underrated. :-) The good thing is that there are so many great resources these days — we use ThisOldHouse.com all the time, and sometimes YouTube as well — that it’s pretty easy to learn how to fix literally anything. And we renovated our last place mostly ourselves, so we’ve already taken on electrical and plumbing tasks, which demystified the whole thing for us. Pretty awesome, though, that you have an uncle you can call! And it would be easier to ask him to teach you than to have some trade person teach you!

  11. A few thoughts – Get the roof fixed ASAP, whether it’s you or a person for hire, that can cause some WAY more expensive issues down the road. I’ve always found plumbing takes about 4 times longer than i anticipate, almost all of which is just getting the last interminable drip to stop dripping. The actual jobs take minimal time, but getting it done correctly is why it is a trade. :) In general, I just try to avoid electrical projects, unless it’s like ahnging a ceiling fan or something fairly easy like that.

    I like Nicks thought (Miney Mine) of the putting it on a sheet and if you don’t have it done in a month call someone. :) That’s frigging genius!!

    Like Mr. Pie noted, this is how life is now, not how it will always be. That’s okay – for now. :)

    If you don’t ahve the time, but have the knowledge, it doesn’t matter, because the problem doesn’t sound like it’s getting fixed. :) So, just get it fixed whether you decide to buckle down and do it yourself or just call someone.

    • I was thinking of you during this whole post, going, “I know exactly what Mr. SSC will say. This is just like hiring a housekeeper! Stop being such a ninny about it!” ;-) I didn’t say this in the post, but I think I’m a tiny bit scared that the shower issue (which, btw, we know isn’t dripping into the wall) will require removing some tile and force a whole bathroom renovation — we definitely do not have the mental energy for that right now! But of course you’re right — we for sure need to just deal with this stuff. Another fun fact of living in a resorty town is that contractors often don’t even call you back. They’re too busy living the dream to worry about dumb things like earning money. So that’s fun, too. :-)

  12. What a perfectly timed post! Mr. AR and I are dealing with this issue right now. To your point, we have a contractor coming over this very morning to finally, once and for all (I hope) deal with a water intrusion issue on our lower level. This has been a problem since before we purchased our home (we were aware of it from disclosures and inspections and our own observations), and we’ve done everything we can think of, and everything a landscape contractor and a concrete contractor suggested, trying to remedy the situation without spending thousands of dollars. We’ve moved soil away from the house and added a cement block wall, changed the drainage system, torn out and replaced the plants in a planter box at the front of the house that appears to be the source of the problem, and removed and disposed of the draperies and carpet from the room in order to allow everything to dry out. The problem is much better (we thought we were done), but we recently discovered discolored drywall on the far end of the room, and after cutting out the area we again have a damp lower wall and sill plate on one side of the room. While the problem is much improved, it is still a problem, and it’s one that could easily lead to mold, mildew and even more extensive damage and repairs than what we’re currently facing. It took us a few minutes to absorb the bad news (again), that the room is still not ready for drywall, tape and texture so we can paint and install carpet and baseboards and finally use the space (it’s a great room, perfect for a theater room with plenty of space for video games, a pool table and more), but after recovering from the reality that all we’ve done isn’t enough yet again,we both agreed it’s time to spend whatever it takes to get the problem fixed once and for all. Do we have to do that? I could make an argument for leaving the room as is. We rarely go downstairs and the house has a living room and a family room aside from this room, so we don’t necessarily need it at all. We could wait another year or two, leave the room as is, and maybe pay off the car first (my initial knee jerk reaction was to do just that). But the reality is the water intrusion has been going on for longer than we’ve owned the house, water is very damaging to a wood structure over time, and with home ownership comes responsibility to honor and protect not only our investment, but this lovely structure we reside in. I don’t feel like a fraud for not being frugal on this one. It’s far more work than we can undertake, and will probably end up requiring several tradespeople and a lot of money and time. But this home is our single largest, non-cash asset, it’s where we hope to live out the rest of our lives, and neither the house nor Mr. AR and I are getting any younger. Would I rather spend the money on a month long European cruise, or all new deckingand railing, or extravagant gifting to the kids and grandkids, or paying off the car? Of course I would, and I’m super bummed none of that is going to happen. But for today, this old house we love needs some professional attention, and that’s what money is ultimately for, to ease burdens. And this water intrusion issue has become just that, a burden. It’s time to take the mature adult approach to the problem and resolve it. I’m ready to write the big check and free up some space in my brain to think about other things. This lovely home deserves the investment, and common sense and practicality call for professional intervention sooner rather than later.

    • Kudos to you for biting the bullet and ensuring that your house is in good working order for the long term. I can imagine how tough a decision that has been, but it sounds like you’ve handled it remarkably well considering how much expense you’re looking at. Somehow I think an obvious big issue like that would be more of a no-brainer for us — obviously we don’t have the heavy equipment or know-how to tackle a major job like that. Whereas a shower needing a new cartridge seems like it should be easy to tackle on our own. And sometimes it’s just a matter of perspective, as you said, making sure you take care of the house that you want to provide shelter for you for many years to come! I hope this latest round of repairs isn’t too stressful!

  13. Thanks for this post; I think it is something we all grapple with occasionally. I’m with Mr SCC, get someone to fix the roof done very soon, the shower too – who knows what damage that is doing. The lights will wait until you have the time – so long as you can make those dangling wires safe.
    We recently had a problem where we dealt with this with a bit out outsourcing and a bit of DIY. Our oven stopped working and we couldn’t figure what the problem was. After some weeks of trying to figure it out on the evenings we were at home we eventually called an electrician who identified what the problem was for just £40 (about $58) and then we were able to buy the new part and fix it ourselves for a further £10. This combo meant that the job didn’t go in to the DIMS pile and also didn’t cost too much money.

    • Fortunately the dripping shower is just a matter of water coming out of the shower head — we feel quite sure no water is going into the wall! But it’s still a great point. And I love your story about the oven, and finding a way to get the electrician to come out without it costing all that much. The policy in the U.S. always seems to be that you pay at least a full hour ($100-150 minimum) even if it takes 5 minutes to fix. But we just need to bite the bullet and do it!

  14. I was just thinking this exact same thing, although I thinking about it more in context of my time and valuing it correctly. For instance, (and this will be a post soon so happy preview!), I had the choice to fly a cheaper direct flight from an airport 2 hours away. I can drive there and save some money, or I can fly from my more expensive local airport and save the time. This time, I decided to fly the local airport and cough up the extra money because my time is more valuable than spending 4 extra hours in the car.

    • It’s so funny how we all have our own lenses for this stuff — I would say, “Yes! No brainer! Fly locally!” but then I’m sitting here with a dripping shower. :-)

  15. I do this all the time, especially when we lived in our older house. My scale was always – can this problem cause further damage, if yes, suck it up and call someone. Water is a big deal in MN with mold and freeze/thaw – most of those projects got outsourced.

    Anything else, workarounds until I could get to it!

  16. Deciding what to outsource is not always an easy task.

    Especially with a toddler in the family, a lot of tasks around the house are currently being pushed back, or skipped for the moment…

    Before we were frugal, but not on a FIRE path. I was really happy to outsource a twice monthly cleaning of our house. But since last year we decided to optimize our finances, it is something that was judged to be to expensive on the long run by us. Our house is a bit messier now (once again, a toddler change a lot of things), but we intend to be back to a more normal state in the coming years.

    But for the rest, I prefer having longer grass than hiring someone, and shovelling snow is something I kind of like doing, a good exercices! (And I’m in Canada, so it can be a daily activity!). I would not hesitate to call a plumber for important work, since those things can deteriorate quite fast!

    As a side note, I make my own bread with a bread machine, and I save hundreds of dollars a year on bread and pizza dough alone, far more than we spend on plumbers ! So, for me, this is not something I would want to outsource!

    • I’m sure your bread is so much more delicious, too, since it’s fresh and free of preservatives. Mmm.

      For sure having a child changes everything! We don’t have that excuse. :-) But I think your point is still a good one that it’s hard to decide what to outsource in any circumstances, and we have to make a call about what’s worth it to us and what’s not. I’ve now reached the point where not doing these repairs is causing stress, which I think is the tipping point. Time to pay people to make the problems go away! :-)

  17. I’m all for frugality, but I agree with your sentiment about being practical. Being a homeowner who isn’t handy in the least, I have a list of people/companies that I outsource to on a regular basis.

    As long as you are meeting your financial goals, you shouldn’t feel bad about spending money to outsource. That’s one of the benefits of money — having the option to pay someone else if you need/want to. Don’t feel defeated by doing so!

    • Thanks for the pep talk. I need that. :-) Part of it is that we ARE excited to handle all of this ourselves in the future. But, we’re not at the future yet, and the lack of time now makes a difference. Time to make the call to the pros! ;-)

  18. I often feel like I should be more frugal and DIY but I know my skillset. I am just not handy. Sure, YouTube has made it easier and sometimes I can figure things out but most likely I’m try, fail, get frustrated, waste a lot of time and still end up having to pay a pro. Sometimes I think it just makes sense to have a pro doing something you can’t do or which will take you too much time. Nothing wrong with that.

    • I’m a big fan of “know thyself,” but I also believe that most of the “not handy” belief is just mindset. Maybe one day you can take on some projects that will help you build up your DIY confidence. :-) But in the meantime, no shame in hiring that stuff out! :-)

  19. I think about this all the time. Spending any of my meager salary hurts me soul, but there just isn’t always the time or ability to DIY things myself. Someone broke my passenger seat car window out of the blue a few weeks ago- can I fix that myself? No. It was a random and frustrating outsourcing expense, but a necessary one.
    Money is a tool, and sometimes the best use of that tool is spending it.

    • I think it’s awesome that you have this point of view, Kara, given that your funds are in shorter supply than ours. I think this is another privilege moment — it’s definitely NOT a financial hardship for us to pay people to take care of this stuff, so our dithering about it is truly a first world problem. Okay, sold. I’ll call the plumber. :-)

  20. This sounds like leaving frugal behind and talking to cheap?!?
    When something in the house is broken that can do serious other damage, a fix is needed urgent. Even when it costs money. We do not hesitate to call the expert to come and fix broken things that are essential to the well being of our house.
    For DIY, I know I have not the skills, not the time to learn and not the tools. By postponing it, I might make it worse.
    Plumbing, electricity works,… we outsource!

    It is like a broken leg… would you fix that yourself?

    (I just read above you will call the plumber… way to go!)

    • Geez, you’re right! It does sound cheap, not frugal. Okay, that was all I needed to hear — I’m definitely going to call the pros now. I never want us to be cheap! In our case, we definitely could do all of these things ourselves, though none are straightforward fixes (or we would have done them already!) — I think that’s why it’s so tough to accept that we should just pay other people to fix the problems. Thanks for the encouragement!

  21. Haha we have a DIMS house ourselves :)

    It can be very hard to draw the line between smart frugality and dumb frugality, since not making the most frugal choice often feels like failing.

    Frugality however is not an end in itself, it should be serving you rather than the other way round. If you need to outsource these things and you’re happy to live with the results of making that less frugal choice, then it’s not failing at all.

    • So well put: the line between smart frugality and dumb frugality CAN be hard to find! :-) And thanks for the pep talk — we’ll call the pros and not feel like failures!

  22. Definitely outsource, especially the electrical, as my mum would say ‘safety first’! When we renovated our house we outsourced most things including painting which we could have done ourselves. My husband put together a lot of IKEA wardrobes and we both spent a lot of time fixing up the garden. I think until you are FIRE you have more time than money get those things fixed ;)

    • Thanks for the encouragement! Your comment gave me Ikea flashbacks — so happy we haven’t assembled one of those things in a while! :-) Certain things seem like such no-brainers to outsource, like almost anything car-related, or if we had foundation issues with our house, for example. But these things are tougher because we really could handle them all ourselves. But, as you said, it comes down to time and money, not whether we can handle it or not! :-)

  23. For my wife and I, we’d rather things be done right than to be done cheap. Neither of us are particularly handy to be perfectly honest. We can do a lot of work ourselves – like fixtures, door hinges, light plumbing work, but when it comes to things like roofing or changing out the floors in something like our RV, we generally don’t tackle that ourselves. We probably could if we absolutely needed to, but we account for the headaches and stress involved in that whole process as a part of exactly how much it is worth to us.

    The truth is neither of us really enjoy renovations. We do the things that we do because we feel like hiring it out is flat too expensive, certainly not because we actually enjoy doing the work. And so, if we don’t have the time or know-how to complete a project – and the project needs to be done, then we’ll pay a licensed contractor to have it done. We chalk that up to life happening.

    • I think we started out with mindsets like you guys have, but then we’ve discovered over the years that most “pros” cut corners too, often egregiously. When we renovated our first place, we feel like half our effort was just undoing dumb things other people had done incorrectly. So that definitely soured us on contractors and skilled trades! And it’s certainly part of what’s going on with us at this moment — we don’t want someone to come do this work and take our money, but actually do a half-assed job. We may not be pros ourselves, but we can do the research, and we can sleep at night knowing that we did it right. But, that’s all academic, because we haven’t been able to find the time to do this stuff! So now we just have to be practical and accept that it’s time to call people, even if that’s not the perfect solution!

  24. I’m glad you brought practicality into the mix. I’ve pretty much always had myself pegged in the practical camp. Like frugality, everyone has their own definitely of practicality, but my willingness to DIY is similar to that of Steve above, and I’m okay with that. I once dated a handywoman though, so that was convenient.

    • I bet it’s easy to get spoiled quickly dating a handywoman! I would call us both medium handy — there’s plenty we can do, but plenty we will call in the pros for. I think that’s the tough part with the particular problems we have with the house right now — we feel like they’re all within our skill set, but that doesn’t mean we’ve been able to make the time. So, time to call the pros!

    • It IS hard! And it’s especially hard when the things we should be able to do on our own in a perfect world. But, alas, it’s not a perfect world. ;-)

  25. Great discussion topic. I have so few DIY-type skills today that I usually end up outsourcing most of these types of tasks. I would be a completely contractor-dependent homeowner if not for my helpful parents, who are always willing to roll up with their knowhow and a car full of tools.

    The most frustrating ones to me, though, are car-related. I’ve had the pleasure of owning two old vehicles, and it seems like every month there’s a new noise, rattle, or problem. Beyond checking the fuel and oil level and Googling around for what might be wrong, I’m totally helpless — and I hate paying a hundred bucks just for someone to diagnose the issue and then getting charged 3x the retail price for whatever part needed replacement.

    I hope to learn some of these skills in the future (especially with more time on my hands), but even with all the time and motivation in the world, there’s the issue of quality of work — which will almost always be better with a professional. That’s one of the reasons I’m so hesitant to try anything myself. I once took apart a laptop to clean out some dust, and when I put it back together, I had about 10 extra screws left. Whoops!

    • Thanks, Matt! I bet you’ll pick up more DIY skills along the way — 90% of the battle is just the confidence piece, and trusting that you can handle it yourself (which you usually can). And the car stuff — we HOPE to learn more car repair skills once we’re retired, for the same reasons you said — we hate paying a bunch of money for dumb stuff, and there’s always that nagging fear that some mechanic is unethical (I’m sure that’s the exception, but the idea is kind of a thing). Computers, though — different subject! I leave those to the pros. :-)

  26. I love the idea of focusing on practicality. Right now I have less time than money, and am more okay with paying for help than I would be if I had more free time. However, I did convince my roommates to pay me to mow our lawn since I charge less than the man they wanted to pay. I also get paid to work out as a result. Feels good.

    • That’s a pretty sweet gig you worked out — roommates paying you! :-) Totally agree with you about practicality, and weighing your available time vs. money. Right now we’re in the same boat as you, but hope to have more time in the very near future. :-)

  27. I didn’t have time to read all the comments, but I think you have the formula down correctly. You can do things frugally and on your own, but if it means that you’re learning as you go and making expensive mistakes, it’s much better to just pay someone to do it. I do not mind paying for some conveniences while getting my time or peace of mind back because I allowed a professional to do it instead.

    You also have the power to negotiate everything. There is always a leverage with companies that you may not be aware of – say a lawn care service – if I commit to 5 treatments, can that save me on the overall price? It’s possible….

    • So with you on negotiating! We’ve recently even realized we can negotiate at places like the dentist. Such a good thing to learn!

      We’re definitely going to hire these jobs out even though we know we could do the work ourselves (we’re pretty handy — just short on time!). Thanks for weighing in!

  28. Great post, and really well said. I like the bread example a lot, I hadn’t even considered that before. I think it’s important to pick your battles. Perfection isn’t the goal, so outsourcing an occasional task to save time is perfectly reasonable. Outsourcing just needs to not become the default, or a habit.

    Another case of this is to pick the areas you’re more skilled at. For example, if the engine in my car dies, I’m much better off finding a friend or mechanic to fix it instead of trying myself. I have no knowledge of cars. Could I learn? Sure, but it would take many hours and would not be enjoyable at all for me. However, in my opinion it’d be a much better use of my time to instead learn more about finances or learn an additional skill for my career. Those feel like better and more enjoyable uses of my time, and can still lead to significant financial benefits in the long term.

    To me, it’s better to pay a little bit of money now and have those problems resolved. It’s less mental energy and doesn’t keep getting pushed back. It’s a really interesting discussion though, and there’s plenty of people out there that say that nothing should be outsourced under any circumstances.

    • Thanks, Matt! I love how you put it: outsourcing shouldn’t become the default. I think that’s a great measure — if we start from a place of assuming we can DIY it, and think carefully about what’s required, there’s nothing wrong with then concluding that outsourcing the work is the best option!

  29. I think with DIY, it really depends on your skill level (and/or your ability to learn the skill).

    If we were presented with the problems you have, we would probably call someone. The potential for something to go wrong if we repair it wrongly could damage things, costing way more. (Which is the case with lots of things, such as wills etc It costs way more if you DON’T get the proper help).

    If you expand the DIY scenario to renovating. My wife and I COULD attempt at installing a kitchen, but it would be a terrible kitchen, it would not look properly done, and the installation would probably be done wrong, perhaps the appliances wouldn’t work.

    We might not install it to the correct building codes. If you use someone who DOES know what they’re doing (and is registered, plus gives guarantees) then you know it’s done right, plus they will fix something if it goes wrong. If something goes wrong if you do it, you will need to call them anyway; fixing things generally costs more than putting it in right first time.

    However, after saying all that, we rent, so we avoid all this dilemmas and costs :)


    • Okay, time for a little truth bomb. :-) Many contractors do sloppy work and cut corners, or they don’t follow up if you have a problem and need them to come back. We have renovated quite a few rooms, and have found more shortcuts inside the walls than we would have thought possible. Or when we’ve needed someone to come back and fix something, they are nowhere to be found. Plus, most of the projects that need doing around the house are truly not hard, and there are YouTube videos showing you how to do literally everything. It’s great you’re renters now, so you don’t have to worry about this, but one day I hope you’ll make up your minds to tackle projects yourself. That way you know it’s done right, and it’s empowering to know that you can handle your own home. That said, sometimes you’re just too busy, and then you have to call in the pros. :-)

      • I’m aware of all those faults, and I know it’s impossible to choose a tradesman that’s 100% okay, we’d do our research (plus there are tons of registrations, building things to Australian ‘code’ etc for us to look out for).

        We’d tackle a project if we could manage it, we love (mainly my wife) researching things to see how to do it.

        I do want to become way more handy with time. Building IKEA furniture and gardening is the most our skills have been called upon.


      • Hey, building IKEA furniture is a great place to start! I’m sure you guys will make great decisions about what to insource vs. outsource when the time comes. :-)

  30. I occasionally outsource my laundry, like if it gets to the point where I would literally have to take a sick day from work in order to do the laundry myself.

    I was actually thinking the other day about the “pick three” concept and wondering if DIY/homesteading/cooking should be added to the list. Like, if you do that stuff on a regular basis you may have to give up friends/sleep/family/fitness/work.

    • I completely miss our fluff-n-fold days, so I’m totally sympathetic. Not gonna lie — I would absolutely consider doing it again if that was even an option in our small town! ;-) And I love the idea of adding those three to the list of pick three choices. Because you’re right — those are huge time sucks, too, and if you’re going to stay dedicated to cooking, for example, you’re going to trade off something else.

  31. While I love saving money, I HATE housework enough to outsource a lot of it. We have a gardener (super cheap, does a crappy job, but does enough), hired someone to paint the inside of our house, and hired a guy to put a overhang shade thingee (that’s how much knowledge I know of construction) in our backyard, and put drywall in our unfinished garage. Price? Way too much. Sometimes it’s worth it to just get it done.

    That being said, I have learned to be somewhat handy since purchasing our house in 2012. I have repaired minor leaks, did a crappy job caulking our shower, and finally put up Christmas lights last year. I even repaired our dishwasher when the handle broke.

    So if it’s something I can YouTube and looks like it’ll take 1/2 hour or so to do, I’ll try it out.

    • I get it that not everyone is DIY-inclined, but I think you deserve total props for trying to take on some projects! I bet over time you’ll get more confident. The biggest aha moment for us was realizing that none of the home improvement tasks are rocket science. They are mostly some combo of measuring and driving in screws, with occasionally scary cutting that’s made less scary by measuring multiple times. So keep doing those little projects, and I bet you’ll be doing bigger stuff in no time. :-)

  32. I usually like to look at things from a what is my time worth point of view. Example we just renovated our kitchen and I was debating doing the backsplash myself or hiring someone. Estimates were between $1100 -$1500. I figured I could do it myself in approx 25 hours. My time is worth LESS than $45-60/hr so I chose to do it myself. I’ve probably got about 15 hours in over the last 2 weekends and should be able to knock it out after another 10! Now if I simply don’t have the 25 hours to get it done than there’s not really a choice is there?

    • Haha — well there’s always the choice of doing nothing. ;-) But of course you’re right, and your way of thinking about this is super practical! We have since hired out the plumbing and electrical projects, but can’t seem to find a roofer who will call us back. ;-)

  33. Love it – the balance of money vs time is spot on. Time is finite, and frugal living has a way of generating plenty of to list items, and sometimes we have to admit that we can’t do them all.
    I just need to be careful that my other half doesn’t see this as further support for him keeping our cleaner!

    • Haha — If cleaning is something you truly don’t have time for, then no harm in outsourcing it! We all have to figure out our own priorities and what we can take on. We are somehow in the worst of both worlds on this — no time to clean, but no stomach to hire a cleaner. Result: dirty house! :-)

  34. I like that one of the main things you hit on in this post is “balance”. I think that all of us find ourselves drifting towards the extremes of dealing with money from time: we either don’t want to do it at all or we want to budget every facet of our lives. Both of these things are BAD! Life is all about balance. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. With good advice, solid planning, and persistence, it all works out in the long run.

    • I can definitely relate to the “drifting toward the extremes” part! There was a time when we wouldn’t buy anything without a coupon, but that became SO time-consuming, and we no longer shop that way (and don’t miss it!). We all have to figure out what system works best for us and is sustainable over the long-term, and that most likely means NOT optimizing everything. :-)