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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.)
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!