Monday, December 31, 2007

Doing It Yourself Doesn't Always Pay - A Short Lesson Learned Yet Again

2007 is ending. Luckily the people at personnel informed me that due to a technical error I was deducted two days-off I am now entitled to use. I took the opportunity in both hands and decided to get some long over due repairs at home. As we all know on off the basic rules of frugal living is getting things done on your own. That is what I set out to do.

I've never been a huge fan of frugal living myself. I find it a bit spartan and so I try to find my own balance between over-spending and extreme frugality. However, when a painter asked for 150$ for repainting a wall that was a bit stained with moisture I set out to "do it myself".

Quickly enough I faced the bitter truth. I drove to buy some paint and a roller and corner brush which cost around 40$. I hurried back and started peeling the existing paint from the wall which discovered areas of crumbling plaster. Again I hurried and bought some plaster, base paint and sand paper of course to find out I've invested over 80$ in materials. I didn't even mention the time I've spent on getting the job done. Precious leisure time of course.

How come the painter is willing to do the job for 150$ then? It's all in his advantages of scale, his place on the learning curve and synergies he creates. We hear these words frequently in business administration schools and they are portrayed beautifully in this simple case.

The painter buys large volumes of materials thus utilising advantages of scale. He is well experienced in painting and knows how to be as efficient as possible. And don't forget - Often times his wage 'per-hour' is smaller then yours.

So, was it worth saving 70$ for 4 hours labour? I think not. We each meet the utility curve somewhere else but I believe many of you will agree. I have learned, in the past, there are usually no shortcuts around professional work, even at home. I had this lesson refreshed these last couple of days.

More on Frugality:
1. The fundamentals of frugality @ Blueprint for financial prosperity
2. 10 questions to enhance your frugality @ Moolanomy


Mark Runta said...

I deal with this problem all the time. Finding a balance between what I can effectively manage and where professional help is merited is truly a challenge. said...

Of course, now that you have the necessary equipment, the next small painting job will save you the entire $150 and will probably only take 2-3 hours. So it's worth doing in the long run.

A bit like deciding - do I buy a car for $10,000 and learn to drive, or just call a taxi? The first time DIY transport is obviously not cost effective, but over time the sunk costs amortise and it becomes worthwhile.

Then again, some things should be outsourced if you can afford it. Last week it was reported that the 9th richest man in the US, aged in his early sixties, died in a accident doing some repairs to his garage roof. I think a 60 year old billionaire should ALWAYS pay a tradesman to do household repairs!