5 DIY Ways To Save You’re Probably Ignoring

Like most people, you’ve probably found yourself cooking AND eating at home a lot more in 2020.  As a result you’ve probably seen some very significant savings in your monthly budget this year.

You’re certainly not alone – The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis recorded a national savings rate of 32.2% in April and 23.3% in May.  This is the most recently released data from the BEA.  Those two months in 2020 are the highest savings rates ever recorded in the United States!  No period in history even comes close (at least since the Bureau of Economic Analysis started keeping track).

Crazy stuff right?  This extra savings may account for some of the incredible stock market speculation going on right now.  U.S. markets have been going a little crazy lately, and it seems like stock speculation could be a new national pastime.

The trick to building wealth (of course) isn’t to gamble the money on crazy stock market bets, the trick is to invest it wisely, keep saving, and compound that money over long periods of time.

For those people able to maintain a high savings rate, they’re far more likely to become very wealthy over time.  Carefully controlling the Big Three expenses (housing, food, transportation) is always a great place to start.

But what if you want to do more?  What if you want to work a little harder and bump yourself up into that mythical 50%+ savings rate and achieve Financial Independence that much faster?

Well, you’re going to need to do a little DIY to reach those levels…


Building Those DIY Skills

Nobody is born with DIY skills.  Like most things, skill comes from practice and experience.  These things get built-up over time.  Just like building muscles at the gym, or training for marathon — when you first start out you’re weak.  But over time you build muscle and get stronger.  It’s the same for learning DIY skills.

The important part is to start learning early and keep practicing the skills with high economic value.

What do I mean by high economic value?  Think about how much you might pay to hire a contractor to do that job for you.  That’s an economic value you can assign to the job or project.  The higher the economic value, the more you should seriously think about DIYing the job.

Most people shy away from DIYing these jobs.  Either because they believe it’s too hard, too complicated, or too messy.  In my experience it’s neither — People simply forget they can do these things in their free time!

Over the years I’ve the incredible opportunity to learn a great number of DIY skills.  It certainly didn’t happen overnight, but using these skills has saved me many thousands of dollars over the years.  What are they?  Read on!


1. Painting

If I was hire a professional painter to paint my home (either inside or outside), they typically charge by the square foot.  This is a great way to obscure how much painters are actually making, but based on my experience (in my area) painters end-up making the equivalent of $50 to $100 per hour.

This is like a $100k to $200k salary!  That’s a hell of a lot more than I ever made, so I might as well turn off the TV and get busy painting!

Over the years I’ve had plenty of practice painting.  I’ve painted both the inside and the outside of several homes, and I can honestly say it’s really not that hard.  YouTube has plenty of painting videos if you’re an absolute beginner, but a bit of patience and perseverance goes a long way towards learning how to paint.

More than anything, painting is a DIY skill that takes patience and practice to do a great job.

Fair warning — Painting can be a bit messy, but that’s nothing a few old bed sheets (for drop-cloths) and some old clothes can’t handle.

Painting supplies are also quite affordable, a few brushes, rollers, and masking tape and you’re good to go!


2.  Auto Repair And Maintenance

One little DIY secret readers have picked-up on over the years, is that I do A LOT of my own car repair and maintenance.  Not everything of course, but certainly far more than the average person.

Why do I DIY on my cars?  Because my car dealer charges $150/hr to do the same simple work, and a good local independent mechanic charges $100/hr.  For that kind of money I can skip the bonbons on the sofa and learn to wrench a little.

Even those cheap oil change places charge $80 to change the oil in my car (with synthetic 0W20 oil and a new filter).  Again, this is for my local area (it could be cheaper where you live).  I can easily DIY the job for HALF that price!  Even better, when I do it myself I can use super high-end synthetic oils and filters, that should over time prolong the life of my car.

new car
Doing my own maintenance means I can afford to buy premium products that may prolong the life of my car.

For years I’ve done my own maintenance on our cars.  It’s not hard.  I simply order the necessary parts or fluids, and install them just like the dealer.  I’ve even tried my hand at body-work/body painting, as I recently did (covered in this post).

According to some studies, the average American spends about $2,000 a year on car repairs/maintenance.  I easily spend less than half of that on maintenance every year, which means I’m saving around $1000/yr.  All it takes is a socket set, a few wrenches, and the willingness to learn something new.

A simple search on YouTube can get you started.  There are literally hundreds of videos on how to do basic car maintenance for your exact make and model of car.


3. Plumbing

Plumbing is another one of the highly-paid trades that isn’t hard to learn some of the basics.  It’s been quite a few years since I’ve actually priced-out a plumber, but back-in-the-day plumbers earned around $100/hr.

Even for simple things like fixing a clogged drain, most plumbers I know charge a fee just to drive out to your home (typically $100 or more), and then charge a minimum of one hour to do even simple things — like snaking a drain.

You owe it to your pocketbook to learn some plumbing basics!  Especially if you’re going to do any kind of DIY home renovation!  The most valuable rooms in the house to renovate are the kitchens and bathrooms!  Rooms with plumbing!

new faucet
Back in March I installed this new bathroom faucet. It’s surprisingly easy!

While plumbing is by far my weakest DIY skill, I’ve learned enough over the years to really be dangerous — I can change out water faucets and toilets, install a new dishwasher, run pex water lines, and even fix leaks!


4. Basic Carpentry

As a homeowner, I get a lot of practice doing basic carpentry work.  My home is basically a wood box, so it makes a lot of sense to learn some basic wood carpentry skills instead of calling a carpenter for every little thing.

It seems like there’s always something that needs fixing, replacing, or upgrading on my home, so it makes sense to learn some basic carpentry skills.  Usually it’s something simple like cutting a board to replace a piece that’s broken or warn out.

I’ve even made a few pieces of furniture over the years (here is one example, and here is another), but my latest carpentry project is a adjustable desk built for my son (covered in this post).

sitting desk
This spring I built an adjustable desk from free materials for my son. It turned out great!

Again, all it takes is a few simple tools (most of my tools were free), and a willingness to learn.  There’s plenty of books and YouTube videos that can get you started on almost any carpentry project!


5. Appliance Repair

What happens when your dishwasher or washer or washing machine breaks down?  Do you dump the appliance and just buy a new one?  Or, do you call the manufacturer and hang-out on-hold… only to have Customer Service tell you to take it to an authorized repair center?

That’s certainly one way to do it.

My wife just calls me!  I’m the “official” repairman of our household, and I’ve fixed nearly every major appliance in our home.  From a dishwasher that flooded the kitchen, to a clothes dryer that didn’t dry, a clothes washing machine that didn’t drain, a television that didn’t turn-on, and a refrigerator that didn’t make ice — I’ve pretty much fixed it all.

clothes washer
While they might seem complicated, most home appliances are surprisingly simple machines.

Believe it or not, most home appliances are pretty simple machines.  Sure, they might have fancy computerized displays on the outside, but underneath the covers most appliances have the same old reliable tech that’s been around since the 1960’s.  Pumps, motors, belts, springs, maybe a sensor or two, and a plethora of plastic parts.  It’s really pretty basic stuff.

Don’t tell my wife though — she thinks I’m an amazing genius that can fix anything!  (An illusion I’m happy to maintain.)


Final Thoughts

OK, I know what you’re going to say!  This happens every time I bring up DIY projects — inevitably there’s some smart-ass in the comments that says he makes $500,000 a year and it isn’t worth his time to DIY anything.

Yep, I totally get that.  Not everyone is going to see an economic value add from exercising a few DIY skills.  If you’re making $500k a year, then absolutely keep doing what your doing.  Obviously it’s working for you.

For the rest of us sub-humans that earn closer to a median salary, doing a little DIY work can be a big win… even for just a few hours of our time.

I also recognize that not everyone has an interest in doing the necessary work to reach a savings rates of 50%, 60% or even 75%.  I get that.  Some folks would rather watch Netflix and pay someone else big $$ to do it.

I won’t beat around the bush, DIY does take work.  Some folks are allergic to work.  You’ll need to get your hands dirty and do plenty of learning.  This is work I’m happy to do.  I’ve always enjoyed learning how things work, and learning new skills.

Furthermore, when you consider the economic value-add for the hours put in, I’m earning far more for my time than I ever did when I had a 9-to-5 job.  For me, that’s an incredible value!

Do you have any awesome DIY skills that save you TONS of money?  Please share them in the comments!


[Image Credit: Flickr1, Flickr2]

30 thoughts on “5 DIY Ways To Save You’re Probably Ignoring

  • July 19, 2020 at 6:29 AM

    I am very busy but have had to adjust without a cleaning service……maybe a permanent change! Husband is a bit of a slob so the cleaner was a buffer……he has other skills

    • July 19, 2020 at 9:13 AM

      DIY also gives one a sense of accomplishment and independence which is an AMAZING feeling. I love fixing and improving things time permitting of course, balance is important too.

  • July 19, 2020 at 6:30 AM

    Good stuff. I think the high saving rate isn’t as much related to stock market speculation as it is to way less eating out and spending in general, because so many stores were closed and folks were told to stay home. Whatever caused it it’s obviously a good thing, let’s see if it can hold.

    As for DIY, I’m not naturally blessed but constantly improving. I did a few cool projects so far during COVID and will be writing a post about one of them when I get around to it. I suck at woodwork and don’t have the tools, but it’s something I can see dabbling in down the line.

    • July 21, 2020 at 9:39 PM

      Can’t wait to see that post Dave! Looking forward to it!

  • July 19, 2020 at 9:59 AM

    Becoming a whole food plant based eater has saved us money in so many ways. Not just from not buying meat but in future medication, doctor’s visits and all the expenses related to poor health. The
    benefits of being healthy into old age and teaching your kids how to eat in healthy ways are truly priceless. There are so many inspirational stories on the internet, documentaries (Forks over Knives, Game changers) and recipes online that it is not difficult for this to be a DIY project. This pandemic has helped us to continue transitioning to this way of eating.

    • July 21, 2020 at 9:40 PM

      Wow good job! We’ve been flirting with being vegetarian but haven’t gone ‘whole hog’ yet. 🙂

  • July 19, 2020 at 10:18 AM

    My father was a big advocate for knowing how things work and being able to fix everything around the house. While other kids spent their saturdays bored, I learned carpentry, electrical, plumbing, and gardening. His philosophy was that you should know how to do things even if you pay for them. That way you can make an informed decision if your money and time is better spent fixing the item yourself. This training helped me get my first job in college as a Maintenance Assistant. My wife says my maintenance skills are one of my most endearing qualities.

    • July 21, 2020 at 9:41 PM

      Yep, it’s good to be handy. Mrs. Tako claims its the only reason she keeps me around… 😉

  • July 19, 2020 at 12:49 PM

    I really have to up my game here. I suck at these things but I don’t have any excuses. As you said, most of the things just require practice.

    A few years back we did a huge work on the house. What killed us was the electrician. That’s something I would really like to wrap my head around but I guess it requires more knowledge and probably a bit more dangerous to do by yourself.

    • July 21, 2020 at 9:46 PM

      It’s actually not that hard. Electrical itself is pretty basic, just remember to turn the power off. Even if you wire something up wrong, worst case it’ll just trip the breaker.

      But I wouldn’t make any changes to the actual circuit breaker itself. That’s really something an electrician needs to do properly, and I believe that work has to be officially inspected when the work is completed.

      Everything else, outlets, light switches, etc is fair game. Just remember to turn the power off first. 😉

  • July 19, 2020 at 1:41 PM

    Doing our own taxes has saved us tons of money over the years. Once you have someone do them for you once you can look back at it for quite a few years before there’s any big changes.

  • July 19, 2020 at 5:12 PM

    One of the things to be careful about when you tinker is if it makes the warranty null and void. We get extended warranty on major appliances so we call as soon as anything breaks. On the car, we will shop around for a repair shop we trust and not just default to the dealer, but we always use an authorized service.

  • July 19, 2020 at 7:16 PM

    Sorry but I hired a painter for the ceilings and there is just something amazing about a person that does certain painting for a living. He did the whole house and all the tricky edging without all the tape and prep and frustration that my wife and I go through. Agree that there are things where the cost benefit analysis works in the DIY’ers favor, but there is a whole lot of grey. Love to pay people that have all the tools and equipment and skills for certain jobs. Wish I could avoid the bake-off going on with my wife and the neighbors (mostly for my waistline). But life is not perfect!

    • July 21, 2020 at 9:47 PM

      Like most things it takes practice. Professionals might seem to have some serious skillz, but in my experience they do quite sloppy work. Cutting corners and trying to do things fast so they can get to the next job.

      When I do it myself, I can take my time and do it right.

  • July 20, 2020 at 5:52 AM

    We paint the interior of our apartment ourselves for years, so this year due to the quarantine we did a bigger part of the apartment(total of 40 square meters done this year) .
    What I did a few years ago and am proud of,was to open my washing machine figuring out the issue with it, buy the new piece and replace it. I knew that I can always call an electrician, but was thinking: if I can at list know what is the issue, I will not have to pay for the consultation and after figuring out what was the issue…if I can get the broken piece, I will not have to pay for a first visit of the electrician to determine the problem.So we prolonged the life(10 years at that time) of the washing machine with 1.5 years.

  • July 20, 2020 at 7:10 AM

    DIY has been one of our secrets to wealth. Two points I’d like to add:

    1) When looking at things like mechanics, don’t forget they use book time. What’s that? They charge a fixed amount of time for a known job (then multiply by that hourly rate). I worked at a shop for a while and frequently a mechanic would have two cars on lifts (each side), have a cheap helper doing the easy stuff, and be doing two jobs at once. They still charged the book rate (say 6 hours) even if they spent just 3 on each vehicle.

    Your actual per hour payment to them can be extraordinarily high. Then again, this only matters if you can get DIY good enough to match or beat the book time you’d be charged.

    2) Once we are all retired, we have a boatload of time to fill. While we all have our dreams, desires, passions, etc. there’s still going to be more time. Being able to DIY can help fill that time while saving you money and also lead to a fun hobby or passion.

    • July 21, 2020 at 9:49 PM

      It certainly can be entertaining. I like to know how things work, so I’m always willing to tear apart a broken machine to see the inner workings.

  • July 20, 2020 at 7:45 AM

    I can do simple stuff like painting and minor plumbing, but appliances can be tough.
    Last winter, I replaced a vacuum valve in our HVAC. That took a while to figure out. YouTube is super helpful. There are so many good tips on there.
    Carpentry and car repair are difficult for us. We don’t have a garage so work space.

    • July 21, 2020 at 9:51 PM

      Not having a garage is a bit of a bummer. At times I’ve borrowed my father’s shop to get certain jobs done. He’s got a HUGE space to work with, and almost any tool you can think of.

      Certainly makes it easier to have lots of space.

  • July 20, 2020 at 11:34 AM

    You’ve really got the skills going on! I wish I was good at that stuff. I can do some basics but I know my limits – I’ve replaced faucets, ceiling fans, light fixtures, doors etc., but there is a lot of stuff I’m just not good at. Luckily, I have good friends who have helped me over the years with the more complex endeavors. 🙂

    No complaints while we were living in Panama in the rental unit though. I like being able to make a call when something’s broken (though I did replace out a bad ceiling fan during this pandemic to keep someone from coming over).

    • July 21, 2020 at 9:52 PM

      Yeah, with a rental you’re really just “prepaying” for all those high-priced contractors. I can see the great convenience of it, but I cringe at the cost. 🙂

  • July 21, 2020 at 1:11 PM

    It sure pays to be handy around the house. I’m going to be learning a lot of this in the upcoming months as I move into a house. DIY does take work. But it’s worth it. A simple plumbing task can cost over $100 because that’s the minimum they bill you far even if it takes them 2 minutes to fix a small issue, lol. Something I’m already good at doing is fixing computers and electronics. But don’t tell my relatives that.

  • July 21, 2020 at 8:35 PM

    I can do some simple DIY stuff myself but haven’t tried doing anything on my car. Definitely something I need to look into and learn more. What do you do with the old oil? Do you take it somewhere you can recycle?

    • July 21, 2020 at 9:53 PM

      Local autoparts stores will usually take the oil, but in my case I happen to know someone that converts it into Diesel fuel. I just give it to them.

  • July 24, 2020 at 1:54 PM

    This is a great post and very timely. I agree with your philosophy and I’ll add a few things that are easy to learn from personal experience and high yield as well (much of it from YouTube, some from friends teaching me):

    -Basic car maintenance on an older car: changing the oil and filters, replacing brakes, putting in a new battery, radiator flush, installing new headlight housings (like having a new car while driving at night)
    -Building raised garden beds for vegetables: cedar beds with basic parts and appropriate drainage that are long-lasting with a great yield of nutritious food. DIY irrigation system.
    -Brewing beer at home: better quality and I keg it myself with a kegerator and CO2 system
    -Basic plumbing with toilet repair and replacing a toilet and all parts. Leaks and minor annoyances are never an issue.
    -Replacing tile and replacing a hardwood floor: high yield cosmetic changes while keeping the price down.

    I learn as I go but the idea of this post is a true money saver. Thanks for sharing!


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