Simple Living Myth: DIY is Always Best

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Sometimes “simple” means doing it yourself: choosing the materials or ingredients, tailoring it to be exactly what you need, and savoring the process.

Sometimes simple means: “Wouldn’t it be simpler to just buy it?”

It’s not just our money that we have to think about. We also need to consider that our time is valuable.

Whole Foods sells a smoked chicken for $8.99. An uncooked chicken is about $5 or $6. Some nights I’m willing to pay that extra $4 to have someone else cook it and clean up. It’s a heck of lot cheaper than going out to a restaurant, and honestly, it tastes better. It frees up my time that evening so I can focus on something different.

There’s a value, and a beauty, to making things yourself, but you must be selective about which things you choose to do. Just as being frugal means finding the greatest value for your dollar, we have to focus our efforts in a smart way.

It might be better to buy the finished product if:

1. If a project requires buying and storing a seldomly-used tool. (Pasta maker, anyone?)

2. If a project will stay unfinished, nagging at you for months and months.

3. If the materials will cost far more than the finished product, with little perceived added value.

4. If you’re short on time or resources.

5. If buying it will support someone in your community.

It might be better to do it yourself if:

1. If you have the time to do it.

2. If it’s a skill you enjoy or want to learn.

3. If it will save you enough money to be worth your time.

4. If the result will be more unique or higher quality than what you can buy.

5. If your efforts make your family feel loved.

What are some things you choose to do or make yourself? What are some things you would rather pay for?
About Rachel

I write about practical tips that will help you simplify at home. Connect with me on Pinterest and Twitter.

Comments

  1. I couldn’t agree more. I’d rather pay for someone else to make my laundry and dishwasher detergents, bread, condiments, and clothes. I prefer to make my own cleaning solutions, meals, household decorations, and Halloween costumes.

    Meg´s last post…Chicken Burritos

  2. You are so right! Just having the skill to do something is important so you don’t have to call someone to fix what you attempted!! DIY is why my garbage disposal ended up on the bottom of my cabinet under the sink. (“You can use a broomstick to move the mechanism when it is jammed.” Yeah right!!) DIY is why the base of the toilet ended up with a huge crack in the porcelain where the seat lid attaches. When the Mr. grabs tools, I grab the phone!

    mrs. e´s last post…Getting to Know You Part 2

  3. Great point, Rachel!

    I love making all my baked goods from scratch, but other things we use like condiments and some sauces I would much rather buy a healthy version than slave away making my own!

    You sound like a smart shopper! =)

    Jamie

    steadymom´s last post…Introducing: Moms’ 30-Minute Blog Challenge

  4. Brilliant. My mom makes most of her clothes (and they look really good!) because she can’t ever find anything she likes at the store. I don’t make my clothes because I don’t like the way they turn out, and buying fabric is so much more expensive than stocking up at the thrift store’s 50 cent day!

  5. I so agree. There are many times I choose to do-it-myself so I can gain a skill, explore something new, or tweak the project a bit…like my landscaping project we completed this summer. Working with pavers, concrete and rebar was definitely an eye-opening experience. More power to you landscapers out there!

    However, I decided to try my hand at making tomato sauce this summer…and can it. THIS, I will continue to buy pre-made in the grocery store. After spending a day processing 25lbs of tomatoes I ended up with enough fine sauce for only about 4-5 meals. (serving 4ppl.) A lot of work, for a little sauce. I did however get a lot of really fresh tomato juice out of this…THAT was the reward! Thanks, Abbie

  6. Great point! There is always a time vs. money aspect to decisions like these. You have to spend one or the other to save one or the other.

    Shannon´s last post…Candida: The Unknown Epidemic? Finding Balance For Your Gut

  7. Well put! We are big on homemade bread, but there are just weeks when it’s not going to happen. Or we like to fix things up ourselves around the house, but it was a huge relief to have someone else refinish the floors. Amen to compromise!

    Adele´s last post…Fireside

  8. These are some great things to think about! Sometimes time is money!! Thanks!

    Catie´s last post…Song Of The Week

  9. For me it’s worth it to make all my soaps (laundry, dishsoap, skin etc…) and skin care products from scratch. My husband has really sensitive skin, I don’t like putting pollutants in the water, I’m frugal AND I don’t want to spend $$$ on the so-called natural soap products on the market. So I make my own and I actually really enjoy the process (it’s one of my creative outlets) it also results in nice gifts for family and friends.

    However, it’s not worth it for me to bake bread from scratch. My husband can’t eat gluten and we choose to eat mostly whole, vegan foods so we’ve pretty much eliminated baked goods from our diet, with great health benefits to boot. But the kids and I do like bread once a week (as a treat) so I buy that from a local bakery. Back when we were all eating bread everyday it made sense to make my own.

    We buy most all of our clothes but sometimes we can’t find the technical gear our kids need for our outdoor adventures/hiking so my husband is learning to sew.

    Of course there is a bunch of other stuff we buy and DIY but these are some that come to mind. Buying things or paying for services sometimes makes mores sense environmentally, personally & financially than DIY.

    I like this buying guide from one green generation:
    http://1greengeneration.elementsintime.com/?p=295

    Great subject to bring up Rachel, I enjoyed reading it.

  10. I couldn’t agree more, and I feel like I could repeat the other comments. i will say that you made a good point about your money supporting someone local (small business). This is so very important these days.

    Rachel´s last post…Keeping You in the Loop: Establishing Healthy Habits

  11. I enjoy baking and cooking most (not all!) foods from scratch, but some things, like ketchup (can’t beat Heinz!) would be impossible for me to duplicate as I enjoy them.

    Another point for me is the quality of the finished product. For example, I make my own laundry soap and love it, but tried making dish detergent and was less than satisfied with my dishes. Not worth the savings if it doesn’t work as well, and it made me sad to have spent the time on it.

    Your point about unfinished handmade things that end up being burdensome is so true. I love giving handmade gifts, but sometimes, I have to be realistic about the time I have and buy something storebought. I have to remind myself that something can still be thoughtful and meaningful even if I didn’t make it myself.

    Jessica´s last post…sure wish I’d thought of that…

  12. I cannot bring myself to grow wheat, but we do bake our own bread!!! I have to say we make our own pasta… but if an appliance, machine isn’t out on the counter top then it never gets used – never ever!!! I love sewing but never sew kids clothes – I survive on hand me downs from friends… it just isn’t worth taking the machine out – see the sewing machine is not out and so never gets used – it is that simple.

    se7en´s last post…Se7en Survive A Newborn…

  13. It is not worth it for me to buy a sewing machine and try to learn how to sew; I am prety much hopeless when it comes to fabric-type crafty things, so we buy our kids’ clothing, and our own.

    It is worth it to me to make my own chicken stock; nothing easier than tossing chicken bones, an onion, a carrot and some water and seasonings in the Crockpot for the day. Because I have celiac disease, I need to make sure I’m not getting hidden glutens when I cook with broth; plus it tastes so much better and is better for us. Cheaper, too.

    While I can buy cookies at the store, sometimes it’s worth it to bake a batch of cookies for my family (even if i can’t eat them) because, well, they adore it. It’s an emotional investment. And sometimes I do make a loaf of homemade bread for dinner, because i have a recipe that gives me a nice loaf in one hour, that the kids love, and there is nothing like the smell of homemade bread in the house!

  14. Fabulous post…I couldn’t agree more. The “pasta maker” comment cracked me up…I think I’ll go remove it from my wish list! ha!

    Michelle´s last post…What day is it?

  15. I really like this post! But looking at the comments, I am amazed at how much some other people make themselves!

    I normally never buy baked goods or things like pasta sauce, I always make my own…but I’m pregnant with our first and have recently bought canned tomato sauce and store-made brownies. Although they weren’t quite as good as what I normally make, I have to admit that it was completely worth it in terms of time spent with my feet propped up instead of standing in the kitchen!

  16. I agree with this wholeheartedly. I love to bake for my family. I know how to do it, and it saves me money and I know what ingredients are going into them. There are some things I would rather pay for, like clothes and pillows and curtains. I do not like to sew, so for me, it’s worth it to buy those things that others would probably sew themselves.

    Michelle Traudt´s last post…Taming Stress

  17. Great post! Even though I’m willing to tackle most projects around the house I decided, last week, to have someone come in and replace the gasket on our refrigerator. My reasoning was that I had never done it before, never seen it done, and I was afraid that if it ended up taking a lot of time because I was learning as I go I’d lose more money in lost food than if I’d paid the service charge.
    Good move on my part because, as it turns out, the problem wasn’t the gasket. My door needed adjusting because of the way the fridge was installed it hit the bottom shelf and after doing that it had thrown it off track. The guy fixed the door, tilted our a bit so the door door closed better AND for a bonus he turned the door around so it opened the “right” way!
    If I’d replaced the gasket I would not only have risked losing food I would also NOT have fixed the problem. The door never did close easily and looking back I should have called right away and had someone come out and adjust it……lesson learned.

  18. I occasionally think about making homemade snack foods like pretzels or crackers, but then I realize that it would cost me an hour of my time to save $1.79 or so, and it’s not even worth it!

    If I do spend lots of time on something, it’s usually to enjoy the process of making it. Sewing clothes is not on that list, but baking or making the occasional extravagant dinner is.

    Thanks for this post!

    Jenni @ Life from the Roof´s last post…You get out of it what you put into it

  19. I’m a big from-scratch baker/cook. I make on my own is chicken stock – it’s so much easier than people think; just boil some chicken bones with vegetables and herbs. Tastes so much better. But, then there are nights where I’m exhausted and more than happy to let Mr. Newman make my spaghetti sauce (love Newman’s Own marinara).

    I don’t think I’ve commented on here before, but I think our blog is great!

    Heather´s last post…WiP Wednesday: My Denim Quilt

  20. I’m going to find out today if I like making our own play dough.

  21. You are so right in your infinite wisdom! I recently purchased over $200 in art materials for this project I had my heart set on: to make home made print screened greeting cards. What was I thinking?!?! I’ve made a lot of prints, but have no cards to show for all the work and spent money. lol.

    I love your blog by the way!!! And this is my first comment.

    Clarissa´s last post…On Pregnancy: 19 weeks

  22. I paid my very first contractor today for pest control. I was tired of the DIY that just wasn’t cutting it.

    I always weigh the cost vs. time and enjoyment value. there are a lot of things I think most of us don’t even think about that we don’t necessarily have to, but the time it would take to make vs. buy is just not worth it each time.

    Emily@remodelingthislife´s last post…10 Minutes

  23. Thank you for posting this. My husband and I have always held the notion that there are just times when our time is worth more than the $$ we would save. There are a lot of blogs out there that make me feel terrible because I don’t make my own laundry detergent and shop at thrift stores for everything. I like doing lots of things myself and I try to watch what I spend. I bake my own bread. I do a lot of cooking from scratch. Because I like to do it. I, also, love take-out pizza, pedicures at the spa and getting my hair highlighted. Leave somethings to the professionals!

    Marci@OvercomingBusy´s last post…Tips For Staying Clutter Free

  24. We just had company over tonight, and I made a homemade stew with some delicious whole grain rolls. I don’t think I saved a ton of money on the stew, because the star of the dish was a fairly expensive ingredient: sun-dried tomatoes. (I didn’t dry the tomatoes myself — our tomato harvest was miserable this year, even if I wanted to!) But there is certainly something to be said for putting love into the act of what you’re doing, not to mention a couple hours of slow simmering!

    I agree with the other comments regarding home cooked bread. I definitely saved money making tonight’s rolls myself, especially considering the nutritional content of the bread — it was packed with whole wheat, oat bran, millet, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, etc. The cost of high quality bread seems to be skyrocketing, and now that I’m not working full-time, I have more time to devote to using my oven, stand mixer and bread machine to save a little cash. To me, it’s worth it.

    I have attempted making my own yogurt in my slow cooker, and while it was pretty fun (kinda like a science experiment!) I have determined it wasn’t really worth my time. I think I saved about a dollar when it was all said and done.

    Shannon @ Anchormommy´s last post…Trying to be one of the cool kids

  25. You know all those little tasks around the house that never seem to get done? Rehang the closet door in the girl’s room, fix that hole in the wall from the towel bar that fell down…you know the stuff- I’m officially inspired to hire a handy man to get it all done! The good feeling of knowing that it’s complete will be worth it!

  26. Oh, but have you eaten freshly made pasta?

    It’s something I’ve started doing the last year and I actually do think it’s worthwhile (especially lasagna noodles). Also, I’ve taught the kids how to roll it out themselves. Never underestimate the value of child labor. ;)

    Wendy´s last post…Contest Winner and Potato Foot

  27. My children have yet to sleep under quilts or comforters that I haven’t made, and I don’t think I’ve ever had store-made curtains.

    I also make most of the halloween costumes, but last year when my kids wanted to be care bears, I found it much cheaper and easier to buy a couple of them on ebay.

    Holly´s last post…Project Completed

  28. Oftentimes making things yourself is “making do”, which is character building in and of itself. Both our time and money are valuable, but many people have little of either right now. Yes, for example a remodeling project may nag us and stay unfinished for months, but better to have a project started that you can pay for as you go along, than to go into debt. A little stress now, but less financial stress later.

  29. So true! I find that I love to make my own baked items and cupcakes myself as it saves money and I love how they taste. I also enjoy making my own coffee as it also saves money and I can add my favorite toppings like vanilla or chocolate.

    Melody @ Party Cupcake Ideas´s last post…Hawaiian Flower Cupcakes

  30. I work full time and commute, therefore I see my time as premium. But I still like to do some things myself. I love making my apartment feel homey, and though Target, Walmart etc. have some affordable and cute stuff, I’m very picky and have a tight budget. One thing I love to have that changes with the seasons is a wreath on our front door. For fall I kept my eyes open at the normal places to see if there were any affordable ones that were what I was looking for, but nothing fit my style. So I bought a grapevine wreath for $3, got the leaves and flowers and spent about an hour hot melt gluing my own wreath. It’s exactly what I wanted and makes me smile every time I approach my front door. It cost about the same, maybe a touch cheaper than buying one of the cheaper wreaths, but I love it so much more than any of the ones I saw, even the ‘high end’ ones.

    V. Higgins´s last post…Fighting back lies…

  31. LOve your site! I am trying your soap making! Following you on RSS.

    Jena (Organizing Mommy)´s last post…Weekend Crafts: crayons reinvented..

  32. If this is just the beginning of a series of myths (that I think might be stemming from a post you did on the myths of simplicity before you had your son), I think I’m gonna LOVE it! Great stuff.

    Minnesotamom´s last post…Yikes

  33. Really, really well said!

    Anna´s last post…Lingering Over a Meal