March 22, 2009

When it makes sense to hire an expert versus do-it-yourself

Generally I try and do work around the house myself to save money. Usually doing the work yourself is the best choice financially but sometimes hiring someone can be the smarter choice. Do It Yourself (DIY) can end up costing you more in time, equipment and materials then what you originally thought to make it simply not worth it. If we try DIY we can sometimes bite off more than we can chew and end up botching the work and even making it worse. There are other benefits in quality and expertise that you can get from hiring a professional.

I have actually caught myself wasting money by going the DIY route. The best example I have of DIY being wasteful in my personal life is some work we were doing on a rental. My wife and I had a bit of work to do to clean up a rental. We did all the work ourselves to save the hundreds of dollars we'd have to spend to hire it done. But we didn't have enough time to get the work done in a timely manner so we ended up losing rental income while the place was vacant. In the end we lost money over all. The lost rent was more than the savings from our DIY work. Of course this isn't too typical since most people are not risking lost profits or income when considering DIY work.

Below are some things to consider to help you decide between DIY or hiring a pro.

When DIY might make sense:

  1. If you are able to do the work or able to learn how relatively easy. - If you know you can do it then its a prime target for DIY. Electricians should fix their own light switches and CPAs should do their own taxes.
  2. If the problem is simple enough that you know you can handle it. - Relatively easy tasks are good targets for DIY savings.
  3. When the cost of hiring someone is significantly greater than the costs of DIY.
  4. If you enjoy it. - Putting cost savings aside, if you enjoy doing something then that is reason enough. Many people like working in their gardens and thats a good reason not to hire landscapers.

When to hire an expert:

  1. If health or safety are major concerns. - Most people should probably avoid roof repairs. DIY surgery is stupid.
  2. When expert knowledge will save money. - If a CPA's expert knowledge of the tax codes will save you extra on your taxes then paying them is worth the cost.
  3. If you simply don't have the time to do it yourself. - Stuff needs to get fixed and if you don't have the time to do it then hiring someone is better choice then losing wages from lost work or neglecting your personal life.
  4. Work that requires expensive tools or equipment that you'd have to buy or rent. -
  5. If profits are on the line and time saved through hiring the work will save you money. - My rental is a good example of this. Every day wasted costs money so paying people can save me costs in the end.
  6. If expert level quality is important. - Hiring a professional photographer for wedding pictures or a professional carpenter to build new kitchen cabinets can be worth the cost if the improved quality of work matters to you.
  7. You're simply unable to do it yourself - We should all know our limitations. Some things we're just not going to be able to figure out ourselves.

Deciding whether DIY or hiring a professional is the right choice will always depend on the specific situation. Theres no blanket answer for any given kind of work. We all have different aptitudes and skills so if one thing makes sense for me to do it might not make sense for another person to do and vice versa.

The important thing is to consider all the factors involved. Don't try to do everything yourself without considering the potential benefits of hiring help or the potential negatives of DIY work. You should also know when DIY is a good choice as far as time and money savings.

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