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When I was younger I cut my own hair and did my own bicycle repairs. Anything to save a buck. But once I owned a home, well, that’s when I really learned how to fix things.
Of course, if you’re not a natural do-it-yourselfer you’re probably not thrilled about fixing a car radiator or re-roofing your home on your own (I’ve done both, but poorly). Sometimes it’s certainly worth paying for expertise and help.
On the other hand, there are some things that anyone can do to cut their expenses. And then there are the things you can easily learn to do. For example, in a moment I’ll explain how, with no previous experience, I once carpeted a bedroom for a total cost of $10.
But first, let’s start with some simpler things you can do yourself to save money…
1. Wash Your Own Car
Good exercise, sunshine and fresh air — washing your car in the driveway would be a great idea even without the savings. And you probably already have everything you need to do it.
If not, a one time investment of about $20 for a bucket, a big sponge, and a drying cloth or two will set you up.
Anyone can adequately wash a car, but there are some things to learn if you want a perfect car wash. For example, don’t wash it when the body is hot, don’t use a dirty sponge (it may scratch the paint), and use a mild soap. All-in-all, this isn’t rocket science.
How much can you save washing the car yourself? That depends on how often you normally get it washed, and how much you pay. The average cost of a car wash is about $6.50 in a DIY bay and $15 in a drive-through operation.
You can save all of that with my approach, which is to never wash the car. Otherwise, figure a buck for soap and supplies, so, if you normally get a car wash every month, by doing it yourself you can save up to $168 annually.
2. Cut Your Own Hair
I cut my own hair, sometimes with the help of my wife, who occasionally steps in when I make a mistake.
The electric clipper kit I use cost about $20 at Walmart (with scissors and all attachments), and I’ve used it for years despite forgetting to ever oil it as specified. It basically was paid for by the savings of the first cut.
Maybe, like me, you don’t mind learning by experimenting. Just don’t plan on any head-shot photos for a while. Otherwise, to take fewer chances, you can first learn how to cut your own hair on YouTube.
How much will you save? Angie’s list says the average cost of a haircut is $28 for a man and $43 for a woman.
I’ve never paid more than $20 including tip when I had others cutting my hair, but even at that rate, cutting your hair yourself every six weeks or so you’ll save about $170 annually.
3. Groom Your Pets Yourself
This is another service that you are better off providing yourself rather than paying for, even if the cost wasn’t a factor. That’s because your pets need this kind of quality time with you (and our cats would throw a fit if we took them to a groomer anyhow).
You will have to buy some basic tools, but as for the skills, those can be learned easily. There are plenty of online guides to show you how to groom a dog or how to groom a cat. You can even find instructions on how to groom exotic pets like chinchillas and guinea pigs.
Dog and cat grooming prices vary by breed and groomer, but start at about $40 for a small dog. The experts recommend grooming your pets monthly, so if you do it yourself you might save up to $500 annually.
4. Manage Your Own IRA
It might sound intimidating to switch to a self-directed IRA and make all the investing decisions yourself, but you don’t have to become an investment expert.
In fact, recent data shows that 95% of professional money managers can’t beat the market anyhow, so you could just save their fees and put your money in some of the cheapest index funds.
How much will you save? That depends on the amount you have invested in your retirement account, and the fees you’ve been paying. But by the time your account grown for a decade or two you might save hundreds or even thousands of dollars annually.
5. Clean Your Own Gutters
I hate gutters. They’re filled with the slimiest gunk, and the last time I cleaned them (when we had a home in Florida), my hand found also a wiggling hidden tree frog or two. But with a ladder, a garden hose, and a $7 pressure nozzle I got the job done in less than two hours.
You can buy better tools to speed up the job, and possibly even avoid the necessity of a ladder. And, of course, you can learn how to clean gutters on YouTube.
Nationally, the average price for gutter cleaning is $151. It should be done at least once every year, and twice annually if you have a lot of overhanging trees. So if you do it yourself you can save between $150 and $300 per year.
6. Do Your Own Tree Trimming
We had a couple big trees in the yard when we lived in Florida, and I couldn’t stomach paying hundreds of dollars to have them trimmed. Simple solution: I bought a 14-foot tree-branch trimmer at Home depot for about $40 and got some exercise.
Mine was a cheap non-motorized model, but if you go electric it would be easier, and you would probably still save the cost back the first time you used it. There are guides online to show you how to trim trees the right way.
Home Advisor says it costs an average of $200 to have the trees in your yard trimmed. At the low end you might pay just $75, but the charge can go as high as $1,000. So by doing it yourself you might save hundreds of dollars annually.
7. Do Your Own Taxes
We used to pay hundreds of dollars to an accountant to do our taxes every year, until my wife pointed out that I was often correcting his mistakes. So I started doing most of the work myself using cheap online filing software, which worked very well.
If your income is below $66,000 you can file for free using IRS software, and they’ll even be there to answer any questions you have. Doing your own taxes can save from $100 to $500 per year.
8. Do Your Own Painting
I used to hate painting. Then I volunteered for Habitat for Humanity, and later took a job working for an investor who flipped houses. Both required a lot of painting. I found that, with a little practice, and a few YouTube videos on house painting, I got good at it and even enjoyed it.
It really isn’t that difficult, and the tools are not all that expensive (you’ll recover the cost from the savings on the first room you paint). Start with a utility room or garage, or some room where a few mistakes won’t be noticed.
Soon you’ll be confidently painting the bedrooms, kitchen, and exterior of your home.
How much will you save? Depending on the amount of painting you need done, doing it yourself could save hundreds or thousands of dollars.
9. Install Your Own Faucets
Having replaced both kitchen and bathroom faucets six or seven times, I can tell you that it’s not all that tough.
It can be done in less than an hour, but you can normally expect to spend an afternoon on the project, with at least one unplanned trip to the hardware store (unexpected problems always come up).
Bathroom faucets are usually easier and faster than kitchen faucets (no garbage disposal line or sprayer), but if you’ve never done either before, don’t worry. Just head over to YouTube and watch a video on how to replace a faucet.
With the removal of the old unit, it costs $225 to $275 to have a kitchen faucet professionally installed, according to Angie’s List. That’s not including the cost of the faucet.
If you don’t have the right tools, they should cost you less than $50 (and be good for every other DIY job thereafter).
That means you can easily save yourself $200 if you’re willing to spend a few hours crawling around under the sink.
10. Repair Your Appliances Yourself
Now we’re getting into the tougher DIY projects. I once spent a whole day figuring out how to put a new belt on a dryer, and I caught the thing on fire in the process (really).
But that was before the internet was filled with tutorials on how to fix appliances.
Now you can learn how to fix almost anything quickly. For example, on ApplianceVideo.com you can enter the model of your refrigerator or washing machine, or just enter a part name or symptom, and you’ll be directed to one of their hundreds of DIY repair videos.
Paying for help is expensive. The last time I had a washing machine repair man come to the house it cost me $85 just to learn that the thing couldn’t be repaired.
Actual repairs can easily cost more than half of what you paid for an appliance, and parts will never be the biggest part of that charge. So fixing appliances on your own could save hundreds of dollars annually.
11. Carpet a Room For Under $50
Okay, I’m probably going to get flack from the professionals for suggesting the following (What? No carpet padding?), but I’ve done this three times, and every time the carpet looked okay (and interesting), it felt good under my feet, and (at least for my first first project) it lasted ten years that I know of.
What I did was use carpet samples as flooring. Yes, it was chaotic and colorful, but that’s great for the right room (my bedroom in one case, and an enclosed porch for another project).
The first time I paid just 25 cents each for 36 samples, so, with staples for the staple gun, it cost me just $10 to carpet my bedroom. The next time I paid $1 each to buy all 40 samples at a local carpet store, so the job still cost me less than $50.
Depending on the underlying floor material you might use double-sided carpet tape instead of staples. Besides the staple gun (or tape) the only other tools I needed are a good carpet knife and a hammer (to pound down those staples extra tight).
How much will this DIY strategy save you?
It depends on the size of the room and the price of leftover carpet samples (call around), but even doing this for the kids playroom — where they’ll love the colorfulness, and you will have the option of easily popping out and replacing stained carpet squares — you can save $300 or more.
Other Things To Consider Doing Yourself
Here are 11 more things you might consider doing yourself to save money. I’m not all that handy, but I’ve managed to do a few of these, as noted…
- Computer repairs (yes, I’ve done this once or twice)
- Oil changes (not worth the trouble for me, but to each his own)
- Power-washing the house (not picky enough to pay or do it myself)
- Building a shed (yes, twice)
- Building an addition on the house (surprisingly my first one is still there)
- Installing a fence (yes)
- Replacing electrical outlets and switches (done this a lot — easier than it looks)
- Installing your own coy pond (never would:want the ongoing work of having one)
- Growing your own vegetables (never again, but some people love gardening)
- Building an indoor/outdoor cat enclosure (twice)
- Building your own cat furniture (many times)
If you’re a do-it-yourselfer, tell us where you save the most money … and keep on frugaling!