Sometimes, saving money is about doing things yourself instead of outsourcing them. But you can’t do everything. So how do you strike a balance?
A few years ago, I thought I wanted to teach people traditional culinary skills. So I went a kitchen store near where I worked in Greenwich Village, New York and bought…a manual french butter churn. For $85. I justified this ridiculous purchase as an “investment”.
I used the churn exactly once. After buying a carton of cream that dismayingly cost just as much as a pack of butter, I churned it a while until some butter congealed. I pressed the liquid whey from the butter as much as I could and spread it across some bread (it tasted no different than store bought butter). Lacking a proper storage container, I placed the butter in a cup covered with aluminum foil in my fridge. A few days later, the cup fell off of the counter and the shards of glass rendered the butter inedible.
Churning your own butter=not worth it from a cost-savings perspective.
When I lived in that studio, I also sometimes hired someone to clean it. While it was easy to pay someone else to clean my apartment, there was no reason why I couldn’t clean it myself.
Now, I clean my own apartment and buy butter at the store, a much better use of my resources and time, given my current income.
So what to DIY and what to outsource? It’s different for every person. For writers pursuing FI, I recommend insourcing as much as possible, but also knowing your limits.
Here are 10 things I try (and often fail) to DIY and 10 things I outsource. All of the things on the outsource list could theoretically move to the DIY list, but I’m fine outsourcing them for now.
- Housecleaning Put a podcast on your headphones and go!
- Laundry See above. One exception: if you need to go to the laundromat and don’t have a ton of clothes, wash and fold can be about the same cost, and save you a ton of time.
- Cooking (a huge savings vs. eating out)
- Coffee/tea (If you make your own, you’ll save money and you also won’t be tempted to buy a breakfast sandwich, and end up spending $8 for breakfast every morning, when you could easily be spending less than $1.)
- Smoothies. Make them in a batch and freeze them for on the go convenience.
- Alcohol Drinking Easier to have a glass of wine at home instead of a bar if you’re partnered, I know. You’ll probably also save on cab rides.
- Bone broth Among the many mistakes of my pre-FI days was buying $12 cups of bone broth in the city. What?! was I thinking. Drink water from a reusable bottle when you’re out, and make/drink bone broth at home.
- Cups and storage containers It’s free to save glass jars of peanut butter, etc and use them as storage containers or cups.
- Hummus Buy a crockpot to cook dried chickpeas over the weekend. You can eat cheap hummus and brown bread sandwiches for lunch all week.
- Pedicures Lately, I’ve gotten a lot more comfortable with leaving my toenails bare. But occasionally, if I need a pedicure it’s DIY.
- Haircut I switched from a chichi salon to Supercuts, where I get a haircut for under $30 with tip, every few months. This is mostly because I have a day job, but if I didn’t, I would probably experiment with cutting my own.
- Window AC installation We tried to DIY ours. We assembled the mount, and then a plastic piece on it promptly cracked. Perhaps we could have fixed it, but the liability of having our AC fall on someone’s head was enough to convince us to get ours professionally installed. Because we tried to go the DIY route at first, we ended up spending $60 more than if we had just gone directly to the professionals. Sometimes it’s important to know your limits.
- Personal care products (shampoo, lip balm, soap etc.) Unless you want to make these for fun, it’s probably not a huge cost savings to make your own for most people, possibly more expensive.
- Grocery Shopping Ordering staple foods online can often be cheaper than finding them in the store (oatmeal, tea). Grocery delivery services can also be a frugal option if you don’t own a car and are far from a good supermarket. I like to sort by what’s on sale and look at the sale options first.
- Car maintenance I could probably learn to change my own oil or change a tire. But this is an infrequent enough expense that I’d rather leave it to the professionals. Plus, my fiance almost had a car drop onto his arm, trying to do a DIY tire change. Safety, again. Car cleaning, however, I do (very infrequently) myself.
- Bread For now, I buy this. I try not to eat much of it, so I don’t want to encourage myself to eat more by buying a bread machine. Living in NYC, there are plenty of healthy, cheapish options.
- (Some) Entertainment There’s a lot of free entertainment available, but this summer, I went to Splashdown water park and a Rye Playland and I don’t regret it! My version of FI is not ascetic.
- Growing Fruits and Vegetables As much as I’d like to grow my own, living in a studio apartment in NYC does not permit it, so I go to the farmer’s market or order farm shares through Fresh Direct to get local fruits and vegetables.
- Bike Repair I currently need a new tire on my bike and am going to take it to a bike shop. Bike maintenance is infrequent enough in my life that I’m okay outsourcing it.
- Shoe repair Not very frequent or that expensive.
What do you outsource that you could DIY?