Four Money Saving Do-it-Yourself Jobs

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Over the past few decades the work force has shifted from mostly blue collar workers to white collar.  One of the results is that many working class people no longer know how to do jobs that our parents would have considered simple tasks.  As a result, people are often forced to pay people to do work they could do themselves – with a little learning and practice.

Photo by colros

What are the advantages of doing it yourself?

  1. Saving Money.  When you do something yourself you avoid paying someone else for that activity or service.
  2. Stress relief.  While this is a general statement, many people who work in offices find it therapeutic to accomplish a task with their hands.
  3. Satisfaction.  Many find that the task will be much more satisfying when they accomplish it.
  4. You can customize the job according to your preferences.

What are tasks that are easy to learn that can save a lot of money?

Cooking

An Essortment article says that the average American family eats out three times a week and a family of of four spends an average of $300 – $400 a month on dining out.  Now, obviously many of these eating out occasions happen because of convenience.  Nevertheless, in many homes neither the husband nor the wife have learned to cook in the home.  Perhaps they know how to make a peanut butter and jam sandwich, but certainly nothing you want to eat on a regular basis.                     Photo by Mykl Roventine

So how do you learn to cook?

  1. Google it. Want to know how to cook some delicious spaghetti?  There’s a video to show you how.  Need help grilling the perfect steak? There’s a video to show you how.
  2. Cooking Shows. I suspect that if you’re not into cooking, you’re probably not watching cooking shows.  However, those shows will teach you how easy and fun it is to cook.  They will also encourage you to be creative when you cook.
  3. Visit a cooking friend. If you are part of a church, I can almost guarantee you there will be a member whose passion is cooking.  Ask them if you could spend a day with them so they can teach you how to cook.
  4. Try it. The beautiful thing about cooking is that it is an adventure limited only by your own taste buds.  Don’t think you need to be a master chef before you learn to cook.  Once you learn something small, go ahead and start practicing.  Here’s a spaghetti sauce recipe.

Oil Change

The average cost of an oil change is $30.  It is recommended that you change your oil every three months.  Thus, on average you pay $120 on oil changes a year.  The cost of the items necessary to change oil is about $15.00.  You could save 50% on oil changes by investing about 30 minutes of your time.

How do you learn to change your own oil?

  1. Watch it. There are a ton of videos like this one that have a video explaining how and when to change your own oil.
  2. Help Someone. There are a lot of people who change their own oil.  It would only take about an hour of your time (including transportation) to watch how they do it. Once you go home you’ll know how to do it yourself.
  3. Step by step article. Many sites online have step by step guides that can help you change your own oil if you have never done it before.  As an example, there is this Edmunds article or the About.com article.

Basic carpentry

When my wife and I were first married I didn’t have the slightest clue about anything related to and associated with carpentry.  However, I slowly picked up some skills along the way and now I have even built some of my own furnishings.  You can save a lot of money on repairs if you just learn some basic carpentry skills.

Photo by The Library of Congress

How do you learn how to do basic carpentry?

  1. Get a book like The Everything Home Improvement Book: Everything You Need to Know to Keep Your Home Looking–And Working–Better Than Ever (The Everything Series) or How to Fix Everything For Dummies.  The books are a handy reference when work needs to be done.
  2. Any time you do call a repairman, watch what they are doing.  This is a great way to help the repairman be accountable and responsible for their work.  In addition, you will learn what they are doing.  The next time you have the same problem you may now be equipped to fix the problem.
  3. Ask someone who knows how to do the work if you can spend a day with them.  Many of these jobs are learned best by watching and participating more then reading and studying.

Tax Filing

William Perez with About.com shares the following average cost for paying for tax preparation:

Average for 1040 with Schedule A and state return: $205

Average for 1040 with state return: $115

Average hourly rate: $122.12

How do you learn how to file your own taxes?

  1. Using a basic program like Turbo Tax can save you a lot of money every year when it comes time to file your taxes.  The Turbo Tax Deluxe program costs about $50.  The savings is not just in your ability to do your taxes, but in your knowledge of the taxation system.  When you do your taxes you will learn about deductions and tax filing procedures that will save you taxes in the future.
  2. If you currently use a tax professional, the next time you get a completed tax form look over the forms.  Especially if your financial situation does not fluctuate very much, you will find year after year you just add new numbers to the same lines.

What other jobs do you do yourself to save money?

Comments

  1. says

    One caveat about DIY taxes (even with a computer program) is that you might be missing out on some savings you didn’t know about. A couple of years ago, my husband did OTR trucking and was self-employed, so we hired an accountant to do the taxes to make sure we didn’t screw anything up. Although he began teaching the next year and didn’t have any weird taxes, he insisted on hiring an accountant again. I thought it was a waste of money ($180, I think), so when a TurboTax or similar program was mailed free to our house (I think you have to pay to print it out or something — not sure what the catch was), I secretly filled out the information to see how much refund we’d be getting, to compare it to the amount the accountant got. I saw that we’d be getting in the neighborhood of $1700 back by going through TurboTax, and I smugly waited for the accountant to finish the taxes, expecting a similar refund, so I could tell my husband — “Aha! that’s exactly what *I* figured out for *much less* than what the accountant charged!!” Instead, my jaw about dropped when the accountant figured that we’d be getting about $3500 back.

    I don’t know if the computer tax program screwed up or it was my error, but we’ll be using the accountant again this year. Although I will admit, that I will be phantom-filling out the taxes again, to make sure that it is actually cost-effective to use the accountant every year.
    .-= Kathy´s last blog ..Oh, WOW! =-.

  2. Craig says

    Kathy,
    What you did is actually exactly what I suggest (though not in this post). Have a professional do your taxes and you should also do it. Then compare the results.

    We actually had the exact opposite experience with a tax accountant. His refund was $1,500 less than it should have been and he cost 3x as much as Turbo Tax.

    As long as your tax situation is consistent most people should be able to do the taxes on their own.

  3. says

    Woah – that’s bad!! As I said, I’m going to be doing it again this year, and I’ll keep in mind the tip about taking the old return and filling in this year’s values. One fear about doing that, though, is that I’ve heard that some of the credits and deductions expire this year or next, so I don’t want to screw that up. So while our job situation may be precisely the same, I’m not sure our “tax situation” (thanks to the **wonderful** federal government and their convoluted rules! {sarcasm!}) will be the same. Sometimes I wonder if accountants secretly like and encourage the confusing and ever-changing rules, because it gives us a reason to need them…
    .-= Kathy´s last blog ..Oh, WOW! =-.

  4. Lovely says

    I think most people would agree that saving money is something “easier said than done”. Personally, I believe it’s a mind-set that needs to be developed by creating good money-saving habits.

    Here are some things I’ve done to help change my spending habits:

    - Cooking more at home  Eating out is very expensive especially if you do it a couple times a week
    - Shopping online  You can find better deals than in the store and you save on gas (I recommend http://www.shoptivity.com)
    - Paying the full balance on credit cards each month  Interest charge is like giving away free money
    - Don’t forget to pay yourself  Set up an online savings account (they pay higher interest than a normal savings account)
    - Setting a budget and goals  It’s good to have your goals written down so you see them everyday and don’t lose focus on your ultimate objectives

    Again, saving money requires a lot of patience and hard work. However, you’ll thank yourself later on in life. Good luck everyone!! =)

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