Saturday, December 17, 2011

Frugal Retirement - Doing it Myself, More and More

One of the ways I try to save money and increase my income is by doing it myself. Spending my time and effort instead of money is just one way I can keep more cash in my proverbial pocket. Lately, though I've been expanding some of my do it yourself efforts-and not just because of the cash (although that's surely still a primary reason).

As I wrote here, in the time versus money continuum, time is my primary resource. At that time I was making some pretty simple and obvious choices. These included cleaning my own house instead of having a cleaning lady. I also mentioned learning to cook more foods instead of eating out, and a few other easy options. While these were saving me money, they were just the tip of the iceberg.

What I found as I slowly progressed in my life style was that more and more I have been embracing the idea of doing it myself.  Some of this has been out of necessity-my wants have increased and my finances have not.  Truth is though, that money is not not the only reason I embrace doing more things myself.

I don't know about you, but when I do something myself, most of the time I have a huge feeling of accomplishment. Obviously there are exceptions here. I mean, really, I will probably never feel warm and fuzzy about having finished the laundry or vacuumed. On the other hand, most of the time when I have dome something myself, there is a sense of both having completed something and been creative about it. This is true even when I see the yard empty and ten bags of leaves on the side of the road-something that even last year I paid for.  The more the effort, often the larger feeling of accomplishment

When I "do it myself", I'm often learning new skills in the process. I firmly believe that we're never to old to learn.  Someone, somewhere, once suggested learning a new thing every day and a new skill once a month. I'm not sure I fit that standard, but stepping outside the box sure is fun. Occasionally when I talk about homemade gifts or cooking, someone leaves me an email saying "I wish I could do that", or "I wish I knew how to sew".  My answer to that is simple-learn. With the exception of a machine that made basic repairs, I did not own a sewing machine until 2003. I learned how to sew and quilt on a cheap basic machine, simply because I wanted to learn and to be useful. I had never used a cordless drill until I asked my kids for one for Christmas the year before last. In both cases, I learned by trial and error in low cost and or no visible areas until I felt comfortable and then moved on.

When I do something my self, most of the time I have more control over the end result.  I'm not saying this is always true, but doing it myself allows me to stop in the middle and make small changes more easily.  My backyard is a perfect example of this. Because I am doing this project myself, I am making decisions one step at a time. In other words, I have until I have finished tilling and fertilizing the new beds to decide the next step. Yes, I would probably have that control to some extent with a contractor, but it's just not the same.  When it comes to more traditional do it yourself items, this control of the end product becomes more obvious. Items available to purchase are limited in the amount of variety. When something is created, the choices are unlimited. for example, If I go into Pottery Barn, my choices of decorative pillows may be five or six. By spending the same amount, or maybe less on fabric, I can make pillows that mach exactly the colors in my living room.B

I can say absolutely that there are some areas that I would not attempt doing it myself. In some cases this is because of lack of skill or strength, in others it's a time issue. In fact, if there is a downside to doing it myself, it's that time issue that causes the problem. If I hired someone to come in and do the lawn, they might be able do do so in a weekend. They'd till and fertilize, but up edgers, make a walking path, put in a solar fountain and plant low water plants. By doing it myself, as I have time and money to invest, I am lengthening the time required significantly. For most things, in my experience, that's a small price to pay.

So while I will probably never break up and retile the floor in my bathroom, I'll continue to do it myself whenever it makes sense, and I have the skills to do so.  Be it scaping the back yard, cooking my own lobster, growing my own tomatoes or making my own throw pillows, it works for me.


  1. It is really not trying to be rich. Frugal is definitely living on a budget to save for retirement. But for me I also have to set aside some for emergency purposes as this will definitely happen or needed. Plus learn to have self control.

  2. Good post Barb. I find myself doing and thinking things through on my own with a lot of prayer and guidance from God.
    BTW love the new look of your blog.

  3. People ask me why I do everything from electrical, plumbing, framing to drywall it started because I could't afford to hire the job out and now it is because I enjoy learning something new. I will never be a professional but when there is a water leak I can fix it! Try and do some tiling it is not that hard. I saw a job that a 12 year old girl did and figured if she could do it then so could a much older retired lady.


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